§ Amendment made: No. 23, in page 39, line 38, at end insert—
§ '() Where this Act repeals and re-enacts provisions of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991, the repeal and re-enactment shall not, unless the contrary intention appears, affect the continuity of the law.
§ () Any document made, served or issued after the commencement of this Act which contains a reference to an enactment repealed by this Act shall, so far as the context permits, be construed as referring to or (as the context may require) including a reference to the corresponding provision of this Act.85
§ () Any document made, served or issued after the commencement of this Act which contains a reference to a provision of this Act shall, so far as the context permits, be construed as referring to or (as the context may require) including a reference to the corresponding provision of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991.'.—[Sir John Wheeler.]
§ Order for Third Reading read.8.14 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Since the Bill received its Second Reading on 9 January, the Provisional IRA has announced its despicable decision to end its ceasefire. That decision it and its friends have tried to justify by means of what one commentator yesterday called an "Olympus of mendacity". In addition, we have experienced here in Great Britain terrorist attacks, achieved or attempted by the IRA, that are disgusting in their immoral character and horrifying in their scale.
The Bill relates to Northern Ireland alone. Its purpose is to make special provision for the maintenance of order and for the rule of law there. But each of the recent events, taken alone, let alone in their totality, surely justifies the contents of the Bill in each and every one of its provisions. They wholly vindicate the Government's decision to introduce the Bill as and when we did.
With the permission of the House, and within the rules of order, I should like to take a little more of its time than is usual in a Third Reading speech. Some things, in particular, I wish to make abundantly clear.
First, the British Government in this democracy will not be shifted from their chosen and democratic course by bombs or by the threat of bombs, or by any variety of violence. We shall ensure that all practical measures within the law are taken to protect life and property from this evil. That means that all practical measures have to be available, which is what the Bill is about.
The perpetrators of violence should realise that, in this democracy, they will make no political progress whatever by means of violence. On the contrary, violence will serve only to harden the minds of ordinary people against what the perpetrators of violence seek to achieve. Nor should the perpetrators conclude, if this is their hope, that they will succeed in escalating violence and promoting instability by provoking terrorists on the loyalist wing to retaliate in kind.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) has suggested today, with his usual shrewdness, that that is indeed the IRA's aim. It may well be its aim, but I urge and trust that the wise restraint and the mature and responsible leadership shown by those who head the loyalist parties be maintained. I salute them, and, with all sincerity, I urge that they continue to be heeded. Retaliation would achieve nothing but regression and disaster. And incidentally, whom would the retaliation be against?
§ Mr. Stott
I heard the Secretary of State on the radio this morning and again on television this evening. What he has said about the minority Unionist parties, particularly Mr. David Ervine and Garry McMichael, and the courageous stance that they have taken, should be recognised and put on record. I very much agreed with 86 what the Secretary of State said this evening, and I invite him once again to put it firmly on the record in Hansard in the House of Commons.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that I need to repeat myself. It was put to me this morning on one programme that some price might be paid for not retaliating. I at once disabused the interviewer of any notion that a price is payable for somebody not breaking the law. I said what I have said about the restraint that is urged, and I earnestly hope that it will be maintained and heeded.
Secondly, I wish to make it clear that the sort of violence from which the Bill will protect the public will not distract or deflect Her Majesty's Government from their mission to help the people of Northern Ireland to find in this democracy a true and lasting peace. That peace will need to be based upon a comprehensive political settlement of the conflicts—a settlement itself founded on consent.
I will, with permission, quote the words of the Prime Minister in the House on 12 February, when he said:we are not at the end of the road to peace. If we are pushed back, we will start again. If we are pushed back again, we will start again. If we are pushed back a third time, we will start again. There can be no end to the search for a permanent settlement in Northern Ireland until we have achieved a permanent settlement in Northern Ireland."—[Official Report, 12 February 1996; Vol. 271, c. 660.]I am glad to acknowledge once again in the House this evening that that is the objective of all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, of both the British and the Irish Governments and of all parties in the House. The objective is common ground.
The means by which that objective is to be attained are common ground—by inclusive democratic negotiation. For years, the Government have laboured to attain that objective, and no one in the Government has laboured with greater dedication than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Where disagreement exists, it is to be found only on the subordinate issue of how the start of those negotiations may be secured. Only there are we not as yet on common ground
I think that each of those observations has the assent of everyone in the House. That assent itself gives the lie direct to Mr. Adams in his assertion in west Belfast last week that the British Government have reneged on and broken every commitment that they have made. We have reneged on no commitment, and broken no commitment. With sickening hypocrisy, Mr. Adams asserted that negotiations frighten the British Government.
The British Government have done more to foster inclusive negotiations on a settlement in Northern Ireland than any Government in modern times. But the British Government know one thing that apparently eludes Mr. Adams—that in this democracy, people will not negotiate about the future of their country if they do not have confidence in a permanent end having been reached to the use of, or support for, paramilitary violence.
That is why, in the Downing Street declaration, the British and Irish Governments confirmed that it is those who are democratically mandated parties which establish a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods, and have shown that they abide by the democratic process, who are free to participate fully in democratic politics and to join in dialogue between the Governments and the political parties on the way ahead.
87 As we discuss the need for the Bill, let us do so in the light of Mr. Adams' prevarications on the IRA's recent bombs, and of his attack upon the Government's good faith. It is we who have immediately accepted the recommended principles of the Mitchell report. Indeed, we accept the report itself. Sinn Fein-IRA have accepted none of them. Why not? Let them be asked.
With the Irish Government, it is we who have put in place the twin-track approach, and we who are operating it intensively with the purpose of enabling all to enter into inclusive negotiations. Sinn Fein-IRA have dumped it by returning to violence. It is we who had withdrawn from Northern Ireland since the ceasefire three battalions of infantry—some 1,600 men—with all their weapons and munitions. Sinn Fein-IRA stood down not a man, nor decommissioned a single weapon.
It is we who have restored a higher level of remission of sentence for terrorist prisoners, in reliance on the promised reduction of risk. Sinn Fein-IRA have not even heeded President Clinton's plea to release from their unmarked graves the bodies of their murdered victims so as to allow their families to give them a final and decent burial.
Mr. Adams, placing a cap on this Olympus of mendacity, claims that our policy has been dictated so that we can remain in power. Let him explain then why it has had the support of the official Opposition, who are generally thought to have an interest in getting us out of power.
We debate the Third Reading of the Bill tonight with the knowledge that there has, in truth, only ever been one obstacle to inclusive all-party negotiations, and that is the absence of the confidence that is needed to get all parties there—the confidence that the stipulations of the Downing Street declaration will be fulfilled by all participants. It has never been a question of decommissioning on the one hand or negotiations on the other, nor a question of either elections or negotiations. It has always been a question of negotiations or no negotiations.
A start to decommissioning and an elective process have each in their turn been put forward as a doorway to those negotiations, because each would convey the confidence that, in a democracy, negotiators need. We wish to have an inclusive negotiation. Sinn Fein-IRA impose their own disqualification. We want to see it removed. Only Sinn Fein-IRA can remove it. They should do so.
