HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc64-76

'(1) Where, notwithstanding the provisions of section 60(10) of this Act, the Secretary of State is satisfied that in the interests of security in Northern Ireland this Act should continue in force after 24th August 1998, he may make an Order specifying that the Act shall continue in force after that date for a further period of no more than twelve months.

(2) Before exercising his power under subsection (1) above, the Secretary of State shall make an assessment of the desirability of making such an Order, having regard to the evidence available to him of the threat to security in the United Kingdom and of the prospects for achieving a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Northern Ireland.'.—[Mr. Wilshire.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse)

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 1, in clause 58, page 37, line 30, after `60(3)', insert 'or section (extension of Act beyond 24th August 1998)'. No. 2, in clause 60, page 39, line 28, at beginning insert 'Subject to subsection (1) of section (extension of Act beyond 24th August 1998),'. No. 3, in page 39, line 29, leave out '1998' and insert '1999'.

Mr. Wilshire

While speaking to new clause 1, I shall also speak to amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3, which stand in my name. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 are consequential to the new clause and amendment No. 3 provides an alternative way of achieving the same as new clause 1.

Perhaps it would make sense to begin by explaining what I am seeking to achieve. I want to find a positive response to a changed security position. I am also seeking to show the world that neither the House nor the British people will ever be bombed into submission. We can achieve that either by giving the Secretary of State powers to extend the duration of the Bill, or by extending it for one year ourselves. The new clause was prompted, it is fair to say, by the outrage at Canary wharf. Since then, there have been two further bombs, rendering the new clause doubly justified. Indeed, were I tabling it today, it would not be as mild as it is.

It is important to understand that the Bill left Committee before the Canary wharf atrocity. The decisions that we took in Committee, and the debates that we held there, followed 17 months of peace. I want to make it crystal clear that it will be no part of my case to suggest that what people said in Committee, or how they voted, had any bearing on my speech tonight. I mean no criticism of anyone; that sort of tactic will play no part in my argument.

In Committee, I said that I viewed the Bill as a holding measure. On Second Reading and throughout the Committee stage, we had been given assurances that it was a holding measure pending the outcome of a comprehensive review, but Canary wharf has turned the Bill from a holding measure into a Bill for real. Since the Bill left Committee, there has been a fundamental change in the security situation in the United Kingdom. It would be irresponsible if the House did not, by means of a new clause such as this, consider what has happened since the Bill left Committee, and respond to the change in circumstances.

First, I believe that we should remind ourselves of how the original Act which the Bill will extend came about. It was a response to a campaign of terror, and in the face of that campaign the House was in no doubt that the original Bill was necessary. Unfortunately, I judge it necessary again today. That, at any rate, is the message sent to us by Sinn Fein-IRA. Over the past day or so, it is they who have said that the ceasefire is over—not I, and not this House. Sinn Fein-IRA have proclaimed that the peace process is dead, and that this Bill is now for real, not just a holding measure.

I contend that the powers are, regrettably, once again needed for as long as those evil men continue to use murder and mayhem in an attempt to destroy the freedom of the people of Northern Ireland, to destroy democracy, and to deny the consent of the people of the Province in determining their future through a democratic process. I know of no one in a free and democratic society who relishes taking powers of this sort, but in the light of the past few days, I believe that a firm response by the House is absolutely necessary. There are people who despise democracy and who would deny others their freedom. In so doing, they forfeit any claim that they might otherwise have to being treated like reasonable human beings. Those people are evil and ruthless, and they have not the slightest intention of working within the rule of law, once they work out the fact that that rule of law will not deliver to them what they believe is right.

Two weeks ago, when 17 of us finished debating the Bill in Committee, the people of Northern Ireland had been enjoying 17 months of a partial ceasefire. We were moving—some would say slowly, others would say at a reasonable pace—towards all-party talks. We were moving towards elections—perhaps even towards a referendum. We were moving very slowly towards decommissioning of some sort. In Committee, we were adding to the long list of changes that have been made to help to restore normality to Northern Ireland. Two weeks later, the ceasefire that we had almost taken for granted in Committee has been consigned to history. We face not just a one-off terrorist incident but a campaign of terror.

6.45 pm

After the Canary wharf bomb, I could see that it made sense to wait and see; but after three bombs I no longer think that adequate. We have to respond. It is Sinn Fein-IRA who have pulled the plug on the ceasefire and ended the peace process as we knew it two weeks ago. The challenge facing us tonight is to decide how to respond and what changes we need to make to the Bill.

