§ Mr. William Ross
I beg to move amendment No. 50, page 1, line 24, leave out 'shall' and insert 'may'.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 51, page 1, line 24, after 'application', insert 'only'.
No. 52, page 1, line 24, leave out '(and only if)'.
No. 7, page 1, line 25, leave out from 'for' to 'life' in page 2, line 1.
No. 55, page 1, line 25, leave out 'for a fixed term'.
No. 33, page 1, line 25, after 'term', insert 'or for life'.
No. 53, page 1, line 25, after 'term', insert 'imposed by a court'.
No. 34, page 1, line 26, leave out'the first three of the following four'and insert'all of the following five'.No. 54, page 1, line 26, leave out 'the first three of'.
No. 29, page 1, line 26, leave out 'three' and insert 'five'.
No. 30, page 1, line 26, leave out 'four' and insert 'six'.
No. 35, page 1, line 27, leave out from 'satisfied' to end of line 2 on page 2.
No. 31, page 2, line 2, leave out 'four' and insert 'six'.
No. 57, page 2, line 6, after first 'a', insert 'member of or a'.
No. 58, page 2, line 7, leave out 'terrorist' and insert 'proscribed'.
No. 59, page 2, line 8, leave out 'immediately'.
No. 60, page 2, line 10, after 'of, insert'or remain a member or'.No. 61, page 2, line 10, leave out 'terrorist' and insert 'proscribed'.
No. 62, page 2, line 11, after 'concerned', insert 'with or involved'.
No. 63, page 2, line 12, leave out'connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland'and insert'within or connected with the affairs of the United Kingdom'.No. 8, page 2, line 12, leave out'connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland'.No. 25, page 2, line 14, at end insert—'(6A) In determining whether a prisoner would be a danger to the public the Commission—No. 28, page 2, line 14, at end insert—
- (a) must have regard to any opinion submitted by the Chief Officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; and
- (b) must not rely only on psychiatric or psychological opinions arrived at after interviews with the prisoner.'.'6(A) The fifth condition is that the terrorist organisation to which the prisoner belonged (or any successor or sister organisation of a different name) has substantially decommissioned weapons.6(B) The sixth condition is that the prisoner has completely renounced the use of violence for good.'.30 No. 36, page 2, line 14, at end insert—'(6A) The fifth condition is that the prisoner has renounced violence and is willing to comply with any order made by the Secretary of State requiring him to fulfil community service of such a nature and for such a duration as the order may specify.'.No. 64, page 2, line 16, leave out '10th April 1998' and insert '31st August 1994'.
No. 20, page 2, line 16, at end insert'and in respect of which the applicant was charged before 10th April 1998,'.No. 79, page 2, line 19, after '1996', insert'or was committed by a member of Her Majesty's armed forces in the course of his duties while serving in Northern Ireland'.No. 80, page 2, line 19, leave out from '1996' to end of line 22.
No. 10, in clause 5, page 3, line 40, leave out 'and third' and insert 'third and fourth'.
No. 72, in clause 9, page 4, line 33, after 'not', insert'remain a member of or'.No. 73, page 4, line 33, after 'terrorist', insert 'or proscribed'.
New clause 1—Warrant of Chief Constable—'Notwithstanding the provisions of section 3, no prisoner shall be released if the Secretary of State receives a warrant from the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary certifying that in his opinion the prisoner is still an active supporter of a terrorist organisation, whether or not it is specified under section 3(8).'.New clause 2—Renunciation of violence—'.—Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 3 no prisoner shall be released unless he has sworn on oath to renounce violence for good nor support any organisation which advocates or uses violence.'.
§ Mr. Ross
I hope that I am not expected to speak to all the amendments and new clauses, as only about half belong to me. However, I have read them all with interest, and, by and large, they address the same general problem regarding conditions of release. I shall run swiftly through those standing in my name, so that the Committee may understand my intentions.
Amendment No. 50 proposes to omit the word "shall" and insert the word "may" in the appropriate place. That would create a measure of discretion, which is currently absent from the Bill. Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 correct the Bill's drafting, which I suspect is not quite right. I invite the Minister to accept my changes, but, if he is happier with what he has put down, I will have no great problem with that.
The Bill refers only to fixed terms, but amendment No. 55 and several other amendments propose that the same standards should apply to all those who are seeking release, whether they have fixed terms, life sentences or an indeterminate sentence. I see no good reason why individuals who come before the commission should not be on an equal footing, and have to fulfil the same conditions before they are released.
Amendment No. 53 proposes to restrict "prisoners" to those subject to sentences passed within Northern Ireland. If someone has committed a crime outwith Northern Ireland, and if sentence is passed on them elsewhere in the UK, he or she is in another jurisdiction. Therefore, an individual convicted in the Republic of Ireland, for example—or perhaps even in Germany or another foreign state—should be outwith the scope of the Bill.
31 I wish to refer to amendments Nos. 54 and 35. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) tabled similar amendments, not knowing what I was doing. The amendments follow amendment No. 53, and propose that all the conditions must be met in each case.
Amendment No. 57 simply tries to widen the scope from a supporter of a violent terrorist organisation to include membership of that organisation. In Committee, the Secretary of State ran into difficulty on the question of what was "terrorist" and what was "proscribed". My hon. Friend the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) asked about the position of someone who belonged to a proscribed organisation but was not treated as a terrorist. That seemed to us to set up a strange situation, which we could not understand.
Amendment. No. 58 would change the Bill to include membership of a proscribed organisation. Those organisations are all listed, and can be added to by the Secretary of State. The Government could get into an awful mess if they do not treat all the bodies on the same footing, and apply the same description to all of them and their members.
Amendment No. 59 proposes to leave out the word "immediately". I do not see why the measure should be introduced only immediately. The commission must look beyond the immediate effect of someone getting out, and consider what that individual will do next week, or in three months' time. The Bill should take a longer view.
I hope that the Minister has noted that amendment No. 60 should reador remain a member of',as the amendment paper, as printed, has the final word as "or". There is evidently a typographical error. The amendment would widen the scope of the Bill to provide that someone who got out of prison was not only associated with or a supporter of a proscribed organisation, but remained a member of that terrorist proscribed organisation. I simply cannot understand why the word "proscribed" has not been used throughout the Bill, and I hope that we will get a clear explanation.
Amendment No. 63 again tries to widen the scope. The Bill as drafted talks about terrorismconnected with the affairs of Northern Ireland".The terrorist campaign has been concerned with the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. To say, therefore, that the Bill is concerned only with the affairs of Northern Ireland seems restrictive. In those circumstances, we should widen the measure to include acts connectedwith the affairs of the United Kingdomand take the nation as a whole. That would extend the scope to include terrorist actions carried out against the British Army in Germany or British possessions overseas which would be concerned with the UK—but, in particular, with Northern Ireland with regard to the Bill. The Government must consider the Bill and the amendments carefully, because many of the amendments are extremely helpful to what they are trying to achieve and should be accepted. The other amendments in the group simply hark back to the area issue, to which I have referred.
32 The Government have been far too hidebound in their approach. They should have given the matter wider consideration and encompassed all terrorist organisations. The commissioners should have a measure of discretion, and we should restrict the provision to that which lies within the jurisdiction of our own courts, rather than pull in sentences passed by other courts, because commissioners could not be aware of all the evidence produced in such courts.
Those are my reasons for tabling the amendments. I hope that others who have tabled other amendments will clearly explain the reasoning behind them.
§ Mr. Moss
I shall speak to amendments Nos. 7, 8 and 10.
Amendment No. 7 would mean that clause 3(2)(a) would state:the prisoner is serving a sentence of imprisonment in Northern Ireland and the following four conditions are satisfied".We should carefully consider the Government's distinction between fixed-term prisoners and those serving a life sentence. The Bill makes a clear distinction, with three of the four conditions in clause 3 applying to those on fixed terms and all four applying to those on life sentences.
The last condition, at clause 3(6), is the most crucial:The fourth condition is that, if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public.Why have the Government assumed that only life prisoners could be a danger to the public? Lifers could be less likely to be a danger or to cause problems once they were released, because the prospects of reincarceration would be far more serious than for those on fixed terms.
Some fixed-term prisoners may be far more committed to terrorism and to the cause than their colleagues on longer sentences, including life sentences. On conviction, it may not have been possible to make more serious charges stick to such prisoners, perhaps through lack of evidence, but it may have been deemed to be in the interests of society in Northern Ireland to take them out of circulation, and the prosecution may have gone for a lesser charge to secure conviction.
We strongly question why the Government have made a distinction between fixed-term and life prisoners, especially in respect of the fourth condition. We are not persuaded that all fixed-term prisoners are not likely to be a danger to the public if they are released early, and I should be interested to hear the arguments to the contrary. The amendment makes it clear that any prisoner serving a sentence in Northern Ireland must meet all four conditions set out later in the clause.
Amendment No. 8 would leave out the wordsconnected with the affairs of Northern Ireland".The question is simple: should we think of releasing prisoners who the commission believes couldbecome concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism"?The Bill goes on to use the wordsconnected with the affairs of Northern Ireland.If we end the clause with the word "terrorism", it makes much more sense, because it is just as important that someone released from prison under the Bill should not join a terrorist group that operates either in mainland 33 Britain or elsewhere in the world. Our friends in other countries would be distinctly unimpressed if we were to release prisoners who happened then to join other terrorist organisations around the world.
Perhaps the Government intended the wordsconnected with the affairs of Northern Irelandto embrace mainland Britain, but it seems unnecessary to be that pedantic. If the subsection ended with the word "terrorism", it would include prisoners likely to join terrorist organisations elsewhere in the world.
Amendment No. 10 is a consequential amendment.
§ Mr. McNamara
If we took out those words, would it not allow someone imprisoned in Northern Ireland and involved in middle east terrorism to apply for the benefit of the legislation?
Order. I had not appreciated that the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) had sat down. I call Mr. Peter Robinson.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
I wish to speak in support of four amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and me, and supported by other hon. Members. They fall into two categories. However, before I deal with them, I seek clarification on a point of procedure.
It would be helpful, Sir Alan, if you could say what mechanism there is for Members from Northern Ireland to divide on amendments that are not lead amendments. It is not unreasonable for Northern Ireland Members to expect to have some Divisions on amendments which they feel are important. However, the draconian guillotine procedure that the Minister has stampeded upon us, with an outrageously short time to deal with a significant Bill, means that, within an hour, we must dispose of dozens of amendments. Moreover, if we discuss the amendments, we shall take up our voting time.
Hon. Members from Northern Ireland find that most unsatisfactory. We must protest about the way in which the Government are handling this legislation. We should not be surprised about the Government's approach, because they have entered into an agreement, and it does not really matter what hon. Members think about the basis of the Bill. The Government will push it through, because that is the agreement that they have signed.
The amendments that we have tabled fall into two classes. Amendment No. 33, in common with a number of other amendments, would require prisoners to be dealt with in precisely the same way whether they are serving a life sentence or a fixed-term sentence.
Why should someone in prison for a fixed term be entitled to go before the commission without satisfying the fourth condition, which is that, if he were to be 34 released, he would not be a danger to the public? We should all be satisfied that a prisoner, whether serving a fixed term or a life sentence, is not a danger to the public. Perhaps the Minister will explain the tortuous reasoning that would allow a fixed-term prisoner to be released even though he may be a danger to the public.
Prisoners must meet the four criteria in the Bill. The other amendments that we have tabled seek to add a fifth condition. The necessity for that fifth condition arises from the fact that the four conditions in the Bill relate not so much to the individual behaviour or state of mind of the prisoner who is to be released as to the fact that he is a prisoner—which is fairly evident if he is to be released—and that he is part of an organisation. Under the Bill, if that organisation is not on the list of terrorist organisations specified by the Secretary of State, the prisoner is capable of being released, provided he satisfies the requirement that, as part of that organisation, he will not resume or assist in the preparation of acts of terrorism. Amendment No. 36 would require that prisoner to satisfy the commission that he or she has renounced violence.
Furthermore, having satisfied the commission that they have renounced violence, prisoners should show some regret for their crimes by putting themselves at the disposal of the Secretary of State for some form of community service. Prisoners should not be able to walk out of prison as unreconstructed terrorists without having regretted any of the offences for which they were in prison. They should not expect to go on to the streets and to go back to whatever it was they were doing. The amendment would require prisoners to change, and to show that they are willing to be assimilated into society and to repay their debt to society.
§ Mr. William Ross
In tabling amendment No. 36, the hon. Gentleman no doubt recalls that, during the 1956–61 IRA terrorist campaign, individuals were interned for the duration, but it was possible for those who were prepared to give an undertaking that they would no longer be involved in violence to be released. Now, at the end of a very long period of terrorist violence, the hon. Gentleman is asking for exactly the same thing to happen. That seems to me to be entirely reasonable.
§ Mr. Robinson
It is worth saying that the criteria in the Bill fall into two categories. Some deal with issues relating to the prisoner, whereas the provision that we are about to come to relates to the definition of a terrorist organisation.
I do not think that any prisoner should be allowed simply to walk out of gaol because his organisation claims to have a certain status. According to the Bill, it is the behaviour of the individual, not that of his organisation, which will determine whether he returns to prison. It is therefore vital for the commission to be given a clear undertaking that the individual is willing to comply with any order issued by the Secretary of State in connection with community service, has expressed regret for his crimes, and has renounced violence for good.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
I want to speak specifically about amendment No. 7.
The Bill provides for a distinction between prisoners serving fixed-term sentences and those serving life sentences. That distinction is arbitrary, irrational and 35 illogical. Not infrequently, those serving life sentences—although technically guilty of murder, for which the law prescribes only life imprisonment—are what are known in the business as "gofers". They have been involved in conspiracies, keeping a watch, picking up vital information to identify targets, and driving cars containing the weapons handed over to those who carried out the actual murders. Technically, all those people are guilty of murder, but some—this may be, indirectly, an argument in favour of prisoner release—were very much on the periphery of hard-core terrorist violence.
On the other hand, many people serving fixed-term sentences were hard-core terrorists, involved in a series of terrorist crimes that do not, however, require the imposition of a life sentence. One of the most notorious loyalist terrorists, Adair, was convicted of a host of terrorist offences, but, as I recollect, was not sentenced to a life term—although the judge who sentenced him considered him to be one of the most serious terrorist criminals to have come before the courts.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
Is not the point that he orchestrated, devised and encouraged acts of terrorism, rather than being personally involved in their commission?
§ Mr. McCartney
I am grateful for that helpful intervention. Adair was certainly involved in such activity, although I believe that he was also involved in much of the other kind.
Attempted murder is another issue. Let us suppose that someone is caught planting a large bomb, with the intention of causing the death and mutilation of a number of people—a bomb like the Enniskillen bomb, for instance. That person is charged either with attempted murder, which does not carry a mandatory life sentence, or with being in possession of explosives with the intention of causing serious physical harm, which also does not carry a life sentence.
Such a person may have been involved in a series of offences. He may have a long record of terrorist involvement. Yet, because he has been given a fixed-term rather than a life sentence, he is absolved from the fourth condition. We are dealing with people whose psychiatric or psychological background should cause them to be deemed hard-core terrorists, who are likely to be recidivists of some kind, but who will be absolved from the condition that,if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public.Because such people are fixed-term prisoners, the criterion whether they are likely to be a danger to the public if released is thrown out of the window.
The Committee should not approve such an arbitrary and illogical distinction. It does not protect the public at all, although, if I understand the conditions correctly—particularly the fourth condition—the object is to protect the public from dangerous criminals who are likely to remain dangerous criminals, and, in such a capacity, to cause harm and danger in future. I support amendment No. 7, which makes all four conditions applicable not just to those sentenced to life imprisonment, but to those sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment.
§ Mr. Maclean
I want to speak to amendments Nos. 25 and 28 and new clauses 1 and 2, which I tabled.
Amendment No. 25 states:In determining whether a prisoner would be a danger to the public the Commission… must have regard to any opinion submitted by the Chief Officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; and … must not rely only on psychiatric or psychological opinions arrived at after interviews with the prisoner.I am worried about the fact that the Bill does not seem to provide for the chief officer's opinions to count in any regard.
Clause 3(6) merely states:The fourth condition is that, if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public.What evidence must the commissioners have before reaching such a conclusion? As my amendment suggests, I fear that they may rely too heavily on the result of psychological or psychometric testing or risk assessment conducted by psychologists or psychiatrists. Let us suppose, however, that they adopt other means of determining whether the prisoner is likely to be a danger to the public. Are they entitled to hear submissions from the Northern Ireland Office? Can the Minister tell the commission that he has information suggesting that the individual may still be a danger to the public, irrespective of the conclusions that the psychiatrists may reach?
What if the RUC has information relating to the prisoner, which convinces the chief officer that he is likely to be a danger to the public? Can he submit that information to the commission, and is the commission entitled to take it into account?
The Bill does not give enough flesh to the rather bland condition that,if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public.The legislation should provide for the views of those with experience, or a reliable opinion on whether the prisoner would be a danger to the public, to be taken into account. That should be their entitlement.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
No doubt, given his ministerial experience, the right hon. Gentleman is familiar with the following circumstances. A number of individuals are jointly charged. Some—generally those on the periphery of the offence—make statements of admission that may even involve the trigger man, the man who shot the victim. Because that man is a confident, hard-core terrorist, however, he does not say a word, and is subsequently discharged. That information is within the knowledge of the senior police officer, and—being information about the nature of the individual to be released—ought properly to be supplied.
§ Mr. Maclean
The hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right. His intervention raises an additional question, which I hope to be able to raise on Wednesday: the question of the reasons that may be given to the prisoner. In many instances, the safety of RUC officers and other members of the security forces could be gravely endangered if they supplied information suggesting that a prisoner was a danger to the public, knowing full well that, if the commissioners decided not to release that prisoner, they would have to give reasons for his not being released.
37 The Bill is silent on the protection that will be afforded to sensitive security information. That may be cast-iron, vital information that reasonable commissioners would conclude should not result in someone's release. However, the RUC might be afraid to give it, because their security operations would be compromised.
Amendment No. 28 is a key one. I am approaching decommissioning from a slightly different route, and that will be further discussed in the next debate. It is crucial for the Bill to state that no prisoner shall be released until the terrorist organisation to which he belonged or any successor organisation, whatever it chooses to call itself, has substantially decommissioned its weapons. I suspect that some Northern Ireland terrorist organisations will evolve or go through name changes as their lawyers find ways to pick holes in the legislation.
I am merely trying to put into legislation the Prime Minister's commitment to the House on 6 May, and no doubt his oral commitment to Northern Ireland Members on other occasions. It would be extraordinary—people would find it obscene—for the Government to go ahead with the Bill without an amendment to link the decommissioning, or the substantial decommissioning, of weapons with terrorist releases.
My amendment does not even state that all weapons must be surrendered before any terrorist is released. It merely uses the Prime Minister's term, "substantially decommissioned weapons." I fail to see how any reasonable person could find that amendment unreasonable. I hope that the Minister will accept it as a condition in clause 3, or that he will accept the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay).
My new clause 2 again approaches the problem from a slightly different route. Nowhere does the Bill state that a prisoner must swear an oath that he has renounced violence for good. The Minister may say, "So what? If he intends to return to violence, he will swear to anything. He may say that he will be a good boy." As the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) suggested, he may agree to do community service. The Minister may say that an oath will not stop people from returning to violence. I know that it will not stop a person who is dedicated to returning to violence, but it is another hurdle that a prisoner has to overcome if he is to convince the commissioners that he has given up violence for good. It is a sign of good faith by a prisoner that he has renounced violence for good.
I shall not push the Government to the death on the new clause, but it makes a valid point, and the Government should explain why they do not think that it is necessary for a prisoner to renounce violence for good and take an oath to that effect.
I stress the importance of amendment No. 28, which would ensure that a prisoner would not be released until the terrorist organisation to which he belonged had started the process that the Prime Minister promised the House—that that organisation has substantially decommissioned its weapons. The condition should not be that the organisation has entered talks that may one day lead to the setting up of a committee of yet more foreign experts, which might lead to decommissioning. It should not be said that prisoners should be released because that great process has started.
38 The Prime Minister told the House that of course terrorist organisations should substantially decommission their weapons before prisoners are released. I am simply trying to take the Prime Minister at his word, and build it into the Bill.
§ Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)
Amendment No. 20 is in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). Clause 3(7)(a) lays down a requirement that a qualifying offence is one whichwas committed before 10th April 1998".We seek to add the wordsand in respect of which the applicant was charged before 10th April 1998.It is important to draw a line somewhere in the process. The Bill as drafted applies to those who are still at large, and who may in due course be charged with a crime that was committed before 10 April. That opens the prospect of many more convicted terrorists qualifying under the Bill than are currently in prison.
No one has yet been charged with many of the terrorist crimes committed in Northern Ireland, including some of the most serious crimes over the past 30 years of terrorist violence. For example, no one has been charged with offences in connection with the bomb in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday 1987, which killed many innocent people. Under the terms of the Bill, if at any future time a terrorist is charged with an offence in connection with that bombing, he or she will qualify under the terms of the Bill for accelerated release.
