HC Deb 20 April 1998 vol 310 cc479-500 3.31 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Marjorie Mowlam)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement, which the House has wanted to hear for many years, on the succesful conclusion of the multi-party talks in Belfast.

It is my privilege to be able to tell the House that a comprehensive political agreement was reached late in the afternoon of 10 April—Good Friday. The text has been published as Cm 3883. A copy is being sent to every home in Northern Ireland. I am very grateful to the Post Office for providing this service at business rate, so that people across Northern Ireland have a chance to study the agreement in detail.

The Government's main aim throughout these negotiations has been to secure political stability and lasting peace for all the people of Northern Ireland. As a result of what is being called the Good Friday agreement, that goal is now in sight.

This is a unique agreement born of a unique set of negotiations that involved Unionists, nationalists, republicans and loyalists around the same talks table. This is a situation in which, although compromises have been made, everyone can be a winner. Everyone's political and cultural identity is respected and protected by this deal. Northern Ireland politics, for so long, has been seen as a zero sum game. This agreement demonstrates the potential for the people of Northern Ireland to move beyond that, into a new type of politics in which everyone can gain. This agreement represents a sensible, fair and workable way forward for both communities.

I should like to pay a particular tribute today to the negotiating teams of all the parties involved. I should also like to pay tribute to a group who, though often vilified, have worked for many years to bring about this agreement, often at personal risk to themselves and their families—the civil servants in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It is important, when we are talking about all the positive developments, that at the same time we do not lose sight of the terrible price that has been paid by the victims of violence and their families. No amount of progress in the search for lasting peace will bring back those loved ones who have been lost, or take away the pain felt, day in and day out, by their families. I hope that Ken Bloomfield's victims commission, which we have set up and which I hope will report later this month, will provide us with some practical suggestions as to how we can best recognise the suffering endured by the victims of violence and their families.

Many of those families say to me similar words to those that are actually printed in the agreement:

the achievement of a peaceful and just society would be the true memorial to the victims of violence. The main elements in the agreement are as follows. First, on constitutional issues, the British and Irish Governments have formally resolved our historical differences through the general and future acceptance of the principle of consent, which means that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and will stay that way for as long as that is the wish of a majority of people who live there; and it means that, if the people of Northern Ireland were formally to consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, the Government of the day would bring forward proposals, in consultation with the Irish Government, to give effect to that wish.

Under the agreement, the Irish Government will bring forward proposals to amend the Irish constitution to bring it into line with this understanding, and the necessary changes will also be made to the British constitutional legislation.

The second part of the agreement says that there will be greater democratic accountability in Northern Ireland through the devolution of a wide range of executive and legislative powers to a Northern Ireland assembly. In the assembly, the posts of executive authority will be shared out on a proportional basis, and safeguards will be in place to protect the interests of both the communities.

Thirdly, there will be a north-south ministerial council, which will bring together those with executive authority, north and south, to work together by agreement on matters of mutual interest. Those participating on the council will be mandated by, and remain accountable to, the assembly and to the Irish Parliament; and at least six "implementation bodies" will be identified within the next six months to put decisions taken by the council into effect, either on a cross-border or all-island basis, in specified areas. More such bodies or mechanisms may be established by agreement between the two sides, north and south.

Fourthly, there will be a British-Irish council, to bring together our two Governments, and representatives of devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and from the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. This development builds on the Government's radical programme for constitutional reform.

Fifthly, there will be a new British-Irish agreement to replace the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985. This will be brought into effect as soon as the other elements of the deal are in place.

The British-Irish agreement sets out the new shared understanding on constitutional matters. It also creates a new British-Irish intergovernmental conference, which will deal with all bilateral issues between the two Governments. In recognition of the Irish Government's special interest in relation to Northern Ireland, there will continue, as now, to be regular meetings between myself and the Irish Foreign Minister. However, in future, relevant executive Members of the Northern Ireland assembly will also be involved in those meetings, to discuss non-devolved issues that arise in relation to Northern Ireland.

In addition, the existing joint Anglo-Irish Secretariat at Maryfield will close before the end of this year.

The agreement also includes a range of measures to enhance the proper protection of basic human rights. It will include a new independent human rights commission in Northern Ireland, which is there to consult and advise on the scope for defining rights supplementary to those in the European convention on human rights, which the Government are in the process of incorporating into United Kingdom law.

There is also public consultation under way about the proposals in our "Partnership for Equality" White Paper. Subject to that consultation, those proposals—including the establishment of a powerful new equality commission—are reflected in the agreement, along with a number of other proposals to encourage parity of esteem between the two main political and cultural traditions.

Finally, the agreement looks ahead to the creation of a normal and peaceful society in Northern Ireland. It establishes a clear process of the decommissioning of illegal weapons that can start forthwith, and a commitment by all the parties to work constructively in good faith with the independent commission, and to use any influence they have to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary weapons within two years of the referendum. It commits both Governments to reducing the profile of security measures and emergency legislation as the threat to peace and good order reduces.

There will also be an independent commission to consider what policing service would be appropriate in a Northern Ireland free from the threat of terrorist violence, and would be capable of fully commanding the support of both communities. There will be a parallel review of the criminal justice system.

The agreement also commits both Governments to put in place mechanisms to provide for an accelerated programme for the release of prisoners. Let me be clear: this is not an easy issue for anyone, but it is an indispensable part of this agreement. For our part, the British Government will establish an independent sentence review body to look at each prisoner on a case-by-case basis to determine their eligibility for release.

Most eligible prisoners will qualify for release on licence within two years. If the circumstances allow, the remainder will be released at that point. It must be emphasised, however, that this time frame is variable, depending on the degree of genuine commitment to peace.