Before deciding whether the new clause constitutes the right response, we ought to put the renewed bombing in its true context, to see whether it justifies a change of the sort that I am proposing. The ceasefire was only partial in any case. It was only the bombing on the mainland and the sectarian killings in the Province that had stopped. Murder, torture, intimidation and extortion all continued while we discussed the Bill in Committee. I draw the attention of the House to a written answer that I received from the Minister of State on 14 February this year. In it, he confirmed that between 1 September 1994 and 7 February 1996, there were 12 murders in the Province ascribed to one or other of the terrorist organisations, and 287 people were injured in punishment beatings.

Another relevant part of the context is the fact that the resumption of the bombings on the mainland was not, I believe, a spontaneous reaction to the Mitchell report or to the proposed elections. From my reading of Irish history I would say that Sinn Fein-IRA never act out of frustration. They only ever act because they have planned a way of achieving their objectives. What they do is calculated; what they have started in London these past few days was clearly decided some months ago.

Despite the protestations of people such as Adams and McGuinness, and although they may not have known the place and the time, I cannot accept that they were not parties to the change of policy some months ago. Sinn Fein-IRA never, in my view, had any intention of allowing the majority in Northern Ireland to choose to remain in the United Kingdom. The resumption of the terrorist campaign in London signals to me the fact that they have now accepted that even all-party talks would not have delivered what they wanted: a united socialist republic on the island of Ireland.

The resumption of the terror campaign in Great Britain makes it clear that we have now to respond to the challenge of the IRA. It has spelt out for us that it is not interested in compromise. It is not willing to make concessions or to sign up to the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland. The resumption of bombing in London spells out what Adams and others have always hinted—that Sinn Fein-IRA hold democratic debate and democratic agreement in total and utter contempt. That makes the Bill for real, not a holding measure, and it makes the new clause essential.

I shall now deal with the details of my new clause and the amendments. New clause 1 would allow the Secretary of State to extend the application of the Bill for a further period if he judged that necessary in the security circumstances. Amendment No. 1 would require the Secretary of State to obtain the approval of both Houses for an extension. Amendment No. 3, alternatively, would extend the Bill for one year by action of the House rather than the Secretary of State.

I shall listen very carefully to the response to the debate by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I hope that he will accept that a firm and urgent response is now vital. I hope that he can tell us that steps will be taken to protect the innocent and to catch those evil terrorists. If my right hon. and learned Friend wishes to persuade me against the course that I am advocating, I ask him to tell the House what the Government intend to do as an alternative to new clause 1.

I wish to ask my right hon. and learned Friend a series of specific questions. His answers, I believe, will decide what happens to the new clause. First, will the Government press ahead with the peace process despite what Sinn Fein-IRA say? Sinn Fein-IRA's actions make the peace process more urgent and important than it was before. Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he still accepts that all-party talks—between parties that subscribe wholly and exclusively to democratic means—are the only way to bring a permanent and lasting peace to the Province? Will he, if necessary, work for that with the other parties even if Sinn Fein-IRA refuse to do so?

Secondly, will the Government continue to urge the loyalist terrorists to show restraint? If my right hon. and learned Friend does that, and I believe that he must, does he accept that firm action against those terrorists who have resumed their campaign is one way to encourage others to show that restraint?

Thirdly, will the Government demand similar resolute action from the Dublin Government? Will my right hon. and learned. Friend insist that the Dublin Government redouble their efforts to search out terrorists? I hear from the rumour mill that the Canary wharf bombers started out from the Republic. Will we insist that the Dublin Government redouble their efforts to find the arms and explosives that are undoubtedly hidden south of the border? Will we press the Dublin Government even harder to hand over wanted people without delay and without equivocation?

Mr. Maginnis

Will the hon. Gentleman take into account in his questions to the Government that, after sitting in the Dublin Forum for Peace and Reconciliation for about a year, all the nationalist parties in Ireland produced a report that acknowledged the right of consent of the people of Northern Ireland and that the only party dissenting from that was Sinn Fein-IRA? Rather than placing the onus on the Dublin Government, will the hon. Gentleman place the onus—as a matter of honour—on each individual nationalist party in Ireland not only to repudiate the violence of the IRA, but to work actively to purge the activities of the IRA from our midst?