Clause 10(6) states:In the case of any other sentence passed after the day on which this Act comes into force, the accelerated release day is the second anniversary of the start of the sentence (disregarding custody before the sentence was passed).That means that the people who exploded the Enniskillen bomb, who murdered 11 innocent people, will serve no more than two years. That is totally unacceptable in a democratic society. I hope that the security forces will continue to pursue the people who exploded that bomb, and that they will be charged, and, if guilty, found guilty. Our amendment would ensure that they would not qualify for accelerated release, because it would be a mockery and a travesty of justice if the people who committed that atrocity served only two years.
I hope that the Minister will carefully consider the amendment, and will agree that we need to draw a line somewhere. If we do not, where does all this end? No one has been charged with about 70 per cent. of terrorist offences in County Fermanagh. We are debating potentially hundreds of terrorists who have yet to be charged with crimes and who could qualify under the Bill. We are debating not just prisoners but many other terrorists who have never been apprehended for their crimes. Our amendment would mean that terrorists who are charged after 10 April and convicted of serious terrorist offences that were committed before that date will not qualify.
I use that crime only as an example. There are countless other murders in Northern Ireland for which no one has been charged. It would equally be a travesty of justice for each and every one of those murders if the people who committed them were subsequently charged with and convicted of murder, perhaps multiple murder, 39 and released after only two years. That would say to the people of Northern Ireland including the victims of the Enniskillen bomb that those lives were worth just two years in prison. What does that say about justice? I hope that the Government will accept the amendment.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. McNamara
I listened with interest and much sympathy to the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson), but the Committee is getting into a major difficulty in seeking to rewrite an agreement that has already been signed. I understand the desire of those who are not party to the agreement to alter and wreck it; that is perfectly proper. But it is a bit off for those who have signed up to it—who jumped on the tails of my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and said, "Me, too. Can I go to Northern Ireland to take part in this great campaign to get the agreement carried?"—to seek to rewrite it. I put that in a way that might be accepted as parliamentary; it will do for the time being.
I want to deal with some of the points raised by the amendments. It is wrong—as, for example, is suggested in new clause 1—to give the police the final say on whether a person should be released. That is internment under a new name.
To ask people being released to take an oath would ensure that the prisons remained full. That may be the object of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean). There is no evidence that taking an oath would end the violence, but there is much evidence that people would refuse to sign such an undertaking. Even though he was not involved in violence of any sort, after he had been interned, a former Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Frank Maguire, refused to sign an undertaking that he had not been involved in violence or that he would give it up. He refused to be coerced to be released from an unjust internment in that way.
To link decommissioning to the release of prisoners or to put conditions on prisoners is unacceptable to wide sections of opinion in Northern Ireland. If carried, that proposal could wreck the agreement. People will say that the IRA, the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force are engaged in a tactical ceasefire, waiting to see what happens before going on. I do not believe that. The paramilitary organisations did not unilaterally cease violence in a vacuum: they did so in the expectation, held out to them by politicians and contained in the Belfast agreement, of a peace agreement that would remove the causes of violence. Amending the agreement once it has been accepted by putting new pre-conditions on one of its central and essential points, the release of prisoners, will be seen by elements in the paramilitary organisations—even if their leaderships do not regard it as such—as a betrayal of the position that they took up. Decommissioning is a demand that goes beyond the end to violence and many of them regard it as involving symbolic surrender. Organisations may refuse to decommission without restarting violence. If the consequence of that is to halt the release of prisoners, 40 some people in both loyalist and republican communities, irrespective of whether they are represented by the current leaderships, are likely to restart the violence.
§ Mr. McNamara
Let me finish. I think I know the point that the hon. Gentleman wants to raise, because we crossed swords last time we spoke.
In my judgment, such people would have significant support for restarting violence. They would not have my support, but they would have support. New conditions would cause people to stop and think, "If this bit of the agreement can be tampered with, what is the next bit that will be tampered with?" I believe that that is what is being sought.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am trying to leave time for leader of the Democratic Unionist party to speak before the Minister replies. With great respect, the hon. Gentleman has not been here since the start of the debate and I will not give way.
I understand the point made by the hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the emotion involved. That emotion is felt not only about the Enniskillen killings but about Loughinisland and Greysteel. We can all catalogue many such events, but, unfortunately, what the hon. Gentleman wants is not contained in the agreement. The agreement provides for a specific cut-off date. Whether a person was charged or arrested would depend on the vagaries of third-party action, a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions or the police, rather than on the time when the crime was committed.
§ Mr. McNamara
I normally give way frequently, but I want to let another hon. Member speak on this important amendment.
Any cut-off date must be associated with the signing of the agreement. This is not a question of amnesty. The hon. Member for Lagan Valley read out the terms of clause 10. We must not allow ourselves to be tempted to rewrite the agreement. If we do, the whole of what we are standing for fails and the agreement crumbles.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
I want a vote on amendment No. 36. I understand that time is tight so I shall not make a long speech. There are issues that the Committee should not run away from and which need to be settled by a vote here. Representatives here from Northern Ireland have the right to express themselves. As the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) said, the Prime Minister made certain pledges to the people of Northern Ireland during the referendum. We were told that when the legislation came before the House, they would be incorporated in it. They have not been. We should, by way of amendment, have the opportunity at least to express the wishes of our constituents on the matter. That is what I wanted to underscore.
§ Mr. Ingram
Many points have been raised and I will try to address all of them. The hon. Member for Belfast, 41 East (Mr. Robinson) mentioned the time allocated to the debate. Under the rules of House, he had the right to object to that last Thursday evening. I was here at 10 pm.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
The Government did not tell parties through the usual channels of their intention to sneak the guillotine through.
§ Mr. Ingram
The hon. Gentleman is always one to be spoon-fed on the procedure of the House. He has been in the House for a considerable time. He is a parliamentarian and should understand the rules of the House.
The amendments concern the criteria to be applied by the commissioners in considering whether a prisoner should receive a declaration. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, the Bill gives effect to the commitments stated in the agreement thatprisoners affiliated to organisations which have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not benefit from the arrangements",and to the undertakings given by the Government on how the agreement would be implemented—which were stated in the paper that the Secretary of State placed in the Library on 20 April 1998. The parameters of this debate are therefore very clear.
The Bill states the three criteria—which I shall enumerate again—that will be applied. First:prisoners in Northern Ireland must have been convicted of a scheduled offence committed before 10 April 1998 and sentenced to five years or more or life imprisonment.Secondly:A prisoner must not be a supporter of a terrorist organisation of the kind specified in the Bill, which means organisations that 'have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire'.Thirdly:A prisoner may not be declared eligible for early release if the commissioners consider that, if released immediately, he or she would be likely to become a supporter of a terrorist organisation or become involved in the initiation, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. That means that no prisoner who the commissioners believe will return to violence may be released under the Bill.Fourthly:Prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment would not be released if they would be considered a danger to the public."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 1087.]Those criteria are rigorous and consistent with the terms of the agreement. In different ways, most of the amendments that we have been debating today would disturb the very balance of the agreement. Moreover, the other amendments would not improve the Bill but make it difficult to operate.
For those reasons, I do not intend to accept any of the amendments. I should like now to give detailed reasons for that rejection.
Amendments Nos. 50, 51 and 52 would allow the commissioners not to grant a declaration that a prisoner was eligible for release under the Bill in circumstances in which the conditions stated in the legislation have been satisfied. Clause 3 states the conditions—which are rigorous and comprehensive—that prisoners must meet before they are released.
42 Given the terms of the agreement, it would be perverse if the sentence review commissioners had the discretion not to release a person who had fully met those conditions. Moreover, inevitably, such discretion would give rise to various legal disputes on exercise and application of the discretion.
I therefore ask the Committee to reject amendments Nos. 50, 51 and 52.
Amendments Nos. 7, 55, 33, 35, 53 and 10 would required that fixed-term prisoners be subject to the same risk test that applies to life sentence prisoners. The hon. Member for Belfast, East argued in his speech in favour of applying the same test.
There are very good reasons for drawing a distinction between determinate sentences and life sentences. Life sentence prisoners will have committed murder or another very serious crime. In the case of discretionary life sentence prisoners—who will not have been convicted of murder—the life sentence is likely to have been imposed precisely because the court considered that risk was an issue. It is therefore entirely proper that the commissioners should take account of any risk of danger to the public.
I do not think that there is any dispute between the hon. Member for Belfast, East and me on applying such a risk test. However, under the law as it applies in Northern Ireland, fixed-term prisoners are released automatically after they have served the required portion of their sentence, and their release is not dependent on a favourable assessment of risk. Therefore, the amendments would introduce a significant new concept into the criminal justice system of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Ingram
No, I shall not give way. In the time available—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Belfast, East can shout all he wants, but I shall not give way, as I have to deal with all the points that have been raised.
I believe that the other criteria that determinate-sentence prisoners would have to satisfy are extremely robust and are appropriate for prisoners who have not been given life sentences by the courts. It has been made clear that a fixed-term prisoner may not be released if the commissioners consider that he is likely to become concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland. Currently, there is not such a form of risk assessment—certainly not in the Northern Ireland (Remission of Sentences) Act 1995, which was passed by the previous Government and deals with release of determinate-sentence prisoners.
For those reasons, I ask the Committee to reject also that group of amendments.
I should like now to deal with amendments Nos. 57, 58, 60, 61, 72 and 73. The amendments, which were tabled by the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), are intended to include additional terms in the Bill relating to membership of an organisation and proscription. The amendments raise two issues: first, whether it is necessary 43 to exclude members of proscribed organisations from receiving a declaration that they are ineligible to benefit from the scheme; and, secondly, whether the legislation should refer directly to proscribed organisations.
A supporter of an organisation may be a person who provides some form of practical or active support for the activities of the organisation. The support could involve collecting money in support of an organisation's activity, or meetings with terrorists who were engaged in acts of terrorism. Although the idea of membership may have a common-sense meaning that everyone can appreciate, to be a member of a proscribed organisation is a criminal offence, and it would be difficult to establish under law that a person was a member of such an organisation if he had not been convicted of membership. We have therefore used the term "supporter", as the test in proving support is an easier one to meet. Consequently, the legislation will be more robust.
The Bill's effect on organisations proscribed under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts or Emergency Provisions Acts was dealt with in the House in the debate on Second Reading. The Secretary of State stated clearly:This legislation will not remove the ban on organisations that are proscribed under our anti-terrorist laws. The IRA or UDA, for example, will continue to be proscribed, and membership of such organisations will continue to be a criminal offence."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 1087.]The amendments would confuse the issue yet again. The Bill will have no effect on proscription of an organisation. Moreover, it is still desirable that the questions whether an organisation has established and is maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire and whether an organisation should remain proscribed—should remain separate. Proscription and eligibility under the Bill are essentially two distinct issues.
For those reasons, I ask the Committee to reject those amendments.
Amendments Nos. 59, 62 and 63 would amend the third condition, which deals with whether a prisoner will become a supporter of a terrorist organisation or engage in terrorism after release. I do not think that any of the amendments are necessary. Therefore, I recommend that they be rejected, as they will not improve the Bill.
Amendment No. 59 would change the third condition, so that it no longer is conditional on whether the prisoner would be released immediately. The legislation was drafted to ensure that the commissioners will consider the current circumstances of prisoners and current likelihoods, and to avoid any suggestion that the commissioners should speculate on unpredictable future events.
Clause 8 makes provision for prisoners who are not released immediately but have release dates in the future. The Secretary of State will refer cases back to the commissioners if circumstances change in the period between the setting of the declaration and the date of release. Therefore, clause 3(5) correctly deals with those to be released immediately.
Amendment No. 62 would extend the current form of words, from "concerned with" toconcerned with or involved with".44 Such an addition to the Bill would not be beneficial and is, therefore, unnecessary.
Amendment No. 63 is one of a number of amendments that remove from the third condition the qualification that acts of terrorism must be in connection with the affairs of Northern Ireland and replace it with the qualification that they must be in connection with the affairs of the United Kingdom. The Bill deals with terrorism in connection with Northern Ireland. It is not intended to have wider scope or to deal with international terrorism or terrorism generally. Amendment No. 8— which I ask the Committee not to accept—would have a similar effect.
Amendment No. 25 was tabled by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and deals with the fourth condition, which is on risk. The commissioners will be required to make a rigorous assessment of the danger to the public. If the right hon. Gentleman had read the Bill before asking his questions, he would have seen what rules would be in place to deal with the issue of danger. In making that rigorous assessment, the commissioners will be expected to take account of relevant psychological or psychiatric factors and other relevant information, including that provided by the RUC. The legislation is clear regarding the risk test, so the addition provided by the amendment is not necessary. If the right hon. Gentleman had examined the Bill, he would have been able to assess the rules that will come into force, their parameters and whose advice is likely to be taken into account, even though the rules are not specified in the Bill.
I deal now with amendments Nos. 28, 36, 34, 54, 29, 30 and 31 and new clauses 1 and 2. All would add further conditions to the legislation. New clause 1, tabled by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, would prevent the release of a prisoner if the Chief Constable certified that he was still an active supporter of a terrorist organisation whether or not specified under clause 3(8). The new clause would usurp the jurisdiction of the commissioners appointed under the Bill and give the Chief Constable final jurisdiction over release. That would work against the very principle of establishing the commissioners in the first place and giving them responsibility under the Bill, and it may indeed be contrary to the European convention on human rights, although that would have to be tested elsewhere.
It is important to understand that the commissioners may take account of advice received from the Chief Constable or others, but the final decision on whether a prisoner should be released must rest with the commissioners. My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North made a telling intervention on that point.
Amendment No. 28, also tabled by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, requires that if a prisoner belongs to a terrorist organisation, the organisation must have substantially decommissioned weapons and the prisoner must have completely renounced violence for good before the commissioners grant a declaration. Whether an organisation is co-operating with the decommissioning commission is not a matter for the commissioners but is properly a matter for the Secretary of State to take into account when considering whether an organisation should be excluded from the scheme. It is not a matter for the commissioners but should rightly rest with the Secretary of State, who is also accountable to Parliament.
45 Amendment No. 36, tabled by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and supported by the hon. Member for Belfast, East requires that a prisoner renounce violence but also requires that he be prepared to undertake community work. In a similar manner, new clause 2, which was tabled by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, would prevent the release of a prisoner unless he gave an oath renouncing violence.
Clause 9 includes stringent licence conditions. These conditions have effect on prisoners who have been licensed and will be imposed rigorously. Moreover, prisoners who are released will have to satisfy those rigorous conditions. In these circumstances, it is unnecessary to require prisoners to give undertakings about their behaviour. Indeed, it would be unfortunate if prisoners were to believe that any undertakings that they might give could take precedence over the already tough licence conditions, as if their saying that they would be on their best behaviour somehow absolved them from meeting all the other criteria. The proposal is therefore unsound.
A requirement to undertake community service on release would be a significant new departure. If prisoners are to be released under the scheme, the aim should be to ensure that they lead a law-abiding and productive life. They should be encouraged to make a positive contribution to society. It would be a major step to set up a scheme to supervise community service, and it could serve merely to delay the point at which former prisoners were reintegrated into society. However, we are actively considering a strategy to ensure that all prisoners who are released can find a way to be reintegrated into society, in the hope that they do not return to their evil ways.
Amendments Nos. 34, 54, 29, 30, and 31 are consequential on the amendments with which I have already dealt, so I ask the Committee to reject them, too.
Amendments Nos. 64 and 20 relate to the requirement that to qualify for the scheme, a prisoner must have committed his offence before 10 April 1998, the date of the Good Friday agreement. Amendment No. 64 would change the date to 31 August 1994, which was the date on which the first IRA ceasefire began. Those involved in the discussions leading up to the conclusion of the agreement were clear that any provisions in relation to prisoners should apply on the basis of a cut-off based on the date of the agreement. That is part of the agreement, and I remind the Committee that the agreement was endorsed by 71 per cent. of the people in Northern Ireland.
Amendment No. 20, which was tabled by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and supported by the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson), would limit the benefits under the legislation to those who were charged before 10 April 1998 with offences before that date. It is an established principle that changes such as those proposed in the Bill should relate to the point at which the offence occurred rather than the point at which an offender was caught or the point at which he was convicted. That principle is enshrined in law—[Interruption.] I hear the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) querying that. He is a respected and intelligent senior counsel in Northern Ireland, and I am sure that he understands the strength of that point. The important thing is that what we are proposing is wholly compatible with the discussions 46 surrounding the agreement, with what was said by the participants to the agreement and with the undertakings given at that time.
Included in this group are amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is not in his place to move them. We may well debate them later if he can find some way to bring them before us. In case they had been moved and in case anyone was thinking of voting for them, I should be asking for them to be rejected, too.
§ Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)
I am disappointed by the Minister's response, certainly to the amendments tabled by the official Opposition. Of course, the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) chipped in yet again to protect one side of the equation.
I have read the agreement, and it is not unreasonable for people to interpret it in the sense in which it has been interpreted in the amendments that we have tabled. The section of the agreement that deals with prisoners states on page 25: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.The next paragraph states that the review process would provide for account to be taken of the seriousness of the offences of which the person was convicted and of the need to protect the community. The agreement does not say anything about a distinction between fixed-term and life-term prisoners; it talks simply about protecting the community.
There is a certain illogicality in the Minister's response and in the Government's position in that there are fixed-term prisoners who, if let out, will be more of a danger to the community than lifers. The agreement does not make the distinction, and I think that the matter should be revisited in another place.
§ Mr. William Ross
Much of what the Minister said was completely unsatisfactory, although it was interesting in that it revealed that undertakings had been given. We would hope to pursue these matters on Report. In the light of that, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Order. On a technicality, the hon. Gentleman cannot move amendment No. 36 before amendment No. 34, because amendment No. 36 is consequential on amendment No. 34. If he wants a Division to take account of that, I advise him to move amendment No. 34.
Amendment proposed: No. 34, in clause 3, page 1, line 26, leave outthe first three of the following four'and insert'all of the following five'.—[Rev. Ian Paisley.]
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 257.48
|Division No. 300]||[5.29 pm|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Wilkinson, John|
|McCartney, Robert (N Down)|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Mr. William Ross and|
|Thompson, William||Mr. Peter Robinson.|
|Ainger, Nick||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Alexander, Douglas||Fatchett, Derek|
|Allen, Graham||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Ashton, Joe||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Ballard, Jackie||Fitzsimons, Lorna|
|Barron, Kevin||Flynn, Paul|
|Bayley, Hugh||Follett, Barbara|
|Beard, Nigel||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Fyfe, Maria|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Galloway, George|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Gapes, Mike|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Gardiner, Barry|
|Best, Harold||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Boateng, Paul||Gerrard, Neil|
|Borrow, David||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Godsiff, Roger|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Goggins, Paul|
|Brake, Tom||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Gorrie, Donald|
|Browne, Desmond||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Burden, Richard||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Burgon, Colin||Grocott, Bruce|
|Burstow, Paul||Grogan, John|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Byers, Stephen||Hancock, Mike|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Hanson, David|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Canavan, Dennis||Healey, John|
|Casale, Roger||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Caton, Martin||Heppell, John|
|Cawsey, Ian||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Hill, Keith|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Hope, Phil|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Clelland, David||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Clwyd, Ann||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Coleman, Iain||Hurst, Alan|
|Colman, Tony||Hutton, John|
|Cooper, Yvette||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Corbett, Robin||Ingram, Adam|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Cotter, Brian||Jenkins, Brian|
|Cousins, Jim||Johnson, Miss Melanie|
|Cox, Tom||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Crausby, David||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Cummings, John||Jones, Martyn, (Clwyd S)|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Darvill, Keith||Jowell, Ms Tessa|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Denham, John||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Dismore, Andrew||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Kemp, Fraser|
|Doran, Frank||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Dowd, Jim||Khabra, Piara S|
|Drew, David||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Kingham, Ms Tess||Rendel, David|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Rooker, Jeff|
|Leslie, Christopher||Rooney, Terry|
|Levitt, Tom||Roy, Frank|
|Linton, Martin||Ruane, Chris|
|Livingstone, Ken||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Lock, David||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Love, Andrew||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|McAllion, John||Salter, Martin|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Sanders, Adrian|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Sawford, Phil|
|McDonnell, John||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McFall, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McIsaac, Shona||Skinner, Dennis|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|McWalter, Tony||Soley, Clive|
|McWilliam, John||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Mallaber, Judy||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Mandelson, Peter||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Martlew, Eric||Stunell, Andrew|
|Maxton, John||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Meale, Alan||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Merron, Gillian||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Michael, Alun||Tipping, Paddy|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Todd, Mark|
|Milburn, Alan||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Mitchell, Austin||Touhig, Don|
|Moffatt, Laura||Truswell, Paul|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Morley, Elliot||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Tyler, Paul|
|Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie||Vaz, Keith|
|Mudie, George||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Mullin, Chris||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Norris, Dan||Watts, David|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||White, Brian|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Olner, Bill||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||(Swansea W)|
|Pearson, Ian||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Pickthall, Colin||Willis, Phil|
|Pike, Peter L||Wills, Michael|
|Plaskitt, James||Winnick, David|
|Pollard, Kerry||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Pond, Chris||Woolas, Phil|
|Pope, Greg||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Wyatt, Derek|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Radice, Giles||Mr. David Jamieson and|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Janet Anderson.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Mr. MacKay
I beg to move amendment No. 1, in clause 3, page 2, leave out lines 23 to 40 and insert—'(8) A terrorist organisation is an organisation which—
- (a) has been concerned in terrorism, or in promoting it, and
- (b) has not established or is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire.(9) The Secretary of State may specify by order than an organisation is not a terrorist organisation if on application by that organisation he believes that it—
- (a) is committed to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve its objectives;
- (b) is not involved in any acts of violence or of preparation for violence;
- (c) is not directing, assisting or promoting acts of violence committed or planned by other people;
- (d) is committed to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations and the achievement of the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms, including any of its own, by 22nd May 2000, and
- (e) is co-operating fully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 in the implementation of the Belfast Agreement of 10th April 1998 published as Cm 3883.'.