In Committee, I know that we have had serious and vigorous debates. I am most grateful, as is my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler), to all hon. Members who served on the Committee and took part in its debates for the manner in which they made their contributions, and for their appreciation of the Government's position. I am also grateful for the graceful tribute paid to my right hon. Friend by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd), which I know to be well deserved.
Across the Floor, we share a common aim—to have in place balanced legislation that both protects the people of Northern Ireland against those who choose violence because the ballot box will not give them what they want, and also protects individuals from any unnecessary 88 incursion upon their rights. It has to be legislation that gives the necessary powers to protect the public and the security forces as well. The challenge is to find the correct balance in the light of the prevailing security situation and of what can reasonably be foreseen and must therefore be prudently guarded against.
The Bill was drafted to reflect the ceasefires and the fragile peace that they had produced. Viewed against the current Act, a number of changes have been made. Most notable are the provisions for the silent video recording of interviews in the holding centres, which we debated earlier, and the separation of the police and Army powers so as to provide the flexibility to suspend Army powers at an appropriate time.
The Bill keeps the power, which is in the current Act, to suspend many of its provisions. That power has been exercised already in respect of executive detention, and it would be exercisable for other provisions from the outset of the new Act if circumstances at that time warranted it.
In drafting the Bill, we have followed very closely the recommendations of Mr. John Rowe QC, who conducted the last annual review of the current Act. His views and recommendations, and the clarity with which they are expressed in his report, informed much of our discussion in Committee. The House owes him a great debt for the contribution that he has made both to shaping the Bill and to the debates on its various provisions.
We look forward next to the outcome of Lord Lloyd's review, which has now begun. We do so notwithstanding the grave blow dealt by recent outrages to the prospects of our present need for special protection under the law being reduced. Meanwhile, the public, for whose safety all of us in the House are responsible, need the Bill and all of its provisions. Accordingly, I commend it to the House.
§ Ms Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
Last week, we shared our sympathies with the families of Ivan Bashir and John Jefferies. Now we have another death to add to the catalogue of murder. The IRA ended the ceasefire brutally and murderously, leaving London battered and sad. Last night's bombing was a shocking and callous act. There are no ifs and buts in the condemnation by all hon. Members of those who kill and maim innocent people.
The terrorist's greatest weapon is fear. We welcome and support the determination of those in all communities who are working to restore peace, and acknowledge, as did the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott), the courage of those in the loyalist community who are maintaining their resolve and standing by their ceasefire.
We acknowledge above all, as politicians, that people in Northern Ireland especially and in these islands together, have broadcast widely their desire for peace. The Tanaiste, Dick Spring, has tried to encompass that with his white ribbon for peace campaign. We have only to look at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions rally last Friday, the keep-the-peace phone-in organised jointly by the Irish News, the Belfast Telegraph, the News Letter, Sunday Life and Sunday World, the numerous rallies, books for peace, and postcards for peace, to learn what people in Northern Ireland have learned: that we must stand together, because we cannot stand alone.
We have got used to talking about a peace process. Even now, in the absence of peace, there is a determination that the process must continue. We support 89 and encourage the two Governments in maintaining that process. There must be urgent action. People desperately need the reassurance that momentum—and only politicians—can provide. We hope that the two Governments can reach an agreement between themselves in consultation with those parties which are committed to peace and to democracy.
Elections and a referendum have been suggested as a way of bringing the parties into all-party talks together with the two Governments. We believe that those ideas could be combined: a referendum could be held both north and south of the border, and there could be a Northern Ireland elective process, or indexation, to let the people speak, both about the background to the talks and about whom they want to take part.
There must be widespread agreement if that, or any other, idea is to work. To help reach agreement, the Irish Government have proposed proximity talks, and the Prime Minister has spoken of intensive talks. We believe that there should be a first stage of what we call intensive "design" talks, so that, in the design of the negotiations, there is ownership among the participating parties. Since any substantive negotiations must take place within a framework that looks at all relationships, both Governments must be involved from the outset.
I listened to the Secretary of State this evening when he referred to the agreement on the general objective of all-party negotiations, although there is debate about how we shall reach that point. I shall put two options to him, and ask whether he has considered both of them.
We could set in train a process of proximity intensive design talks, followed by a combination of an elective process and a referendum, leading to a set date for all-party negotiations, in which those who are committed to peaceful and democratic means could participate. Alternatively, we could set a date for all-party negotiations for those who are clearly committed to peaceful and democratic means and then move backwards, in a sense, to a process of proximity intensive talks and a combination of an elective indexation and a referendum. I would be interested to hear the Minister respond as to the merits of those two mechanisms in moving towards the desired objective which, as the Secretary of State said, all hon. Members share.
Constitutional parties on both islands are prepared to work for a negotiated settlement. The Downing Street declaration set out crucial principles that we can work to implement. Agreement between the two Governments has been the bedrock of progress so far. That can, and must, be re-established. We cannot allow it to be lost. Labour is appalled by, and opposed to, all acts of terrorism. The people of Northern Ireland and Great Britain must be protected; their security is paramount.
We welcome and support the prudent and proper steps that the security forces have taken since the ending of the IRA ceasefire. We welcome also the positive steps that the Government have taken in dealing with the legislation, such as transferring the anti-fraud and racketeering measures to the ordinary criminal law—which is surely their proper place. It is a trend that we welcome and encourage.
We welcome also the introduction of silent video taping. We would have preferred audio taping to be included in that measure and we urge the Government to take that important step when they can. We welcome also 90 the Secretary of State's assurance that he will be alert to his powers under clause 60 of the Bill when circumstances allow. We welcome the Government's positive response to our call to see measures in the legislation to bring both law and practice into line with the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights, as set out in the recent case of John Murray.
My hon. Friends who have served on the Standing Committee of this Bill have asked me to thank the Minister of State for the way in which he responded in Committee—especially with the provision of information. My hon. Friends have also spoken about the conduct of the Committee, which was mutually respectful. It is quite clear that no one in the House is soft on terrorism—everyone wants to deal with it as effectively as possible.
Nine months ago, Labour offered the Government the opportunity to make common purpose in the fight against terrorism. We urged the Government to begin an immediate review of both the emergency legislation in Northern Ireland and the prevention of terrorism Act. That review would help to produce new counter-terrorist legislation in order to respond to the changing nature of terrorism in the United Kingdom and worldwide.
However, the review—which could have been completed—did not begin until after the Second Reading of the Bill. We voiced then our concerns about the delay, and its consequences for all those who are affected by emergency legislation. Our arguments for opposing the emergency provisions Act in recent years have been stated clearly and concisely. We have argued that section 34—the internment provision—gives the state, the executive, an unacceptable power to imprison without either charge or trial, and that the Government have ignored the kinds of reforms proposed by their advisers on matters such as full electronic monitoring of interviews and access to legal advice for those in holding centres. Those important considerations formed the basis of our reasoned amendment on Second Reading.