Prisoners associated with groups that do not maintain a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not qualify. Prisoners who do qualify will be released on licence and returned to prison if they engage in any further terrorist activity. These are crucial safeguards, and a briefing note giving more detail of the specifics of the proposed arrangement has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This agreement was made possible by the efforts of many people—most of all by the leaders of the political parties involved in the negotiations. The House will, I am sure, wish to join me in paying tribute also to the exceptional chairmanship skills of the former Senator, George Mitchell, and his two assistants, the former Prime Minister of Finland, Harri Holkeri, and Sir John de Chastelain.

No less crucial was the constant support and the direct involvement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, particularly over the last few crucial days of the negotiations. His efforts were matched by those of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who rose above the personal tragedy of his mother's death to play an equally decisive role.

Hon. Members will also appreciate the enormous value of having a broad political consensus in support of the talks process, both here at Westminster and in the Irish parliament. I should like to pay tribute to the work of the right hon. Members for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) and for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), and to Lord Mayhew and his colleague the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram).

Equally, successive Irish Prime Ministers and Ministers for Foreign Affairs in the Republic have played a crucial role. In addition, I should like briefly to thank President Clinton, who has been an invaluable support during the talks process. I could go on—many other Governments and people have been involved, including the European Union. All of them have made an incredible difference, but I just thought it important to put our appreciation on record.

I am laying an order today setting 22 May as the date for the referendum. A parallel referendum will take place in the Republic of Ireland on the same day. If both are successful, elections should be held to the new Northern Ireland Assembly before the end of June. Following the elections, the Assembly and the North-South Ministerial Council would operate in shadow mode, making the necessary preparations, until the main implementing legislation, which I intend to introduce as soon as possible, has been enacted and brought into effect.

The agreement reached on Good Friday is, I believe, a significant turning point in the history of Northern Ireland, but let us have no illusions. It will take a long time to repair the physical and the emotional damage of the past and bring about a real sense of reconciliation and partnership. The people there have suffered a great deal of hardship and pain. To their strength we must give all our support in the weeks and months ahead.

There will be pressures on all sides to bring the agreement down. The best way that we can help to fight those pressures is to give the agreement the overwhelming support of the House, and to give the people of Northern Ireland the chance to choose the future, not the past, in which to live. In the end, the decisions rest with the people of Northern Ireland. The choice is theirs.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

I congratulate the Secretary of State and her ministerial colleagues on achieving an agreement between the political parties and the two Governments. May I particularly praise the sensitive and understanding chairmanship of Senator Mitchell and his colleagues, which in no small measure resulted in the agreement.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for acknowledging the significant contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), his Secretary of State, Lord Mayhew, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), all of whom worked tirelessly to achieve a lasting settlement in the Province, and without whose efforts we would not have heard the statement today.

The Conservative party warmly welcomes the agreement, but recognises that it is not an end in itself. It will not bring peace overnight, but it gives us the opportunity to build a lasting peace underpinned by stable political institutions that have the allegiance, and respect the rights and traditions, of all parts of the community.

For all of us, there are aspects of the agreement that do not sit comfortably with our aspirations and beliefs. Nevertheless, we believe that the agreement represents the best way forward for Northern Ireland. The Conservative and Unionist party strongly endorses the conclusion of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) that the agreement strengthens the Union. The Act of Union remains firmly in place, while the Irish territorial claim is to be abandoned. At the same time, the agreement recognises the legitimate aspirations and interests of the nationalist community.

I have some questions for the Secretary of State relating to matters that are of legitimate concern not just on these Benches, but particularly in the Province. First, does she accept that it is highly likely that splinter groups could seek to bring down the agreement by the use of force? The Continuity Army Council, Republican Sinn Fein and the 32 County Sovereignty Committee remain implacably opposed to the agreement, as does the Loyalist Volunteer Force. Will she confirm that no security measures will be relaxed prematurely that cannot be reversed very quickly?

Secondly, we are naturally concerned about the lack of progress on decommissioning terrorist weapons. Will the Secretary of State confirm that no member of the new assembly will be appointed a Minister until his paramilitary associates have engaged in substantial decommissioning? Can that be incorporated in the forthcoming legislation, along the lines of the letter that the Prime Minister sent to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann?

Will the Secretary of State assure the House that there will be no early release of prisoners if decommissioning is not well under way? Can she allay fears in the Province by promising today that prisoners will not be released early if their parliamentary associates resume violence in any shape or form, and that, in the case of those released, their licence will be revoked if such violence resumes? Will she reconsider the case of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright in the light of these developments?

Thirdly, does the Secretary of State agree that it is the brave men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, supported by the armed forces, who have stood between the rule of law and anarchy for the past 30 years? The RUC deserves our continuing praise and support. Therefore, will the Secretary of State confirm that any changes in policing will be made only after widespread consultation, on the basis of the broadest possible consensus?

Finally, will the Secretary of State accept that we are pleased that the Prime Minister has today taken up the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that the two of them, together with the leader of the Liberal Democrats, should speak together on a "yes" platform during the forthcoming referendum?

This is as inclusive an agreement as is ever likely to be achieved. It is a crucial development in the history of Northern Ireland, upon which we hope all sides can build. The next step is to secure an overwhelming yes vote on both sides of the border in the referendum on 22 May. After all the horror, disappointments and false dawns of the past 30 years, this is perhaps the best opportunity that we shall ever have to secure a new beginning for Northern Ireland. Let no one be in any doubt that we in the Conservative party will do all in our power to ensure its success.

Marjorie Mowlam

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's last point, yes, I welcome the cross-party support for the referendum. I make it clear that we are not financing one side over the other. That fact must be put on record, as other hon. Members have raised that point. We are providing free leaflets to every house on behalf of all parties that received support in the May 1996 elections, whether they are campaigning for a yes or a no vote. There will be no imbalance for the parties within Northern Ireland.

I have no difficulty in supporting the tribute that the hon. Gentleman paid to the RUC. I have stated on many occasions that the RUC has demonstrated enormous bravery over the past 30 years. As I said earlier, when praising the RUC, we must not forget the families and friends who are living without loved ones or with very injured members of that force. It is important to remember that point, and I am very pleased to put it on record.