With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment (a) to the proposed amendment, in line 9, at end insert—'(ba) is not involved in raising funds through coercion, extortion or any other illegal means;'. Amendment (b) to the proposed amendment, leave out lines 12 to 18 and insert—'(d) has already decommissioned a significant proportion of its illegally held firearms, ammunition and explosives in accordance with the provisions of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 and is fulfilling a decommissioning timetable which will ensure that is has completed decommissioning before 22nd May 2000;(e) has commenced the dismantling of its paramilitary structure; and(f) in the opinion of the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary no longer represents a threat to the community.'.Amendment No. 37, in page 2, line 24, leave out 'may specify only' and insert 'shall specify'.
Amendment No. 38, in page 2, line 24, leave out 'he believes'.
Amendment No. 9, in page 2, line 26, leave out'connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland'.Amendment No. 65, in page 2, line 30, leave out from 'shall' to end of line 31 and insert'satisfy himself that an organisation—'.Amendment No. 40, in page 2, line 30, leave out'in particular take into account whether'and insert'satisfy himself completely, having taken advice from the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, that'.Amendment No. 66, in page 2, line 34, after 'any', insert 'criminal act or any'.
Amendment No. 67, in page 2, line 36, after 'promoting', insert'any criminal act or any'.Amendment No. 68, in page 2, line 36, after 'committed', insert 'by any individuals or'.
50 Amendment No. 41, in page 2, leave out lines 38 to 40 and insert—'(d) has already decommissioned a significant proportion of its illegally held firearms, ammunition and explosives in accordance with the provisions of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 and is fulfilling a decommissioning timetable which will ensure that it has completed decommissioning before 22nd May 2000.'.Amendment No. 21, in page 2, line 40, at end insert'in working to achieve the decommissioning of all the paramilitary arms of that organisation by or before 22 May 2000 in accordance with the Belfast Agreement of 10th April 1998 (Cm 3883).'.Amendment No. 69, in page 2, line 40, at end insert'and complying with all procedures and directions given by any such Commission in respect of the decommissioning of the weapons and explosives and other such material owned by or under the control of the organisation'.Amendment No. 76, in page 2, line 40, at end insert'including by the commencement of actual and ongoing decommissioning of its paramilitary arms'.Amendment No. 42, in page 2, line 40, at end insert—'(e) has commenced the dismantling of its paramilitary structure;(f) in the opinion of the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary no longer represents a threat to the community.'.Amendment No. 77, in page 2, line 40, at end insert—'(9A) The fact that an organisation which is a proscribed organisation under either the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 or the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 is not specified as a terrorist organisation for the purposes of this Act does not affect its status as a proscribed organisation under those Acts.',Amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 42, leave out '(8)' and insert (9).
Amendment No. 3, in page 2, line 43, leave out from 'of' to 'apply' and insert 'subsection (8) does'.
Amendment No. 78, in page 2, line 44, leave out from 'organisation' to end of line 46.
Amendment No. 4, in page 2, line 47, leave out '(8)' and insert (9).
Amendment No. 74, in clause 9, page 4, line 35, after 'concerned', insert'in any criminal act or'.Amendment No. 11, in page 4, line 36, leave out'connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland'.Amendment No. 75, in page 4, line 37, leave out 'Northern Ireland' and insert 'United Kingdom'.
§ Mr. MacKay
The two most sensitive issues in the Province and on the mainland are the early release of terrorist prisoners and the decommissioning of arms and explosives. As I have said before, there are elements within the Good Friday agreement that we all find difficult to accept. The element that the Opposition find the most unacceptable is the early release of terrorist prisoners who have committed the most vile and dreadful crimes, and whom any civilised society would put behind bars for a very long time. However, we have reluctantly agreed to the early release of prisoners because it is part of a total agreement that we hope and pray might lead to a lasting settlement in the Province and peace for the people of Northern Ireland, who have suffered so much during the troubles of the past 30 years.
51 On reading the agreement, we have taken heart from the fact that it includes clauses on the decommissioning of arms and explosives. The agreement is very specific, and stipulates that all arms and explosives must be decommissioned within two years of the agreement being signed. We have also taken heart from the fact that the early release of prisoners is clearly dependent on the total renunciation of all forms of violence. Any reasonable person would include decommissioning in that.
During the referendum campaign, those of us who supported the Government and the yes campaign rapidly realised that many ordinary, decent people in both communities in Northern Ireland were still worried about the early release of prisoners. So we sought assurances from the Prime Minister that the early release of terrorist prisoners would occur only if their paramilitary associates co-operated fully with the decommissioning commission. We pressed the Prime Minister regularly, and I will give one important example. On 6 May, during Prime Minister's Question Time, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition stated:Opposition Members will argue strongly that the IRA cannot have prisoners released if it does not give up its guns and explosives.The Prime Minister helpfully responded:Again, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is essential that organisations that want to benefit from the early release of prisoners should give up violence. Decommissioning is part of that, of course, but it goes further.
§ Mr. MacKay
Once again, the Minister of State asks me what else it says. I am happy to read out the rest of the quotation because it supports my argument. The Prime Minister continued:It is not just a question of decommissioning, but a question of making sure, as the agreement says, that there is a complete and unequivocal ceasefire."—[Official Report, 6 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 711.]I agree entirely; it is all part of the package. What is more, there is a provision in the agreement for the matter to be kept under constant review. There was absolutely no doubt in our minds, the minds of all reasonable commentators and, much more importantly, the minds of the people of Northern Ireland that they had been given proper reassurances and promises by the Prime Minister.
When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I were in the Province at the end of the referendum campaign, campaigning for a yes vote, we found that many people who previously had reservations had finally decided at the last minute, because of the Prime Minister's assurances, to vote yes. I have absolutely no doubt—and I pay credit to the Prime Minister—that we would not have had a 71 per cent. yes vote without the assurances that he gave and that we had pressed him to give. Without those assurances, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and I would not have been able to have said in the House that the result showed that a majority in both communities had voted yes.
52 One can imagine our dismay and that of the people of Northern Ireland when the legislation was published. An editorial in The Times this morning stated:Mr. Blair sought to build on that assurance to secure a majority within Unionism for the agreement. The Prime Minister succeeded, but only by making a pledge which the Government now seems intent on fudging.The headline was:Irish sentences. This pledge on decommissioning cannot be dodged or fudged.Hon. Members should not just take my word for it; they should take the word of The Times in its editorial today. [Interruption.] There is laughter from the Government Benches. I hope that the people of Northern Ireland will note that we and The Times are trying to hold the Prime Minister to account on important matters concerning the early release of prisoners and decommissioning, and that those on the Treasury Bench and the Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Helen Jackson), find it extremely amusing.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
While the hon. Gentleman is on the subject of fudge, will he explain to the Committee why, when the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), made it clear in Prime Minister's questions on 6 May that the Opposition's position was that there should be substantial decommissioning of weapons before any prisoner releases, the Opposition's amendment does not include that requirement?
§ Mr. MacKay
We believe that it does. It is right and proper that organisations comply fully with the decommissioning commission. I am grateful to the Secretary of State because we had private discussions before the Bill was drafted and she was kind enough to include the word "fully", which strengthened the Bill. I have no problem with that part of the Bill, as the Secretary of State well knows.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Marjorie Mowlam)
The Bill repeats the Prime Minister's words.
§ Mr. MacKay
As the Secretary of State says, the Bill repeats the Prime Minister's words at the Balmoral agricultural show, and I am pleased that they have been included. It means that while prisoners are being released, there will be parallel moves towards decommissioning. We all know that prisoners will be released at different times, depending on the length of their sentence and the remission that they are granted under the Bill.
The Bill is unsatisfactory in that it requires the Secretary of State and her successors merely to take into account whether there is co-operation with the decommissioning commission. We mean no disrespect to the Secretary of State, but that is a cop-out; it is weak and insufficient. The logical conclusion is that a Secretary of State can take into account whether decommissioning is taking place, decide that other, perhaps political, factors are more important and say, "It does not matter that decommissioning is not taking place. We shall go ahead and release the prisoners anyway." The Bill does not contain the copper-bottomed guarantee given by the Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box on 6 May and repeated around the Province by him and his spin doctors.
53 Our amendment simply states:The Secretary of State may specify by order that an organisation is not a terrorist organisation if on application by that organisation he believes that it"—this is the condition in paragraph (e)—is co-operating fully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7".That confirms and makes copper-bottomed the Prime Minister's pledge. I hope that, in responding to the debate, the Secretary of State or the Minister of State will accept the amendment.
This is a matter of trust, which goes to the heart of government. People voted on the basis of the Prime Minister's pledges and assurances. They were encouraged to do so by me and my colleagues because we believed those assurances. [Interruption.] Now we find that they are not included in the Bill, which is unacceptable.
§ Mr. MacKay
Let us have nothing from the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) or anyone else about these being in any way wrecking amendments, or amendments that go against the agreement.
I shall quote again from the editorial in The Times today. Referring to the amendment in my name, it states:His is not a wrecking or teasing amendment, but an attempt to write into law a pledge freely given. If the Government does not accept it, then other parties in the Commons should feel free to oppose what could be fatally flawed legislation.I warn the Secretary of State that if our amendments are not accepted in an appropriate form, we shall be unable to support the Bill on Third Reading because it will be fatally flawed and wrong. It will let down the people of Northern Ireland and show that in future, we shall never be able to trust the word of the Prime Minister at the Dispatch Box.
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not for one moment question the need for the Committee to be concerned about decommissioning; I am in favour of it. The Good Friday agreement spells out clearly what should be done. It has often been argued, in the previous Parliament and this Parliament, that if organisations that have been involved in terrorism want to show genuine good faith, one way in which to do so is to decommission their arms. There is no argument about the desirability of decommissioning; we are all in favour of it.
It is important to bear in mind the fact that decommissioning in itself does not demonstrate that an organisation, whether it is the IRA or a loyalist paramilitary group, would necessarily stick by the ceasefire. Some arms could be given up, but, however desirable that is in itself, it does not demonstrate that violence would not occur again. Let there be no misunderstanding—I am keen for decommissioning to take place, but the question would inevitably arise of what percentage of arms was being given up. Some would say that it was only a small percentage. How could one show that all arms, or the majority of them, were being given up? Those questions are bound to arise. However desirable decommissioning is, the important factor is that the organisations that have engaged in violence should not return to it.
§ Mr. Grieve
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if an organisation has pledged to give up violence and 54 moreover, as part of the agreement, has pledged to facilitate decommissioning and carry it out within two years, nothing could be better construed as an act preparatory to violence than a failure to decommission?
§ Mr. Winnick
As I have already said, to decommission would undoubtedly show the genuineness of the organisation's concern. There is no difference of opinion between us about the desirability of decommissioning, but we are debating whether it will occur along the lines that we would like. I return to my earlier point about how much decommissioning will take place. For example, if the Provisional IRA gives up some arms, will we be satisfied that those were all it possessed or will people, perhaps including me, say that it is only a small percentage and ask why it does not give up the rest?
Even more important than decommissioning is that those organisations that have been involved in terrorism should no longer engage in such violent acts. They should no longer commit the crimes and atrocities that many of the prisoners have carried out and of which they have duly been convicted. Those crimes and atrocities on both sides have appalled decent-minded men and women, and we hope that they have now permanently come to an end.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at the Sinn Fein Ard-Fheis which endorsed the agreement, speaker after speaker stated that the party should maintain the twin-track policy of a military strategy which required the retention of arms as well as the political path? How does that square with his suggestion that we should trust these people, when they will not decommission?
§ 6 pm
§ Mr. Winnick
The hon. and learned Gentleman misunderstands my argument: it is not a matter of trusting such people. I am very reluctant to trust anyone engaged in terrorism, or anyone who has been an apologist for terrorism. The fact is that the agreement, which the hon. and learned Gentleman strenuously opposes, has been reached. There are other aspects to decommissioning that must be borne in mind.
The IRA argument is that it was never militarily defeated, and that to give up its arms would be a sign of defeat. We know that it was never militarily defeated; we only wish it had been. That would have avoided so many of the terrible crimes committed over the past quarter century. The IRA has, however, been politically defeated—[Interruption.] I do not know what the mumbling is about. The Provisional IRA set out in 1970 to use terrorism and violence to force Northern Ireland, against the wishes of its majority, to leave the United Kingdom. The IRA worked on the assumption over all these years that, if it applied enough pressure by bombing at home and on the mainland, sooner or later, the British people and their Government would weaken, whereupon it would get what it wanted. It has not got what it wanted. Northern Ireland Members know that a united Ireland is as remote today—it may be even more remote—as it was when the IRA started off in 1970.
If anything, the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom, never questioned by the international community, has been strengthened as a result of the constitutional changes in the Irish Republic. 55 So while there is understandable concern about decommissioning, it would be unfortunate if we did not look at the larger political picture. Like all its predecessors since 1920, the IRA has not succeeded. A united Ireland will not come about through violence or terrorism—as many of us said at the time when we had the chance to express our views directly to Sinn Fein.
I remember a meeting in September 1983, when a delegation from the parliamentary Labour party Northern Ireland group, which included my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley), went to Northern Ireland to meet representatives of the political organisations that agreed to speak to us. One such organisation was Sinn Fein, whose leadership were in attendance. I said then that the IRA would never succeed. No section of the community in Britain would allow it to, or would reject the wishes of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. That is the larger political picture.
Fortunately, the leadership of Sinn Fein and the IRA have come around to the view that the military campaign begun in 1970 will not succeed. As we know from our constituency post bags, there was not the slightest sign of the British people saying, "We have had enough; we will give in." It would be quite wrong, therefore, not to recognise the political victory over terrorism that democracy has achieved.
The Provisional IRA's predecessor, the Official IRA—it is now split into various groups whose attitude to Northern Ireland is more Unionist than that of the Unionists, if that is possible—ultimately gave up terrorism. That is why the Provisionals appeared on the scene. At least two main political parties that originated half a century ago in the Irish Republic, during what is known there as the war of independence and then the civil war, never gave up their arms, but were no less committed to constitutional practice than we are.
Nothing in the Bill would allow the automatic release of prisoners. If it did, many people, not least me, would be worried. The Bill spells out precisely what is necessary before prisoners can be released. The organisation to which they belong must becommitted to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve its objectives".That will have to be decided on the merits of each case. An organisation must haveceased to be involved in any acts of violence or of preparation for violence … directing or promoting acts of violence committed by other organisations".These are surely important criteria; certain assurances on them will have to be given to the commission.
The cynical view that the agreement is a charade and that the IRA is not genuinely interested in ceasefires is a different matter altogether—but it is not the view, I understand, of the main Opposition party. The Opposition accept the agreement, even though there can be no guarantees, especially when dealing with organisations such as IRA-Sinn Fein. But it is certainly worth testing its commitment to see whether it is genuine.
When, in November 1993, the Conservative Government announced their contacts with the IRA—no ceasefire being in operation at the time—the Labour Opposition made no mileage out of that, although it is 56 quite legitimate for Oppositions to do so on a host of other issues. We took the view that if the then Government were entertaining contacts with the IRA without a formal ceasefire, they were not doing so for fun or for electoral favours. They were doing it because they believed that it was in the national interest. They wanted to test the water, to discover whether there was any possibility that the IRA was genuine.
I well remember my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), leading for the Opposition, saying that we accepted the then Government's explanation and would pursue the same path.
§ Mr. MacKay
The Committee is aware of the hon. Gentleman's considerable experience and knowledge of the subject, as co-chairman of the British-Irish parliamentary body. He has outlined some of the preconditions in clause 3(9), and he may have noticed me nodding my assent to them. My problem is not with them; it is with the fact that the Secretary of Stateshall in particular take into accountwhether these organisations are meeting the conditions. I suggest that that is not strong enough; I suggest that the conditions must be satisfied. Does the hon. Gentleman, with all his experience of the Province, agree?
§ Mr. Winnick
I do not believe that there is much difference between Government and Opposition. We agree on the desirability of decommissioning, which we all want. No one would suggest that the Prime Minister is any less convinced of its desirability than is the hon. Gentleman. To my knowledge, no one—at least in the official Opposition—would wish to question that. No one would wish to question that it is largely a matter of taking into consideration many factors to discover whether it is possible to reach a position where, by and large, there is permanent peace in Northern Ireland—at least, where the main terrorist organisations will no longer engage in such activity. The hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) made a genuine point—not just a debating point. Either we must find a possible compromise, or the Government may decide whether it is possible under the agreement to accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
At the weekend, Conservative spin doctors did much to create the impression that the official Opposition were not satisfied, and might vote against the Government today or on Third Reading. That would be extremely undesirable. In my view—I may be wrong; others will assess that—one reason why, over the past 25 or 27 years, we have succeeded in preventing Northern Ireland from becoming a political issue to the extent that it produces conflicting exchanges between Government and Opposition resembling those that, rightly in a democracy, take place on many other issues, is that we basically agreed on the main issues. We agreed on the defeat of terrorism—on trying to persuade those engaged in terrorism that their objectives could not be reached, and that constitutional means were the only way in which there could be any suggestion of uniting Ireland. It is up to those who want a united Ireland to argue their point of view in a democratic way—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Edward O'Hara)
Order. I have been most generous to the hon. Gentleman, recognising that he has much experience and historical 57 knowledge to bring to the debate, but I must ask him to bring himself more closely within the terms of the amendment.
§ Mr. Winnick
Thank you very much, Mr. O'Hara.
We have succeeded over the past 27 years because the main political parties in the House have been united. As I have illustrated, at various times in opposition—such as when contacts were made with the IRA—we gave support when we could have made much of what the previous Government were doing. I repeat, in conclusion, that it would be unfortunate if, today or on Third Reading, hon. Members were to divide the unity that has been established on the means of reaching a settlement in Northern Ireland. It is important that we preserve that unity between the main parties, and it would not be desirable for the Committee to divide—at least between the official Opposition and the Government—on the desirability of decommissioning, on which there is no basic disagreement.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
Listening to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I had to pinch myself to believe what I was hearing. Contrary to what he said, the IRA has not been defeated in any manner—many of us in Northern Ireland suspect that that is because no real effort has ever been made to defeat it. Many of us believe—the belief is widespread—that the hon. Gentleman's fears that a great division of opinion will occur between the official Opposition and the Government on the present arrangements are unfounded.
§ Mr. Winnick
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for allowing me to intervene so early in his speech. When he says that the IRA has not been defeated, presumably he means politically defeated. That is precisely what the IRA and Sinn Fein constantly tell their members. They may boast that they have not been defeated, but is it not a fact that what the Provisional IRA set out to do in 1970—to bring about, by violence, the unity of Ireland—is as remote now as it was then? Why does the hon. and learned Gentleman not admit it?
§ Mr. McCartney
I do not admit it because it is a myth. Sinn Fein-IRA have retained all their weaponry. Their record from 1970 to the present time is one of unremitting political success.
The IRA has retained all its weaponry; there is no suggestion that, militarily, it is any less strong than it was. From a political point of view, under the terms of the agreement, it has obtained, or will almost certainly obtain, two Ministers in Government in a Northern Ireland Assembly under the d'Hondt provisions. It has made it clear that it considers the agreement nothing more than a transitional phase, en route to journey's end.
The IRA has removed section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which asserted the sovereignty of this Parliament overall persons, matters, and thingsin Northern Ireland. It has made the Act of Union and the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 subordinate to the proposed legislation setting up the political and constitutional settlement relating to the agreement. It will obtain executive bodies, including a north-south 58 ministerial council with all-Ireland executive powers. It will obtain implementation bodies on an all-Ireland basis, to implement those powers. It is a record not of failure but of unremitting success.
Amendment No.1, tabled by the official Opposition, contains several weaknesses. The suggestion that the requirement to co-operatefully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 in the implementation of the Belfast Agreement of 10th April 1998 published as Cm 3883requires the IRA to decommission anything within two years is a complete misreading of the situation. The agreement requires Sinn Fein, or any other political party fronting a terrorist organisation, only to use such influence as it may have in persuading that organisation to disarm.