Mr. Mallon

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), by implication, to suggest that my party and the other parties that were involved in the forum which spent 18 months trying to achieve what he suggests was not achieved—no one regrets that more than I do, because nobody put more effort in—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. As the hon. Gentleman knows, hon. Members are responsible for their speeches.

Mr. Wilshire

I heard the comments of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis). We must try to avoid apportioning blame. It is perfectly reasonable for the House to say what it hopes that the Dublin Government will do.

If by some chance this debate should finish at a reasonable hour, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and I are supposed to be meeting with members of the Dail before the night is out. That will be an admirable opportunity to reaffirm—as I believe to be the case—that all the democratic parties of whatever persuasion in the island of Ireland are opposed to terrorism and in favour of all-party talks. I have no doubt about that, but we may have the chance tonight to confirm that.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

The hon. Gentleman has asked whether the Government intend to proceed with all-party talks. Is he suggesting that, if those talks proceed, Sinn Fein should be invited to participate unconditionally in any talks?

Mr. Wilshire

No, I am not. I am suggesting that the parties in Northern Ireland that are committed exclusively to democratic solutions should set up the means to have all-party talks and then we can review the situation vis-à-vis those who will not denounce violence.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your earlier direction to me.

Does the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) agree, as someone who has some experience of visiting Ireland, that all the parties that are party to the forum have—without any ambiguity—condemned violence this week, last week and for the first 25 years and that there should be no doubt in the mind of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone that that is the case? He has a duty to the House to amend or withdraw the implication of what he said.

Mr. Wilshire

The last thing that I wish to do is to get involved in an argument between two other people. I have not attended a meeting of the forum and I have not read the transcripts, so it would be quite unfair of me to try to adjudicate on what may have happened there.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that Sinn Fein was a member of the forum. How can the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) say that all members of the forum repudiate violence? Gerry Adams has blood fresh on his hands and he refuses to call what happened an outrage. He may be sorry because one of his IRA colleagues has died. We all regret any deaths, but I must say that I would rather a terrorist died than an innocent victim.

Mr. Wilshire

I suspect that the House would rather move on from that issue, so I will not accept any more interventions on that subject. Perhaps we can make progress.

The fourth question that I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State will answer is whether the Government will ask the Government of the United States to withdraw Gerry Adams' visa. Will they be asking the United States Government to take steps to end Sinn Fein-IRA fund raising, and to ban the export of money back to the island of Ireland for the time being? The feting of Adams as a man of peace must stop. The blood of the victims of recent bombs is on his hands, and there can be no place for him in a process such as this until he condemns what has happened.

My last question is: what new steps will the police and security services be taking to protect the public in the United Kingdom, and to arrest members of Sinn Fein-IRA who have been perpetrating these outrages? Some will say that all that we are now suggesting has been tried before and has not worked, but I believe that the present circumstances are very different. The people of Northern Ireland have had 17 months in which to learn what a normal existence is like; in particular, young people have learnt, for the first time in their lives, what it is like to live in a normal society. If we take firm enough measures, that will give us a chance to isolate the men of violence from the ordinary, decent people of Northern Ireland-people from both communities.

New clause 1 aims to do three things. It aims to spell out the fact that bombs will never succeed in the United Kingdom, to serve notice that resolute action is needed and must be taken and to offer the Government one way in which to respond to that need. I agree that there are other ways, and I am prepared to consider them. If they are forthcoming, so be it; if they are not, I commend the new clause to the House.

7 pm

Mr. Worthington

I thank the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) for tabling his new clause in such general terms, thus enabling Labour Members to record our horror at last night's events at the Aldwych and to convey our sympathy and support to victims and their families. We must pledge all our help to those who are recovering from the maiming inflicted by people who regard any member of the human race who is passing through the centre of London as a legitimate target. We also thank the emergency services for the work that they have done in harrowing circumstances.

The Governments of both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland must proceed with determination on a united path to a political settlement by peaceful and democratic means. Overwhelmingly, that is what the people of both north and south want. Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) and I went to the Republic to meet the Taoiseach and the Foreign Minister, Mr. Spring, and the leaders of the other parties in both Government and Opposition. We were able to thank them for the strength of their condemnation of these appalling acts, and for the warmth of their support for the people of Britain in the face of such atrocities. We were made aware of the huge determination there, as here, to achieve the peace that can and must prevail.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Did the hon. Gentleman meet Mr. Reynolds, who is on record in the Dail as having said that our Prime Minister goaded the IRA to bomb London? Was that the message that the hon. Gentleman received when he visited the Republic?