No one is seeking change unless there is a peaceful situation. We know that the first job of any Government is to ensure the security of the people they govern. We have 13,000 police and 17,000 troops in Northern Ireland. During past ceasefires, we and the previous Government de-escalated in response to that situation. However, we were flexible enough to return to our former position when the situation demanded it—we have no difficulties on that front.

I know that the police in Northern Ireland will, after consultation, want to work as a police force in a normal society that is not faced with terrorism. The police want to represent the whole Northern Ireland community, in both make-up and behaviour. That is the crucial point to remember.

As to the early release of prisoners, I hope that I made it clear to the hon. Gentleman that several security safeguards are built into the agreement. I am sure that he and his colleagues understand that, according to the nature of the agreement, several things must happen in parallel in order to build confidence. That has always been the situation, whether it be decommissioning, the release of prisoners, changes to the police force or normal acts of governance.

We have just announced assistance of £33 million in addition to the school building programme in Northern Ireland. Introducing such measures alongside one another is crucial to normalising the situation in the long run.

The hon. Gentleman knows that it is difficult for me to say a lot about Fisher and Wright, as, like my predecessors, I have a semi-judicial role in that decision. As Mr. Fisher and Mr. Wright were convicted of scheduled offences, they will be able to benefit from the review and from any other proposals that are on the table. As the hon. Gentleman knows, their cases are up for review again in autumn this year.

Like the hon. Gentleman, I would like to see decommissioning tomorrow. I would like it to happen forthwith, as the Prime Minister said at the end of the week of the talks, and as we have said on numerous occasions. The mechanisms that will make decommissioning possible are in place. The Prime Minister's letter to which the hon. Gentleman referred said not only that decommissioning should start immediately but that he would like to put in place mechanisms to enable a review some months into the process, to ensure that all the machinery was working. It is built and structured in such a way in the agreement that it represents mutually assured progress or mutually assured destruction. That is why I am hopeful, and that is why I believe that the decommissioning that we would all like to see is crucial.

The hon. Gentleman asked, in the context of decommissioning, whether Ministers would be able to serve. It is clearly stated in the agreement that Ministers have to sign up to the principles of a democratic and peaceful way forward. That is a crucial step for anyone who seeks to be a Minister in the assembly.

Built into the agreement is a cross-community mechanism. If people are not fulfilling their responsibilities and commitments in the assembly, there can be sufficient cross-community support within it to ensure that ministerial jobs can be withheld from those concerned. A review mechanism will be implemented six months in, to ensure that all the bits of the process are working.

The hon. Gentleman's first point was about splinter groups. As he will be aware, they have been a continual problem during the talks process. The Loyalist Volunteer Force, the Continuity IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army have been a particular problem. They will not go away after what I hope will be a successful referendum vote. They will still be there. It is a credit to the people of Northern Ireland and to the parties to have kept going when there are people there murdering, maiming and trying to destabilise the best chance they have not to go back to the past but to live for the future.

I hope that we get a good enough vote in the referendum. I have said that we are not campaigning one way or the other, but I have not worked for a year to get a no vote. I think that a positive yes vote in the north and the south is the biggest message that we can give the groups to which I have referred. That message is that they have no future with their present behaviour in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

The Secretary of State will have received enough plaudits, well justified and well deserved, from enough quarters not to need me to add to them.

Marjorie Mowlam

Do, please.

Mr. Ashdown

I suppose that one can never get too many plaudits.

As someone who is proud to call himself a Northern Irishman—born and brought up in the north of a divided family, and having served on the streets of Northern Ireland as a soldier—I can say that the right hon. Lady, the Prime Minister and everyone else who has contributed to the agreement gave me, a week ago last Friday, the best day that I have had since I was elected to this place 15 years ago. It was probably the best day for me for the past 30 years, since the troubles started.

Of course I congratulate the Secretary of State. Her determination to do things differently, even against opposition and criticism, and the Prime Minister's determination not to accept defeat in the negotiations, were two significant contributions of a great number which the right hon. Lady listed.

There was the vision of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), without which, I suspect, the process would never have started. There was the courage of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), without which, I suspect, the agreement would not have existed, even today. A tremendous contribution was made by the previous Prime Minister. Also involved were the Taoiseach and Senator Mitchell. All those individuals contributed, and I suspect that without any one of them, the success would not be here to be celebrated today.

I shall make three brief points. Surely it is right, as the right hon. Lady did in her statement, to reiterate that we do not have peace; it is merely the opportunity for peace, or the hope for peace. It is the foundation stone upon which peace can be built, but it is now up to the Northern Irish people to build upon it.

Secondly, is it not the case that the first major building block in the peace process comes with the referendums? All those who wish the process success can assist by obtaining the most decisive yes vote, both in the north of Ireland and in the Republic, in the two key referendums. If—if—it is the case that I or anyone else goes over to the north of Ireland to campaign on that basis and to assist in the process, I shall be happy to play that role. However, that involvement must be determined on whether it is helpful or not. This is an issue not of ceremony but of practical assistance.

Thirdly, in addition to decommissioning, is it not the case that other activity on the part of those who wish to see a success must make sure that words are followed by actions? Actions are necessary to reassure both sides. One of the absolutely crucial actions is the ending of paramilitary beatings. Does the right hon. Lady agree that it would be as unacceptable for them to continue as it would be for the private armies that have done Northern Ireland so much damage in the past to continue?

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I shall be quick; I do not disagree with a thing he says, and in the interests of other hon. Members who want to speak, I shall only say, "Thank you for your support, and thank you for the support of your party."

Mr. John Hume (Foyle)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Hume

May I place on record our deep appreciation for the detailed work that the Secretary of State and her ministerial colleagues have done in arriving at this agreement? I am sure that, in so doing, I speak for the vast majority of the people of both sections of our community.