Everyone knows that Sinn Fein happily signed up to the Mitchell principles, which required more or less the same commitment. Sinn Fein will happily sign up to any of the requirements in the agreement. It will then simply say, "We are a political party. We have an electoral mandate. We have sufficient Members under the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill to entitle us to two Ministers in Government, and we have no guns and no Semtex. As long as we use such influence as we may have, you cannot put us out if the IRA refuses to decommission." At the same time, it will use as political leverage, in the assembly or in future negotiations, the threat of a renewed IRA mainland campaign to extract further concessions from the Government, as it has from a series of British Governments. It is laughable to suggest that it has recognised the principle of consent.
The fact that there could never be a united Ireland without the practical consent of a majority of the population in Northern Ireland never required any Act of Parliament or any agreement. It was a brute fact of political life with which those nationalists always had to contend, but there was an additional factor in relation to the majority in Northern Ireland saying no. There was the assertion by the British Government of their sovereign right over Northern Ireland as part of a unitary state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Martin McGuinness and the Taoiseach have both said categorically that, as a result of the agreement, the British people and the British Parliament are out of the equation of the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. That was said not by an Ulster Unionist, but by a Taoiseach of the Irish Republic, and the statement has been made not on one occasion, but on many occasions.
Of course, that is correct. Before the agreement, there was a claim of sovereignty by the British Government. That no longer exists under the terms of the agreement. To assert in the House that the IRA has suffered any military or political defeat is erroneous. The people who have suffered defeat are the pro-Union people of Northern Ireland.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman's preamble on the nature and principles of the IRA was rather lengthy. When he saw my body language, he returned to the amendment, but he is now straying back to his preamble. I ask him to return to the terms of the amendment.
§ Mr. McCartney
I am grateful for your advice, Mr. O'Hara.
59 The hon. Member for Walsall, North need have no fear of any reappraisal of the joint position of the Government and the Opposition on Northern Ireland. There will be some form of agreed fudge on this essential issue.
§ Mr. McCartney
The hon. Gentleman may well say "Good," but I remind him of a principle that has been stated many times. When the Opposition and the Government are noisily and vigorously in opposition, the principles of democracy and the best conventions of the House are being observed, but when the Opposition and the Government are in a state of unctuous, self-congratulatory cohesion and are assisting one another, people somewhere—in this case, the pro-Union people of Northern Ireland—are being treated shabbily.
The hon. Gentleman was right to refer to the silence of the then Opposition at the time when Sir Patrick Mayhew—now Lord Mayhew—was conducting the secret negotiations. That has been the record in this House in relation to the pro-Union majority in Northern Ireland, and it will continue through the fudge of an amendment that is not serious and does not address the real issue.
§ Mr. McNamara
If there was unctuous cohesion, it does not seem to be present in this debate. There is a fundamental difference between the Government and the Opposition on the matter, so the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) should not read too much into what has happened in the past. There may be other disagreements with the Opposition on the agreement, although I hope that those will not arise.
The uniqueness of the agreement is indeed that the British Government no longer claim sovereignty, as the hon. and learned Gentleman would define it, but the sovereignty lies in the people of Northern Ireland. Their position will not be altered except by their consent. The irony is that that guarantee is supported not by the people of Great Britain, but by the people of the whole of Ireland, by an overwhelming majority. Those who want a united Ireland have guaranteed those who want to maintain their British connection their right to do so as long as they have a majority.
That is far more important than any alteration that may have been made to the Act of Union or to the Government of Ireland Act 1920, because the power now lies with the people in Northern Ireland. I hope that in time that will lead to a united Ireland, but that will be the decision—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. Once again, I must remind an hon. Member that the subject under debate is the definition and specification of terrorist organisations.
§ Mr. McNamara
I was suggesting that those who signed up to the agreement, whether they were terrorist organisations or not, misinterpreted it if they did not understand the changed situation that resulted from it. The British Government are present in Northern Ireland only by virtue of the consent of a majority of the people of the island of Ireland, while there is a majority in the north who want us there.
60 The amendment is interesting. A rehabilitation process is being undertaken by the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay). Not having been present when the agreement was signed, he is trying to demonstrate his presence now. His amendment is superfluous, unless the Opposition are attempting again to rewrite the agreement.
Clause 3(8) and (9) contain the Blair criteria. Some of us would argue that those go beyond what was in the agreement or in any document shown by the British Government to the parties during the talks. Those criteria certainly were not in the briefing document, which explained the Government's view of the effect of the agreement in the section on prisoner release. The amendment goes too far in imposing new conditions on the process.
In addition to the questions about linking decommissioning with release, the amendment raises other problems. The agreement does not say that decommissioning must have been achieved within two years of the agreement. The hon. Member for Bracknell says that he is stiffening up the agreement.or expressing in other words what is in the agreement, but that is not the case.
The agreement states:All participants … also confirmed their intention to continue to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have"—which suggests that some of them have no influence—to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement".The agreement does not state that that will be achieved. It does not set a deadline. That is an aspiration.
§ Mr. Grieve
How can there be a clear and unequivocal ceasefire, as provided for in clause 2, and a commitment to, and declaration of support for, exclusively democratic and peaceful means of resolving differences, if one of the parties to the agreement reneges on the undertaking to decommission in the two-year period?
§ Mr. McNamara
The parties have not reneged on any undertaking to decommission within two years. If the hon. Gentleman reads the agreement, he will see that it says that they will use their best offices in that regard. As no one is exploding bombs and there is no paramilitary activity, it suggests that people have covertly—if not openly—acquiesced to what has been suggested. That is absolutely correct and should occur.
The proposed new subsection (8) purports to establish an objective test of what is a terrorist organisation, but it eliminates completely the judgment or belief of the Secretary of State. Therefore, any decision would presumably be reviewable by a court. Judicial review of my right hon. Friend's decision can occur, but only if that decision is perverse, it is an administrative matter, the correct procedure has not been followed, or the decision was contrary to natural justice. Under this amendment, a public review could be requested.
The proposed subsection (9)(d) introduces a new decommissioning test, which is about the overt policy of paramilitary organisations rather than their concrete actions. In other words, if the IRA were to decommission weapons, but could not bring itself to admit that in public, under the terms of the hon. Gentleman's amendment, IRA prisoners would be ineligible for release. That would be manifestly unfair.
61 6.30 pm
New subsection (9)(e) refers to co-operating fully with the decommissioning bodyin the implementation of the Belfast Agreement".That is presumably intended to add the test of making significant moves towards decommissioning within two years—which is what the hon. Gentleman said. However, the agreement views that as a parallel process that is not linked to prisoner release. There is no linkage between prisoner release and decommissioning in the document—and nor was there any such linkage in the briefing documents. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman again seeks to rewrite the agreement.
§ Mr. Robert McCartney
I agree entirely that that linkage is not in the agreement, but it is most definitely present in the Prime Minister's undertakings to the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. McNamara
Like everyone else, the Prime Minister was bound by the agreement, and the undertakings that he gave were in the spirit of that agreement. That is apparent from the tests in the existing clauses. Some people would claim that the Bill goes too far, but I believe that it is just about acceptable on the basis of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said. I remind hon. Members that the Prime Minister is no more in a position to rewrite the agreement than the Taoiseach, the leaders of the Ulster Unionist party, the SDLP or any other party that signed the agreement—the agreement is the agreement is the agreement. Anyone who tries to put a gloss on it, engage in some sort of scriptural exegesis on it or say that something is in it when it is not will be in a very difficult position.
This is the agreement for which the people of Ireland voted and which was in the document that my right hon. Friend presented to Parliament. The Bill encompasses the spirit of the Belfast agreement regarding the release of prisoners and I believe that we should reject amendment No. 1 out of hand. I think it reprehensible that those who jumped on the coat-tails of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State—they realised that the Good Friday agreement was a jolly good thing and said, "Please sir, me too sir; can I be associated with it too, sir?"—should now be engaged in the spurious and damaging business of trying to undermine everything in that agreement.
§ Mr. Hunter
If the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is correct, I fear that many people in Northern Ireland will regret the vote that they cast in the referendum and will seek other avenues and channels through which to express that regret. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I listened to the theological debate with great interest. I suppose that the matter will be decided ultimately through on-going dialogue between my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), the Secretary of State and the Government. However, there is clearly a fundamental difference of interpretation.
I shall speak briefly to amendment No. 1 and then to amendments (a) and (b), which I tabled. My hon. Friend will know how much support he received from Opposition Members when, on Second Reading, he said:a significant number of moderate people in both communities finally decided to vote yes only when the Prime Minister had given them a clear and unequivocal assurance that decommissioning and the renunciation of violence would be incorporated in the legislation on early prisoner release and the setting up of the assembly.62In the Opposition's view, the Bill goes only some of the way to satisfying those assurances and will, therefore, require amendment in Committee next week. The most serious omission is that it does not establish a clear legislative linkage between some actual decommissioning having taken place and the accelerated release of prisoners."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 1093–94.]Later in the debate, my hon. Friend intervened on the Minister of State, the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram). Referring to the Prime Minister's exchange with the Leader of the Opposition on 6 May, my hon. Friend said:Any reasonable person who looks at what he"—the Prime Minister—said—and a lot of reasonable people in the Province looked at it and decided in the end to vote yes during the referendum campaign—would judge that decommissioning had to take place before prisoners were released. That is absolute fact. If that is not conceded in the legislation, the people of Northern Ireland will have been ratted upon."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 1163–64.]My hon. Friend then withdrew his final words.
I listened carefully to my hon. Friend's speech today. He assured us that, as a result of his private exchange with the Secretary of State, he was of the opinion that amendment No. 1 conforms with the specifications and requirements that he urged on Second Reading. I am sure that many people will study carefully both the amendments and my hon. Friend's words. Some of us have a slight difficulty, in that we were not privy to the conversation between my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State, and are therefore not precisely sure of the line of reasoning, the interpretation of the Bill and the interpretation of the Opposition amendments that led to that reconciliation of views, and which assured my hon. Friend—and should therefore assure us—that amendment No. 1 is consistent with the actual and on-going decommissioning of weapons during the process of prisoner releases.
That difficulty is compounded somewhat by the fact that those Conservative Members who have followed events in Northern Ireland over time were asked five years ago to defend the position that the IRA had to decommission all its weapons and explosives before it was admitted to negotiations. In the course of time, we were asked to defend the position that only some weapons and explosives had to be decommissioned.
In course of time, that, too, was changed, and we were asked to support and defend the new position: that the IRA should decommission weapons and explosives during the course of the talks. We defended that position. That was then changed, and we were asked to defend the position that only some of its weapons and explosives needed to be decommissioned during the talks.
Now the position has changed, and we are happy to rise in defence of the position that all weapons will be decommissioned by 2000. However, we should like a little more persuasion that that could not be interpreted as, once again, bowing to the threat of terror, or prostituting the rule of law to the demands of those who have no respect for law or order.
Amendment (a) to amendment No. 1 proposes to add a requirement to those conditions that an organisation must 63 observe and the requirements it must meet for it to be deemed not to be a terrorist organisation. I propose that that organisation should not be involvedin raising funds through coercion, extortion or any other illegal means;".I raised that point at Second Reading during the speech of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), because the requirements in the Bill and the Opposition amendment are deficient in that one important respect.
It is right that an organisation deemed "not terrorist" must be committed exclusively to democratic and peaceful means and must not be involved in acts of violence, in preparing acts of violence or in sub-contracting others to do the same. That leaves untouched the area of terrorist funds and fund-raising activities. Any organisation can raise funds legally for legal and legitimate purposes which are non-terrorist. That is not the point I have in mind.
Historically, terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland have been involved in raising money by a number of illegal means—racketeering, blatant extortion and coercion, and the illegal siphoning of funds from superficially legitimate practices. Those illegal practices are among the hallmarks of a terrorist organisation. If an organisation continues to practise them, it can reasonably be assumed that the organisation is continuing, or is preparing to resume, activities for which illegal funds are required. I appreciate that it might be argued that the practices that I have in mind are covered by the prohibition of "preparation for violence", but that is questionable at the very least.
If the Government are seeking to include that sort of activity as an indication that an organisation is a terrorist organisation, I would suggest that that should be made explicit in the Bill. I would therefore argue for the inclusion of my proposed paragraph (ba) into the new subsection (9), and I ask the Government to give that serious consideration. I acknowledge that the wording may be imperfect—it was my own effort and it could, therefore, be regarded as a probing amendment. However, I hope that the Secretary of State will take it seriously.
With my amendment (b), the argument—which I hope is sustainable—is that we are not seeking to alter the agreement, but we wish to obtain clarification and definition of how the agreement is to be implemented in practical terms. The amendment proposes to add three further subsections to the proposed subsection (9).
Clause 3(9)(d) requires an organisation to be "co-operating fully" with the decommissioning commission. I hope that all Opposition Members can be reassured that the wording of amendment No. 1 incorporates actual and continuing decommissioning during prisoner release. I am seeking to explore, probe and establish what might be at stake here. In amendment No. 1, two additional requirements are proposed by way of clarification. The first is that the organisation must be committedto the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations and the achievement of the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms, including any of its own, by 22nd May 2000.64 I propose that there should be a further definition of "co-operating fully" which, perhaps, is not inconsistent with the understanding that my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell has formed following his conversation with the Secretary of State. First, there must already have been decommissioning—an advance payment of good intent. Secondly, that must have amounted to a significant proportion of that organisation's illegally held arms. Thirdly, the organisation will have begun implementing a decommissioning timetable to be completed before 22 May 2000.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as I may not get a chance to speak because of the numbers who wish to take part in the debate. Does he agree that one of the difficulties of his amendment—and one of the difficulties faced by the Government—is precision? Once one tries for precision, one can further cloud the waters. What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "a significant proportion"? What does he mean bycommenced the dismantling of its paramilitary structure"?Unless we know where we are starting from, both definitions are impossible to attain.
§ Mr. Hunter
The hon. Gentleman is reinforcing my prime point. The Bill as it stands simply contains the phrase "co-operating fully". I am trying to advance a way—he tells me that it is insufficient—of defining what the Government mean by "co-operating fully". In a sense, his fundamental objection is not directed at me, but at the Bill for failing to define what "co-operating fully" means. I am trying to answer the very same question that he is posing.
§ Mr. Hunter
I hear the hon. Gentleman's sedentary intervention, but, with respect, I would not for a moment claim that my drafting is perfect. I regard myself as an amateur in these matters. I am merely pointing towards what I believe to be a definition and a clarification of the concept of fully co-operating, which requires such definition and clarification. I do not suppose that he could improve my amendment, although that would be an interesting academic debate on another occasion.
Paragraph (e) of my amendment (b) demands the dismantling of paramilitary structure. I shall accelerate and simply make the point that terrorist organisations cannot operate in a vacuum because their classic activities—recruiting, training, intelligence gathering, targeting, researching and testing improvised weapons, purchasing arms, fund raising and so on—require organisation, command and communication structures, cells and active units. One indication of serious intent would be the dismantling of those structures.
Paragraph (f) of my amendment (b) requires the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to conclude that any organisationno longer represents a threat to the community.That is entirely reasonable. The Bill states that the decision would be a solo decision made by the Secretary of State—ultimately, it would be subjective. This part of my amendment (b) addresses both of those valid points and criticisms. As a confidence-building measure, to use 65 the fashionable phrase, it is reasonable to seek an endorsement from a second party, and the Chief Constable of the RUC is appropriate. I hope that consideration will be given to those points.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
The amendments go to the heart of a controversy that has raged for considerable time in Northern Ireland. The question is, will the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom live up to the commitments he gave to the people of Northern Ireland—commitments which many hon. Members decided on Second Reading were essential for a yes vote in the referendum, which was obtained? Speaker after speaker recognised that his intervention, his visits to Northern Ireland, his issuing of commitments in the House and in the Province, and his speeches—he even went to the extent of signing billboards with his commitments written thereon—encouraged many people in Northern Ireland to believe that his interpretation of the agreement, which was contrary to the interpretation of the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and myself, was one which they could accept.
That interpretation, as it relates to the Bill, ensured that there would be direct linkage between the handing over of illegal weapons by paramilitary organisations and the release of paramilitary prisoners. There was no doubt in the minds of the people of Northern Ireland what the Prime Minister was conveying to them. They believed, and their newspapers, television and radio led them to believe, that he was saying expressly what he had said in the House to the Leader of the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition asked:Does he agree that prisoners should not be released early until the organisations to which they belong have substantially decommissioned their weapons?The Prime Minister said that the answer to that question was yes. That was yes to substantial decommissioning of illegal weapons, before prisoners were to be released. He went on to say:the independent Commission, and the Secretary of State, are bound to have regard to whether decommissioning has taken place."—[Official Report, 6 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 711.]There was no doubt in the mind of the Prime Minister on 6 May; nor could there have been any doubt in the mind of the Opposition on the response that they had received from him. There was certainly no doubt in the minds of the people of Northern Ireland that the agreement that they were about to vote for in the referendum made sure that there would be decommissioning before prisoner releases would take place.
When we looked at the Bill, we looked to see whether the Prime Minister's promise to the people of Northern Ireland would be kept. Clearly it has not been kept. There is no requirement for decommissioning, and prisoners can, and no doubt will, be released before one ounce of Semtex, one bullet, one detonator or one gun is handed over. Every hon. Member knows that that is what will happen, because the Bill is the same sort of fudge that has happened before.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) described the sad and sorry tale of how decommissioning has been dealt with by the House. All of us were told, not only by Prime Minister, that the requirement was there for Sinn Fein-IRA to decommission before they could get into the talks process. A Unionist leader even said that, if they did not do it, he would bring the talks to an end. They did not do it, but the talks went on.
66 The same Unionist leader strangely voted against Second Reading of the Bill; I thought that Second Reading was a vote on the principle, yet the principle that he voted against was one that he had supported when he signed the agreement. That is strange, but it is not for me to unravel. Unfortunately, he is not here to unravel it for himself.
The talks process proceeded without any decommissioning taking place, yet a smokescreen was put up by various leaders before the talks began to suggest to the people of Northern Ireland that decommissioning would occur, if not at the beginning, then during the process. Exactly the same smokescreen is going up today. The commitment is not in the Bill, and I must say to the Opposition spokesman that it certainly is not in his amendment—it just is not there. The amendment stands up like a limp piece of lettuce. It has no backbone, is devoid of substance, and does not fulfil what clearly was the view of the Leader of the Opposition, who, in his question on 6 May, said that not only prior decommissioning, but substantial decommissioning, was required.
The amendment does not require substantial decommissioning. I intervened on the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), who said that he had come away from what I hope was a cosy meeting with the Secretary of State convinced that, if he could get the substance of the amendment through the House or achieve an undertaking to that effect, it would mean what I want it to mean—that there would be prior decommissioning. The Secretary of State or the Minister will be able to say in winding up whether the Government's interpretation is that there will be prior decommissioning.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
May I help the hon. Gentleman? I offered briefings to Members of both Houses who wanted the detail of the Bill, because I thought that it had not been explained in the press as helpfully as it perhaps could have been. I offered and carried out a number of briefings, but I never discussed specifically worded amendments. I did say, helpfully, to a number of hon. Members that we would consider anything that they wanted to bring forward. That is what happened.
§ Mr. Robinson
It gets more and more interesting. It must have been the Secretary of State's aura that persuaded the Opposition that what she intended to do was of greater substance than the amendment suggests. Nothing in the amendment even hints at prior decommissioning. To suggest that adding the wordsin the implementation of the Belfast Agreement of 10th April 1998 published as Cm 3883means that there will be prior decommissioning is nonsense. As the hon. Member for Hull, North says, the agreement does not require decommissioning. It requires that the participantsalso confirm their intention to continue to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement.7 pm
Thus the agreement contains only an undertaking to use influence. It contains no requirement, and imposes no 67 sanction, if decommissioning does not happen, so let us not suggest to the people of Northern Ireland that the insertion of some reference to the Belfast agreement suddenly creates a requirement for decommissioning to take place. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A smokescreen has been put up not only by the Government in references in the Bill, but, sadly, by the Opposition in their amendment, which does not meet the requirement of people from my tradition: prior decommissioning. That brings us back to the issue of defining a terrorist organisation.
If an organisation holds on to a stockpile of 100 tonnes of weaponry, it is reasonable to describe it as a terrorist organisation. "Not so," says the Secretary of State. "It can hold on to those weapons and still not be defined as a terrorist organisation. It will therefore not be specified on the list." The Secretary of State and I have different opinions on that matter, and she is entitled to her view. However, the Opposition have shown many times in the past that their view is precisely the same as mine.
§ Mr. MacKay
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because he has been quoting me incorrectly extensively. Let me explain to the House again the difference between the Opposition and the Government at this stage—I hope that the difference will not remain for much longer.
The Bill as it stands says only that the Secretary of State must take into account whether paramilitary groups are co-operating with the commission. We say that any paramilitary group and its political associates must prove to the Secretary of State that they have been complying with the commission—in other words, decommissioning. That is the matter in dispute. There is no smokescreen from the Opposition. The only smokescreen comes from the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), who, instead of trying to smear the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and his colleagues who have worked hard towards the agreement, should try to ensure that, like us—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. That is a lengthy intervention. I am conscious that there is a guillotine on this debate in less than half an hour.
