HC Deb 12 June 1997 vol 295 cc1321-32 5.59 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Marjorie Mowlam)

I beg to move, That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 (Amendment) Order 1997 (S.I., 1997, No. 1403), which was laid before this House on 3rd June, be approved. The order proscribed the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Continuity Army Council. It came into effect on 4 June and is subject to approval within 40 sitting days.

Let me begin by giving some background to those two organisations. The Loyalist Volunteer Force is a breakaway group of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The Continuity Army Council is a name generally used to describe the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein.

We do not take decisions concerning the proscription of any organisation lightly. It might be helpful, therefore, if I put the proscription of these two organisations in the context of a number of appalling acts of terrorism for which they have claimed responsibility.

In March this year, the LVF set fire to the tourist information centres in Banbridge and Newcastle. It was also responsible for arson attacks on the Irish heritage centre in Donaghmore, a school in Newry and Sinn Fein offices in Dungannon. It also in the same month claimed responsibility for planting a bomb in Dundalk town centre. In April, it claimed responsibility for an arson attack on a public house in Aghalee, and in May it claimed responsibility for the murder of 62-year-old Sean Brown, a local member of the Gaelic Athletic Association club. He had been abducted from the club and his body was found beside his burnt-out car in Randalstown. The reason given: loyalist parades being re-routed.

With regard to the CAC, in July 1996, it claimed responsibility for a car bomb left outside Killyhevlin hotel in Enniskillen, which destroyed much of the building. In September, it claimed responsibility for a bomb abandoned in a stolen car in Belfast city centre. In May, the CAC was believed to be responsible for a car bomb in Belfast, which detonated prematurely, injuring an occupant of the car.

Taking into account acts such as those, and judging carefully all the available information against the statutory criterion for proscription—being concerned in terrorism or in promoting or encouraging it—I concluded that, in both cases, that criterion had been fully met. Once that judgment had been made, I took prompt action, as any organisations that are constituted for the primary purpose of carrying out criminal terrorist acts can have no legitimate place in our society.

As a result of the order, it is an offence to be a member of the LVF or CAC from the time that they became proscribed organisations. It is also an offence to solicit or invite any person to become a member of those organisations or to assist in the holding of a meeting to support or further their activities.

Proscription cannot prevent terrorist acts, but it does make life harder for the terrorists. Most important of all, it gives a clear statement of the Government's and society's abhorrence of those organisations. Those who put themselves above the law must expect the consequences. Those crimes serve only to exacerbate divisions and mistrust in Northern Ireland society. Proscription reinforces the Government's commitment to protect all the citizens of Northern Ireland.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

Is it not the case that, apart from all else, members of the LVF have been and remain deeply implicated in the disgraceful, violent picketing of the small Catholic church at Harryville?

Marjorie Mowlam

Yes, there is evidence to suggest that that is the case. I join my hon. Friend and all hon. Members in condemning the sectarian bigotry that we see every weekend at Harryville Catholic church, where attempts have been made to stop people entering, showing their faith and being able to participate in church services. It is an example of how the tensions and the sectarianism are surfacing again in the run-up to the marching season. I join my hon. Friend wholeheartedly in condemning what has been happening there.

We hope that the proscription of the LVF and the CAC will have some effect in showing that we as a House of Commons do not give any credence to such behaviour, and that we shall work in the weeks and months ahead to do all we can to build a society that is based on peace, prosperity and reconciliation for all sides of the community.

6.4 pm

Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes)

The Opposition support the order. We accept that the Secretary of State has shown that there is sufficient information to justify the proscribing of the two groups, which is obviously not a light matter; the decision has not been lightly taken. She gave us a list of the acts that appear to have been committed by both groups, on both sides of the sectarian spectrum, interestingly. The Opposition are satisfied that she had every justification for acting to proscribe them.

