HC Deb 05 May 1999 vol 330 cc904-14 12.44 pm
Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) for the additional time that has become available for this debate.

On 12 February 1989, two masked men entered the home of Patrick Finucane and shot him 14 times. He died in front of his three children. His wife Geraldine was also injured, and the Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility for his murder. It was another brutal atrocity in the saga of killings and violence that has scarred the Six Counties of Northern Ireland for the past 30 years.

However, what is different about Patrick' s murder is that a catalogue of evidence has been amassed that points towards its being the result of collusion between British security and intelligence forces and loyalist terrorist organisations.

The background to the murder appeared to be straightforward. Patrick Finucane was born in 1949, in the Falls road in Belfast. He came from within the Six Counties' Catholic and nationalist tradition. After his family were forced out of their home by loyalists at the start of the troubles, he became a student at Trinity college, Dublin. After completing his degree, he returned to Belfast to study law and eventually qualified as a solicitor. He commenced his practice in 1979.

As a solicitor, he represented Catholic and Protestant alike. However, there is no doubt that he gained a reputation for his highly professional competence in representing members of the nationalist community seeking protection in law from human rights abuses; nor is there any doubt that Patrick and fellow lawyers representing clients seeking to secure their rights in law were resented by certain groups among the authorities.

Less than four weeks before Patrick's murder, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), then an Under-Secretary at the Home Office, said that, in Northern Ireland, there were "a number of solicitors" who were "unduly sympathetic" to the cause of the IRA. He added that that statement was made on the basis of "advice" and "guidance" from people "dealing with the matters".

I do not say this lightly, but I know of no more dangerous a statement to the House from a Minister of the Crown. The statement, in effect, was a declaration to some elements in the loyalist organisations that human rights lawyers in Northern Ireland were legitimate targets. For Patrick Finucane, it was the pronouncement of a sentence of death.

Of course, the statement outraged the nationalist community and the legal profession in Northern Ireland. On the very best interpretation, it was an act of such reckless misjudgment that it put in danger the lives and safety of many brave men and women who were upholding the best traditions of the legal profession in the most adverse conditions.

However, the charges of British state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane do not rest on the culpability of a Minister. They rest on a series of disclosures about the British security forces in Northern Ireland that have come to light in recent years. The first such disclosure came with the arrest and conviction of Brian Nelson for conspiracy to murder in the early 1990s, following an inquiry by John Stevens, a Metropolitan police officer. John Stevens was brought into Northern Ireland by the then Government to investigate the release to loyalist paramilitaries of Royal Ulster Constabulary files on supposed suspects, and following the outcry after the murder of Loughlin Maginn.

A summary of the report by Mr. Stevens was released in May 1990, but the full report has never been published. In fact, it is a near-miracle that the report was completed at all. A fire gutted the office of the investigation team, which was sited in heavily guarded RUC barracks outside Carrickfergus. All the files that Stevens had accumulated relating to Brian Nelson were destroyed. Although the Stevens team later stated that they had arranged for the back-up storage of some material before the fire, I believe that not all the files have been fully identified.

Stevens discovered that military intelligence agents were being used in the Ulster Defence Association. Senior British Army officers at first denied that the Army ran any agents at all, but for the first four months of the inquiry they concealed 1,100 documents from the inquiry team. They handed them over only when Brian Nelson revealed their existence to the Stevens team. As a result of the inquiry, two Ulster Defence Regiment members were convicted in relation to the killing of Loughlin Maginn. However, no one was charged with conspiracy to murder—except Brian Nelson, whose central role in the wider picture as an agent of British intelligence was exposed.

The Stevens inquiry exposed Brian Nelson's role as an agent of British military intelligence. He was placed as a senior intelligence officer in the UDA. The Stevens inquiry did not look fully into collusion, as it was restricted to considering the leaking or release of RUC documents to terrorist squads.

Nelson described his role as a British military intelligence agent in his journal, which was exposed on BBC's "Panorama" in June 1992. The information contained in the journal was largely confirmed when classified Army files were brought to light by a journalist, John Ware, in an article in theNew Statesman in 1998. It is clear that Nelson served as a chief intelligence officer of the UDA. He infiltrated the UDA through the actions of the British security forces.

According to a British colonel—Colonel J—who gave evidence at Nelson's trial, the UDA had been persuaded to centralise its targeting of IRA suspects, as they were described, through Nelson. It was persuaded to concentrate on known IRA activists. John Ware, in the New Statesman, described how Nelson operated. He said that Nelson assisted the targeting of IRA activists by compiling personality cards—P cards, as they were called. Those cards listed the target's address, associates and identification details, and they included a photograph.

When a target was selected for assassination—often by Nelson himself—Nelson passed the P card to the hit squad. Nelson, however, often did not know precisely when the assassin would strike. From the moment he passed on the P card, he and the British security handlers had lost control of the exercise.

In the case of Patrick Finucane, Nelson was asked to gather information weeks before the murder. He informed British intelligence officers—his handlers—of the request He passed a photograph of Patrick Finucane to a UDA member, Eric McKee, a few days before the killing. Loyalist sources claim that Nelson reconnoitred the Finucane home with the killers before the attack.

Despite the warning given by Brian Nelson to the British intelligence services, Patrick Finucane was not informed of the threat to his life. A similar and simultaneous threat against another prominent lawyer, Paddy McGrory, was not relayed until two months after Patrick Finucane's death. Nelson was never charged in connection with the killing. His claims have never been examined in open court. No one has been prosecuted for the murder of Patrick Finucane. No one has been charged in connection with the murder, but three men were charged with possession of the murder weapon.