Mr. Worthington

As I said, we met the Taoiseach, the Foreign Minister and the leaders of the parties. At present, of course, that does not include Mr. Reynolds, but he is on our visiting list: we should like to talk to him, and to anyone who can help the peace process.

I understand why the hon. Member for Spelthorne tabled the new clause, but we consider it unnecessary. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not mind my saying that he did not say much about what was in it. In fact, it merely gives the Secretary of State power to extend the Act—if it becomes an Act—by a year in 1998. Whatever happens in 1998, the position will not be the same as it is today, whatever Government are in power: we can say that with complete confidence. What is significantly different is that—following our encouragement—the Lloyd review has been set up to examine all aspects of anti-terrorism legislation. The flaw in the argument advanced by the hon. Member for Spelthorne is that nothing that has happened in Great Britain over the past fortnight or so is affected by the Bill.

Mr. Maginnis

I would not like the hon. Gentleman to misunderstand the significance of the legislation, or to mislead the House inadvertently. A degree of co-operation is necessary between all police services in the United Kingdom, and between the United Kingdom and the Garda Siochona, the police service in the Irish Republic. The EPA is essential to the RUC's job of collating intelligence, and thus has an effect on the rest of the United Kingdom. That was well proven in the case of the Heysham bomb, which was intercepted just before the ceasefire.

Mr. Worthington

I could not have inadvertently misled the House, because the hon. Gentleman did not give me time to do so. What I said was that the legislation did not apply to citizens of the United Kingdom. We recognise that the PTA and the EPA are linked, however, and we encouraged the establishment of the Lloyd review to introduce anti-terrorism law applying to the whole United Kingdom. I believe that members of the hon. Gentleman's party would welcome that endeavour, and I think that he will acknowledge that I have not inadvertently misled the House.

Mr. Maginnis

I said that I hoped that the hon. Gentleman would not do so.

Mr. Worthington

I think that, if the hon. Gentleman could, he would go on to say that I did not do so. The new clause is inappropriate because the Lloyd review will consider the EPA and the PTA, and whatever Government are in power will have to take on the arguments advanced by that review.

I do not think that the Government consider the present anti-terrorism legislation ideal; the Opposition certainly do not. It contains flaws. The Government have presented this measure as a two-year sticking plaster. We hope that the wound will heal in two years, but we also hope that the Government will not wish to extend such legislation for more than two years: both Government and Opposition recognise the flaws in it.

Mr. Mallon

I shall be brief, as I do not wish to prolong the debate or pre-empt the Bill's Third Reading. I support the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) on the legislation. I have made my position very clear. I do not want to see it in place for one minute longer than is necessary, and neither, I am quite sure, does any hon. Member. It is important that we do not allow—I certainly cannot allow it—something to stand on the record which by implication suggests that the constitutional parties—if I may use that term—that attended the forum have not denounced and rejected utterly and without any equivocation violence of any kind. That has been done, and if anyone has any doubt about that, that person is not looking at the reality of the situation.

Reference was made to the report of the Forum for Pace and Reconciliation. The only point that I want to make about it is that there is a nationalist consensus on the island of Ireland. We can call it a pan-nationalist front or a nationalist consensus. We can put whatever name we want on it, but there was one, there is one and there will be one, and it is based on three things: first, that violence has no place whatever in our country, in our society or in solving any difficulties that we have on the island of Ireland. I stand by that nationalist consensus.

Secondly, if people have the right to self-determination, as the Government stated in the framework document, they also have the right to decide how they exercise that self-determination, and the people of Ireland have exercised that right to self-determination. The exercise of it must not be done by violent means. I stand by that nationalist consensus. The third element, to which reference was made, is the principle of consent. That principle is held by all the parties, with the exception of Sinn Fein, on the island of Ireland. It was built into the Sunningdale agreement in 1973. It was in the Anglo-Irish Agreement and underpinned it in 1985. It underpins the joint framework document. It underpins the joint declaration. It is there by a very distinct implication in section 20(e) of the Mitchell report. There can be no doubt in anybody's mind that there is a nationalist consensus. It is based on those three things and none other.