§ Mr. Robinson
The hon. Gentleman's argument does not cut ice. Even if a requirement is placed on the Secretary of State, the requirement still does not include prior decommissioning.
The amendment does not say that there must be prior decommissioning. The hon. Gentleman simply cannot get away with saying that the Secretary of State is required to deal with those issues.
§ Mr. Robinson
He shakes his head like a nodding dog in the back of a car, but that does not disprove my argument. The fact remains that the Leader of the Opposition made it abundantly clear at the Dispatch Box that he required substantial decommissioning before any terrorists were to be released. The Opposition have not included that in their amendment, the Government have 68 not included it in the Bill, and it is therefore clear to the people of Northern Ireland that not only the Government but the official Opposition have welshed on their commitment.
§ Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)
I wish to speak briefly on the most sensitive issue in the agreement. Like the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), I recall a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, which happened to be meeting on the day when the Downing Street declaration was signed. It met in the morning, and it was decided to debate the agreement in the afternoon. Although a number of British Members expressed general enthusiasm and optimism for the declaration and the further opportunities that it offered, they recognised that one of the key issues that would have to be addressed immediately, obviously and naturally, was decommissioning.
Every Irish Member of the Dail who was at that meeting regarded that as the most unhelpful intervention that British Members could have made. They said that those who knew anything about the history of Ireland thought that anybody who talked about decommissioning must be seeking to wreck any hope of progress, and that it was quite unrealistic to expect decommissioning to take place, especially in the time frame then envisaged by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). That showed, at that moment in the process, that decommissioning would prove to be an extremely difficult issue.
In my experience of Northern Ireland, the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney), who has now left the Chamber, is the classic illustration of those from the Unionist side who believe nothing from their own Government but read every Sinn Fein speech avidly from cover to cover, and believe every word in them. He is someone who does not listen to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) saying that the agreement strengthens the Union, because that is the speech listened to by Sinn Fein, who fear it does. The speeches made by the Sinn Fein leadership are read by various people on the wings of Unionism—those who cannot form their own view, and believe everything they hear.
The hon. Gentleman was well answered by the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). It was a rare occasion when I agreed with almost everything that he said about the importance of the decisions being made by the people on the island of Ireland. Their decision confirms the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom so long as the people of Northern Ireland so wish it. The fact that that is now accepted by the overwhelming majority of people throughout the island of Ireland destroys the central plank of Sinn Fein's arguments over the years.
After that, however, the hon. Member for Hull, North made an appalling speech. If ever anything was more significantly off message, I cannot imagine it. He said that the Prime Minister's contribution and pledges should be disregarded, and that the Prime Minister had no authority to make a pledge, because he could only hand round copies of the agreement and give no reassurance. He said that the decisions of the people of Northern Ireland, which everybody recognises, and the Prime Minister's intervention, contribution and pledges were critical to the outcome of the referendum. There would be no 69 agreement, and we would not be having this debate today, if there had not been a positive vote in the referendum, and the Prime Minister's pledge was critical in achieving that result.
I wish to say a word about decommissioning. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) was right: we do not start from here. Unfortunately, we start from a succession of concessions that have been made over decommissioning. The hon. Member for Hull, North gave me the impression that he was against decommissioning. I do not think that he meant to give that impression. He may have been seeking to say that it was a question of timing and that it should not be forced, but he seemed to say that there was no case for it.
Many people in Northern Ireland never expected to be in this position. They always thought that the other side would put up an insuperable roadblock, which meant that they could go along with the process because they would not be the ones who ultimately would wreck it. I have heard Mr. Mitchel McLaughlin say that he thought that the Unionists had gone further than he ever expected. In those circumstances, I am not yet satisfied that Sinn Fein has gone further than it expected to go. Decommissioning is the step—for Sinn Fein and perhaps for a wider spectrum of Irish opinion—that they must now be prepared to take.
I recognise that all sorts of complications and sensitivities are involved in decommissioning. I have the impression that General de Chastelain and his colleagues have been anxious to come up with ways in which those sensitivities can be met, and some weapons can be handed over.
I know that there is a nervousness and insecurity about exposure to the threat from loyalist terror gangs, but it is not possible to fight such gangs with heavy machine guns, sniper rifles, RPG7s and other rocket launchers. We may not be able to decommission fertiliser, which has been one of the more effective terrorist weapons in recent years, but we can take an intelligent and constructive approach.
The Secretary of State knows how loth I have been to intervene in these matters, as I have a deep sympathy for anyone facing the challenges and pressures of her office. However, I believe that we must make a start on decommissioning, and we must make it absolutely clear that the period of concessions on this matter will not be an endless push at an open door.
I think that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said that the challenge was whether people who have an influence over these matters are genuine about wanting peace. As I understand it, the Continuity IRA has access to some weapons. The quartermaster may be part of that splinter group. While those arms exist, despite the good faith of the people whom, at present, the Secretary of State must talk to, negotiate with and accept binding commitments from, there is no guarantee that they will hold control of that very dangerous weaponry for ever. Against that background, a positive step must be taken to remove the weapons from the island of Ireland.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I ask hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that time is short, and that a number of hon. Members wish to speak.
§ Mr. Donaldson
I shall be brief, and I shall speak to amendments Nos. 21, 76 and 77.
70 Amendments Nos. 21 and 76 deal with the issue of linking decommissioning to the release of prisoners. Decommissioning is an integral part of the agreement. It is in the agreement, and it is politically correct to link various aspects of the agreement. It may not be explicit in the agreement that certain aspects are linked, but the Bill clearly links decommissioning to the release of prisoners. It is one of a range of factors that the Secretary of State is to take into account in determining whether a terrorist organisation is no longer acting as such.
Decommissioning is important, because it is tangible evidence of whether terrorist organisations are committed to democratic and peaceful means. This agreement has been sold to the people of Northern Ireland as providing the way towards peace. How can we hope to get peace if the terrorist organisations that hold these paramilitary arms are not prepared to decommission them? We are not talking about a few arms: the IRA has more than 100 tonnes of illegal weaponry. That is a huge arsenal on a small island. We cannot ignore that fact, because, as the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) said, it is not just the IRA that has access to those weapons, but other organisations that have apparently broken away from the IRA.
Decommissioning is important not only to achieving stability but as tangible evidence that the IRA, the UDA and the UVF are now committed to exclusively peaceful means. If decommissioning does not happen, that will send a signal to the people of Northern Ireland that those organisations are not committed to exclusively peaceful means—otherwise, why would they hold on to the weapons?—and the threat of violence will remain.
The threat of violence is as potent as actual violence in its influence over the democratic and political process in Northern Ireland. That is why the republican movement in particular will continue to use the threat of violence within the assembly and the Executive to further its political agenda.
It is up to members of the republican movement to prove that I am wrong. The most tangible evidence that they can provide to me and the people I represent is to decommission their weapons. The people I represent have been on the receiving end of IRA violence, and they need to know that it has given up violence for good. Without decommissioning, they will not be convinced.
§ Mr. William Ross
Are not my hon. Friend's concerns increased by the fact that some of those who have left the Provisional IRA and have gone to the new terrorist bodies are reputed to be those who had control of the weapons—the adjutants? The people who know where the weapons are have control of them, and they can pass them on to their new companions at any time, should they so desire.
§ Mr. Donaldson
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is a well-established fact that one of the leading members of the new organisation called the Real IRA, which is linked to the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, is the former quartermaster of the Provisional IRA. He has access to and knowledge of the whereabouts of these illegal weapons. Substantial evidence suggests that some of the weaponry already being used by that group, including Semtex explosives and mortars used in recent attacks, came from the IRA's arsenal of weaponry. That cannot be ignored.
71 Decommissioning is important. From a political perspective, if terrorist organisations are to benefit from the agreement by the release of their prisoners, why should we not require them to deliver real peace through an end to violence and the decommissioning of their weapons? If we say to them, "Here are the benefits, but we do not actually require you to deliver your side of the bargain," they will not deliver their side of the bargain, and the weapons will remain in their hands.
Amendment No. 77 refers to the proscription of terrorist organisations. On Second Reading, the Secretary of State said:This legislation will not remove the ban on organisations that are proscribed under our anti-terrorist laws. The IRA or UDA, for example, will continue to be proscribed, and membership of such organisations will continue to be a criminal offence."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 1087.]I see no difficulty in the Government accepting amendment No. 77, which states:The fact that an organisation which is a proscribed organisation under either the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 or the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 is not specified as a terrorist organisation for the purposes of this Act does not affect its status as a proscribed organisation under those Acts.If the Government fail to accept the amendment, many people will wonder why they are not prepared to make explicit in the Bill that which the Secretary of State has already declared in the House.
Such declarations in the past have, in the fulness of time, been found wanting. I hope that the Government will accept my amendment, so that it is clear from the legislation that she means what she says. Organisations that are proscribed under the other legislation to which I have referred should not be removed from the list of proscribed organisations simply as a result of the provisions of this Bill as it stands.
I also hope that the Government will accept amendments that seek to strengthen the link between the need for actual and on-going decommissioning, and the release of prisoners.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
We have had a wide-ranging debate. I shall begin by responding to what the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said in his opening remarks. He suggested that the Prime Minister had fudged his commitments to the people of Northern Ireland. I should like to put on record the fact that I consider that to be untrue and unfair to the Prime Minister, especially in view of the lengths to which he has gone in Northern Ireland and in the Bill to set out the position clearly.
The Prime Minister set out his position in full in his speech in Belfast on 14 May during the referendum campaign. He said:In clarifying whether the terms and spirit of the agreement are being met and whether violence has genuinely been given up for good, there are a range of factors to take into account.Those words were subsequently used in the Bill. It is therefore entirely wrong to say that requiring those matters to be taken into account constitutes a fudge of the Prime Minister's commitment.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
I am sorry, but I will not. I have given away all the available time, so that as many hon. Members as possible could speak.
72 In the House on 6 May, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that he agreed with the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) that the Secretary of State wasbound to have regard as to whether decommissioning has taken place."—[Official Report, 6 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 711.]The Prime Minister agreed with that, and so do I. It is reflected in the Bill, which requires me to take into account whether an organisation is "co-operating fully" with the decommissioning commission.
Let me deal with two matters that were mentioned in some shape or form by every speaker. The first is whether and how we can tie down in the Bill the interlocking nature of the Good Friday agreement—the links involved in it—and the second is how that relates to decommissioning. I hope that, in the nine minutes that I have left, I can respond to all who raised that issue.
As it stands, the agreement recognises a number of explicit links. For example, the participants agreed thatPrisoners affiliated to organisations which have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire will not benefit from the arrangements.That link is fully reflected in clause 3; but it is also true to say that underlying those explicit links are deeper and more fundamental understandings.
The Government are in no doubt that a fundamental element of those underlying understandings is that those who seek to benefit from the agreement can do so only on the basis of a genuine and unequivocal commitment to exclusively peaceful means, now and in the future. That is fundamental. Without it—or if there were any suggestion that it was not being followed in practice—a key foundation of the agreement would be fatally undermined.
The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) expressed that clearly when he said on Second Reading, speaking of arrangements for prisoner releases:People would not find this concept acceptable unless they knew that, as a result of the agreement as a whole, there was to be a genuine ending of violence and a genuine peace. What might be tolerable in the context of a genuine and permanent end to violence would not be tolerable otherwise."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c.1097.]My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said the same in Belfast on 14 May. He said:I believe that most people will be ready to accept even the hardest parts if they had genuine confidence that the paramilitaries were really ready to give up violence for good.The Government have taken care to ensure in the Bill that, when that fundamental commitment is called seriously into doubt, we can act to stop prisoner releases. I can suspend the scheme as a whole; I can exclude specific organisations from benefiting from it; I can vary the two-year point set as the target for completion of all releases. I assure the Committee that I will not hesitate to use those powers if the foundation of the agreement—an end, now and in the future, to violence, and a commitment, now and in the future, to exclusively peaceful means—appears to have been set aside. As the Prime Minister said—and meant it—There can be no fudge between democracy and terror.There is, however, another fundamental foundation to the agreement, which we must also take care to preserve. Where violence has been genuinely brought to an end, and where there is a genuine and unequivocal commitment to 73 the use of exclusively peaceful means now and in the future, the way is open for those previously committed to violence to benefit from the terms of the agreement, without new preconditions or barriers being set up in their path other than those clearly stated in the agreement itself.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his speech in Belfast—which the right hon. Member for Upper Bann said had a crucial effect on public opinion—We are not setting new preconditions or barriers. On the contrary, we want as many people as possible to use the Agreement as their bridge across to an exclusively democratic path. We will encourage them to take this path.Were we to write into the Bill preconditions, barriers, tests or links—however desirable they may be—if they were not in the agreement, we would ourselves be departing from it. We would then lose all moral authority to hold other participants fully to the commitments into which they have entered.
In all this, the key is confidence: confidence on all sides of the community in Northern Ireland that the terms and spirit of the agreement are being adhered to by everyone involved. If that confidence is fundamentally undermined, conditions will not exist in which prisoners can be released, or continue to be released. We shall use the powers available to us in the Bill accordingly.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) raised some specific points. Clause 3(9) does not contain an exhaustive list of factors to be taken into account; other factors can and will be taken into account if they are relevant. Any coercive fund raising would in any event give rise to issues relating to acts of violence. Fund raising may well constitute a part of acts of preparation for violence, which are referred to in clause 3(9)(b).
Along with others, the hon. Gentleman asked what was meant by "co-operating fully" with the independent commission on decommissioning. The answer is simple. On 14 May, the Prime Minister referred tofull co-operation with the independent commission on decommissioning to implement the provisions in the Agreement.What we are looking for is full co-operation as a part of the implementation of these factors.
The gist of amendment No. 1 requires me to designate organisations that benefit, rather than excluding those that are not to benefit. The latter, not the former, is required in the agreement. The amendment also adds to the test in the agreement a complete and unequivocal ceasefire, with five separate tests, each of which must be passed. That is not consistent with the agreement or with the Prime Minister's speech at Balmoral, which set out four factors that were to be taken into account in the reaching of an overall judgment. I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.
Let me add a footnote on amendment No. 21. I should like the opportunity to consider the issue further, and to consider whether the language of clause 3(9)(d) could be adjusted to make the point clear beyond reasonable doubt.
We are not debating these issues in a vacuum. It is not as if the Government had produced the Bill out of the blue. The issues concern the parties and people of Northern Ireland intimately. As the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) made clear, it is they who have decided, for the first time, in negotiations in Belfast, a point of view that has now been endorsed in the referendum.
74 I say that to emphasise the fact that, if there is a difference between us in the Committee, it is not over the importance of the issues that we are debating or the concerns to which they give rise, which are understandable and shared by all of us. The difference is this: we do not believe that it would be right to overrule by our actions here what has been agreed by the parties in Northern Ireland, and endorsed overwhelmingly by the people of Northern Ireland. We are determined to hold every participant to the commitments that they made in reaching that agreement. The Government are no less determined to implement what has been agreed by the parties and endorsed by the people.
§ Mr. MacKay
The Secretary of State has attempted to say that the editorial in The Times and I were wrong to suggest that the Prime Minister has fudged his commitments. I again refer the right hon. Lady to what the Prime Minister's said last month at Prime Minister's Question Time:It is essential that organisations that want to benefit from the early release of prisoners should give up violence. Decommissioning is part of that,".—[Official Report, 6 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 711.]That is not included in the legislation. It will be included only if our amendment is accepted. I commend it to the Committee.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 125, Noes 274.77
|Division No.301]||[7.30 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Forth, Rt Hon Eric|
|Amess, David||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Fraser, Christopher|
|Arbuthnot, James||Gale, Roger|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Garnier, Edward|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Gibb, Nick|
|Baldry, Tony||Gill, Christopher|
|Bercow, John||Gillan, Mrs Cheryl|
|Blunt, Crispin||Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair|
|Boswell, Tim||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bottomley, peter (Worthing W)||Green, Damian|
|Brady, Graham||Greenway, John|
|Brazier, Julian||Grieve, Dominic|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Hague, Rt Hon William|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Hammond, Philip|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Burns, Simon||Hayes, John|
|Butterfill, John||Heald, Oliver|
|Cash, William||Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Horam, John|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Chope, Christopher||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Clappison, James||Hunter, Andrew|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|(Rushcliffe)||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Colvin, Michael||Johnson Smith,|
|Cran, James||Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Key, Robert|
|Day, Stephen||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Duncan, Alan||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Faber, David||Lansley, Andrew|
|Fabricant, Michael||Leigh, Edward|
|Fallon, Michael||Letwin, Oliver|
|Flight, Howard||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Lidington, David||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Shepherd, Richard|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Loughton, Tim||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Luff, Peter||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Spring, Richard|
|MacKay, Andrew||Streeter, Gary|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Swayne, Desmond|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Madel, Sir David||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Malins, Humfrey||Thompson, William|
|Maples, John||Tredinnick, David|
|Mates, Michael||Trend, Michael|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian||Tyrie, Andrew|
|May, Mrs Theresa||Viggers, Peter|
|Moss, Malcolm||Wardle, Charles|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Waterson, Nigel|
|Norman, Archie||Wells, Bowen|
|Ottaway, Richard||Whittingdale, John|
|Page, Richard||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Paice, James||Willetts, David|
|Pickles, Eric||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Prior, David||Woodward, Shaun|
|Randall, John||Yeo, Tim|
|Redwood, Rt Hon John||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Ross, William (E Lond'y)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Ruffley, David||Mr. John M. Taylor and|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Mr. Tim Collins.|
|Ainger, Nick||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Church, Ms Judith|
|Alexander, Douglas||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Allan, Richard||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Allen, Graham||Clelland, David|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Clwyd, Ann|
|Ashton, Joe||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Ballard, Jackie||Coleman, Iain|
|Barron, Kevin||Colman, Tony|
|Bayley, Hugh||Cooper, Yvette|
|Beard, Nigel||Corbett, Robin|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Cotter, Brain|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Cousins, Jim|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Cox, Tom|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Crausby, David|
|Best, Harold||Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Boateng, paul||Cummings, John|
|Borrow, David||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Darvill, Keith|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Brake, Tom||Dismore, Andrew|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Doran, Frank|
|Browne, Desmond||Dowd, Jim|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Drew, David|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Burden, Richard||Edwards, Huw|
|Burgon, Colin||Efford, Clive|
|Burstow, Paul||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Fatchett, Derek|
|Byers, Stephen||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Caborn, Ricahrd||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Fitzsimons, Lorna|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Flynn, Paul|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Follett, Barbara|
|Canavan, Dennis||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Casale, Roger||Fyfe, Maria|
|Caton, Martin||Galloway, Geroge|
|Cawsey, Ian||Gapes, Mike|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Gardiner, Barry|
|Chaytor, David||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Chidgey, David||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Gerrard, Neil||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Mallaber, Judy|
|Godsiff, Roger||Mandelson, peter|
|Goggins, Paul||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Gorrie, Donald||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Grant, Bernie||Martlew, Eric|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Maxton, John|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Meale, Alan|
|Grogan, John||Merron, Gillian|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Michael, Alun|
|Hancock, Mike||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Hanson, David||Milburn, Alan|
|Harries, Dr Evan||Miller, Andrew|
|Harvey, Nick||Mitchell, Austin|
|Healey, John||Moffatt, Laura|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Heppell, John||Moran, Mrs Margaret|
|Hesford, Stephen||Morley, Elliot|
|Hewitt, Ms Patricia||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie|
|Hope, Phil||Mudie, George|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||Mullin, Chris|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Norris, Dan|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Olner, Bill|
|Humble, Mrs, Joan||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Hurst, Alan||Osborne, Ms Sandra|
|Hutton, John||Pearson, Ian|
|Iddon, Dr Brain||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Ingram, Adam||Pickthall, Colin|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Pike, Peter L|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborugh)||Plaskitt, James|
|Jenkins, Brain||Pollard, Kerry|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie||Pope, Gerg|
|(Welwyn Hatfield)||pound, Stephen|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Powell, Sir Raymond|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Jones, Ieaun Wyn (Ynys Môn)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Radice, Giles|
|Jowell, Ms Tessa||Raynsford, Nick|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N )|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Rendel, David|
|Kemp, Fraser||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Rooker, Jeff|
|Khabra, Piara S||Rooney, Terry|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Roy, Frank|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Ruane, Chris|
|Kingham, Ms Tess||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Lawrence, Ms Jackie||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Leslie, Christopher||Salter, Martin|
|Linton, Martin||Sanders, Adrain|
|Liningstone, Ken||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Sedgemore, Brain|
|Lock, David||Sheerman, Barry|
|Love, Andrew||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|McAllion, John||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Skinner, Dennis|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McCartney, Ian (Markerfield)||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Mc Donnell, John||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|McFall, John||Smith, John (Glamorgan|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|McIsaac, Shona||Soley, Clive|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|McNamara, Kevin||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|McNulty, Tony||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|McWilliam, John||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Wareing, Robert N|
|Stunell, Andrew||Watts, David|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann||White, Brain|
|(Dewsbury)||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||(Swansea W)|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Tipping, Paddy||Willis, Phil|
|Todd, Mark||Wills, Michael|
|Tonge, Dr Jenny||Winnick, David|
|Touhig, Don||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Truswell, Paul||Woolas, Phil|
|Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Twigg, Derek (Halton)||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Tyler, Paul||Wyatt, Derek|
|Vaz, Keith||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Walley, Ms Joan||Janet Anderson and|
|Ward, Ms Claire||Mr. David Jamieson|
§ Question accordingly negatived.7.45 pm
§ Mr. MacKay
I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 47, at end insert—'(11) The Secretary of State shall in particular review the list of organisations specified under this section after 22 May 2000 in the light of the reports of any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Decommissioning Act 1997.'.We have had modest, rather than good, success with the Government today. I appreciated the Minister of State agreeing to one of our amendments earlier and was disappointed that the Secretary of State was unable to accept our more substantive amendment a moment ago. I hope that we will at least get two out of three.