May I join her in thanking the Prime Minister for the priority that he gave to the greatest human problem facing the House? The fact that he gave it such priority gave enormous encouragement to the people at grass-roots level, who have suffered from this problem and strengthened the peace process enormously. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for so doing.

I also pay tribute, and express deep gratitude, to the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) and his colleagues, because they worked hard to help to lay the foundations for the process. I express my deep appreciation to him and to other hon. Members who are in the Chamber. I include in that the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), because, when the history is written—I know a bit about the history of this process—his role and public statements will be seen to have laid a major foundation. I say to him, "Thank you." I add to that our thanks to the leader of the Liberal Democrats, because he has been consistent in his total support for a common-sense approach to this problem.

It is welcome that the agreement will put in place institutions which will give no victory to either side in our community, but which instead will create circumstances that respect the identities of both sections of our community, in which they could work together in their common interests.

I have no doubt from my experience that, given the massive international good will that there has been towards the agreement, real politics will take over once we start working together and leave our quarrel behind us. Harnessing that international support and interest will transform our economy, and give hope to our young people, so that the next century will be the first in our island history in which there will be no killings on our streets and no emigration of our young to other lands to earn a living.

Marjorie Mowlam

I should like to make two quick responses. First, I put on record my thanks to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), who fought long and hard on this issue when it was not popular, which should be remembered by those who came along when it became more popular.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman has brought something to the process over the years which is difficult to achieve in Northern Ireland—flexibility with words, which has helped tremendously. As I was preparing my statement, I picked out a phrase that he has used; he said that the future depends on the wishes of the people, not on institutions. The rethinking that he has brought to the process has also helped.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Trimble

Without disagreeing with the introductory comments of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), I hope that the right hon. Lady and other hon. Members will forgive me if I do not repeat the thanks to everyone, but merely record my view that, without the actions of the Prime Minister in the last couple of days of the negotiations, no agreement would have been achieved.

I emphasise the right hon. Lady's comment that we should have no illusions. Considerable difficulties lie ahead, and there will no doubt be setbacks. I note with interest her comment that the British and Irish Governments have resolved their historical differences. That is important, because, while there will be developments within the structures that we shall put in place, this must be seen as a settlement, not as a milepost in the direction of some other eventual outcome.

On that point, is the right hon. Lady not concerned about the way in which Sinn Fein is acting with regard to this agreement? It has not endorsed the agreement. It says at the moment, if press reports today are to be believed, that, in the referendum, it will campaign in Northern Ireland for a yes, but in the Republic of Ireland for a no, and that, rather than endorse the agreement as a whole, it will attempt to cherry-pick some items of it and to ignore the obligations that it would place on Sinn Fein.

In that respect, does the right hon. Lady agree that it is important that the requirement that parties be committed to peaceful, democratic, non-violent means is not just a few empty words, but a genuine requirement that has to be satisfied before people can move into the Administration? It also underlines the need for the commitments to decommissioning again to be more than the empty words that they have so far been, and that action now is necessary.

With regard to the position on prisoners, as I am sure the right hon. Lady knows, that matter causes very great and very real concern in the community in Northern Ireland. The sentence review body will look at each prisoner on a case-by-case basis to determine eligibility for release. I should be grateful if she could give some indication as to the sort of criteria that the review body might be adopting, so that the public have some assurance that the circumstances of individual cases will be considered; the gravity of those cases does need to be taken into account.

In that context, I note that the Irish Government have already said that, irrespective of the release provisions, if people are found guilty of the murder of Garda McCabe, they will not be released. The contrast is bound to be keenly felt when people who have been guilty of murdering policemen in the United Kingdom are released.

May I again press the right hon. Lady on the question of security force prisoners? The case of the two guardsmen was mentioned, and of course I endorse the comments that were made about that by other Members; but there are quite a few security force prisoners, and I think that we should be doing more than just leaving their cases to be considered in the normal way, particularly as among those members of the security forces who are in prison—I think that he is now one of the longest life sentence prisoners—is a man who was unjustly convicted.

There is an innocent man in prison who was unjustly convicted of a murder. He was a member of the security forces, and a wide section of the community believes that, because he was a member of the security forces, he has not been given the sort of generous consideration that others have. The public's concerns on those matters need to be allayed.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the kind remarks about the Prime Minister. I obviously echo them. For those three days, he worked flat out, and I am not sure that many others would have done that. The right hon. Gentleman also worked very hard in those last days to find an accommodation.

I agree completely that we have to bear it in mind that we should have no illusions in the next six months. We thought that it was tough up to Good Friday; we are going to have some tough days in the weeks and months ahead. However, we are starting from a different base. We are starting from the base of an accommodation based on consent, and we have to bear it in mind that the principles of consent and fairness that have governed us until now are in place in that historic agreement. I think that that is an enormous starting point.

I pick up the right hon. Gentleman's last point, on prisoners. I will, of course, look at individual cases, but I think it best at this point to take note of those. I am not unaware of the cases to which he has referred, but I should like to get the legislation in place first. There is a detailed brief in the Library, but the details further to that will be available when the legislation, which is being drawn up now, is available to all hon. Members.

May I pick out the main point that the right hon. Gentleman raised about Sinn Fein and its non-endorsement of the agreement? In the talks last week, its members made it clear that they wanted to consult their party before they were prepared to make a definitive statement, but that they would be positive about the agreement. They were, and I think that they have been since then. I feel unable to comment on particular statements in the press-not because I do not always believe what the newspapers say but because I should like to read it for myself first, and get advice on what has been said.

I do not know whether Sinn Fein is going to cherry-pick the agreement, but I do know that most of the parties will, in their heart of hearts, cherry-pick. When we started n years ago, people were very far apart. We have reached a compromise on a structure—no one is signing up to 100 per cent., but, on balance, people are saying that it is the best agreement they can think possible, and that therefore they are able to support it.

I am not sure that I can go further than that, but I very much hope that Sinn Fein will join us in campaigning positively for an agreement. We have said all along that we want an inclusive agreement. It is only by inclusivity and bringing people into the process that we are going to stop the violence in the long term.