I said during that debate that we would not oppose the Bill on Third Reading. Accordingly, we will not divide the House tonight. We welcome the Minister's assurances regarding our amendments, and we have withdrawn them accordingly. We welcome the review by Lord Lloyd that the Government announced on Second Reading. We want a considered and effective approach to anti-terrorist legislation, and Lord Lloyd's review should help to provide that—as the Secretary of State implied. We shall submit our views, and we look forward to the conclusion of that review. We have made it clear that we will not vote to leave the people of Northern Ireland unprotected, without any anti-terrorist legislation.
I had hoped that the background to tonight's debate would be positive and forward-looking. Sadly, it is not. The resumption of IRA bombing is a tragedy that should never have happened. It must stop. Democratic and peaceful politics requires agreement and consensual progress. It is a fact of life that all who are committed to the democratic path will recognise; it takes time to achieve.
Progress in the peace process may at times have been slower than some preferred—but that is democracy. It is a fact that resorting to violence will impede progress, not speed it up. That is against the interests of every person living in Northern Ireland, who knows that at any second 91 he or she could be plunged back into carnage, just as it is against the interests of every person throughout these islands.
A greater sense of urgency is needed on all sides, but the greatest threat to rapid progress is a continuation of the bombing. Today, the commander of the anti-terrorist branch, John Grieve, said:We in the police are doing everything we can, but we need your assistance—communities cannot allow criminals to ruin our lives".Legislation can help, but terrorism will be defeated only by the courage, determination and flexibility on the part of those who wish for a lasting, just and peaceful future for Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I join the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) in expressing appreciation to the Minister of State for the effective manner in which he handled the details of the Standing Committee, the manner in which he answered the questions put to him and, perhaps most of all, for the courtesy which he showed to all members of the Committee. All Committee members are deeply indebted to the Minister for the way in which he carried out his office and for the courtesy that he showed to all who participated in the inquiry.
I say that very genuinely, because the Minister took on board all of the issues that were raised and he sought to provide answers—if not at that time, then at a later stage—which were received and studied by hon. Members. I put on record our deep appreciation to the Minister.
I think that it was a good inquiry and that Committee members—especially those from Her Majesty's Opposition—scrutinised all of the issues. All hon. Members who served on the Committee performed the tasks required of them. The inquiry was detailed, exciting on some occasions and, I trust, informative on others. It served a vital purpose in scrutinising the very important legislation which affects the lives of the people of Northern Ireland.
Not one Member of the House, including my honourable colleagues, wants the legislation to last a day longer than necessary. The legislation is there, not because of the democrats of the Chamber, but because of those who hate democracy and fight against it—the terrorists. They are responsible for the legislation being placed on and remaining on the statute book. It is important, therefore, that we have emergency legislation for as long as the emergency lasts.
I trust that effective security measures are being taken and that they will continue to be taken to ensure that the terrorists do not achieve their goal—to bomb, murder and destroy law-abiding citizens into submission to their terrorist mould.
The debate gives the terrorists a clear message. We, the people of the United Kingdom, in Northern Ireland and here on the mainland, will not be moved one inch, one iota, from our desired democratic path by the bombs that they have let off against us or with which they seek to destroy us or by their campaign of terror.
A message needs to be delivered loudly and clearly. For 25 years, the people of Northern Ireland withstood the carnage of the terrorists. I assure all those who believe 92 that they will achieve a united Ireland by the means of terrorism that they had better realise that after those 25 years of terror, the people of Northern Ireland are more determined than ever before to remain a part of the United Kingdom. That is not because, as some propagandists say, occupying forces are in Northern Ireland to try to force the people against their will, but because the people of Northern Ireland desire to remain a part of the United Kingdom—and that desire is freely expressed at the ballot box. We are delighted that the vast majority of the community, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, of the people of Northern Ireland, unitedly state that they believe that the best future for their children lies within the United Kingdom.
Terrorism is nevertheless a reality and must be defeated. If there is to be genuine peace in Northern Ireland, there must be no guns on the table, under the table or outside the door. The guns must go. The Semtex must go. The suggestion that Gerry Adams was at any time a democrat sickened those who were democrats and have confronted the onslaught of terrorism in the past 25 years. I should like to know of an occasion when Gerry Adams condemned one IRA bomb or one murder carried out by the IRA. The answer is, he has never done so to this day.
Mr. Adams may say that he will not walk down the path of condemnation just because someone asks. Common decency demands that he condemn acts of terrorism, as it is right that the House should. I hear that condemnation from colleagues on both sides of the House. We condemn murder as murder. There is no excuse for persons to take the law into their hands and destroy the lives of the innocent people of Northern Ireland or of this part of the United Kingdom on the mainland.
Gerry Adams is not a democratic politician and it was revolting and sickening to see him paraded when he set aside the old jumper that he had worn for about 10 years and the image of having been in bed for about five years without having combed his hair, and adopted the slick image of a new coat—provided by someone—a new wardrobe and a well-trimmed beard. It is as well that he kept the beard on because this morning, whenever he answered questions by one of the media from the Irish Republic, he had the brass neck to tell the people who knew something about the murders on the mainland not to tell the police, that it would be wrong for them to tell the security forces, and that he would not condemn such acts of carnage. Then he had the audacity and the brass neck to suggest that he regretted it. People of the United Kingdom well know that to hear that from Gerry Adams is not only sickening but like driving the knife deeper into the stomach of the person who has already been hurt by the terrorist act of violence.
As the House considers the emergency legislation, I must tell the Secretary of State and the Minister of State that we have a question in our mind. In Committee, it was drawn to our attention that there was a prosecution under legislation whereby a person might be convicted for directing terrorism. That prosecution was on the loyalist side of the community. I do not say that that should not have been done, but if it was right that a person was accused of such a crime, can anyone suggest why the likes of Gerry Adams, with blood on his hands, and Martin McGuinness, equally with blood on his hands, could not be prosecuted? The security forces know the credentials of both those persons. I am told that a recommendation 93 was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions—although my informants tell me that it did not arrive because it somehow got lost on the way or was misplaced—regarding the credentials of Martin McGuinness.
The people of Northern Ireland are waiting. They want to know exactly why those persons are not brought in under a charge of directing terrorism, because they are as guilty as those who planted the bomb on the mainland and no one in Northern Ireland believes that Gerry Adams did not know that the bomb was being planted at Canary wharf. Indeed, we believe that that was part of the dual scheme—Sinn Fein in its propaganda exercises and the IRA in its murdering enterprises.
In connection with that, has the Secretary of State seen the article that was printed in the press concerning the IRA army council? What is the position concerning Gerard Kelly, Pat Doherty, Rita O'Hare, Kevin McKenna and Brian Keenan, who were mentioned in the document? Has the matter been fully investigated? Are those the people behind it? For example, how could a lady—if she is in terrorism she is far from a lady, but a woman—who should be protecting and participating in the giving of life be in any way associated with the dastardly deeds of taking innocent people's lives and the destruction of people, on the mainland or—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. I have given a fair amount of latitude to speakers, knowing what the situation is at the moment, but the hon. Gentleman is trying my patience a little because we are discussing the Third Reading of a Bill and, in normal circumstances, that is very strictly interpreted. If the hon. Gentleman would return his remarks to the merits or otherwise of the Bill, I should be grateful.