As the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) reminded the Secretary of State, it is not just straightforward acts of violence that are carried out by such groups. As he said, we have seen the disgraceful behaviour at Harryville. We have seen other sectarian acts on the other side in relation to the burning of Orange halls and so on, all of which strike directly at the deep rights of individuals, such as the right to worship. It is absolutely correct that we should condemn wholeheartedly those who try to disrupt those basic rights, for which many people's ancestors—on both sides of the divide—died. They are precious rights, and we should certainly take a strong and condemnatory view of those who seek to disrupt them.

The reasons for such proscription must be twofold: first, to bring to bear on such organisations and their members the full force of criminal law, to make it more difficult for them to pursue their nefarious activities; and, secondly, to show beyond doubt the implacable hostility with which a democratic society regards those who systematically seek to use violence in pursuit of political ends. Those reasons for proscription are different, but they relate to the way in which society conducts itself, and it is right that, in those circumstances, proscription is used.

The emergence of those two groups may have been by design, in order to provide cover for acts of terrorism outwith the recognised structures of the IRA or the Combined Loyalist Military Command, or it may have been caused by disgruntled breakaways from within those organisations. Either way, I believe that it is right that the trap door of proscription should now be closed on them.

Being sanguine—I think that the Secretary of State recognised this—I do not believe that this act alone will lead to a flood of convictions for membership, or, indeed, to the disbandment of those groupings. The history of previous proscriptions does not give great grounds for over-optimism, particularly in relation to the difficulties of securing sufficient evidence to make charges stick. We all know of the intimidation that is brought to bear on those who on occasion show sufficient courage to give evidence against others in their community for membership of proscribed groups. It is one of those difficult areas where the intention of the order may not in practice turn out to be quite as achievable as we would hope.

I hope that I shall be proved wrong, but history suggests that we should not put too much store by the effectiveness of criminal conviction that might follow such an order. None the less, the order gives an important message and is a positive step. In that context, it is worth reminding ourselves that there are other proscribed groups on the loyalist and the republican side, the most highly organised of which is the Provisional IRA, whose political wing, which is not proscribed, is Sinn Fein.

I mention that because, in the pursuit of peace over the years, that fact has on occasion become somewhat blurred in the minds and mouths of certain commentators and observers, encouraged sometimes by the romanticisation and glorification of those movements on the cinema screen. Just as these two groups are being proscribed by the order because they are terrorist groups, so, we must never forget, is the Provisional IRA. It is an organisation designed and committed to achieve its political objectives through the use of violence, murder, injury and destruction. It must continue to be pursued with the full vigour of the law, just as the two groups proscribed today will be until they mend their ways.

Dr. Godman

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the romanticisation of terrorist organisations in films and plays, but we should also remember the romanticisation of such people in newspapers elsewhere in the world. When I was in Australia at Christmas, I was appalled to read of events in Northern Ireland and to see terrorists described in broadsheets, not tabloids, as guerrillas. I made my views known to some journalists whom I met when I was there.

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Those of us who have been involved in Northern Ireland see a very different side than is often portrayed, as he says, in newspapers and films. We are talking about not guerrillas or freedom fighters, but people who kill, maim, destroy, injure and create devastation to families and communities in pursuit of political objectives, and there is nothing glorious or romantic about that. It is right, when considering the proscription of the two groups today, that we recognise that that same definition applies to the Provisional IRA and to the proscribed organisations within the Combined Loyalist Military Command as well.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

What impact does proscription have on the media who broadcast the words of proscribed groups, saying that they have had a coded message, and at the same time give publicity to those who put hoods on themselves? That does not disguise their body language or their speech. Surely proscription should at least make the media accountable to the law as well.