Let me explain why the amendment is important. There are some happy coincidences in respect of two-year limits. The agreement specifies that all decommissioning of arms and explosives should occur within two years. Equally, the Bill allows prisoners who are not otherwise released to be released two years after the Bill becomes law. I need hardly say that nearly all those prisoners will be the most dangerous and hardened, who have committed the worst offences. Principally, they will be lifers—those whom all reasonable people in both communities will feel most uncomfortable about releasing back into society.
We support the Bill overall, but we believe that it is fatally flawed without amendment No. 1. The agreement specifies that all prisoners will be released after two years. That is fair enough, but the least the Secretary of State can do is to ask the decommissioning commission to give a report after 22 May 2000, after the two years stated in the agreement are up. One would hope that the commission would say that everything had occurred as it should have done under the agreement, that the relevant paramilitary organisations had complied with the amendment, and that the arms and explosives had been decommissioned. There would then be no good reason not to let out these hardened and brutal murderers. However, if the report said that decommissioning had not been fully complied with, it would be correct, under the legislation as amended, for the Secretary of State not to let them out. The best chance to get complete decommissioning of arms and explosives, which both I and the Secretary of State want, is to say that the remaining hardened prisoners will not be let out of gaol until final decommissioning has occurred.
78 In the previous debate, we wrangled about when decommissioning was taking place, when it started and whether prisoners should be let out early. Hon. Members on both sides of the argument legitimately expressed concern that it would be imprecise. That is as may be, but there is nothing imprecise about the remaining prisoners. The agreement states categorically that all decommissioning of arms and explosives should be concluded by 22 May 2000.
I should think that the Bill will not become law until next month. Two years from that date, the remaining prisoners will be released. Therefore, the Secretary of State, or her successor, will have ample opportunity between 22 May 2000 and the date in July 2000 to determine whether the decommissioning requirement has been complied with. If it has not, those hardened prisoners should not be released.
I commend amendment No. 5 to the Committee.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
Amendment No. 5 would require me to do what I shall already be doing under clause 3(10). As hon. Members will know—as I stated in our previous debate—I am very sympathetic to the intention behind the amendment. However, the matter is dealt with already by clause 3(10), which I shall resist being duplicated.
Clause 3(10) owes a great deal to helpful suggestions made by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson). The list of designated terrorist organisations that cannot benefit under the Bill is not a once-and-for-all list. Organisations can move on to and off the list, which must be kept under review at all times.
Clause 3(10) helpfully makes explicit the need for constant review. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann for suggesting that any misunderstanding would be avoided if the Bill contained the requirement for regular reviews. I intend to keep the list under regular review throughout the agreement's implementation—including both before and after 22 May 2000, which is the second anniversary of the referendums. Moreover, clause 3(10) already requires me to do so. To that extent, amendment No. 5 unnecessarily duplicates the clause.
We have always said that crucial to successful implementation of the agreement is confidence that all parts of it are implemented. If there is no progress on one part of the agreement, implementation of it all will be put at risk.
All supporters of the agreement are committed by the agreement to total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations. They are committed also to using any influence that they have to achieving decommissioning of all paramilitary arms by 22 May 2000.
§ Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone)
Does the Secretary of State mean that the provision will operate in the same way in which it operated during the talks? Does she mean that terrorist organisations will be able to commit an offence, be taken off the list for a short time, and—once they say that they have returned to a ceasefire—again be included in the list? Surely such a situation is unacceptable.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. He should remember that the Prime Minister clearly stated—I have supported the statement many times 79 in the House—that the criteria will become more rigorous as the two years pass. Therefore, as time goes by—regardless of whether something may have been agreeable initially—if an organisation is asked to leave, it will become increasingly difficult for it to return. We have already made serious commitments in the Bill, which we expect to be fulfilled—just as we are fulfilling other commitments.
I do not think that the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and I disagree fundamentally on the matter. I ask him to understand that the Bill already gives me wide powers to suspend the scheme, to exclude specific organisations and to vary the two-year cut-off point. If confidence that the whole agreement is being implemented is missing—whether because of a failure in decommissioning or because of a failure in another fundamental commitment—the Government have powers to stop the prisoner arrangements. We shall use those powers if circumstances—specifically the need for confidence—warrant it.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for clarifying how she will approach the release of prisoners and, specifically, the matter of the list of organisations. However, notwithstanding her comments, it is difficult to determine how insertion in the Bill of amendment No. 5 would negate what she is attempting to achieve elsewhere in the Bill.
§ Mr. Grieve
Although I hear the Secretary of State say "duplication", I think that duplication may sometimes serve a purpose—which, in this case, undoubtedly is reassurance. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) was trying to express the anxiety that people feel. I certainly endorse his belief that there is such anxiety. People are anxious that, the further down the road we go—the closer we get to the date on which it is likely that the terrorists who have been convicted of the most unpleasant offences will be due for release—the greater the temptation will be for the decommissioning issue to be pushed entirely out of the picture.
The anxiety has been reinforced by the difficulties that the Government seem to be having over the clear and explicit comments that the Prime Minister made before the referendum. Although I am mindful of the fact that the Government face an extremely difficult task in that matter, and that words and semantics sometimes can be unhelpful, there is, nevertheless, an anxiety.
What seemed, before the referendum, to be clear and explicit assurances, which I think were wholly reconcilable with a proper and legal interpretation of the agreement, seem now to have been subtly moved away from because of an anxiety which—although I am not quite sure where it lies—may be based on a desire not to offend other parties to the agreement. Perhaps that is why the Ulster Unionists have been so upset by the change, and why further reassurance in any form—even if it is not in the form of amendment No. 1—would be welcomed. 80 I do not want to labour the point or to take up the time of the Committee. Nevertheless, including as an explicit part of the legislation a requirement to review after 22 May 2000 the list of organisations would seem to go some way towards dealing with the anxiety.
§ Mr. Hunter
I appreciate the fact that my hon. Friend does not want to detain the Committee. However, I invite him to make more of the point that clause 3(10), which states thatThe Secretary of State shall from time to time review the list of organisations",is not duplicated by amendment No. 5. Nor does the Bill reflect the Prime Minister's words that urgency will increase as time passes. Therefore, amendment No. 5 is valid, and the Secretary of State's comments were inappropriate.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, and do not disagree with a single word that he said. Perhaps I was making too great a concession by saying that the amendment duplicates the clause.
I suppose that, as a lawyer, I am aware that documents such as the agreement can be read in different ways. I am aware also that it is possible to express in a Bill the same purpose—how to achieve the same end—in different ways. I therefore always try to listen carefully to the comments of the Secretary of State and the Minister when they explain to the Committee what they are trying to achieve. I am extremely mindful of the difficulties that they face on those points.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) that it would certainly be more explicit to include in the Bill the specific reassurance that, after 22 May 2000, the list of specified organisations will be reviewed. I do not think that such a provision would be an unnecessary duplication. However, as I said, in so far as it is a duplication, it is a reassurance—which, in the context within which we are operating, would be particularly available.
As I said, I will not labour the point or take up any more of the Committee's time, but I hope that the Secretary of State will give the matter serious consideration, The amendment can be included in the Bill without adversely affecting other matters about which I appreciate she is anxious, and its inclusion would go some way toward providing an important reassurance that the list of organisations will be reviewed in the light of the conditions that prevail after 22 May 2000.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I fully support amendment No. 5, which was moved so succinctly by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), who speaks on Northern Ireland affairs for the Opposition.
I have a simple question for the Secretary of State: if the Prime Minister felt it necessary to give verbal assurances during the referendum campaign in Northern Ireland to persuade a majority of the people, and certainly large numbers of Unionists, to support a yes vote, and went out on a limb on several issues to get a yes vote of a size that would justify proceeding with the Good Friday agreement, why will the Secretary of State not include the 81 amendment in the legislation on the same ground—that it would give some reassurance to the Unionist people of Northern Ireland that she is sincere?
The Bill gives the Secretary of State a discretionary power to review the list "from time to time", but how she will review it is very much—[Interruption.] The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), is commenting quietly and courteously from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. Winterton
No; I have known the Minister for some time and he has always been most courteous.
I feel strongly about this issue. The Opposition have sought to support the Government, but I must establish my position very clearly. Had I been a voter in Northern Ireland, I should have voted no in the referendum. The Secretary of State and her Ministers know that I was one of three Conservative and Unionist Members of Parliament who voted against Second Reading of the Bill, so my principled opposition to it is established. However, the Bill received a Second Reading with a substantial majority, so I see it as my duty to try to improve the Bill.
The Prime Minister felt it necessary to give additional reassurances to the loyalist Unionist people of Northern Ireland. By the way, that transcends the religious divide—there are many Catholics who are Unionists. They would be reassured if the Secretary of State would accept this rational amendment for the very reasons advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), and for the even more moderate reasons proposed my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who is a practising barrister. The amendment would provide the reassurances that I believe the people of Northern Ireland justly require from the Secretary of State because of the huge powers that the Bill gives her and because of the element of discretion involved.
The House likes the Secretary of State. She has sought to do an excellent job, and a very difficult one. The fact that I disagree with much of what she has done is irrelevant at this stage. My position on Northern Ireland was established way back in 1971–72, so I speak from a position of some commitment to the Unionist people and to peace in Northern Ireland. I plead with the Secretary of State to make this one modest concession, even if she and the Government consider it to be a duplication of what she believes is already part of the legislation.
§ Mr. Thompson
I support the amendment because it was tabled by the Opposition, and I appreciate the Opposition's attempt to clarify and strengthen the Bill. Unfortunately, that attempt has been rejected by the Government.
I am not sure that the amendment will be all that effective, however. As I understand it, under the agreement, prisoners will be released in two years' time. I suspect that they will be out in two years because an agreement has been made and signed by all the participants, and I assure the Committee that Sinn Fein and the IRA expect the Government and all the participants in the agreement to fulfil that agreement. They will expect their prisoners to be out by 22 May 2000, irrespective of the terrible crimes that they have 82 committed. I have lived in Northern Ireland and seen Governments operating for long enough to know that those prisoners probably will be out.
Perhaps the Secretary of State will clarify for me how she would be able to include the IRA on the list. We are told that organisations on the list will have to have established and have to be maintaininga complete and unequivocal ceasefire.My understanding is that the IRA ceasefire is a four-month renewable ceasefire. Does that qualify in the mind of the Secretary of State? It certainly would not qualify in mine.
The IRA has said that it will reconsider the position in four months' time. If it is satisfied with the political progress, it will renew its ceasefire. In other words, the ceasefire is on a four-month, renewable basis. That can hardly accord with the provisions of the Bill.
I am somewhat concerned about what the Secretary of State said about organisations that are on the list and which then move off it but which may then be able to move back on to it. That seems to be a replica of what happened under the Mitchell principles. When the talks were taking place, the organisations were supposed to have committed themselves fully to peaceful means. When it was discovered that they were murdering people, they were put out of the talks for a few weeks to do penance; then they were brought back in as repentant, reformed groups. Such a situation, which was implied in the Secretary of State's words this evening, is completely unacceptable.
If organisations get on the list and then sin, they should be removed from the list, and it should be made clear that they will never be allowed back on. We cannot allow organisations to be put on the list, taken off for a short time until they have mended their ways—or appear to have done so—and then allowed back on. We need some reassurance from the Secretary of State that that will not happen.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
Does my hon. Friend—I should like to call him that—believe that Sinn Fein-IRA will ever decommission a majority of its weaponry? Is that likely to happen before 22 May 2000? Under the Mitchell principles, we were told that there would be no discussion until decommissioning had taken place, but the goalposts were shifted. Will the same happen now?
§ Mr. Thompson
I do not believe for a moment that Sinn Fein-IRA have the slightest intention of ever decommissioning. Their power lies not in their votes, but in their guns—and not necessarily in the use of those guns but in the equally potent threat that they will be used. They have clearly said that they will not decommission, because the moment they do so, they will lose their power.
Sinn Fein is the most powerful party in Northern Ireland. Every word that Sinn Fein members speak is recorded. The Government take note of everything that they say. We are told that they have direct telephone communication with the Secretary of State. We are told that when they are stopped on the road by the security forces they can ring up and get clearance so that the security forces allow them to go on. I do not believe that Sinn Fein-IRA will give up their guns, because they would lose their power and their influence.
83 However, we are told that Sinn Fein-IRA will give up their guns. People seem to think that they will, although I do not believe it. Let us give them the chance in the Bill, but let us do all that we can to strengthen it so that they will be able to decommission if they ever intend to do so. I do not believe that they will, because their power lies in their guns and they will not give them up.
§ Mr. Hunter
The provisional selection of amendments conveniently gives this debate the title "Review of lists of terrorist organisations". Of direct relevance to the amendment and the clause is a point that featured at least twice on Second Reading. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to refer to it in some detail if she replies.
The hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) talked in detail about the potential conflict between the workings of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and this aspect of the Bill. He envisaged circumstances in which there could be a contradiction of interests; with the application of different criteria, an organisation that would remain proscribed under the PTA would be deemed non-terrorist under the Bill.
The Minister has not fully addressed the issue. I accept that there is not much time, but it is directly relevant to the amendment. Perhaps the Secretary of State will consider making some comment.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
I should like to respond briefly to some of the points that have been made. To answer the hon. Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson), I have made it clear this evening and before that the tests will become more rigorous over time. That is the important fact to remember. The agreement will not work unless there is confidence that all the different elements are working. A continuing review process is built in if any element is not working. We have made it clear that we shall support parties that complain and ask for a review, because we want to ensure that all elements of the agreement work. If any element is not working, the agreement will not work. It is crucial that all the parts work together.
The hon. Member for West Tyrone referred to me talking to Members of Parliament. I talk to all Members of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman has not phoned me or asked me to call him. I have talked to every Member of Parliament who has asked me and I shall continue to do so.
We have had helpful contributions in the spirit of what we are trying to do from some Conservative Members, even though the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) disagrees fundamentally with what is going on. The contribution of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) matches that of the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) earlier. Both have serious questions about whether the agreement will work, but, because the consent of the people of Northern Ireland has been demonstrated, they are willing to work to move the process forward.
The hon. Members for Macclesfield and for Beaconsfield asked for further reassurance. I want to offer 84 what reassurance I can to all the people of Northern Ireland. I would not like the hon. Gentlemen to think that the Bill will go through without such reassurances being offered. I should like to put on record again the fact that no supporter of a terrorist organisation will be released. The four factors mentioned by the Prime Minister are reproduced in the Bill. The situation will be kept under regular review and the two-year cut-off can be increased. I will have other powers, including the power to suspend the agreement. I hope that the hon. Gentlemen recognise that those substantial safeguards and reassurances are in the Bill. Subsection (10) deals with the important points.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for the reasonable way in which she is responding to the concerns of those of us who want additional reassurances in the Bill. She has talked about suspending the agreement. This might be a hypothetical question, but if the circumstances were such that it was justified to pull the rug on the agreement would the Secretary of State have the courage and determination to do so, even though she would not want to? That is a leading question and a difficult one, but it is critical. Would she have the courage and determination to do what was right if the agreement was being fundamentally abused by one of the parties?
§ Marjorie Mowlam
The hon. Gentleman has asked for additional reassurances. The reassurances that the Prime Minister gave in the Balmoral speech on 14 May are in the Bill. Many people asked us to put them in, and we have done so. There is a clear provision for suspension of the scheme for those who are not signed up to an unequivocal, permanent commitment to a ceasefire.
Such questions always lead to headlines about the suspension of the legislation—although I see that most of the press have gone to dinner. We must build confidence to ensure that if everybody works on all the parts of the agreement, we have a chance of making it work. If we look for negatives, we shall certainly find them. We must look for the positives and work forward. As I have made clear in other speeches, if there are difficult judgments to make, I shall make them. Who got Sinn Fein out of the talks? Who made sure that the Ulster Democratic party was out of the talks? That shows our commitment to taking difficult decisions.
§ Mr. Grieve
Does the Secretary of State agree that one virtue of having a review on a fixed date, such as 22 May 2000 is that, in the past, deadlines have appeared to concentrate minds wonderfully? Indeed, it could be argued that there would not have been an agreement had there not been the deadline that it had to be achieved by Easter. One advantage of a deadline is that it will concentrate the minds of paramilitary organisations which may be a bit sluggish or have internal difficulties about decommissioning because of the consequences to them of not meeting that deadline.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that deadlines make a difference, but we are now in a materially different position. We now have an agreement in which all the parties in Northern Ireland have participated, and 71 per cent. of the people consent to its basic principle. It is important to recognise that nothing will be possible in the months and years ahead 85 unless confidence is built. We can put in place structures and plans, but they can work only if confidence is built by the people of Northern Ireland and the parties that are represented here.
We can talk dates and structures. As I said earlier, clause 3(10) offers reassurance on the face of the Bill. As a lawyer, the hon. Member for Beaconsfield understands that duplication is not necessarily desirable. I have offered reassurances in the Committee this evening and I do so again now. We have powers to revoke licences and to suspend the scheme, and we will use those powers if there is a breakdown in the unequivocal commitment to the ceasefire. The factors that put meat on the bones of the agreement are there, but it is up to the parties to make the agreement work; if they do not do so, it will not work, regardless of what we do.
§ Mr. MacKay
I agree with the Secretary of State that there is not huge disagreement between us on amendment No. 5—unlike on the previous group of amendments, which we tabled because we continue to believe that the promises and assurances given by the Prime Minister have not been incorporated into the legislation and that the people of Northern Ireland have been badly let down. However, that is a matter for Third Reading, so I shall not stretch your patience, Mr. Martin. Instead I shall address amendment No. 5.
My hon. Friends the Members for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and the hon. Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson) have made it clear to the Secretary of State that there are two reasons why we consider the amendment to be worth while and rather important. First, it is a confidence-building measure and, secondly, we do not accept the right hon. Lady's conclusion that it merely repeats what is in clause 3(10). We support subsection (10), but the additional subsection (11) is important because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield said, it would concentrate minds on the due date.
It is all very well for the Secretary of State to say that what really matters is the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. Of course she is right, but she also knows that minds need to be concentrated. It would concentrate minds hugely if the matter were so clearly stated that those whom I would describe as the remainder prisoners—those who are not due out until two years after the coming into force of the legislation—knew that they would not be released at all if the paramilitaries with whom they associated had not decommissioned.
Everyone agrees that decommissioning of arms and explosives will be difficult to achieve. The one possibility of achieving it—which the Secretary of State and I passionately want and which we know Northern Ireland needs—is to make the clause sufficiently clear to ensure that paramilitary organisations know that their boys in prison for longer sentences will not get out in two years' time if they have not decommissioned, and that the Secretary of State will be reviewing the matter.