§ Rev. William McCrea
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
The legislation is necessary because terrorists are on the loose in the United Kingdom. If those persons were not in an army council—if there were no such thing as an army council—there would be no need for emergency legislation and we would be glad for the legislation to be done away with. Other hon. Members have acknowledged that it is a wide-ranging issue, and certainly it is. Lives are at stake. We need legislation that deals with recruitment, targeting, regrouping, re-arming and the continuation of the threat to the peoples of Northern Ireland.
When the Secretary of State introduced the Third Reading debate, he said that the IRA had not stood down one man or surrendered a weapon, and that is true. Those weapons are held not for democracy but for murder and destruction.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister of State about a subject that we discussed in Committee. What is happening to special prisoners who were let out on licence because of the ceasefire? Will they be returned? I am speaking about those who have breached the so-called ceasefire, who have returned, not only to murderous intent, but to murderous activity.
My constituents are in grave danger. Many isolated people along the border are living in fear. There are in the community a number of well-armed terrorists who are seeking to destroy the lives of people in the Province and 94 in the rest of the United Kingdom. There is an emergency, and it is important to know exactly where the Government stand. Many law-abiding people who want genuine peace are deeply concerned. We will never have the genuine peace that has been talked about in this Chamber until terrorism is defeated and destroyed. If the Bill can take us down that road and achieve that aim, it will be in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Trimble
Before I mention general points, I want to raise one matter of detail to which I referred on Second Reading, and which my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) pursued in Committee but which has not been answered and dealt with adequately. I refer to the provisions relating to terrorist fund raising and financing. The terrorist funding unit has been operating for a number of years and it has been most successful in restricting the flow of finance to terrorists. The effect may not be immediately apparent, but that activity is important in striking at the roots of the terrorists' ability to cause mayhem and disturbance. It is essential, particularly in view of the events of recent days, that the existing powers remain on the statute book in an effective form.
Labour Front Benchers said that the anti-racketeering provisions are being moved from the Bill to ordinary legislation, and it is right for that to contain measures to enable the courts to confiscate the proceeds of crime and the ill-gotten gains of persons involved in organised crime. However, the provisions in the draft order dealing with the proceeds of crime are not effective in replacing section 57 and the associated schedule of the emergency provisions Act. The Minister referred to that matter in Committee and wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, saying that he would table an amendment to the proceeds of crime order. Unfortunately, I have not seen the text—I understand that it is not available—so I have to go by the Minister's letter to my hon. Friend, in which he stated:The amendment would relate to the definition of criminal conduct in article 2(2) of the Proceeds of Crime Order. As at present defined that definition of criminal conduct refers to a number of offences but excludes the offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We propose to remove that exception.Doing so will mean that the provisions of the order would apply to offences under the prevention of terrorism Act, and the provision for financial investigations under the order would then be available. However, that does not go far enough. The order enables the financial investigation provisions in article 49 to be available where there is an investigation into whether any person has benefited from any criminal conduct, which will be defined by reference to offences in the prevention of terrorism Act. I see two problems with that. When dealing with terrorist financing, there may not be a personal benefit. Also, we are still referring to the committing of an offence. I note in passing that offences under the Act are rarely brought successfully. If it is necessary to bring a conviction under that legislation, the provisions will rarely bite.
Compare those restrictions with the width of provisions in the emergency provisions Act, which enable an authorised investigator to be appointed where there is any investigation by the Royal Ulster Constabulary into the existence of the resources of a proscribed organisation and of funds that may be applied or used for the commission 95 or furtherance of acts of terrorism or in connection with them. There is no requirement in existing legislation for an offence to be committed, or for a person to be convicted of an offence or to have benefited. The wide existing provision focuses on the resources of proscribed organisations and the funds that may be used in connection with the commission of terrorism.
Although it seems from the Minister's words that an effort has been made to broaden the provisions in the proceeds of crime order, they are not as broad as the Act's existing provisions. If we are faced, as we appear to be, with the renewal of the terrorist campaign, it is extremely important—especially at present—to be able to attack terrorist financing. There is reason to believe that in recent months, terrorists—particularly the IRA—have been running short of funds. Although they have been able to keep going with the $1.5 million that they raised in the United States last year, that source of finance may cease to become available to the same extent, in view of the renewal of violence. It is extremely important that the power is broad and wide enough to cover terrorist financing.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way that he explained that fairly technical matter. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) has received a letter from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. It is certainly not our intention that future legislation shall be in any respect less broad than at present. I give an undertaking that the matter will be examined, with a view to securing that at least that principle is implemented. We will examine the matter fully and carefully.
§ Mr. Trimble
I thank the Secretary of State for his intervention and assurance. I remark in passing that that is another good reason for having the other place, even in its present form.
No one can seriously contend that there is no need for the Bill. I wish that there were clearer, more forthright acknowledgement of that fact from Labour Front Benchers. They voted against the Second Reading, giving various reasons. The truth was evident from the conduct and body language of the Opposition spokesperson. It was a question of looking over one's shoulder, at certain elements among Labour Back Benchers who seem to exert inordinate influence over the mind of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), who leads for the Opposition.
Over recent years, I thought that the Labour party was moving to a more honourable and forthright position on the need to combat terrorism and I was sorry to see that element of backsliding. I was also sorry that this evening there was not a more forthright acknowledgement of that need and a realisation of the change in circumstances. When one considers the ground that Labour advanced for voting against the Bill on Second Reading—the fact that the provision for internment remains in the legislation—it is clear that that provision would be resorted to only in the most extreme circumstances, but it is also clear that we might be faced with those circumstances.
Those who have followed the Dublin press over recent weeks may have noticed the reference in a few interviews by journalists who were able to speak to the leadership of 96 Sinn Fein-IRA to the belief that exists among the leadership of Sinn Fein-IRA that a sharp, savage campaign—those were the adjectives used in the Dublin press—in England would break the Government's will. Perhaps we have seen only the first instalment of what may be about to come. There is a significant and serious risk of a savage campaign, given the language that was used in the Dublin newspapers.
Against that background, it would be criminally irresponsible to foreswear the use of the power of internment. That power exists to be used on a pragmatic basis according to a judgment as to whether or not it will succeed. It has been used successfully many times over the past decades, but on one occasion it did not have the desired success. It is a matter of analysing the reasons for success in some cases and failures in others and the failure to judge when it is appropriate to resort to it. It may well be that, before too long, circumstances will arise when it will be necessary to resort to it. If those circumstances exist and there is the prospect of a successful exercise of that power, clearly, it should be used.
There would, however, be a difficulty with an immediate recourse to that power. It is now fairly clear that the bomb that exploded in docklands close to Canary wharf was organised by a tightly knit group within the IRA, based almost exclusively in the Republic of Ireland and that, in all probability, the bomb was manufactured in the IRA's usual bomb-making factories in the Louth area. According to journalists' reports over the weekend, the operation was directed from Monaghan, the telephone warning came from just outside Drogheda and all the indications are that the persons who ran the operation were physically located in the Irish Republic. That is not to say that they were natives of the Republic; some of them are natives of Northern Ireland who are now domiciled in the Irish Republic.