Mr. Ancram

I am not sure that it is necessarily wise to try to restrict the media by law on occasions such as this, but I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and I hope that the media will recognise the responsibility they bear in this area, and the fact that, if they set out to portray acts of horror and terror as anything other than that, they are themselves helping to create a myth which is destructive to the process in which the Secretary of State and others are involved in trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

It is for that reason—we must also look at the matter in this context—that it is right that Sinn Fein, as the political wing of a proscribed organisation, cannot be admitted to the talks process until a genuine and unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire by the Provisional IRA is again in place. That is why the judgment of that ceasefire has to be based on more than just words. Actions will be just as important, as will be the cessation of actions, because, in judging whether a proscribed organisation such as the Provisional IRA is genuine in a ceasefire, it is right that we look to see whether it is still doing things that are inconsistent with a ceasefire. Those which were identified last November, which I understand are still those that the Secretary of State would consider, include continued surveillance, continued targeting and the continued development of weapons, which, in terms of a proscribed terrorist outfit, are simply inconsistent with any declaration of a ceasefire.

Sinn Fein is, of its nature, implicated by association in the violence of the IRA, and no amount of counter-protestation by its arch-propagandists can distort that fact. That is why it is right that Sinn Fein must show a commitment to exclusively peaceful methods and adherence to democratic principles before it can be included in the democratic process.

I can assure the Secretary of State that in the—currently, I have to say—unlikely event of a ceasefire, the Opposition will support her in the most vigorous examination of the words and actions during any ceasefire in order to be satisfied that they show a genuine move away from terrorist violence as a means of seeking to achieve political objectives. Without such vigorous examination and assessment, the confidence to allow a fully inclusive process of talks to prosper simply would not exist.

The order is introduced at a time of great uncertainty and, I think it is right to say, tension in Northern Ireland, when recent acts of violence on all sides, including yesterday's vicious assassination, have given rise to raw sensitivities about the present and apprehension about the future. The order will give some assurance of the Government's attitude to fringe sectarian terrorism, and for that reason I welcome it.

I am sure that the right hon. Lady will agree that such determination is all the better for being balanced and even-handed. She will know the importance of a balanced approach throughout the work that she is currently undertaking, and I hope that she will bear that in mind in her future consideration of other aspects of what she is doing, such as consideration of the North report and her attitude towards the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

It is essential that all parts of the community have confidence at this time that their position, traditions and safeguards are not being unilaterally undermined. I think that the Secretary of State agreed with me yesterday at Question Time on the importance of dialogue and agreement in moving forward. I trust that she will show that in practice in dealing with the thorny issues that confront her because, at the end of the day, confidence building depends on consultation and trust.

To confirm the benefit of the order, I hope that the Secretary of State will take the earliest opportunity to impress upon the new Government in Dublin that confidence will be created and retained only by an even approach to both parts of the community in Northern Ireland, and that any undue indication of sympathy towards the republican cause will undermine the efforts that she must be making to assure the people of Northern Ireland that the political process in which she is involved, and her fight against terrorism, are reasons for confidence rather than fear. She deserves the understanding and co-operation of the Irish Government in that regard.

The Opposition welcome the order. We expect with confidence to see it accompanied by other Government actions consistent with a determination to eradicate the scourge of terrorism wherever it occurs in Northern Ireland and, in that respect, the Secretary of State will have our support.

6.16 pm
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

To add to my intervention in the speech of the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), no one who engages in violent activities against a Government in a parliamentary democracy can legitimately be described as a guerrilla. Journalists elsewhere in the world who do that are guilty of the worst kind of romanticism and sloppy, badly researched journalism.

I welcome the order. The right hon. Member for Devizes may be right when he says that such a measure may not lead to any increase in the number of successful prosecution for violent behaviour. Nevertheless, for a Secretary of State who has been in office for just five weeks, it is in a plain way a strong declaration of intent, and I compliment her on that.

I support what the right hon. Member for Devizes said when he talked about the dreadful behaviour of those who have engaged in seeking to harass—and worse—ordinary people whose only aim was to attend mass at that small church in Harryville. Similarly, the arsonists who have fired Orange halls must be condemned in an identical manner.

The order is a declaration of intent which I welcome, as, I am sure, will ordinary people in the two communities in Northern Ireland.