I urge the Secretary of State to accept the amendment. Nothing that she has said shows that she fundamentally disagrees with it. It would be extremely helpful and would encourage decommissioning, which is precisely what she passionately wants. I urge the Committee to support the amendment.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 125, Noes 278.88
|Division No. 302]||[8.24 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Amess, David||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Lansley, Andrew|
|Arbuthnot, James||Leigh, Edward|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Letwin, Oliver|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Bercow, John||Lidington, David|
|Blunt, Crispin||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Boswell, Tim||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Loughton, Tim|
|Brady, Graham||Luff, Peter|
|Brazier, Julian||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||MacKay, Andrew|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Burns, Simon||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Butterfill, John||Madel, Sir David|
|Cash, William||Malins, Humfrey|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Maples, John|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Mates, Michael|
|Chope, Christopher||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Clappison, James||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||Moss, Malcolm|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Norman, Archie|
|Colvin, Michael||Ottaway, Richard|
|Cran, James||Paice, James|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Day, Stephen||Pickles, Eric|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Prior, David|
|Duncan, Alan||Randall, John|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Faber, David||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Fallon, Michael||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Flight, Howard||Ross, William (E Lond'y)|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Ruffley, David|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Fraser, Christopher||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Gale, Roger||Shepherd, Richard|
|Garnier, Edward||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Gibb, Nick||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Gill, Christopher||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair||Spring, Richard|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Streeter, Gary|
|Green, Damian||Swayne, Desmond|
|Greenway, John||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Grieve, Dominic||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Hague, Rt Hon William||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Thompson, William|
|Hammond, Philip||Tredinnick, David|
|Hawkins, Nick||Trend, Michael|
|Hayes, John||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Heald, Oliver||Viggers, Peter|
|Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David||Wardle, Charles|
|Horam, John||Wells, Bowen|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Whittingdale, John|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Hunter, Andrew||Willetts, David|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Woodward, Shaun|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Yeo, Tim|
|Johnson Smith,||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Key, Robert||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Mr. Tim Collins and|
|Kirkbride, Miss Julie||Mr. Nigel Waterson.|
|Ainger, Nick||Edwards, Huw|
|Alexander, Douglas||Efford, Clive|
|Allan, Richard||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Allen, Graham||Fatchett, Derek|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Ashton, Joe||Fitzsimons, Lorna|
|Ballard, Jackie||Flynn, Paul|
|Banks, Tony||Follett, Barbara|
|Barron, Kevin||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Fyfe, Maria|
|Beard, Nigel||Galloway, George|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Gapes, Mike|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Gardiner, Barry|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Gerrard, Neil|
|Best, Harold||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Godsiff, Roger|
|Boateng, Paul||Goggins, Paul|
|Borrow, David||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Gorrie, Donald|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Grant, Bernie|
|Brake, Tom||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Grogan, John|
|Browne, Desmond||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Hancock, Mike|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Hanson, David|
|Burden, Richard||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Burgon, Colin||Harvey, Nick|
|Burstow, Paul||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Healey, John|
|Byers, Stephen||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Heppell, John|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Hesford, Stephen|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hope, Phil|
|Casale, Roger||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Caton, Martin||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Cawsey, Ian||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Hughes, Ms Beverley Stretford)|
|Chaytor, David||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Chidgey, David||Hurst, Alan|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Hutton, John|
|Church, Ms Judith||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Ingram, Adam|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Jamieson, David|
|Clelland, David||Jenkins, Brian|
|Clwyd, Ann||Johnson, Miss Melanie|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Coleman, Iain||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Colman, Tony||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Cooper, Yvette||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Corbett, Robin||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Cotter, Brian||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Cousins, Jim||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cox, Tom||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Kemp, Fraser|
|Cummings, John||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Khabra, Piara S|
|Darvill, Keith||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||Kingham, Ms Tess|
|Dismore, Andrew||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Leslie, Christopher|
|Doran, Frank||Levitt, Tom|
|Dowd, Jim||Linton, Martin|
|Drew, David||Livingstone, Ken|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Lock, David||Rogers, Allan|
|Love, Andrew||Rooker, Jeff|
|McAllion, John||Rooney, Terry|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Roy, Frank|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Ruane, Chris|
|McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)||Ruddock, Ms Joan|
|McDonnell, John||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|McFall, John||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Sanders, Adrian|
|McIsaac, Shona||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Sawford, Phil|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Sedgemore, Brian|
|McNamara, Kevin||Sheerman, Barry|
|McNulty, Tony||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Skinner, Dennis|
|McWilliam, John||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Mallaber, Judy||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Mandelson, Peter||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Soley, Clive|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Martlew, Eric||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Maxton, John||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Meale, Alan||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Merron, Gillian||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Michael, Alun||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Stunell, Andrew|
|Milburn, Alan||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Mitchell, Austin||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Morley, Elliot||Tipping, Paddy|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Todd, Mark|
|Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Mudie, George||Touhig, Don|
|Mullin, Chris||Truswell, Paul|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Norris, Dan||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Tyler, Paul|
|Olner, Bill||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Wareing, Robert N|
|Pearson, Ian||Watts, David|
|Perham, Ms Linda||White, Brian|
|Pickthall, Colin||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Pike, Peter L||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Plaskitt, James||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Pollard, Kerry||(Swansea W)|
|Pond, Chris||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Pope, Greg||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Pound, Stephen||Willis, Phil|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Wills, Michael|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Winnick, David|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Woolas, phil|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Radice, Giles||Wyatt, Derek|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)||Mr. Kevin Hughes and|
|Rendel, David||Mr. Robert Ainsworth.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I rise to oppose the Question, That clause 3 stand part of the Bill. Many hon. Members
89 will have noticed that this is the heart of the Bill, as is shown by the fact—if my counting is correct—that 52 amendments have been tabled to clause 3 and 15 amendments to the rest of the Bill.
The controversy in the Committee between the representatives from Northern Ireland and the Government relates to pledges made and broken because they could not be delivered. The Prime Minister came to Northern Ireland because he wanted success in the referendum. He knew that the position was difficult. Like the Prime Minister, my party and others had before us the statistics from investigations in Northern Ireland carried out by spin doctors on his behalf. The Prime Minister saw that the life of the yes campaign was haemorrhaging away so he decided that something must urgently be done. He attempted to take action at Balmoral. He then wrote the graffiti on the wall and succeeded that time in getting what he wanted. Some hon. Members think that the majority of Unionists voted yes; they did not. We must wait until 25 June to find out how many people will vote for candidates who are opposed to the agreement.
The main issue is decommissioning. I do not know why, but the Tory party has become strong on that issue. I am not convinced that it has been down any Damascus road and been converted, but, as a representative from Northern Ireland, I am amazed when the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), comes on "Good Morning Ulster" and tells of the great fight that he is putting up in the House to ensure that the pledges are fulfilled. I had a look at the amendment that the Tory party tabled and I could see in it no mention of linking decommissioning with the release of prisoners. I found it rather strange that the Tories did not attempt to write into the Bill what they claimed the Prime Minister had said. I wonder why not? I have asked them and they will not tell me.
The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) just laughs, as he laughed when he was in Northern Ireland as a Minister. The people of my constituency are under a great obligation to him, because he gave us a hospital—the Causeway hospital—that no other Minister would have given us. I visited it just the other day, and it is going up by leaps and bounds. Some day, if the Secretary of State survives, and if I survive, we shall perhaps stand together in that hospital to see it completed—although I hope not to need a bed there. So my constituents thank the Tory Front-Bench spokesman for what he did; and although he smiles, in his heart he knows that he has made no progress today. The Government have said no to him. Will he then vote against Third Reading? That might embarrass his hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson)— I do not know, but it will be interesting to see what happens.
We have already discussed these matters for a long time this evening. I do not intend to plough and harrow the field again, or to sow the corn again. Everyone knows what is at stake. The fact remains that Northern Ireland Members have no option but to vote against clause 3.
§ Mr. Hunter
I share the concern of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) about clause 3. The Opposition also shared his anxieties in the shape of 90 amendments Nos. 1 and 5, which we pressed to a Division. I hope that, when speaking to my amendments, I did not incur the hon. Gentleman's wrath—
§ Mr. Hunter
That is a great relief to me—I would not survive long in a debate with the hon. Gentleman.
I should like to raise again a point made during the debate on amendment No. 5 to which, owing to the shortage of time, the Secretary of State did not reply. The point was also raised on Second Reading. It relates to an argument that my hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) expressed very clearly. There could be a conflict between the working of the PTA and the working of this Bill. The criteria in the two measures governing whether an organisation may be deemed to be a terrorist organisation are not necessarily the same. Last Wednesday, the hon. Member for Lagan Valley said:The Secretary of State told us that she will not be removing the IRA, the UVF and the UDA from the list of proscribed organisations because she still regards them as terrorist organisations."—[Official Report, 10 June 1998; Vol. 313, c. 1130.]This point, as I say, has been made several times by several hon. Members, and I would hope now for an answer to it.
§ Mr. Maclean
I oppose clause 3 because the Government have not accepted any of the substantial amendments on decommissioning proposed to it. In the previous debate, the Secretary of State spoke at length about confidence measures among all parties. How can we have any such confidence when we can have no confidence in the word of the British Prime Minister, given in the House and in Northern Ireland? What he said has not materialised in the Bill.
I was in the House when the Prime Minister made his statement on 6 May; along with many other right hon. and hon. Members, I heard what he said—it is recorded in Hansard. I do not recall any sharp intake of breath in any quarter of the House as if to say that the Prime Minister had exceeded his brief, or had rewritten the Good Friday agreement, or had overstepped the mark. Indeed, I read no editorials or other learned articles the next day suggesting that the Prime Minister had got it wrong. All the press comment was to the effect that the Prime Minister had given a sensible and perfectly valid interpretation, filling in some details of the agreement, when he agreed with the Leader of the Opposition on decommissioning a substantial number of weapons.
What has changed in the past few weeks? Why do the Government now deny what clearly appeared to be the Prime Minister's intentions? What has changed to make the Government come up with this feeble and rather grubby line of argument? They say that adopting what the Prime Minister promised the House amounts to rewriting the agreement—that is the Government's excuse tonight. To accept any amendments, they claim, would be to rewrite the agreement.
It was not regarded as rewriting the agreement when the Prime Minister said these things in the House and in Northern Ireland. Are we seriously being asked to believe that the notes meticulously prepared for the Prime 91 Minister before Question Time by the excellent civil servants in the NIO, the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister's office and possibly the Home Office did not include a line to take on the Good Friday agreement, or did not warn the Prime Minister of what it was possible to say and promise and what it was impossible to say because of the danger of Sinn Fein-IRA or other parties walking out of the talks? That would be stretching belief too far. No, the Prime Minister had a clear brief on what he could say within the spirit of the agreement that would be perfectly feasible and defensible, and which could be brought before the House in the form of enforceable legislation. He clearly had the same in mind when he made his promise at the Dispatch Box and when he toured Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Hunter
The media, especially the newspapers in Northern Ireland, unequivocally reported that the Prime Minister had made a direct link between early release and participation in the Executive. They also reported that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) had said that the Prime Minister promised plain and direct legislation making the same link. The Northern Ireland Office must have been aware of the media reports, yet issued no denial.
§ Mr. Maclean
My hon. Friend is right: we all knew what was happening. Many of us took the Prime Minister at his word—although we may have learnt better now. Tonight may go down as a watershed, not as regards Northern Ireland, but as regards the Prime Minister. Even the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) knows that the Prime Minister's interpretation was within the spirit of the agreement, but his advice to his party this evening was to ignore what the Prime Minister said because it would not be helpful. I say that what the Prime Minister said was helpful, and that we are entitled to take the word of a British Prime Minister, especially when it is entirely consistent with the Good Friday agreement.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is not the first time a British Prime Minister has used words genuinely that have been believed by all, only to have the Northern Ireland Office turn those words around?
§ Mr. Maclean
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. No doubt he will have evidence for that, but not much immediately comes to mind. I suspect that, in all these things, our memories are often short-lived or highly selective. However, the memory that I am recalling tonight is that of 6 May. Ulster Unionist Members and Democratic Unionist Members will have clear memories of the Prime Minister visiting Northern Ireland, and of the reports in the Northern Ireland press.
Again, I ask the Government to produce any information or any press reports that suggested, after the Prime Minister made speeches in Northern Ireland or a speech in the House, that he had got it wrong—that he had exceeded his brief, that he had rewritten the agreement or that he had overstepped the mark. Of course there were no such reports, not only because Government spin doctors were at work, but because most people, including Opposition Members—including me—believed that the 92 Prime Minister's interpretation was perfectly correct. It was perfectly correct, in the spirit of the agreement, to link the release of prisoners with substantial decommissioning. I do not recall thinking at the time, "Goodness me, he has got that wrong, but it is a jolly good thing." Of course no one thought that the Prime Minister had got it wrong; we all thought that, in interpreting the agreement, he had got it right. Tonight's tragedy is that the Government have produced a Bill that does not carry that promise into law.
I find it extraordinary that we are in this position—a position which has undermined the Prime Minister's credibility on this issue, and may undermine his credibility on others. If we are to have peace in Northern Ireland, it must—as the Secretary of State repeatedly said—be built on confidence on all sides. How can we have confidence in the terrorist organisations concluding their part of the bargain if we cannot have confidence in the British Prime Minister honouring his?
§ Marjorie Mowlam
Is the right hon. Gentleman comparing the British Prime Minister to a terrorist organisation?
§ Mr. Maclean
No; the reverse. That is the point that I am making to the right hon. Lady. How can we have confidence in terrorist organisations when the word of the person whom we should have confidence in—the British Prime Minister—is not being embodied by the right hon. Lady in her legislation? She is making the opposite point to the one that I was endeavouring to make.
I trusted the word of the Prime Minister when he gave it in the House on 6 May. Nearly everyone did so—the people of Northern Ireland, the British press and, probably, every Opposition Member. I again ask the Secretary of State and the British Government to produce evidence from the press on the following day or to produce evidence from the Northern Ireland press showing that people thought that the Prime Minister was being disingenuous when he made his comment. We all believed it to be correct. What we believed to be correct then—a correct interpretation of the agreement, and a perfectly legitimate drafting of the legislation, linking decommissioning and the release of prisoners—has not been carried into the Bill. Why?
I ask the Government: what has changed? Is it a new threat from Sinn Fein-IRA or Ulster Defence Association terrorists? What has changed to make the Government backtrack on what the Prime Minister solemnly promised the House and the people of Northern Ireland?
A peace deal that is built on conning the public will not succeed. I say again to the Secretary of State that if we cannot convince the legitimate, law-abiding parties standing for election in Northern Ireland that the Prime Minister's word is to be trusted, how can we expect the terrorist organisations—people whom we do not trust to begin with—to honour the commitment to the spirit of the agreement, when it is open to them to turn round and say, "Ah, but the British Prime Minister did not honour the spirit of it either"?
§ Mr. Willis
Considering that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) was a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office—
§ Mr. Willis
My apologies to the right hon. Gentleman; he was a Home Office Minister. However, I still find his remarks on clause 3, which is an important part of the Bill, very sad indeed.
In May, whether the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and other hon. Members on the Ulster Unionist Bench and the Democratic Unionist Bench agree with it or not, 71 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland voted in favour of the Northern Ireland agreement. They voted for the agreement set out in the document that I am holding; they did not vote for what the Prime Minister may or may not have said.
Every member of the public of Northern Ireland of voting age had a copy of the agreement. They were entitled to discuss it, and every Member of the House clearly understood that the referendum took place on the basis of that agreement. It was on the basis of that agreement that 71 per cent. of the people in Northern Ireland voted in favour, and they sent a clear message to politicians on both sides of the House that they wanted the spirit of the agreement to be enacted in legislation, so that the peace process could move forward. That was the reality.
The agreement is not a legal document as such. It is not something that lawyers could pore over, to question every word, cross every "t" and dot every "i". The people who sat around the table—the people who, for two years, talked and talked and talked while other hon. Members absented themselves from those talks—were the people who made the agreement, and it was they who decided, at the end of the day, that they wanted those principles to be enacted. The agreement is an act of faith, and the people of Northern Ireland will not forgive hon. Members if they decide to nit-pick over its bones instead of dealing with some of its substance. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nit-pick?"] There were clearly two major issues—
§ The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
Order. There can be only one contribution at a time. Mr. Phyllis? Mr. Willis.
§ Mr. Willis
Mr. Willis is even better, Mr. Martin. My kids all used to say that at school, by the way. I agree that there was a lot of noise; it was like being at the Tunisia-England match.
As has rightly been said, two major issues were facing the process as it moved forward: decommissioning and prisons. If it had been necessary to produce a Bill that was so precise that every word of every clause needed to be debated, it would never have passed through the House and the whole process would have died. Those hon. Members who, tonight, want that to happen, have made their arguments very clearly indeed. Their hidden agenda has nothing to do with carrying forward the spirit of the agreement; they are basically asking, "How can we wreck this?"
It is very sad that the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) and the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) tabled and voted on amendments that were obviously at the margins, because the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) is absolutely right: the amendments, especially amendment No. 1, would not 94 achieve the official Opposition's stated aim—to enshrine in legislation the link between decommissioning and the release of prisoners. The editorial in The Times may agree with Front-Bench Members of the official Opposition that those were not wrecking amendments, but many Members and many people in Northern Ireland will see them as wrecking.
§ Mr. Moss
If the hon. Gentleman reads amendment No. 1 carefully, he will see that it contains a phrase taken from the section on prisoners on page 25 of the agreement. That relates to maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. Amendment No. 1 takes from the section on decommissioning a similar form of words. We have not rewritten the agreement at all.
§ Mr. Willis
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. He is trying to wreck the agreement by default, but he is not doing it as clearly as the hon. Member for North Antrim and his party would like him to do it.
The attack on the Prime Minister tonight is shameful, but if the Opposition wanted to make a clear link between decommissioning and the release of prisoners, they should have tabled an amendment honestly. Instead, they are tinkering at the edges and addressing a different audience, who will not thank them if the process starts to go off the rails.
It is clear that when the Prime Minister went to Northern Ireland, the yes vote was flagging. His speech at Balmoral, which was his interpretation of the agreement, is a striking example of what happens when one tries to interpret a document such as the Belfast agreement. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is the need to ensure that that document in its entirety forms the basis of the peace deal in Northern Ireland. We support it, and we shall support the Government if there is a Division on clause stand part.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. William Ross
I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis), and it is a pleasure to follow him. You have no idea, Mr. Martin, how great a pleasure it is to follow him. He is one of the best hands at digging holes with a JCB whom I have ever met in my life. He told us that the Bill was the Prime Minister's interpretation of the agreement, but, in the light of what has been said this evening, it is not the interpretation of the Government Front Bench, is it? That is a different kettle of fish. The entire debate has focused on that point, and the election in Northern Ireland will ultimately be fought and decided on the same point.
§ Mr. Ross
I am not politicking. I am not even standing in the election, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. I am not a member of the party of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), which the hon. Gentleman should also know. Perhaps his education is not yet complete.
We were told that there had to be an unequivocal ceasefire. That is what the Bill states, and it seems to follow on from the cessation of violence—a term which 95 was so beloved of the IRA leadership after the first ceasefire: just a cessation of violence, not a cessation of all violence.
I am sure that every day a list of the violent incidents that have taken place overnight in Northern Ireland is handed to the Secretary of State and her Ministers. They know that scarcely a night goes by without violent assaults. Some may be drug related and some just the private settling of scores, but many are paramilitary in nature. There is not a complete cessation of violence. Those carrying out the assaults may not be the Provisional IRA—they are just the subcontractors, but they spring from the same evil well.
The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough said that the Prime Minister had one interpretation of the agreement. The Prime Minister may have a commitment to substantial decommissioning of weapons, which include not just guns but explosives, anti-aircraft missiles and so on. One would have thought that the Prime Minister was well aware of what was in an agreement to which he had put his name, and what was in the Bill when it was being printed. I am sure that he was consulted and that his advisers told him what it meant. However, whenever the Prime Minister insists that he has to fulfil his undertakings, we are told that he is rewriting the agreement. That is said not only by hon. Members from different parties on this Bench, but by a leading member of his own party who is an apologist in the House for the nationalist viewpoint, the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara).
We are told also that there are new preconditions. That is the language used by Mr. Adams and Mr. McGuinness. We are told that they and others are not fulfilling the spirit of the agreement. Judging from what I have heard today, the agreement appears to have half a dozen different spirits that say different things. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough got it right on at least one issue when he said that it is the words in the agreement that count. That is exactly what the republican movement, the IRA-Sinn Fein spokesmen and nationalist Members in this place have said time after time. However, the people of Northern Ireland were given a completely different view of the issue: they thought that their concern had been laid to rest by the words of the Prime Minister, but clearly it has not.
Those of us who live in Northern Ireland know that whenever IRA-Sinn Fein have looked at any Government statement, they have taken it away and scrutinised it, not so much line by line as word by word. They have analysed every statement down to the last dotted "i" and crossed "t" in an effort to determine not only what it meant but all the possible meanings. That is what they did with this agreement, which is why they were able to tell their people that it was a good agreement for Irish nationalism, and that they should vote for it.
I believe that many people in Northern Ireland were misled, but that the scales are now falling from their eyes. By trying to push something that was not so and giving a false impression to the people of Northern Ireland, we have not created a better situation: we have created a situation that is not inherently but certainly far worse than 96 that which we faced three months ago. We shall live to regret this Bill, just as we shall live to regret this agreement—of that I have no doubt whatsoever.
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)
I think that all hon. Members would agree that this clause goes to the heart of the Bill.
§ Mr. Howarth
I have not been in the Chamber throughout, but I have been present for a fair part of the Committee's consideration of the Bill. Perhaps the Secretary of State might do me the courtesy of correcting her comment—but there is no point in arguing about who was here when.
The point is that the clause goes to the heart of the Bill. So far as the British people are concerned, the linkage between the release of terrorists and the decommissioning of weapons is at the heart of the search for peace in Northern Ireland. It is no use the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) saying that we should take a leap of faith and put our trust completely in the good faith of the parties involved. It is not the job of Parliament to legislate on the basis of good faith: it is our job to ensure that we pass legislation that gives clear guidance to the people of this country and to the courts in the interpretation of the law. That is what we must achieve.
There is no doubt—I hope the Secretary of State will acknowledge it—that the peace process in which she, the Government and the parties were involved was in serious threat of being derailed. As hon. Members—particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean)—have pointed out, the Prime Minister's personal intervention and his assurances to the law-abiding majority in Northern Ireland that there would be a linkage between the decommissioning of weapons and the release of prisoners led to the referendum result in which the people of Northern Ireland endorsed the agreement by a substantial margin.