Another feature of the operation that ties in with what was happening before the ceasefire was the recruitment of "lilywhites"—persons from the Republic with no previous background or involvement in terrorism who are, therefore, unlikely to be picked up by the security services and the police in Northern Ireland, England or Wales.
The fact that the roots of the operation lie in the Republic of Ireland shows that immediate recourse to internment would not be successful from the point of view of authorities in the United Kingdom. If the authorities in the Republic were to act, however, it would be an entirely different matter. Those authorities have a duty to take action and to ensure that their territory is not used as a base from which to launch attacks on another country. I am aware of no action by authorities in the Republic to discharge that duty. We have been told that they did not detect the operation and were as surprised as anyone else by the bomb in Canary wharf. That suggests that they had no adequate intelligence on it. I hope that they have taken steps to repair that and that they will take further steps to show that they are prepared to discharge their obligations to their neighbours under international law.
Current events underline the need for a single uniform code covering the entire United Kingdom. The attempt to pretend that Northern Ireland is in some way distinct and distinguished from the problems that apply to the rest of the United Kingdom was exploded by recent events. We made that point a number of times in previous years, 97 we shall repeat it to Lord Lloyd when he undertakes his review and I very much hope that it will be reflected in his recommendations and in future legislation.
There have been comments on what has been called the peace process and suggestions as to what should be done about it, how to keep it going, advance it and speed up the tempo. I listened to the comments by the hon. Member for Redcar, although I did not find any of her proposals attractive. Nearly all of them are far divorced from what we would find desirable in the present circumstances.
Rather than looking at the detail of the peace process, it would be better to go back to first principles and to consider what has been happening during the past two years. What is called the peace process stemmed from propositions advanced in the autumn of 1993—propositions particularly associated with the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). If I may summarise his hypothesis of the time, he said that peace was possible if only the Government made a reasonable response. Underlying his proposition was the suggestion that those involved in terrorism had realised the futility of their actions and wished to get out of the terrorist campaign. They wanted to make progress towards peace and democracy and would do so if only the two Governments gave them the opportunity.
It was quite reasonable for the Government to respond to this hypothesis; no criticism should attach to them for so responding. It is reasonable to say that people should make the effort to achieve peace and should, for that reason, be prepared to take risks from time to time to achieve it.
Over the course of the past two years, the hypothesis has been subjected to tests. The whole point of the Downing Street declaration, particularly paragraph 10, was to provide tests of the hypothesis, to see whether it was genuine, and as the Government said, to create the necessary confidence in it. Now we have seen what has happened. The events of the past fortnight show that even if the hypothesis had some validity two years ago, it no longer corresponds with reality.
I do not say this with pleasure. Over these two years, to be sure, we have expressed a certain amount of scepticism about the hypothesis, and there is a temptation now to say that we have been proved right. But if we have been, I take no pleasure from it. It would have been better if the hypothesis had been right and we had been able to move towards peace and democracy. Events, however, have shown that it is not true.
The fact is that what we had a couple of years ago was an agreement on a stratagem, or tactic. Sinn Fein-IRA embarked on what they called the ceasefire because they had been persuaded that it would be possible, in the event of a cessation of violence, to put together a coalition stretching through Sinn Fein, the SDLP, the Irish Government and Irish America—a coalition that would exert pressure on the British Government.
I noticed in this connection a comment made by Garret Fitzgerald in The Irish Times a few weeks ago, to the effect that when it proved impossible for Mr. Albert Reynolds, the then Prime Minister of the Republic, to obtain a ceasefire on the terms of the Downing Street declaration, he jettisoned part of it and obtained a ceasefire on other terms, giving various undertakings to achieve it. I noticed also that an IRA representative, in an interview last week, used language consistent with this hypothesis. In any event, the real ceasefire was clearly different from the declared ceasefire.
98 Reality came home to Sinn Fein-IRA in the aftermath of the Clinton visit. Sinn Fein-IRA had been led to believe that Irish America, and its influence with the White house, was their trump card. When the President stood in Mackie's and told the terrorists that their day was over, I think they realised that this was not going to be their trump card. There is reason to believe that the strategic decision to resume violence was taken in December, weeks before the publication of the Mitchell report. Journalist sources certainly suggest that.
So the basic proposition that underlay the peace process has been shown to be false. The bombs that went off in London destroyed the ceasefire, and must also have destroyed any future ceasefire based on the same hypothesis. A great deal has been said about the need to restore the peace process and resume the ceasefire, but it must be realised that there is no prospect of returning to the ceasefire that we thought or hoped existed before last week.
The only ceasefire on offer was suggested by Mr. Adams last week. He talked of a ceasefire that would be offered only in exchange for a clear commitment to move immediately to all-party negotiations, without any preconditions whatever, and within a clearly defined time limit. That ceasefire is not worth having and is not one to which we could be party. We could be party only to a process that was genuinely based on a permanent end to violence, which was clearly intended to be permanent and if the parties' actions were entirely consistent with such an intention, with all that entails. That would mean returning to paragraph 10 of the Downing Street declaration and fulfilling what it said about peaceful intent, the democratic mandate and abiding by the democratic process.
I appreciate, Madam Deputy Speaker, that you have been kind in allowing me to wander a little from the terms of the Bill. We will have to explore these matters in greater detail on other occasions. The events of the past few weeks must cause us to reassess what has happened over the past two years. A valiant effort was made to achieve peace, but we must realise that that effort has failed. We need, therefore, to reassess not just the hypothesis, but the motives and actions of those who presented that hypothesis. We need to consider how we can restore the political process and, at the same time, we need to ensure that effective legislation is in place to deal with the security problem that we may be about to face.
We need not just legislation, but an effective strategy to defeat terrorism, because it is no longer possible to hope that terrorism will go away of its own accord. We must try to work out an effective strategy. I believe that that can be done. The parties could return to the suggestions that were made by the Chief Constable a year or two ago for the strengthening of terrorist legislation. All the Bill would do is to reproduce most of the provisions in the EPA. As I have said, I think that the Bill omits an important part of the old EPA, but it could be strengthened in the ways that were mentioned by the Chief Constable and others several years ago. It is pity if we have to wait for Lord Lloyd because there is still an opportunity in another place to strengthen this legislation.
§ Mr. Mallon
I wish to associate myself with the remarks of those who were on the Standing Committee. I thank the Minister and all the other members of the 99 Committee. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) and to his colleagues for a remarkably good presentation of the position, and to all the people on the Standing Committee, including the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis): when the day comes, as it inevitably will, that he and I are not on Committees dealing with emergency legislation there will be a massive gap, albeit one related more to our sizes than to our contributions.