6.18 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

I begin by offering apologies on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who had intended to take part in the debate but was unable to do so because of difficulties in obtaining a flight from Belfast.

The Secretary of State's decision to proscribe the CAC and the LVF was almost certainly inevitable in view of the actions of both bodies, assuming that distinct bodies operate under those names; sometimes one is never entirely sure. Although proscription may not be as effective as one would like, it is necessary in order to show the community's abhorrence of terrorist actions. Consequently, we support the proscription, because it has become inevitable.

The Continuity Army Council has been a problem for some time, as shown by the litany of events that the Secretary of State mentioned, which go back to the major car bomb in Enniskillen in 1996. It is somewhat surprising that that organisation was not proscribed sooner.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force seems to be composed of dissident elements of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association. One cannot be absolutely sure, but the impression one gets is that elements within those organisations who were opposed to the loyalist ceasefire have drifted away from their parent organisations and have been engaged in terrorist activity of their own. That that has happened is to be condemned. It has tended to undermine the integrity of the loyalist ceasefire, which is a matter of considerable regret.

One of the few positive aspects of security in Northern Ireland in the past year is the fact that the loyalist ceasefire has been sustained, albeit with some difficulty. People in those organisations who moved to the position of being opposed to the loyalist ceasefire have made a serious mistake. I hope that, even at this stage, those who have been engaged in such activity will realise how foolish it is. Loyalist violence at this stage simply lets the IRA off the hook. It is completely counter-productive, and is quite wrong. Any loyalist who is currently engaged in violent activity should do some hard thinking about whom they are actually helping.

The Secretary of State mentioned the consequences of proscription, such as prosecution for membership of such organisations. The right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) referred to the difficulty of making such charges stick. That is part of the general problem of prosecuting people for terrorist offences. Why has not more progress been made on the development of a proper, coherent witness encouragement and protection scheme? Some action has been taken on the protection side, but why has more not been done to develop a proper witness encouragement scheme? For years, the RUC has argued that such a scheme is needed. It is a pity that more has not been done about that.

Proscription leads to a number of remedies in regard to fund raising on behalf of proscribed organisations. That is very important. There has been some success on that front, but not enough. We should target the fund-raising activities of the organisations that have just been proscribed, particularly the Loyalist Volunteer Force, which is engaged in racketeering. Some people suggest that racketeering is given a greater priority than the actions in which it claims to be engaged. Close attention should be paid to that, because, by virtue of the proscription, authorities will have the power to investigate racketeering. One hopes that some positive consequences will come from that.

As the right hon. Member for Devizes said, the greatest security threat is still the IRA. It was on a go-slow during the various elections: the election in the Irish Republic, the local government elections in Northern Ireland and the general election. However, the threat is still there. In some respects, the threat is just as high and just as great as ever it was, and people should not be complacent. Vigorous action by the security forces against all proscribed organisations is clearly needed. There is still a general belief in the community that that vigour is not being applied, and that a degree of restraint is still being exercised over the police, the Army and the intelligence services for political reasons because of the so-called peace process. I hope that the Minister of State will make it clear that no such restraint is being applied, and that vigorous action will be taken against all proscribed organisations. We may then see the consequences of that.

People in Northern Ireland were greatly encouraged by the security forces' success against IRA activists in South Armagh a month or two ago. That was noted and deeply appreciated: during the election campaign, many people in my constituency commented positively on that. But it seems to have been an isolated success. I hope that the Government will give the police, the Army and the intelligence services every encouragement to repeat that success, because it is very much needed.

There is no doubt that the IRA will try during the summer to do what it can to destabilise society in Northern Ireland. At the secret meeting of Sinn Fein in the Irish Republic six months ago, Gerry Adams boasted about what it had achieved last summer. He told his adherents that what had happened in Drumcree was no accident, but was the work of his activists over several years. There is no doubt that he and his associates will try to do the same this summer. That is causing tension in the community, and it is not helped by the fact that morale in the RUC is poor. That poor morale is not improved by the comments about so-called police reform, which have not been fully explained to the police or the community. Something must done on those fronts as well.