Finally, I support what was in the Prime Minister's letter, which is the basic position we hold on decommissioning. As we have said, it is an essential step to having a settlement that lasts.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, when history records the agreement and a yes vote in the referendum, it will be not only the suffering in Northern Ireland that will come to an end but the suffering imposed on the people of the United Kingdom, because war in Ireland has caused great anguish and many casualties in this country, in England and Scotland as well?

I should like to ask one practical question. In annex A, a pledge of office is required for Members of the proposed assembly. When the legislation comes to be drawn up, will the Secretary of State consider whether anyone ready to give that pledge of office would also qualify, if elected, for membership of the House of Commons? It would be very hard if some Ministers in the Assembly were qualified to sit in this House and others were not. As she knows, it is an issue that I have raised many times—indeed, I introduced the Parliamentary Declaration Bill—and one that merits serious consideration when the legislation comes to be drafted.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my right hon. Friend. I agree whole-heartedly with his first point. It is useful to put on record the hard work of people such as Colin Parry from Warrington and Rita Restorick, whose son Stephen was the last man from the Army to be killed. They are people who have suffered on this side of the water, and, alongside the people of Northern Ireland, they have put great effort into making a difference.

On my right hon. Friend's second point, it is a matter best left to the House as a whole, not to me.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

Is the right hon. Lady aware that this is a very moving occasion for anyone who has had the privilege to hold office in Northern Ireland? I warmly congratulate her and the Prime Minister, and join her, if I may, in congratulating my right hon. Friend the previous Prime Minister and other colleagues who have played such a part in taking the process forward.

The right hon. Lady referred to two people who lost their lives—Private Restorick and one in Warrington—but she will understand that my mind goes back to so many people—those in the security forces and brave non-combatants in both communities—who, by standing for democracy and freedom against terrorism over the years, have made the agreement possible. I congratulate her on the achievement of bringing forward this agreement now.

I know from her remarks that the Secretary of State recognises that this is the end of the beginning, and that the real challenge comes now. There may be an agreement on paper, and an agreement may have been reached in smoke-filled or non-smoking rooms in Stormont, but it is with the hearts and minds of the people, expressed not just in a referendum but in a genuine determination then to make the new possibilities work, that the challenge will lie. I certainly wish her well, and, for my part, I am willing to do anything I can to help the process forward.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I reinforce the point that his service in Northern Ireland was during one of the hardest, toughest times. I pay tribute to him for his service, and to the many people who, as he said, suffered during that time, many of whose names will never be known. When we were working on the late Friday night of the talks, I realised that I had been doing the job for 11 months, but sitting next to me were civil servants who had been doing it for 11 years. We should never forget to keep things in perspective.

I echo the right hon. Gentleman's last point. We can put the structures in place, but, as he rightly said, in the end it will be the people who will make it work or not. It is about trust and respect for each other. We cannot legislate for that—it takes years to build. There is a long haul ahead, but—call me naivex2014;I am still confident that, in the years ahead, the people of Northern Ireland will make it.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush)

In expressing my sheer delight at my right hon. Friend's achievement, I want also to ask her to bear in mind the principle that parole has always been available throughout the United Kingdom system to allow the early release of prisoners and to recall them if there is any danger of their committing another offence. That principle applies equally to the people in Northern Ireland, whether Unionist or republican, who have misguidedly believed that they could advance their cause through violence. That is the principle by which we should be guided, and the one for which I have argued for many years during this dispute.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend for the personal support that he has given me. I echo his last Point. It is worth putting on the record the fact that, in the 1960s, the Stormont Government released prisoners, so this is not the first time that early release has been considered. Of course, if the remission scheme currently in place was the only scheme on offer, two thirds of prisoners would be out in two years, anyway.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

The right hon. Lady well knows that there is an explicit linkage in the agreement between the release of prisoners and the cessation of murder. That is welcome in so far as it goes. However, there is no explicit linkage between decommissioning and the release of prisoners; nor is there an explicit linkage between the appointment of the First Minister, his or her deputy, Chairmen of Committees or Ministers, and decommissioning and the cessation of murder.

Why is that? Are there, perhaps, side agreements or letters of comfort—for example, the letter from the Prime Minister to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)? If so, what are those side agreements, and would the right hon. Lady please put them in the Library of the House?

Marjorie Mowlam

There are no side agreements. The letter from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) is in the public domain—it has already been published. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman want to see any other information? As he knows, I write to many Members of Parliament about Northern Ireland. The letter to which we have referred is the one that I believe to be relevant, and it has been published. There are no side deals, and there is nothing that is not in the public domain.

There is quite consciously no bartering of prisoners for weapons2014;no link between the two. All along, the Government have believed that that would be an unacceptable bargain to strike. All we have said is that a number of changes are necessary in the context of overall peace being the first step. If we have an overall peace agreement, other things will follow if there is to be change.

Everyone has to change—we have to change, the Irish have to change, and the parties have to change. We all have to adapt and find a future in which we can all live. There are no side deals and no bartering, but the early release of prisoners, changes in the police system, greater equality and a whole host of other things will follow as confidence, respect and trust are built among the people.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I join colleagues in congratulating and thanking all those in this House, previous holders of office and the Irish Government for their efforts in obtaining this agreement—not forgetting the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy). I want to claim a massive victory, because I think that the agreement is a massive victory. It is a victory for the political process over violence; of pragmatism over outdated ideologies. Above all, it is a victory of the human spirit, inspired by hope and confidence, over the twin imposters of hatred and bigotry.

I believe that the agreement should not be nit-picked or cherry-picked. I believe that it should not be seen as a victory for either Unionism or nationalism. It is a comprehensive and common-sense set of arrangements that will allow people to be at peace with themselves, at peace with others, and united in the common purpose of resolving our differences only by agreement, only by consent and only through working together to lay to rest the ghosts that have divided us for so long.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank the hon. Gentleman, and I echo his support for the Ministers who are seated on either side of me, who have done a lot of the hard slog to get us here.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton)

The right hon. Lady deserves the praise she has received. She picked up the baton from the Conservative Government and twirled it, very successfully, with a style that was very much her own.