I am delighted to see the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir N. Scott) in his place. I went through the records in relation to previous legislation and I was struck by two comments made by the right hon. Member when he was the Minister dealing with the emergency provisions legislation for Northern Ireland. I think he will agree with me—if about nothing else—that that was some time ago. In Northern Ireland, we look upon the right hon. Member with affection and great respect. When he was a Conservative Front-Bench spokesman, dealing with emergency legislation right in the middle of the most awful violence that we have seen in the north of Ireland, he made a speech in Munich in advance of a previous Standing Committee. I shall quote two extracts, which are as relevant now as they were then. He said:Democracy should seek to derogate as little as possible from the normal standards of justice and government which would normally apply.I agree with that statement. He also said in the same speech:Progressive policies without regard to moderation, civilisation and restraint could actually feed terrorism.I agree with that, too. I believe that that thesis is equally valid now, and it was equally valid long ago when Thomas Jefferson said—in a different context—that if one sacrifices justice for security one ends up losing both. We must never lose sight of that principle—the principle enunciated by the right hon. Member for Chelsea—when we are dealing with legislation of this kind.
I should like to deal with many elements of the legislation in detail, but I have had my chance over many years in a number of Committees, and I hope that this will be my last chance to speak about such legislation. I hope that nothing that I say on the Floor of the House will exacerbate a tense and difficult situation, and for that reason I do not intend to refer directly to the political dimension that we are discussing. It would be easy to provide not a reason but an excuse for avowed terrorists to use whatever is said here as a spurious justification.
I know that it was not intended, but it has been suggested in today's debate that the suffering of those who were killed, maimed or bereaved in London was somehow less immediate for us in the north of Ireland than it would have been if the bomb had gone off in Belfast, Derry or anywhere else in the north of Ireland. I know that I speak for every other hon. Member representing the north of Ireland when I say that that is not true. The compassion and the sympathy are felt by everyone in the north of Ireland. They are tangible: they are there to be seen and touched. They are no less immediate because the Irish sea lies between the two islands.
People here should realise that. At some stage during the debate, it has been implied that violence here is bad because it might start up violence in the north of Ireland 100 again. That is true, but let us not forget that everyone, no matter where they live, must be protected from violence of this kind. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls: it tolls wherever it may toll, and human nature and the human condition are lessened by it, no matter where.
I wish to challenge two other theses. In this context, I turn to another British poet—Wilfred Owen—who in one of his poems challenged the great lie:Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"—"It is a good and noble thing to die for one's country". I also challenge that thesis. No one on the island of Ireland or outside it has any right or mandate from the Irish people to say that they are killing in the name of the Irish people. I give no one that right and I attribute it to no one. The wish of the Irish people, as determined—indeed, self-determined—by them is that violence cannot be exercised in their name. I call upon those within the so-called republican movement—I use that term because I regard myself as a republican in the true sense of the word, and I believe that they have besmirched it—to stop telling the great lie to young people in our country: stop propagating the awful untruth that somehow it is noble to kill other people for a spurious type of Irish unity which would not be worth the paper it was written on if it were obtained by the deaths of the two people of Canary wharf, and the thousands of other deaths.
I also challenge the notion, and I do so at every opportunity, that there is not a nationalist consensus. I repeat that there is, there was, and there will be, and that it is based on three principles. First, no one has the right to use violence in the name of the Irish people to solve the problems in Ireland. I stand by that principle. Secondly, if we have the right to self-determination, as recognised in the joint framework document, the Irish people have the right to decide how it will be exercised, and they have self-determined that it shall not be exercised in that way. The third principle is that of consent. All political parties, outside Sinn Fein, on what is loosely called the nationalist side, have a consensus. It is not something for the mood of the moment. It is not something to be used just when it suits. It is a basic principle.
In our debate earlier, the central point was missing. What has happened is that the IRA and Sinn Fein have seemed to be outside the nationalist consensus, to be outside the consensus that is based on those three principles, to be outside what is a positive and constructive dynamic within Irish life, and they will remain so. The people who stand outside it are Sinn Fein and the IRA. Is that new? They stood outside the Sunningdale agreement and blew it to smithereens. On the Anglo-Irish Agreement, there were three factors against it: the Unionists, the IRA and Conor Cruise O'Brien. Then there was the joint declaration. They stood outside consensus on that, and the framework document, and the report of the new Ireland forum, and the Mitchell report. The tragedy of the Mitchell report was that it was not tested on the Floor of the House the day it was brought out.
We can surmise, but the basic thesis of the IRA position is this, and I challenge it. The most chilling part of the IRA's statement of last Thursday was its reference to "Irish national rights". That is its definition of the three principles. Its definition of the three principles is contained in those three words. I put this to the IRA and to everybody. Do they for one moment imagine that my 101 party, or the Irish Government, of whatever hue, or the number of parties that make it up, or all the parties that signed the forum report, or the United States Government, will ever resile from those three principles? If they do, their case is fatally and fundamentally flawed, because what they mean when they talk about a pan-nationalist front is changing and diluting those principles. The assumption, which is wrong, is that the SDLP will change its view on those three principles. It will not, and neither will any other party in Ireland. We stand by that nationalist consensus and on no other ground. That is the greatest strength in terms of argument in the entire equation.
The British will, of course, always be wrong; no matter what they do, IRA-Sinn Fein will have a reason to say that. The British can be plausible, easy or populist, but they will be wrong. The Irish Government will be wrong, as they are at the moment. I take this opportunity to say again that I support the stance taken by the Irish Government. They are the sovereign Government of the Republic of Ireland and I totally support their stance of not speaking at ministerial or Government level with people who are connected with violence. However, they are wrong, too, and we are wrong. I remember when, not so long ago, we were Lundies and sell-outs, and I was a west Brit.
In the mind of the IRA, everything has changed except the dogma—I refer to the great line by Wilfred Owen. IRA members believe that, somehow, they hold the holy grail and that all the rest of the people in Ireland, including nationalists and real republicans, are wrong. We can put the IRA to the test. My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) made a proposal for a referendum. He said that for the first time since 1918 we should let all the people of the island speak with one voice in opposition to the violence. That would remove the spurious claim by Sinn Fein and the IRA to be descended from that period of Irish history and to speak in the name of the Irish people. That is the way to do it.
I know that I have strayed from the Bill, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not want to negotiate or to try to negotiate across the Floor of the House, but I want to make one last remark, which I mean sincerely. There is a remarkable chemistry within the political process in the north of Ireland which is waiting to be tapped. It could be used like a bunsen burner and be lost for ever, or it could be used in a distinctly positive way. The catalyst of the Canary wharf violence and the other violence that we have seen has in many ways, at least in terms of that chemistry, brought us closer together. We must not spoil the potential of that by any form of dogma, whether it be Government dogma, Unionist dogma or, dare I say it, SDLP dogma.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am sure that the whole House has been impressed by the remarks made by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). He has spoken from the heart and his words have been pressed from his innermost being, and we accept that. It is always moving to be in the House when such a speech is made. I say that unreservedly and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that I say it sincerely.