Proscription is inevitable. We support the order, and we hope that the Government will proceed from this point to ensure that vigorous action is taken against all proscribed organisations.

6.26 pm
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

I welcomed the arrival of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996, and I strongly supported it during its passage through the House, as I supported previous emergency provisions Acts. In my judgment, the powers and provisions of the successive Acts have been and remain essential, and the Secretary of State's action today confirms that. More to the point, the people who make use of those powers and provisions have consistently reported that they are helpful and necessary. The time certainly is not right to abandon them, as the Secretary of State's tabling of this amendment order and the situation on the ground in Northern Ireland confirm.

The amendment order is brief and modest, but, notwithstanding its brevity and modesty, I welcome and support it. The proscribing of organisations may not be the ultimate weapon in the fight against terrorists, but it is a useful adjunct. In some circumstances, it can be a means of securing convictions, although not as frequently as many of us would like. It certainly sends out the right message that there is no lawful place in a free, democratic society for organisations that believe that violence is a legitimate means of pursuing political objectives.

I have no doubt that the two named organisations deservedly qualify for proscription. Their reported actions show that, and I dare say that intelligence sources also provide further good reasons for their proscription. I applaud the Secretary of State's prompt and decisive action.

When the present Secretary of State was shadow Secretary of State, she sometimes described her position on policy issues as "constructive criticism." I often felt that "constructive criticism" was a euphemism for "opposing politely". Nevertheless, I believe that the Government of the day appreciated her approach, and I shall try to follow her example.

Obviously, this is not the occasion for a wide debate on emergency provisions Acts or on the Government's overall intentions with regard to anti-terrorist legislation. However, it is worth putting down in utmost brevity some markers to which, no doubt, we shall return on future occasions.

The first marker that I want to put down is a bit complicated. It relates to the EPA and the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1988. I may be mistaken, but in the final days of the previous Parliament, I formed the impression that Labour Members might be thinking in terms of moving beyond the Lloyd review. I based that understanding on the speech of the present Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) when we last debated EPA matters on 19 March. He said then: Lord Lloyd … said that many of the procedural provisions in the Emergency Provisions Acts might have taken a different form given the existence of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1988. He also said that once lasting peace had been established in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom there would be no need for separate Acts: one would suffice."—[Official Report, 19 March 1997; Vol. 292, c. 1016.] I hope that, in their deliberations, the Government will not lose sight of Lord Lloyd's all-important qualification. In his judgment, the need for separate Acts remains unless there is lasting peace. That, in itself, demands a considerable passage of time after a ceasefire, or we will not know that that ceasefire is lasting.

When Lord Lloyd referred to separate Acts, did he not have in mind the EPA and PTA, not the EPA and the 1988 order, as the present Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland seemed to think was the case? In either event, Lord Lloyd warned against streamlining or amalgamating legislation unless there was lasting peace, and I believe that it would be unwise to overlook that.

My second marker relates to the Diplock courts. Here again, I hope that the Government will not act too hastily. I do not think that the essential issue is whether to contract in or out of a Diplock court system; I cannot see that that really matters. Nor should it be argued—as it sometimes is—that the Diplock court system is a form of inferior justice. The hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) made that point persuasively in the Second Reading debate on 19 February last year.

Surely the essential issue is whether Diplock courts are still needed-and they are: we cannot yet dispense with them. Deeply though we may regret it, the threat of intimidation, or worse, for jurors or witnesses, is as great as ever. To provide protection would be extremely difficult in practical terms and would almost certainly be cost-prohibitive, in view of the number of people who would need to be protected and the length of time for which they would have to be protected. I hope that the Government will not rush in and precipitately curtail the Diplock system.