This agreement is very much in line with the principles which have held together the United Kingdom—democratic processes, consent and discussion. It is very important that the people of Northern Ireland, themselves and alone, have an opportunity to take a view on the outcome of the agreement and whether they wish to adopt it. Does she agree that we should warn those who wish to oppose the agreement that they should consider carefully the grounds on which they oppose it? Does she agree that those who wish to be part of the United Kingdom should remember that the rest of the United Kingdom would like a democratic future for Northern Ireland on the basis of the agreement?

Marjorie Mowlam

Frighteningly, I agree with everything the hon. Gentleman says, apart from his remark about twirling my baton—the marching season is not yet with us. Ultimately, the matter is in the hands of the people of Northern Ireland, and those who oppose the agreement should think hard about what the rest of the United Kingdom would like. They should consider also their opposition to it, because I should like to know their alternative—apart from going back to the dark days.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

I offer my thanks and congratulations to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on her remarkably fine performance in that difficult office. I also offer my sincere thanks to my hon. Friends in the SDLP, and to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who has shown remarkable courage in recent days. We should thank also President Bill Clinton for his helpful contributions, although I believe that he should defer his visit until after 22 May.

It is my view that Scots Guardsmen Fisher and Wright should be given an early transfer to a prison in Scotland if, and only if, that is their wish. They committed an horrendous crime, but these two young infantrymen should be returned to Scotland. I hope that, in the near future, they will be released to their families and communities under licence.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend for his positive comments. A transfer for Fisher and Wright is available—all they have to do is apply. They have not done so yet.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford)

Has any amnesty been offered against future prosecution of crimes of violence in Northern Ireland? Does the right hon. Lady appreciate the profound disquiet—indeed, revulsion—which will have been aroused in the hearts and minds of all those who care about the impartiality and independence of justice by the fact that certain selective criminals should be offered premature releases as a result of the agreement? There are no political prisoners in this country. There are merely prisoners who have been convicted of greater or lesser crimes. The right hon. Lady is proposing the release of some prisoners convicted of the worst crimes.

What kind of signal does that send for the future—"If you kill one man, woman or child, you are a murderer, but if you kill enough people, you can negotiate a collective amnesty with the British Government"? What signal does that send to those who are in prison for lesser offences? Have they made a mistake by not associating themselves with some terrorist organisation? Does the right hon. Lady not appreciate the dangers of introducing into this country arbitrary justice and the politicisation of justice, which are the abnegation of justice itself?

Marjorie Mowlam

In response to the hon. Gentleman's first question, I tell him that there is no amnesty, collective or individual—that is not on the cards. He is entitled to his view, but it is not shared by the Government or those on the Conservative Front Bench.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

In welcoming this splendid agreement, which represents the best possible future for Northern Ireland, should we not record—especially given the hostile question that has just been asked—that, during more than 25 years of sustained terrorism, neither the British public, in Northern Ireland or on the mainland, or the House wavered for a moment in dealing with terrorism? We have refused to give in to terrorism, and have always insisted that democracy should triumph. Should not that be a warning to future terrorist groups, who may believe that they can undermine the agreement or the yes vote for which we all hope?

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend for that comment, with which I agree whole-heartedly. Labour Members, particularly my hon. Friend, have never been soft on terrorism—we have made our position clear time and again. The measures will not apply to anyone convicted after 10 April. We have put in place clear and specific regulations, and I think that we have dealt with the matter straightforwardly, honestly and up front.

There will be disagreements—some people will find the terms of the agreement distasteful, as the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies) suggested. I say to those people that, in these difficult times, I have received more letters and phone calls from people who have lost family in the troubles, saying, "Yes, maybe we find it difficult, but this is our best chance to prevent other families from going through what we have been through. If that is the case, you should continue to do what you are doing."

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Will the Secretary of State turn her mind to the issue of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright? Many hon. Members do not accept that their conviction was safe or proper—and if we have to swallow our distaste a at the early release of terrorist murderers to sustain the agreement, Guardsmen Fisher and Wright should be released without delay.

Marjorie Mowlam

I have explained the procedure to the House, and I think it best to leave it at that.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)

As a strong supporter of Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom, may I welcome the agreement? I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister, and I particularly congratulate the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who I believe has played a very courageous role—without him, we would not be where we are.

I urge my right hon. Friend to listen carefully to the 99 per cent. of people in Northern Ireland who are law-abiding, decent citizens; they find it very difficult to understand the release of prisoners. I think that they will accept it, but the issue must be handled very carefully—we must be as open and transparent as possible about the prisoners who will be released.

This issue could prevent the agreement from being successful, although I hope that it will not, and that the people of Northern Ireland will support the agreement. Nevertheless, I urge my right hon. Friend to treat the matter carefully, and to work as closely as possible with all the political parties, especially those constitutional parties that have campaigned so long and hard on the issue.

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution, and I echo her comments about the right hon. Member for Upper Bann. I acknowledge her position, which was not always popular in the party in opposition—however, she stood by it, and fought her corner hard, for which I respect her.

I do not in the least under-estimate the prisoner issue. It was included in the agreement as part of an overall settlement. The parties agreed to it—some unhappily, others more happily. I accept that people in Northern Ireland and here find the matter difficult, but, if one asks, "This is part of an overall settlement—should we do it?", the number of people who want us to proceed doubles. We must put the matter in context. No one wants to be the one standing here doing it, but most people accept that it is part of what a settlement will look like.