Having listened to what the hon. Gentleman has said, however, and having listened to what has been, from a republican and nationalist, such an indictment of the IRA 102 and of Sinn Fein, the people whom I represent and the broad spectrum of Unionists, both the Protestant majority and the many Roman Catholics who are Unionists, will want to know what—if that very solemn indictment from the hon. Gentleman is so—his leader and Gerry Adams signed up to. That is the big question. We, as representatives elected to the House of Commons of this United Kingdom, have never been a party to what was signed up to, and it has all been kept carefully under wraps. It affects the destiny of my people and of the constituents of other hon. Members who are Unionist, but we do not know—we have never been told. Having listened to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, I am sure that Gerry Adams signed up to something which proposed, if not all that the hon. Gentleman said, then a great deal of it. That is what worries the people whom I represent.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh says that he stands by Mr. Bruton's statement that he will not hold talks with IRA-Sinn Fein until it says that it repudiates violence. I have been criticised—as has my party—for always taking that stance. Democrats cannot sit down with people who, if they do not agree with the end product of the negotiations, say, "We will take to the gun." That is exactly what lies at the heart of IRA-Sinn Fein. It says, "Yes, we want to sit at the table to discuss and negotiate, but if we do not agree with the agreement that is reached, we will go back to killing, mayhem and the bomb."
Let us look at what has taken place in the lead-up to the present situation. First, there was the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Hon. Members wondered why the Unionist population were so stirred at the time of the agreement, and the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) told the Government to "face them down". It is all very well to call for talks, but the majority population in Northern Ireland were not consulted about the agreement.
I am glad that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at that time, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), is in the Chamber for this debate. The right hon. Gentleman was visited at the time by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir J. Molyneaux)—the then leader of the Ulster Unionists—and me. We asked why we, as the leaders of parties representing the majority Unionist population in the House of Commons, were not being briefed in the way in which the Dublin Government were briefing the SDLP on what was to come out of the talks. He said, "I take that on board, and I will come back to you." But he came back and said, "The answer is no—you are not going to be briefed," and we were not briefed.
Later, the two Governments met in conference and started to deal with internal matters. We were always told that the internal matters of Northern Ireland were a matter for this Parliament and for the people of Northern Ireland. Suddenly, we saw representatives from the Irish Republic dealing with matters that were solely internal affairs for Northern Ireland. That did not work, even though the Unionists were faced down, because one cannot rule a country when the majority is against it, and one cannot rule a country when a sizeable minority is armed against it. We know that, but you have to take people with you if you can. We then had the Downing Street declaration—principles which spelled out that in some way the whole of the people of Ireland would have the final setting of the stage. However, the people of Northern Ireland could give their consent.
103 I have listened to all the debates. Albert Reynolds said, "I want to make it perfectly clear that we are saying this at this juncture, but this does not mean that the people of Northern Ireland will always be allowed to have this particular power of consent." How did the Unionists react to that? The stage was set towards a united Ireland and then they got the framework document, which set the structures. There were no two choices in the framework document: there was one choice, one option—we were to go down the road of a united Ireland.
Perhaps hon. Members do not understand. They heard the emotional and moving speech of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh that on the other side, in the hearts and in the depths of the majority of people of Northern Ireland, there is a determination that, come what may, they will never enter into a united Ireland: they are part of this kingdom, and they intend to remain part of this kingdom, but even if this kingdom should drive them forth, they will not accept a united Ireland. That is as deep in the hearts of those people as the statement that the hon. Gentleman made of his political faith tonight. It is deep, it is real, and it is part of what makes the Unionists tick.
Hon. Members should not say to the representatives of the majority, "You must sit down with men who have guns at the ready if they do not get what they want." Of course, we were accused of wanting the peace process to fail. No one would enjoy peace more than the majority representatives and the elected representatives from Northern Ireland. Do hon. Members think there is any pleasure to come through this stream, to be threatened, to see our children go off to school and not know whether they will be beaten, kicked or perhaps even killed? That is true of both sides of the divide. When I was in Stormont, Paddy Devlin spoke to me and said, "Yesterday, my boy was kicked and urinated on by IRA men on his way home from school." Hon. Members can understand how a father would feel about that. My wife, who served on the Belfast city council and who voted against the rise in the rents of houses, went to a housing estate and was stoned. Those things are an everyday occurrence with politicians and we all know it. We are all under threat, so it is no pleasure to us.
I have grieved tonight about what has happened and I echo what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said. We and the people of Northern Ireland do not judge the ordinary people of this mainland. We are with them in their tragedy. We weep with those who weep, sorrow with those who sorrow and enter into their real fears. No one in Northern Ireland is saying, "Slap it into them—they need to get what we've got." We do not want anyone to have to go through the dark valley that Ulster has gone through—God forbid it—but there are evil men in the community in Northern Ireland and infiltrated into the community here and they are determined that they will have their pound of flesh. They think that they are going to teach this United Kingdom a lesson.
After the ceasefire, the IRA published a very interesting document. It is private and was intended to be secret, but my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) seems to have a wonderful way of getting such documents. It reveals the IRA mind. It states thatHume is the only SDLP person on the horizon strong enough to face the challenge.104 That writes out the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. As for his companion, the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), who is sitting beside him, he is not even mentioned, which is understandable as he was the man who defeated Gerry Adams and he could hardly expect any laurels for that.
The document also states:Dublin's coalition is the strongest government in 25 years or more. Reynolds has no historical baggage to hinder him and knows how popular such a consensus would be among grassroots.There is potentially a very powerful American lobby not in hock to any particular party in Ireland or Britain.Clinton is perhaps the first US president in decades to be substantially influenced by such a lobby.At this time the British government is the least popular in the EU with other EU members.It is the first time in 25 years that all the major Irish nationalist parties are rowing in roughly the same direction.It states that "these combined circumstances" are unlikely to come again in the foreseeable future, so the hour has come. The ceasefire and the so-called peace strategy—that is mentioned in the document, which states that the organisation of an "anti-British" peace strategy must be the priority—have all come to pass and the IRA thinks that this is an hour of weakness. It may be an hour of weakness in a political sense, but it is the hour of the people of Ulster's greatest strength: they have resolved within their hearts that they will not be bombed, bullied, bulleted or battered to a table to discuss their future with the men of violence—who will go back to that violence if they do not get their way.
I am glad that my party will meet members of the Social Democratic and Labour party this week. I hope that as we sit down at that table we shall be able to see exactly where the parts of the community divide and where there may be some common ground. The only hope for Northern Ireland is in the principles of democracy. If those principles are put into action at this time, we can leave aside those who will not go the way of democracy but choose the way of violence: they will be taken care of by the rising tide in the community that the day has come to say goodbye to those who want violence and to welcome those who stand for a solution which can come about through democracy and the ballot box.
I welcome the legislation because it is a signal to the men of violence that the Government will not weaken in their fight. I trust that it will be taken in that manner across the United Kingdom—as a signal that this Parliament, this Government and this people are determined to see the battle through so that real peace, based on the principles of democracy, can come about. I hope that that peace will soon be born.
§ Mr. McNamara
In the first part of the speech of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), the House witnessed the intensity of feeling and sense of identity that belongs to both gentlemen and to the communities that they represent. Their words illustrated to the House the necessity of seeking to find an accommodation that is based on both communities and is acceptable to both communities.
It must therefore be an agreement that does not talk in terms of majority and minority, but recognises the traditions, aspirations and hopes of each of those 105 communities. That, I trust, is what the Prime Ministers of both countries will talk about when they have their summit, whenever that may be. I hope that it will also form the content of what the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister will discuss when they talk to the leaders of the various parties in the House. That means that there must not be triumphalism on either side, but there must be compromise on each side. One side must regard and respect the Britishness of the other and the other side must regard and respect the Irishness of the other. That should be the aim of the policies that we are seeking to achieve.