For the sake of brevity, I shall refer to the third marker only in passing. It relates to the silent video recording of questioning in the holding centres. The arguments about whether the right balance has been maintained, and about whether we are going too far or not far enough, are well rehearsed, but I feel that silent video recording should be given a reasonable trial. That has not yet happened, and it should before any change is seriously considered.

My fourth marker relates to detention orders. Hon. Members have made their hostility to such orders very clear and the arithmetic of the House is such that, if they so decide, they can proceed. I shall say only that if they seek to remove that lapsed power from our anti-terrorist legislation, I do not think that I will be alone on the Opposition Benches in arguing as persuasively as possible that it would be a dreadful mistake. Tragically, the security position in Northern Ireland demands and justifies emergency provisions and the PTA. That is the reality, which the tabling of the order confirms.

I hope that the Secretary of State has fully grasped one dimension of the security situation in the Province, on which the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) commented. A security crisis looms in Northern Ireland today and there is a real danger that it could assume horrific proportions.

Demonstrably, since 1992—and probably some time before that—a key objective in the Provisionals' overall strategy has been the orchestration of confrontation between Unionists and the British state. The Orange Order marches provide the primary vehicle for achieving that, and all the signs suggest that they are succeeding. The crisis will be compounded if the Government unwittingly play into the hands of the Provisionals. With the height of the marching season approaching and tension in the Province rising, the RUC has a pivotal role to play, and the morale of the RUC is a vital consideration.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Should the hon. Member not confine his remarks to the order that we are discussing?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

The terms of the order are fairly narrow, concerning two specific organisations. Perhaps the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) will confine his remarks to that order.

Mr. Hunter

In recent weeks, the two organisations that have been proscribed today have been instrumental in creating disorder in Northern Ireland. My point is that it is through the marching season, and the marches in particular, that those who seek to disrupt order in Northern Ireland are working. That is my argument in support of proscription. I hope that the Secretary of State fully appreciates how dangerous the position is, and that he will find means to restore morale within the RUC.

6.36 pm
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram)

We have had a brief but constructive debate. I think it appropriate to acknowledge what all right hon. and hon. Members have said in condemnation of paramilitary violence and sectarianism, from whatever quarter it comes. It is clear that the House is unanimous in that condemnation.

The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) asked why we had not proscribed the organisations before. The decisions that we are making tonight must be based on reliable evidence relating to the organisations as a whole, rather than assertions, suspicions or even the conviction of individual members for criminal offences. The evidence available at any particular time has been kept under review, but it is now such that we believe that the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Continuity Army Council are organisations which deserve proscription.

The right hon.Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) made many telling points about other groups that have already been proscribed. He said that proscription of itself would not achieve the removal of those groups from the face of Northern Ireland society, and the evidence tells us just that. Clearly, the best and most effective proscription will occur when those groups listen to what all decent, right-thinking people want for Northern Ireland—when they respond to what the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want for their society.

The right hon. Gentleman also sought assurances that the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, would seek to ensure that all sectors of this deeply divided community were dealt with sensitively. He made some telling points. I think that, overall, he recognised that that was indeed the way in which the Government and my right hon. Friend had proceeded during the weeks in which we have been in office, and that we would continue to proceed on the same basis.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly commented on the need for the new Dublin Government to adopt an even-handed approach to the position in Northern Ireland. We worked well with the last Dublin Government and we look forward to building a constructive and progressive relationship with the new Government and those who will speak for them in the peace talks. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept those assurances.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

I had intended to speak in the debate, but, because of a mechanical problem, I was unable to do so. As I was rising to my feet, an hon. Member was entering the Chamber and I did not manage to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that, by convention, a lengthy intervention on the Minister's winding-up speech will be entertained.

I welcome the proposed order proscribing these two organisations. They are splinter groups—one, I understand, from the Combined Loyalist Military Command and the other from the IRA. However, it would be wrong to think, as I am sure the Minister will agree, that proscription is any sort of panacea for the type of activity in which those organisations engage.