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)

I recognise that, in the Secretary of State's words, there is a flexibility in the use of words in Northern Ireland—perhaps the most flexible phrase is "confidence-building measures". The terrorist groups see the release of their criminals as a confidence-building measure, but does the Secretary of State share my deep concern—and that expressed by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey)—that the 99 per cent. of people who are the decent, law-abiding majority will not have their confidence built by the early release of some of the worst criminals in society, especially if arsenals of weapons are still available in Northern Ireland, and measures are taken that may damage the effectiveness of one of Britain's greatest and bravest police forces, the RUC?

Marjorie Mowlam

I say to the right hon. Gentleman, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), that I accept that, for many people, this is a difficult issue. They are faced with building confidence, which means taking the violence off Northern Ireland's streets and not returning to history and the violence that it brings. On balance, and given time, even those who have suffered most think that it is worth doing. They do not want to be the people who do it, but they think that, in the end, it is worth doing. The referendum will be a chance for them to make their voices heard—it is there for people to voice that concern.

The judgment is difficult. Do we buy a package with which we do not agree 100 per cent., but which in the end has a chance to bring peace and save lives that might be lost in the years ahead? That is the judgment that people will have to make, and, given the option of preventing other people from going through what they have gone through, people will make that call. It is up to them, and it is not easy, but, as I have said, we have to look at the issue in the context of the fact that two thirds of these people would be out in two years, anyway. We are talking about 400 prisoners. Faced with that, and with the history of the past 30 years, let us make the choice.

Ms Margaret Moran (Luton, South)

I assure my right hon. Friend that she has the whole-hearted support not only of the House, but, judging from the phone calls that I have received from my constituents in Luton, which she visited a year ago, overwhelming public support and a great deal of emotional support for the settlement. Many of my constituents and hon. Members welcome her earlier emphasis on fairness and opportunity for all. Could she clarify her response to the report by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, and say how its recommendations might be integrated in a final settlement in Northern Ireland?

Marjorie Mowlam

The question of fairness and justice and the SACHR report and equality is outlined in some detail in the agreement. It refers to our efforts to put matters on a statutory footing after the consultation in which we are currently engaged. The results of the consultation will form part of the final agreement.

When we have listened to people's views, we shall put on a statutory basis within the public service the obligation to bring about equality of opportunity in public services across the board in goods and services. An equality commission will set the objectives and carry out monitoring, and a host of measures will be attempted alongside targeting social need and Labour's new deal proposals to try to get to the long-term unemployed. They include twice as many Catholics as Protestants, but there are many unemployed male Protestants over the age of 40. We have particular projects in mind to try to address that matter, because that too is part of an overall accommodation.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

I too congratulate the Secretary of State on this negotiating success, which will be widely welcomed throughout the United Kingdom and for which she as an individual deserves, and seems to have received, immense personal credit. Is she able to confirm that the independent body charged with the review of sentences will be free from lobbying campaigns by one side or the other, by interested parties or by the British or Irish Governments?

Marjorie Mowlam

I have made it clear that the body will be independent. We shall appoint people to that end, and it, like the Parades Commission, will not be open to lobbying from any source.

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford, South)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, and I congratulate her and her team on everything that has happened so far. As she says, we are at the starting point, and the next weeks will be vital. I hope that all hon. Members, regardless of party, will support the yes campaign.

On the vexed question of the release of prisoners, my right hon. Friend will know that I was involved in the case of Private Lee Clegg. I was exposed to the horrendous problems caused by the divide in Northern Ireland, and to the tremendous sensitivities about the release of prisoners. When the independent review board considers prisoner releases, I hope that it will be truly independent, and will acknowledge the sense of injustice on both sides of the divide in some very important cases.

Marjorie Mowlam

I acknowledge the work that my hon. Friend has done on the issue, and I hear what he says.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

Like the Secretary of State, I hope that there will be a massive yes vote, but I strongly endorse the cautionary words of the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) about prisoner releases. I draw the attention of the House to point 2 in the section on prisoners on page 25 of the agreement, which says:

Prisoners affiliated to organisations which have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not benefit from the arrangements. The situation in this regard will be kept under review. That makes it clear that prisoners will not be released on licence if their organisations continue to kill; but will they be recalled from release on licence if their organisations, rather than they themselves, resume killing?

Marjorie Mowlam

We made it clear in the statement, I hope, that individuals who are let out on licence will be recalled if they return to violence, and that organisations not on ceasefire will not be eligible. More detailed legislation is still being worked on for cases such as the hon. Gentleman mentioned. This week we shall lay a order for the referendum and an elections Bill, and legislation for the release of prisoners will be introduced in due course. We said that we would consult the parties and others on the question, and we shall certainly honour that pledge.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend and all the parties involved in this courageous settlement. When framing the legislation, will she consider whether it will be possible to avoid by-elections in the new assembly by using a proportional representation system that will allow any vacancy that occurs to be filled by the party that held the seat previously?

That is an important and sensitive matter, because, in the fragile incubation period of the new executive and the new assembly, with the apportionment of committees and portfolios, there should be no possibility of a disruption in the arithmetic, allowing malevolent people to campaign and screw up the settlement, as happened at the time of Sunningdale. It would be legitimate, in the democratic process, to have legislation that avoided by-elections in the formative years of the new Assembly and executive.

Marjorie Mowlam

That is an interesting point, well worthy of consideration. I hope that we can consider such detail on Wednesday.

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury)

Following the comments of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), will the Secretary of State return to the issue of Sinn Fein and its attitude? Sinn Fein has had every opportunity to endorse the agreement. Does she agree that it is stalling in order to have time to assess how far down the road towards a united Ireland the agreement will take it? Was not she chilled by the words of Sinn Fein's president? No sooner had he said, "Well done, David," than he was commending the work of the IRA, and saying that it had not been defeated by the agreement.

Marjorie Mowlam

I am not responsible for what other folk say. As I said earlier, the hon. Gentleman seems out of tune with his party's Front-Bench spokesmen. Sinn Fein representatives said that they would hold consultations with their party, and I assume that that is what they are doing. There is not much that I can do about it.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Albeit that my right hon. Friend claims to have explained the procedures to the House and says that she is acting in a semi-judicial capacity, are not the cases of Fisher and Wright fundamentally different, in that those two young men were sent there by us on green Benches?