To the hon. Member for Spelthorne, who presented his case with great clarity, and to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who made the innuendo about the constitutional parties on the island of Ireland, I make this one point. Would hon. Members prefer that there was not a nationalist consensus based on those three principles, which are non-negotiable, cannot be deviated from and will not be diluted?

Mr. Robert McCartney

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the pan-nationalist front or the nationalist consensus, if that is the appropriate term, all had one thing in common: they were dedicated to a united Ireland, but not all of them were dedicated to a united Ireland by consent or by non-violent means, because that consensus, that pan-nationalist front, included Sinn Fein associated with the IRA, which did not and has not subscribed to the rest of the constitutional and nationalist view that consent and non-violence were part of that consensus?

Mr. Mallon

I am rather confused by the hon. and learned Gentleman's point. I have identified the three principles on which nationalist consent or a pan-nationalist front—whatever one likes to call it—is based. They are not negotiable. They will not be diluted. They will not be changed, for whatever reason, because they are the very basis of democracy.

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman imagine a set of circumstances in which the Irish Government—whatever party or parties formed it—the Social Democratic and Labour party, all the other parties, excluding Sinn Fein, in the island of Ireland, and the Government of the United States of America would ever resile from the three principles: that one can achieve one's objectives only by peaceful means; that one has the right to determine how to exercise one's right to self-determination; and the right to consent, because the opposite of consent is coercion? Yes, I am in favour of a united Ireland. Yes, I am entitled to the right to work for and create a united Ireland through peaceful, democratic and political means. I demand that right, because it is a democratic right, but no one has any right in the name of the Irish people or Irish unity to use violence at any time, in any place and in any way.

7.15 pm
Mr. Maginnis

I admire with respect the passion with which the hon. Gentleman makes his point. I feel, however, that, in his reference to me, he is tilting at a windmill, because I did not suggest in any way that he was ambivalent about violence. I asked whether the parties that sat in the forum and assented to its report would, as well as repudiating violence, work actively to expurgate the anarchists whom we know as the IRA. That was the question that I asked him, and I hope that it cast no aspersions on his integrity, as it was never my intention to do so.

Mr. Mallon


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have deliberately been tolerant in allowing a wide-ranging debate, which has covered much more than the new clause before us. I appreciate the seriousness of the debate, but I hope that we can now come to the framework of the new clause.

Mr. Mallon

I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that ruling. I shall reply later to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, as it would be unfair to other hon. Members if we did not continue the debate on the new clause.

Rev. William McCrea

We are dealing with a serious matter, and I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members have exercised their minds, bearing in mind the serious nature of the problem, the great tragedies that have been experienced on the mainland and the threats that are currently being carried out in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) is right that since the Bill was considered in Committee there has been a change in the circumstances. He sought to bring to the House a reason why the period should be extended further than two years because of the fundamental changes that have occurred. I believe that there has been a fundamental change and that we have heard a clear declaration from the IRA murderers. Sinn Fein's message has been clear: the ceasefire is over, the peace process is over and the carnage is now a reality on the mainland and on the streets of London.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Government would press ahead with the peace process. Whenever we look at the reality of the situation, we must ask ourselves whether in reality we had a peace process. In Committee, we were told a number of times by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) about the complete change in circumstances. During the ceasefire there were 597 attacks on the police; 60 churches and chapels were attacked; 44 Orange halls and six Gaelic Athletic Association halls were attacked. There have been 10 killings, all republican, and 176 republican punishment beatings. That happened during the time that we were told was peace and normality. I assure the House that that is not the peace that United Kingdom citizens have a right to expect, and they ought to be protected. We should ensure that the emergency is met by emergency measures that will bring to an end the onslaught of terror and murder.

The hon. Member for Spelthorne asked about the peace process. I do not believe that, in reality, we had a peace process. One of the republican papers said 18 months ago that as the armed struggle was a tactic, so the peace process would be a tactic. The IRA, the activists and the army council, and Sinn Fein are one and the same. They realised that at that moment in the campaign it was advantageous for them to stop the armed struggle because, through their contacts with Government sources, they were promised certain concessions. A dangerous promise was made by those in authority because one never makes concessions to terrorists and murderers. We now see the reality of the murderers and the murder gangs as they pay the people of the United Kingdom for all the concessions.