That is the important message that we must take from what my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh and the hon. Member for North Antrim—who has been my hon. Friend on occasions—have said. I think that the hon. Member for North Antrim and I are the only two Members of the House who took part in the first debate on the emergency powers Act and served on the Committee together.
The leader of the Ulster Unionists referred to me and my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), who now has the honour of leading for the Opposition on Northern Ireland. He was derogatory to both of us. Both of us have advanced the principles and policies of the British Labour party, laid down at Labour party conferences and enunciated by a great number of shadow Secretaries of State from the Front Bench long before I had a position there.
The reason why we have, in the past, opposed the Act and measures in it was not that we did not think that there was a problem of dealing with terrorists in Northern Ireland—far from it. We opposed the Act because we felt that the mechanisms and measures contained in it were not necessarily the most productive means of dealing with the problem.
Taking away someone's right to jury trial is a serious matter. We looked for a way of reinstating it in a more positive manner. The indefinite internment of people without trial is a serious matter. We sought to take that power away, because in the past it had been used only against one section of the community. Those are the reasons why the Labour party, over the years, has opposed those powers. They are not the selfish possessions of myself or of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar, but the principled reasons of the British Labour party.
The Secretary of State made a number of interesting comments on the current situation. I should like to make one point very loud and very clear. Neither the Prime Minister, the British Government nor anyone else can be used as an excuse by anyone for what happened at Canary wharf last week or at the Aldwych last night. The only group responsible for the carnage, the deaths, the woundings and the terrible loss of property is the Provisional IRA. It is spurious to seek excuses in the way in which the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister handled the negotiations, and no justification whatever.
The essence of democracy is that one has to deal with situations as one finds them. As the Secretary of State was keen to point out, he had the support of my Front-Bench colleagues for his policies—especially for decommissioning, which was one of the reasons why I parted company with my Front-Bench colleagues. I parted company with them because I thought that it was a foolish policy. I never thought that there would ever be any decommissioning. It was wrong to pursue it.
106 Equally, however, the Secretary of State, by a sleight of hand tonight, has tried to suggest that he accepted the Mitchell proposals. The Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and did not accept them. He foisted upon the House elections that came from one of the confidence-building measures and went on to say that he accepted the six principles, but the main thrust of Mitchell's first and main recommendation was for talks to start and then for there to be progress on decommissioning.
The Prime Minister sought to pre-empt that recommendation and the report in precisely the same way that the Government sought to pre-empt the Scott report. Sadly, that is water under the bridge, but we cannot allow it to be said that the Government were pursuing a perfect set of negotiations, because they were not. Before the bomb, there had been a divergence of view between our Government and that of the Republic on the best way forward for the talks. It is important that that should be put on record.
§ Mr. McNamara
If I want untruths and inaccuracies, I shall always come to the hon. Gentleman, because he can put them forward far better than anyone else.
My point is that a lot of that is now water under the bridge and we have a serious and difficult situation. I do not believe that our Government should in any way negotiate with IRA-Sinn Fein at ministerial level while it is engaged in any sort of campaign of violence. However, there is great urgency for the two Governments to get together as soon as possible, to iron out their differences and work together. Real progress in Northern Ireland has been made only when the two sovereign Governments have been marching forward together, not when there has been divergence between them.
I do not wish to end on an antagonistic note, but I believe that another veto has been operating throughout the peace process—that of the Ulster Unionists. They were not prepared to accept the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they pick and choose the bits in the Downing Street declaration that they like—their position on that is typical—and they have not accepted the framework document. If we are to succeed in this endeavour, we must return to—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. There are too many interventions from the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. McNamara
The problem with the hon. Gentleman is that his charm is exceeded only by his beauty. The same goes for the remarks that he makes from a sedentary position.
The position of the Ulster Unionist party has caused some problems. It, too, has exercised a veto over the discussions and it has used its position very skilfully to extract concession after concession from the Government. That is where I believe that the Secretary of State has gone wrong.
§ Mr. McNamara
I shall either list the concessions or give way. I think that I shall list them and, if there is time, I shall then give way—although the Secretary of State may wish to reply to the debate.
A Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs has been established. Its formation was denied by all parties in this place—both Government and Opposition—until the Maastricht vote, and then it came about. The Ulster Unionists have been offered a Northern Ireland Grand Committee and they have achieved progress on their integration policies, as more and more legislation that we pass in the House covers Northern Ireland, when in the past there were separate Orders in Council or separate legislation.
I believe that further concessions will be made to the Ulster Unionist party. For example, the Government gave way to its demands for elections—without consulting the Irish Government or other parties in this place—because they need the Unionist vote. The Secretary of State will receive the Opposition's support when he behaves correctly; that has been made very clear. However, the power of the Ulster Unionists comes into play on other issues, and that fact must be recognised. That takes me back to where I began.
§ Mr. McNamara
No. The hon. Gentleman has had his say and he has nattered away during my speech. I shall now finish my nattering.
The deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, and the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, the hon. Member for North Antrim, epitomise the nature of the problem. I believe that we have a duty to try to help the two communities to come together and reach an accommodation that will recognise the Irishness of the nationalists and the Britishness of the loyalists.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I wish to comment on some of the fairly blatant inaccuracies that we have heard in the past few minutes. It is rather peculiar that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) does not recognise that the Ulster Unionist party accepted the Downing Street declaration and that Sinn Fein did not. The Ulster Unionist party accepted the Mitchell commission report in total, as a package, without picking and choosing various elements from it. I had the privilege of being the first to speak live to the cameras after Senator George Mitchell delivered his report. I remind the hon. Gentleman that I said, "I welcome, on behalf of the Ulster Unionist party, the Mitchell commission report. We 108 accept it, as a package; we believe that it should not be picked over, with parts chosen and parts discarded. If every party does that, it will lose its usefulness."
Sinn Fein did not accept the Mitchell report.
§ Mr. Maginnis
The hon. Gentleman agrees that it was quite right. He has just told me that it was quite right.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I am usually quite right vis-à-vis what the hon. Gentleman has to say.
More important, Sinn Fein-IRA sat for almost a year with every other nationalist party in Ireland. They sat in what was called the Dublin Forum for Peace and Reconciliation and at the end of that, the forum brought forth a report—about a fortnight ago. That report by and large picked up the elements of the Downing Street declaration—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ Madam Speaker
Does the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) wish to finish, or may we move on to the Northern Ireland order?
§ Mr. Maginnis
It is to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the one dissenting voice in what was mainly a pan-nationalist forum was Sinn Fein-IRA. I do not use the word pan-nationalist in this case in any derogatory sense, but Sinn Fein was the one party that could not agree with the other nationalist parties in Ireland. That is the party for which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North wants to make excuse after excuse in the House.
§ Mr. McNamara
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with accusing me of making excuses for a party that supports murder and violence.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is a long-standing parliamentarian in the House. He knows that that is not a point of order; it is a point of argument and a point of debate.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.