How can the Government be satisfied with the judges' conclusion that Fisher and Wright had no reason to feel that they were in danger? Was it not taken into account that their colleague, Guardsman Shackleton, was shot dead on the very same streets only a few weeks before? Having read the transcript of the trial, as I have done, does she not think that Fisher and Wright might have instantaneously understood the danger of coffee jar bombs and the whole "Come on!" trap scenario? Many ex-servicemen and, indeed, national servicemen, like me, feel, "There but for the grace of God went we!"

Marjorie Mowlam

I know how strongly a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House feel about this issue. I am afraid that all I can say in response, with a semi-judicial hat on, is that I have explained the procedures. Fisher and Wright were tried in court, and they had an appeal. As I said, we will certainly consider the issue.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

By linking the release of a prisoner to participation in a ceasefire by a particular faction, are we not establishing a dreadful principle—that there is a separate category of political crime?

Marjorie Mowlam

There is not a direct linkage. We are taking it as part of an overall peace settlement. As hon. Members have said, that has happened in other parts of the world, and it is the way to try to find a new future for Northern Ireland.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

On that point, many hon. Members have made crude linkages between prisoners and decommissioning. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is better for the process to be seen as more complex, and to see the release of prisoners in the context of rehabilitation of individuals and the whole community, and decommissioning in the context of the demilitarisation of the whole of the Six Counties? Is it not better that Sinn Fein should go through a thorough consultation process, so that its leadership has the overwhelming support of its membership for its position on the agreement?

Marjorie Mowlam

What we are after achieving is a normal society for everyone in Northern Ireland, which is what we are trying to do. On the prisoner issue, the proposed new tariff will result in two thirds being let out within two years—the present tariff is a half. We are suggesting that remission level with a date two years down the line.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

First, can I attach myself to the congratulations to my right hon. Friend and her team, and particularly to say how proud we in Scotland are of our two Ministers from Scotland? Does she accept that, although we did not suffer in Scotland from bombing violence, we have been scarred deeply by the sectarianism which has plagued our community, because of the inability to move on the Northern Ireland question?

As we move forward on this path to reconciliation, my right hon. Friend will recall that I visited and spoke to people in Northern Ireland during the period of opposition, and the one word that came up continually was "intimidation". I have looked in the document under "Policing", and I do not see that word mentioned.

Can my right hon. Friend give us some reassurance that consultation and discussions will take place, so that the sub-structure to the paramilitary organisations, which are running a rule of law within their own community outwith the British rule of law, will be dismantled at the same time as decommissioning and the dismantling of paramilitarism?

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend. We will be attempting, in response to the police, to change the present situation in which some areas of Northern Ireland are no-go areas, which is not satisfactory either for the police or for the local community. To change that situation, we will need trust and confidence building, and the best way to get those is to get a peace settlement so that the changes that we began to see in the police force under the last ceasefire begin to take place.

The best way to change the situation to which my hon. Friend referred is to get the representation of people across the communities. That is the point, and at the moment it is not possible. It will become so only with overall change, and through the whole peace process.

Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East)

I was an 11-year-old schoolboy in Belfast when the troubles started, and I never thought that I would see what happened on Good Friday. History has been mentioned, and everyone in Ulster remembers their history selectively. I remember the Sunningdale agreement and what happened after it, when the Ulster Workers Council strike brought it down. Those voices have not gone away, although they are not here today.

I urge my right hon. Friend not merely to stand on the sidelines and put the agreement to the people, but to rebut and refute every allegation that parties outside the agreement make. I urge her to take on those people and make the argument for the agreement, as that is the only hope for the future of Northern Ireland. If we do not take this opportunity, I do not think that we will see another day like Good Friday in another generation. I urge my right hon. Friend to take on those voices of unreason, and rebut every argument they make.

Marjorie Mowlam

I hear what my hon. Friend says, and perhaps I was not completely clear earlier. Of course, when people say daft and nonsensical things, I will disagree—they are just not here for me to disagree with them this afternoon.

The precedents are there, and it is difficult in Northern Ireland. The only reason that I am being reticent is because it is about trust and confidence, and we do not build those by telling people what to do. They will happen in their communities when people read the document, which is what I implore everyone in Northern Ireland to do—to make up their own minds.

We will not necessarily achieve the sort of community that will build for the future itself, which is the way that it will happen, by going in in busloads and telling people how to behave. That is not the way to build community support. Enough voices in Northern Ireland are disagreeing.

I have faith in those who want to build a safer, more positive and stable future, where economic growth could be phenomenal and the day-to-day issues that affect people's lives, such as health, education and jobs, will begin to change, as my hon. Friend will know, as he grew up there. We are not going to be wimpish about it, but I have one word of caution—it is their choice, not ours.

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)

I welcome the right hon. Lady's comments, and congratulate her on what she has achieved. One matter troubles me from what I have heard. Under the system under which early release will be achieved, the fact that particular organisations have announced that they do not support violence will be taken into account in allowing prisoners early release. How will she ensure that prisoners held for terrorist offences who are members of organisations that have not signed up to the agreement, or that may denounce it, do not consider themselves unfairly penalised by not being released and not having their cases considered?

Marjorie Mowlam

"Tough" is, I think, the short answer to that. If they do not sign up to the ceasefire, then they remain where they are.

To restructure the question and deal with a serious difficulty, a slightly harder issue to deal with is if they suddenly wake up one morning and say, "Whoops, I'm no longer a member of INLA, I've just joined PIRA." Those are difficult questions, which is why we are putting in place an independent body to assess them case by case, so that, when it does get difficult—it is problematic—the system is not used and abused. That is why we have been careful in the paper in the Library, and will be careful in the further details that will be provided, to ensure that it is not abused.