The terrorists hold democracy in contempt, as the hon. Member for Spelthorne said. There is an attempt to distinguish between the IRA and Sinn Fein, but it is a disgraceful attempt because there is no distinction. People say that Sinn Fein can negotiate while the IRA can bomb. That is not a democratic process.

I listened to the forum report given by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, who said that there was a nationalist consensus. That is an interesting phrase. I have here a position paper which came out after the ceasefire; it was given to the activists by the IRA, so it is actually an IRA document. It is interesting that the document talks about the consensus. It refers to a briefing paper of April, before the ceasefire, which deals with Strategic Objectives and events to that date in more detail than this paper. It continues: However a brief summary is helpful. Our goals have not changed. A United 32 County Democratic Socialist Republic. The main Strategic Objectives to move us towards that goal can be summarised thus

  1. (a) The strongest possible political consensus between the Dublin government, S.F. and the SDLP.
  2. (b) A common position on practical measures moving us towards our goal."
It then goes on to state: The strategic objectives"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hesitate to intervene, but it is a while since the hon. Gentleman mentioned the new clause. It would be helpful if he would get back to the new clause that we are supposed to be debating.

Rev. William McCrea

I thank you for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, I am dealing with the new clause because I am suggesting why there should be an extension to the legislation. If we propose an extension, we must give reasons, as the hon. Member for Spelthorne did. He was permitted to ask the Government certain questions. I am giving important reasons why we are asking the House to extend the legislation.

Lives are involved. That is an important issue, as is the strategic position of the IRA, because the legislation deals with terrorists and what they seek to do. An interesting statement by them is: Republicans are not prepared to wait around for the Brits to change. but as always we are prepared to force their hand. That is exactly what has been happening over the past few days. The terrorists want to force the hand of the British people. That is stated in the document that was released way back in 1994 after the ceasefire.

We are dealing with a deliberate and calculated terror campaign. Some people have the idea that the present situation has just evolved or has been decided on at the last moment. My colleagues and I believe that when Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness made their statements, they knew full well that the bomb attack would take place in London. They are part of the cold-blooded group of people who use the face of respectability that has been given to them, whether by the President of the United States receiving a murderer, Gerry Adams, into his presence, or by their reception in other parts of the world. The people of Northern Ireland believe that we need extended legislation because the emergency is of great importance. Failure to approve the legislation would send the people of Northern Ireland as lambs to the slaughter.

The hon. Member for Spelthorne asked whether the Government would continue to urge loyalist terrorists to show restraint. I wholeheartedly agree that there must be no action by loyalists which would provide an excuse for murderous attacks on innocent, law-abiding people. They must not, by their words or deeds, give an excuse for action by the terrorists of the Provisional IRA.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether the Government would demand resolute action by the Dublin Government in terms of searching out terrorists and handing over wanted people without delay or equivocation. My hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) mentioned some of the speeches made by, for example, Albert Reynolds, who created the conditions for Sinn Fein to ignore the call for decommissioning in December 1994 when he said: If all the weapons were decommissioned before a settlement was found … that would be a recipe for disaster. How could it be a recipe for disaster that the weapons should be handed over? No respectable politician will sit around a table with murderous thugs and try to reach some accommodation. As the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) said in 1992: There can be no guns on the table, under the table or outside the door. As a result of what has happened since we debated the Bill in Committee, the legislation needs to be extended. My hon. Friends wholeheartedly agree that it is important to listen to what the Minister says. In the light of that, we shall listen carefully to the reaction from the hon. Member for Spelthorne and we shall react accordingly.

Sir John Wheeler

I take up at once the point made by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) about secret undertakings. I make it clear to him and to the House that no secret undertakings were made by the Government in an attempt to win the prize of the Provisional IRA ceasefire. The British and Irish Governments are absolutely agreed on that. There are no secret undertakings: I make that clear to the hon. Gentleman.

In a robust speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) gave his reasons for wanting to extend the measure beyond the life currently proposed for it. I agree that the levels of violence in Northern Ireland during what the Provisional IRA called the military ceasefire have been great. I shall not weary the House by reciting the statistics in support of that opinion, as the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster was good enough to provide a clear illustration of the seriousness of the situation.