One of the problems has been that democratic process attempts to come to terms with violent terrorism have not worked. It is clear that democracy cannot co-exist with violent terrorism with political objectives. As I am sure the Minister will agree, the inevitable outcome of the over-exposure of democracy to terrorism is that democracy itself is first corrupted and is then capable of being subsumed by that terrorism.

Perhaps the Minister should be aware that the peace process policy, which was to some extent created by the previous Government, but which has been endorsed and subsequently adopted by the present Government, has itself brought about many of the problems that the Government have to deal with.

The Government will be attempting to deal with two particular objectives that are mutually exclusive. The first is the holding of a peace resolution conference with the plenipotentiaries of violent terrorism and the other is the bringing about of a negotiated stable political settlement in Northern Ireland. The more that the Government attempt to achieve the former, the less they make available the prospects of the latter. While they may help, perhaps more cosmetically than substantively, it would be foolish to think that they will make a great contribution to the elimination of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Ingram

I appreciate the hon. and learned Gentleman's points. Perhaps his last two strayed a little from the order. He said that proscription of itself would not achieve the desired end result. I made those very points at the start of my speech.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's name appeared on the annunciator during his intervention, which is most unusual. Perhaps new things are happening in Parliament—new Labour, new screens. We shall have to learn as we go along. However, I take on board the hon. and learned Gentleman's points, and I have no doubt that we shall return to them in later debates.

Before that intervention, I was replying to the speech of the right hon. Member for Devizes. I dealt with his comments about the need for sensitivity in the context of relationships throughout the Province's divided community. He also spoke about the new Government in Dublin. I am sure that we all want to see that Government work progressively towards the achievement of peace in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Upper Bann spoke about the witness protection scheme. That goes beyond the thrust of what the order seeks to achieve. Obviously, we shall reflect on what he said. Perhaps if I write to him on dip detailed point, that will help him and other hon. Members.

The speech of the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) was wide-ranging. We are debating the narrow issue of the proscription of two paramilitary organisations and, while it is not for me to say that any hon. Member strayed beyond the bounds of the order, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, had to call the hon. Gentleman to order. He raised several issues, including the functioning of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996, the Lloyd review and the Diplock courts. He made some constructive criticisms, but perhaps it is better to deal with the hon. Gentleman's specific points when we debate those aspects in terms of the Government's legislative programme. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will raise many of those issues again, when the House will be able to deal with them at greater length and on a more structured basis.

My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow—I apologise. Perhaps I have gone native in Northern Ireland and have forgotten my homeland of Scotland and its constituencies. I hope not. My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) spoke about the disgraceful scenes in Harryville. Today, I took the opportunity to go through the town of Harryville and I saw the church that is being repaired as a result of the weekend's events. We must all condemn what is going on there. It is simply outrageous. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke about the way in which attempts are being made to stop people who are going about their lawful business or following their religious persuasions and attending church.

The speeches in the debate will contribute to a better understanding of the situation in Northern Ireland. My final point relates to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in opening the debate. Of itself, proscription cannot guarantee the prevention of terrorist acts, but it will make life harder for the terrorists.

For example, it will be illegal to solicit, invite or accept financial or other material support for the LVF or the CAC or knowingly to contribute to them. The order will make it illegal to solicit or invite membership of those organisations or to solicit or invite a person to carry out orders or directions given on behalf of the LVF or the CAC or requests made by a member of either of them.

It will also be illegal to arrange, manage or address a meeting knowing that it is to support those organisations or that it is to be addressed by a member of them. Finally, it will be illegal to dress in any way that arouses the reasonable apprehension that a person is a member of either of those organisations.

The effects that flow from the proscription of an organisation are not retrospective. Therefore, a person may be prosecuted for activities only if any of the above offences occur after the date of proscription. People know the purpose of the order, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 (Amendment) Order 1997 (S. I., 1997, No. 1403), which was laid before this House on 3rd June, be approved.