As we now examine the details, we are being invited to discard the Prime Minister's commitment to the people and to return to and rely on the agreement itself—which is essentially an act of faith. It is galling to the people of Britain to see those who wish to take part in the democratic process in Northern Ireland holding their convention and welcoming as heroes to that gathering men who had slain in cold blood their fellow citizens who held a contrary view. Some of those terrorists and murderers have murdered friends of mine, and friends of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
I am afraid that we will need more than an assurance that a reliance upon the good faith of those people will be sufficient to persuade us that the Government have put in place a programme that will result in the decommissioning of weapons—the condition whereby most people in the country will accept something that is otherwise unpalatable to them: the release of those who have perpetrated crimes of despicable violence.
The Secretary of State needs to understand that there appears to us to be a lack of clear linkage between not 97 only the agreement and the Prime Minister's words, but between the agreement and the Bill. The agreement refers to the parties confirmingtheir intention to continue to work constructively and in good faith with the Independent Commission, and to use any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement.In other words, within two years, that decommissioning must have taken place.
The Bill does not say that that process will get under way. We require the kind of linkage proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), or the even more specific proposal in amendment No. 28, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border. He has suggested that in addition to the four conditions in the Bill, there should be a fifth and a sixth. The fifth is that the terrorist organisation to which a prisoner belongs has substantially decommissioned weapons. If the Government wish to reassure the British people that there is a clear linkage, I do not see why they have a problem with that—or why they have resisted the amendments.
The Government have made it clear that there is a specific requirement that the release of prisoners will coincide with the actual decommissioning of weapons. If those weapons are not decommissioned, it may be that the organisations that currently hold them will wish to renounce violence. However, there is a severe risk that those weapons will fall into the hands of others who do not belong to any current organisation. New organisations will be created in place of those who have caused torment and tyranny in Northern Ireland for the past generation.
The only answer is for the Secretary of State to come to the House with proposals that will result in the removal and destruction of those weapons. Unless they are destroyed, I can assure her that there will not be peace.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
When the Belfast agreement was signed by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, it was judged to have been a great achievement—until it became apparent that it was being interpreted in different ways by almost everybody who had signed up to it. Each of them was able to go back to their constituencies and argue that the agreement meant this, that or the other.
Until this moment, it was not possible to have any independent adjudication of whose story was accurate and who had properly interpreted the agreement. Sooner or later, there had to be a moment when the arrangements within the agreement were brought into legislation.
The Bill is but the first example of that, and, given the dramatic U-turn by the Prime Minister in relation to his commitments to the people of Northern Ireland on the linking of prior decommissioning and the release of terrorist prisoners, it can hardly be a surprise to any hon. Member that he has decided that it would be appropriate to leave until after the assembly elections are out of the way the publication of the settlement Bill, which will give effect—or, perhaps, will not give effect—to his other pledges to the people of Northern Ireland. I warn the people of Northern Ireland that just as the Prime Minister has welshed on the promises relating to the Bill, he will welsh on the promises relating to the settlement Bill.
98 9.15 pm
The Prime Minister made two commitments to the people of Northern Ireland on the Bill. We have dealt with one, in respect of the prior decommissioning requirement, to a considerable extent, but there was another: the fifth of his handwritten pledges—that prisoners would be kept in unless violence was given up for good. It is unfortunate that our amendment No. 39 was not chosen for debate, because it included the permanency of the arrangement as a factor to be taken into account. I pointed out on Second Reading that a complete ceasefire is, and has proved to be, very different from a permanent ceasefire. The IRA called a complete cessation of its violence before Canary Wharf, but it was not a permanent cessation, as Canary Wharf, Manchester, Thiepval barracks and a number of other atrocities clearly showed.
The Prime Minister has not kept those commitments. There is no permanency about the requirement for a ceasefire in the Bill, and many people in Northern Ireland will already be realising that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and Northern Ireland Office Ministers were happy for the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, the Belfast News Letter, the Belfast Telegraph, the BBC and Ulster Television to retail those commitments to the people of Northern Ireland as a firm, concrete assurance that there would be decommissioning before any prisoner releases. There was not a word of objection from the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister to those undertakings being given in that spirit, through the media, to the people of Northern Ireland.
It simply is not good enough for the Liberal Democrat spokesman to say that the Prime Minister noticed that the campaign was flagging and, at the same time, that 71 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland voted because they had read the agreement, and that their vote was only on the agreement and nothing to do with any assurances that they had been given. How can he say, on the one hand, that the campaign was flagging and, obviously, the Prime Minister was able to bolster it, and, on the other, that the Prime Minister's commitments did not make the difference to the size of the referendum vote? Of course they did. The agreement and the undertakings that the Prime Minister gave cannot be separated.
§ Mr. Hunter
Following those points, is not it worth recalling that, in May and June, after the general election, the Prime Minister agreed to terms offered by Sinn Fein-IRA for another ceasefire—terms that my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) had declined on two occasions? They included the downgrading of the decommissioning issue, in sharp contrast to the Prime Minister's pledges during his visit to Belfast on 14 May?
§ Mr. Robinson
The hon. Gentleman makes his point well. In respect of the clause, the key issue is that the changes would require the "good faith" of the paramilitary organisations up front, before they were given tangible rewards from the agreement. The people of Northern Ireland have the right to know that something is coming from the paramilitary organisations, rather than always having to take them on trust as they get concession after concession from the Government, at the expense of the people of Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State will regret her action tonight. Her refusal to accept amendments that would have fulfilled the promises of her Prime Minister and mine is 99 a step which she will regret in the days and months ahead. The Bill will stand as a testament of the Prime Minister's broken pledges and the conning of the Northern Ireland electorate. Many will consider that they were deceived into voting yes on assurances given by the Prime Minister about what would happen as a result of the Bill, but which did not occur.
§ Mr. Donaldson
I very much regret the Government's failure to accept many amendments that have been moved today. Although I want peace, stability and progress in Northern Ireland, a process that is built on the basis of concessions to terrorism with no requirement on terrorists to end violence, dismantle their organisations and decommission their weapons will not deliver real peace.
I predict that the agreement will not deliver peace. The men of violence will pocket the concessions and, when the need arises, will return to violence because the agreement does not require them to end their violence for good. I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). I know from speaking to many people in Northern Ireland that they voted for the agreement on the basis of the Prime Minister's assurances. For the Liberal Democrat spokesman to suggest otherwise shows how little he has been to Northern Ireland and talked to the people. Had he been there more often, he would understand that the Prime Minister's words made a big impact in the campaign. He should at least read the newspapers, which made it clear that the Prime Minister's words had an enormous impact on how the people of Northern Ireland voted on the agreement. Simply to dismiss that by saying, "Oh, but they only voted on the agreement" misses the point completely.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Is it not strange that, on Second Reading, Labour Members freely admitted that the Prime Minister's visits and pledges brought about the majority yes vote?
§ Mr. Donaldson
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that comment.
We shall not try to hide the fact that once again the Government are fudging the decommissioning issue. We shall not be party to such a fudge. We shall make it clear to the people of Northern Ireland that the Government are fudging the decommissioning issue, just as it was fudged throughout the talks process. The Mitchell report and the report of the international body on decommissioning recommended decommissioning alongside the talks. I participated in those talks, right through to the end. I know what happened, and I know that the Government never pressed for the decommissioning of arms during the talks process. They continually sidelined the issue.
The Liberal Democrat spokesman tells us to have faith, but if it is based on the Government's past actions, and given that they have fudged the decommissioning issue throughout the process, what faith can we have? The ambiguity that surrounds decommissioning and its linkage with the release of prisoners is evidence that it will be fudged once again. The terrorists will not be required to decommission, and prisoners will be released this summer. They will walk onto the streets without a single gun, bullet or, to quote Danny Morrison, the rust on the rifles, having been decommissioned.
100 When the House returns in the autumn after the summer recess and we hear a report from the Secretary of State telling us how many prisoners have been released, I wonder what she will tell the House about the progress of decommissioning. How many rifles will have been handed over? We are told that we must trust the terrorists to deliver on their side of the bargain. This is not an act of faith: it is an Act of Parliament. Parliament has the right to interpret the agreement so as to provide the law of the United Kingdom, because this is the Government and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Why should we be beholden to terrorist organisations? Why should not the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom determine of its own free will that it will require terrorist organisations to hand in their weapons, and that until they do so their prisoners will stay in prison. Are the Government no longer responsible for prisons?
Surely it is within the Government's capacity to ensure that decommissioning is required, and that it has commenced and is on-going before prisoners are released. The people of Northern Ireland who have suffered at the hands of terrorists will witness terrorist prisoners being released, but no guns will be handed in. Why? Because that is not required by the legislation. That is a huge mistake.
I say to hon. Members who support the agreement that, in the days, months and years ahead, when the process is floundering, they will regret the fact that we did not require the terrorists to deliver peace. If we leave the terrorists to deliver peace of their own free will, it will not happen. We should not provide the carrot and not have the stick. That is the reality when dealing with terrorism. The terrorists will take the carrots as they have always done. They will pocket the concessions, but they will not deliver their side of the bargain.
The House is asking the people of Northern Ireland to trust the Secretary of State to halt the release of prisoners in the course of time, when the guns have not been handed in. Can we rely on the Secretary of State to do that? Will she give us a firm commitment or, dare I say it, a pledge that, if the guns are not being handed in, she, as the person responsible, will halt the release of terrorist prisoners? As she has not accepted our amendments, will she give a pledge to the House and to the people of Northern Ireland that, in the absence of guns being handed in, she will halt the release of terrorist prisoners? I await her answer.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
It is my choice, and I shall answer the questions as well as I can in the time permitted.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said that we were trying to delay the settlement Bill to prevent the House from seeing what it contains. The hon. Gentleman should pause for a moment and consider the amount of legislation relating to Northern Ireland that we have got through the House in the past year. This is our fifth Bill.
The settlement Bill could not be written before the Good Friday agreement. The parties had to agree to it, and it had to be followed by the referendum on 22 May. 101 We have had a very short time to draw up that Bill. I should like to pay tribute to the civil servants who have worked hard to get it into the required form so that it can come to the House in time to fulfil the Good Friday agreement promises. We are doing all we can to ensure that we honour what the people of Northern Ireland have, by consent, chosen as the way forward to reach an accommodation with which they can all live. That Bill is being drafted, and we shall get it to the House as soon as we can.
The hon. Members for Belfast, East and for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) questioned whether the words of the agreement addressed the link between decommissioning and the release of prisoners.
Let me read again what is in the agreement. The Bill states:the Secretary of State shall in particular take into account whether an organisation is committed to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve its objectives … has ceased to be involved in any acts of violence or of preparation for violence …is directing or promoting acts of violence committed by other organisations … is co-operating fully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act".That clearly establishes a link. It is in line with the words used by the Prime Minister on 16 and 14 May. People asked the Prime Minister to put his words into the Bill, and we have done so.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
No. [Interruption.] Hon. Members can either ask me to answer questions, or ask me to spend my time giving way. I shall endeavour to answer the questions.
The hon. Member for Lagan Valley spoke of what he described as the concessions given to paramilitaries. That is not the case; what we are doing is implementing the agreement.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
Let me say this. Accelerated prisoner releases are part of the agreement. As the hon. Gentleman knows better than many hon. Members, the agreement contains a number of sections —on a devolved assembly, a north-south ministerial council, accelerated release of prisoners, a review of the police, and the need for a commission to consider the best way forward. It also contains a number of elements relating to equality and human rights, and recommends the establishment of an equality commission.
We have said all along that people cannot cherry-pick. They cannot choose only the bits they like; everyone must sign up to the whole thing. That is what happened. Obviously there are parts that the hon. Member for Lagan Valley finds it difficult to accept, and I understand and respect his feelings, but, as I have said, we cannot accept the bits we like and reject the bits we do not like, and hope that it will succeed. Progress will be made only if, on the basis of the agreement, confidence can be established that everyone will get some of what they want, and no one will get 100 per cent. of what they want.
102 This is not about prejudging the situation, as the hon. Gentleman suggested. Of course trust needs to be created, but there is a link: the Prime Minister's words have been put into the Bill, as we have said they would be, and to describe the position otherwise is to misrepresent it —as the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) tried to do.
The Prime Minister said very clearly that he would put his words into the Bill, and we have done that. It is outrageous to suggest that the Prime Minister has done otherwise. [Interruption.] You Opposition Members may interpret the position differently. I ask you to read what was said on 16 May.
§ The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
Order. The right hon. Lady should not involve me in the argument.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
I apologise, Mr. Martin.
Let us look at what the Prime Minister said on 16 and 14 May, and compare it with the Bill. Judging from what Opposition Members have said, I do not think that they have done that, but I tell them that the words are there. It is wrong to suggest that the Prime Minister has failed to keep his promises on Northern Ireland. In his written pledge to the people of Northern Ireland, he said:No prisoners released unless violence has been given up for good.As I explained earlier, that is the fundamental test underlying the agreement. It is reflected in the need for a complete and unequivocal ceasefire that is set out in the clause.
Those who said that the Prime Minister had swung the referendum vote were probably right. I do not doubt that he increased the yes vote: his 14 May speech in Belfast marked a crucial turning point. Opposition Members suggested that that made all the difference, but the vote was positive anyway. To suggest that the Prime Minister's speech was the overwhelming criterion is unrealistic. Unfortunately, some hon. Members seem not to have read the speech in detail. Far from departing from it or fudging it, the Government have taken care to reflect clearly and directly the exact terms of its undertakings.
I have here a copy of the Prime Minister's speech. Opposition Members quoted from it, and I have been trying to find the parts that they quoted, but I do not think that their remarks reflected in any way what the Prime Minister said. He said:In clarifying whether the terms and spirit of the agreement are being met and whether violence is genuinely given up for good, there are a range of factors to be taken into account.Those factors are listed in the Bill: the Prime Minister's words are in the Bill. His four factors included full co-operation …
§ Marjorie Mowlam
No. I have told other hon. Members that I want to answer the questions that have been asked. The hon. Gentleman could have spoken earlier, but obviously chose not to do so.
103 The Prime Minister's four factors included full co-operation with the independent commission on decommissioning to implement the agreement's provisions.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
It is depressing that the hon. Gentleman finds it necessary to issue threats. I shall not give way.
The Prime Minister's first factor —full co-operation with the independent commission on decommissioning to implement the agreement's provisions—is reflected in clause 3(9)(d).
The hon. Member for Basingstoke asked about the relationship between proscription and specifying organisations in the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State, the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) has said, proscription is concerned with the purposes of an organisation, and the Bill is concerned with the adequacy of the ceasefire. There is no conflict between those definitions.
The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) spoke movingly about the victims of the troubles. I know the hon. Gentleman's background, and I understand his feelings on the issue. We have visited, known or had experience of families who have suffered as a result of the troubles. But nobody has a monopoly on suffering; in last week's debate suffering was almost traded, and that was rather distasteful. The Good Friday agreement has the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, and it is an attempt to ensure that no more of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in the forces, or people in Northern Ireland, will have to go through such pain.
We have a chance to make the agreement work, but many hon. Members think that it will not. It is the best chance we have had for many years for a settlement in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Aldershot spoke about the violence of splinter groups. I agree that there is such violence, that it is disruptive, and that those groups want to destroy the peace process. The one way in which we can make sure that they do not is to keep up security, because the Government's first job is to protect the people of Northern Ireland. I guarantee that that will continue, but we must also show that there is an alternative way forward.
There must be accommodation and discussion, and the agreement is the first step in that direction. I do not say that we have arrived, because there is much building to be done, and confidence and trust to be put in place, but I hope that the agreement will enable people to take a positive step in the right direction.
The hon. Member for Aldershot also said several times that the Prime Minister's comments on 6 May and 14 May are not in the Bill, as did the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean). They tried to 104 portray the Prime Minister as having been less than honest, and to say that he had deceived people. They should look at his speeches, at what is in the Bill, and at the commitment that he has put into getting the process to where it is. This is an attempt to make political capital out of the situation rather than change it. [Interruption.] Conservative Members may say that that is not the case, but that is what it feels like.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
Let me finish the point; then I shall certainly give way.
I have no desire to fall out with the Opposition. In opposition, I was clear that bipartisanship made a difference. It helped no end as we worked together. Despite the aggression that has often come from Conservative Members, I hope that we can have our differences on this even though we fundamentally agree that it is the way forward, and try to move the process forward. I hope that that is possible.
§ Mr. Moss
I am most grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way. I have a simple question. In clause 3, the Government have attempted to define a terrorist organisation. Our amendment No. (d) uses the wordsis committed to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations and the achievement of the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms … by 22nd May 2000.How does that differ fundamentally from the words in the agreement on decommissioning:All participants accordingly reaffirm their commitment to the total disarmament of all paramilitary organisations … to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years"?That is 22 May 2000.
§ Marjorie Mowlam
We are not going to get very far by reading parts of the Bill to each other. We have faithfully represented in the Bill the agreement that was signed and the comments that the Prime Minister made. Opposition Members can try to imply differently, but we have acted in good faith in the Bill, in line with the reassurances that the Prime Minister gave on the agreement. That is why we have not accepted the amendments.
§ Mr. Winnick
My right hon. Friend said that she wants to work with the Opposition. Does she remember the many occasions when we were in opposition when we could have made mileage out of the Government's position, such as when they were conducting contacts with the IRA without any ceasefire? We refused to do that, because we believed that Government and Opposition should work together in the interests of Northern Ireland. Should not they learn that lesson?
§ Marjorie Mowlam
I thank my hon. Friend. I agree. I am trying tonight not to indulge in what some sections of the Opposition want us to do: to show a difference. I said "some sections", because I do not believe that my discussions with those on the Opposition Front Bench are fully played out by Back-Bench Members. That, I think, is the situation. I have avoided pointing out the contradictions with what has happened in the past, because I want to look to the future in Northern Ireland, not live in the past.
§ Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 221, Noes 10.106
|Division No. 303]||[9.43 pm|
|Ainger, Nick||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Allan, Richard||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Gerrard, Neil|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Ashton, Joe||Godsiff, Roger|
|Ballard, Jackie||Goggins, Paul|
|Banks, Tony||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Barron, Kevin||Gorrie, Donald|
|Bayley, Hugh||Grant, Bernie|
|Beard, Nigel||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Bell, Martin (Tatton)||Grogan, John|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Best, Harold||Hancock, Mike|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Hanson, David|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Harvey, Nick|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Browne, Desmond||Healey, John|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Burden, Richard||Heppell, John|
|Burgon, Colin||Hesford, Stephen|
|Burstow, Paul||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Hope, Phil|
|Byers, Stephen||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Hurst, Alan|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Hutton, John|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Canavan, Dennis||Ingram, Adam|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|Chaytor, David||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Chidgey, David||Jamieson, David|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Jenkins, Brian|
|Church, Ms Judith||Johnson, Miss Melanie|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Clelland, David||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Clwyd, Ann||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Coleman, Iain||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Colman, Tony||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Cooper, Yvette||Kemp, Fraser|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Cotter, Brian||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Cousins, Jim||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Cox, Tom||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Leslie, Christopher|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Levitt, Tom|
|Cummings, John||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Darvill, Keith||Love, Andrew|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Dismore, Andrew||McDonnell, John|
|Dobson, Rt Hon Frank||McFall, John|
|Donohoe, Brian H||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Dowd, Jim||McIsaac, Shona|
|Drew, David||McKenna, Mrs Rosemary|
|Edwards, Huw||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Efford, Clive||McNamara, Kevin|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||McNulty, Tony|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||McWalter, Tony|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||McWilliam, John|
|Flynn, Paul||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Follett, Barbara||Mallaber, Judy|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Gapes, Mike||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Gardiner, Barry||Martlew, Eric|
|Maxton, John||Savidge, Malcolm|
|Meale, Alan||Sawford, Phil|
|Merron, Gillian||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Michael, Alun||Sheerman, Barry|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Milburn, Alan||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Miller, Andrew||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Mitchell, Austin||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Soley, Clive|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Mudie, George||Stunell, Andrew|
|Mullin, Chris||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||(Dewsbury)|
|Norris, Dan||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Olner, Bill||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Osborne, Ms Sandra||Tipping, Paddy|
|Pearson, Ian||Todd, Mark|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Pickthall, Colin||Touhig, Don|
|Pike, Peter L||Truswell, Paul|
|Plaskitt, James||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Pond, Chris||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Pope, Greg||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Pound, Stephen||Tyler, Paul|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Wareing, Robert N|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Watts, David|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Radice, Giles||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Raynsford, Nick||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Willis, Phil|
|Rendel, David||Winnick, David|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Rooker, Jeff||Woolas, Phil|
|Rooney, Terry||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Roy, Frank||Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)|
|Ruane, Chris||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Mr. Kevin Hughes and|
|Sanders, Adrian||Mr. Robert Ainsworth.|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Swayne, Desmond|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Thompson, William|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||Wilkinson, John|
|Maclean, Rt Hon David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Mr. William Ross and|
|Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)||Rev. Martin Smyth|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clauses 4 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ To report progress and ask leave to sit again.— [Mr. Dowd.]
§ Committee report progress; to sit again tomorrow.