Since the Provisional IRA renounced its ceasefire some 10 days ago, the heart of London has been blasted by two major atrocities. Thanks to the police, a third was avoided when a bomb in a telephone kiosk in Shaftesbury avenue was defused. The House will agree that the police and the emergency services have responded with professionalism and courage to the events of the past 10 days—during the horror of docklands, in particular—and will continue to do so as the need arises. The House has roundly and absolutely condemned those outrages, which are not a part of the peace process. They illustrate only too well what Adams said outside Belfast city hall last year: They haven't gone away you know. 7.30 pm

I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne and other hon. Members that once the Provisional IRA ceasefire ended, the RUC was put on full alert, and all immediate steps were taken to increase the police presence on the streets and to ensure that police patrols were appropriately protected by flak jackets and were carrying the appropriate armaments. Equally, the RUC will be supported by the Army as necessary. All the measures taken during the ceasefire to lower security and ease the lives of the people of Northern Ireland will be reversed to protect the people as necessary.

My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne asked whether the search for peace would continue. I can give him a straight answer—yes, the search for a political settlement in Northern Ireland must go on. There is no question about that. What is in question is the role of Sinn Fein and the genuineness of its commitment to the peace process. I can assure him that the Government and the Government of the Republic will continue to work to secure a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. That is very important.

My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne asked whether the Government would be doing all that they could, through all the opportunities and contacts available to them, to persuade loyalist terrorists not to respond. Again, I can give a clear and positive answer. The Government are doing all that they can to prevent the awful slide into sectarian violence that none of us wishes to see recur in Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend asked whether the Government of the Republic will be encouraged to do all that they can to assist in the prevention of terrorist crime. I can assure him that the moment the Provisional IRA announced the ending of the ceasefire, the Government and security forces of the Republic responded immediately to assist the RUC without any hesitation. I am pursuing contacts with the Government of the Republic to ensure that all appropriate measures necessary to protect the lives of people in Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland are taken.

My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne asked whether Adams would again be granted a visa for the United States. As he must know, that is a matter for the United States Government. I believe that the renewal of any visa is under consideration in Washington, and I expect that the United States Administration will wish to take into account the renewal of violence. President Clinton has already condemned the bomb outrages in London and has expressed in robust terms his personal sadness at the betrayal of the hopes that he saw in Belfast when he visited in December. Department of Justice guidelines are in place to ensure that any money raised by fund raising in the United States can be used only for political purposes. Those guidelines have been in place since the summer of 1995.

The Government are reviewing very strenuously all the measures that they take to defeat terrorism, and are looking at intelligence and the way in which the police and other services are organised to respond to the threat. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne that the police will be seeking those responsible for the crimes. They want to make arrests and bring people before the courts of law, and I can assure him that every endeavour will be made by the services of the Crown and supported by the Government towards that end.

The proposals of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne to extend the life of the measure are well understood, but I ask him—and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, who spoke in support of the new clause—to reflect on what I have said. I invite my hon. Friend to withdraw the new clause, and I give him and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster—ever a reasonable man, in my experience—the firm undertaking that their proposal will be considered by the Government when the Bill reaches another place, in the light of developments between now and then. On that basis, I hope that my hon. Friend will seek the leave of the House to withdraw the new clause.

Mr. Wilshire

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) for the gentle way in which he disagreed with me. I appreciate that he spared me some of the grief and pain that he could have inflicted, had he wished to, and I understand his points.

I disagreed with only one thing that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said. He described his three points as forming a nationalist consensus, but I hope that he understands when I say that they do not: they form a democratic consensus. One does not have to be a nationalist or a Unionist to believe in what he said, and it goes without saying that I respect his right to use peaceful means to work for whatever he believes is in the best interests of his constituents.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) will not be surprised to hear that I agree with what he said. I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for clearly responding to all my questions. I hope that when the country at large hears what he has to say, people will be reassured that the Government are taking swift and resolute action in the face of a dangerous security situation. I also very much welcome the assurance that the need to extend the measure will be considered in another place.

I understand the criticisms of my new clause and the amendments: a humble Back Bencher faces grave difficulties in trying to draft new clauses, as we do not command the panoply of the civil service and we do not share in the Short money that Opposition Front Benchers have to help them get things right. Despite the shortcomings of my drafting, however, I suspect that the Government, the Opposition and the House clearly got the message that I was trying to deliver. The new clause is not needed to prove that not only this House but the British people will never be bombed into surrender and that we shall do whatever is necessary to uphold democracy and defend the innocent.

In that context, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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