According to Ed Maloney, a journalist, in The Sunday Tribune, the man who asked Nelson for the photograph of Pat Finucane, and who was subsequently taken to the Finucane home by Nelson, was the head of the UDA's murder gangs. That man served a sentence for possession of scores of leaked documents, along with four others. One of the four was the UDA leader, Tommy Lyttle. All were arrested by the Stevens inquiry team. As at the Nelson trial, a deal was struck preventing full details of collusion between British forces and loyalist murder gangs from coming out in open court.

The Stevens inquiry did not, unfortunately, interview Patrick Finucane's widow, his partner, Peter Madden of the Madden and Finucane legal team, or any of the clients to whom threats had been made against Patrick Finucane. Since the original Stevens investigation, there have been many calls for a further inquiry based on the examination of the available evidence by various bodies.

In April 1998, Param Cumaraswamy, the United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, set out a special review of the Patrick Finucane murder in his report on Northern Ireland. He stated: Although some pointed out that this was only one of hundreds of unresolved murders, the murder of Patrick Finucane is of a different nature. As a high profile lawyer who had tremendous success representing his clients, both before domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights, his murder had a chilling effect on the profession and further undermined public confidence in the judicial system. Solicitors informed the Special Rapporteur that the murder led them either to give up criminal practice entirely or to alter the manner in which they handled terrorist related cases. Thus, the defendant's right to counsel was compromised. It was also learnt that several lawyers armed themselves for self-defence and their houses were equipped with security devices. Principle 17 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provides, 'where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.' If it is true that Brian Nelson informed military intelligence of the UDA's intent to murder Patrick Finucane, as Nelson claims in his prison diary and which seems to be corroborated by the testimony of Colonel J at Nelson's trial, then the Government has violated its duty to safeguard Patrick Finucane. Further, this omission would constitute a violation of article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The outstanding questions surrounding the murder of Patrick Finucane demonstrate the need for an independent judicial inquiry. So long as this murder is unresolved, many in the community will continue to lack confidence in the ability of the Government to dispense justice in a fair and equitable manner.

The rapporteur also revealed that, before Patrick Finucane's murder, Patrick had received a number of death threats from RUC officers, mainly delivered through his clients. One client, Brian Gillen, who received compensation for ill-treatment suffered while in detention, has testified that he was told by an RUC officer, following the filing of a habeas corpus petition by Patrick Finucane, that it would be better if he were dead than defending the likes of you. The RUC threatened to give details of the solicitor and his client to loyalist paramilitaries.

Following Patrick Finucane's defence of Gillen, other clients have testified, numerous death threats were made against him by the RUC. He is reported to have received threatening phone calls at home. On 5 January 1989, five weeks before his death, one client alleged that an RUC officer informed me that my solicitor was working for the IRA, and would meet his end also … He asked me to give Mr. Finucane a message from him … He told me to tell him he is a thug in a suit, a person trying to let on he is doing his job and that he, like every other fenian… bastard, would meet his end.

In January 1999, Mr. Cumaraswamy reiterated his call for a public inquiry. In a further report, the UN rapporteur made clear his view that the Government might have misunderstood the reason for his call for an inquiry. His concern over the murder was over doubts about state collusion—that is, military or RUC collusion. In materials that he had seen, he said, there was at least prima facie evidence of such collusion.

Mr. Cumaraswamy reiterated his earlier call for a royal commission of inquiry into the murder. In his view, on behalf of the UN, Only such an inquiry could finally lay to rest the lingering doubts about this brutal murder, which has had a chilling effect on the independence of the legal profession in Northern Ireland.

The Finucane family has submitted papers to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland listing further information on Patrick Finucane's murder. The Irish Government have examined those papers, and, according to David McKittrick in The Independent on Monday, in a letter to the British Government, enclosing documentary evidence, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister said: I believe the case for a public inquiry is compelling. The allegations serve to undermine confidence in the rule of law. In my view, they can only be answered with confidence — one way or the other—through the mechanism of a public inquiry.

The evidence is building, as is pressure for a public inquiry. There is support for the UN call for an independent judicial inquiry from, among others, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the Committee on Administration of Justice, British Irish Rights Watch and the Law Society of England and Wales.

We are aware that John Stevens has reopened his inquiry and we welcome that, but there is a general view that confidence can be restored only by a full public inquiry. The breadth of the evidence of intelligence collusion between British forces, the RUC and loyalist terrorist squads in the murder of Patrick Finucane demands that sort of public inquiry, but the evidence goes further: it demonstrates that while he was an agent for military intelligence sources Brian Nelson played a role in the supply of arms from South Africa to loyalist murder squads; that he informed his intelligence handlers two years in advance of the supply of the arms; and that, although there was a sweep to obtain those arms, only some were obtained by the security forces and others are being used even today by loyalist murder squads.

Our view is that all the allegations of collusion between the British state and loyalist murder squads warrant inquiry, but I am using today's debate to call for an inquiry specifically into the death of Patrick Finucane. We believe that the Stevens inquiry would be usefully supplemented by a public inquiry summoned by invoking the Tribunals of Inquiry Act 1921, as we had in respect of the investigation of Bloody Sunday.

We all believe that peace requires confidence building. The nationalist community and all those who are searching for a just peace have been battered by the deaths of so many of those who stood up for human rights, including Patrick Finucane and, more recently, Rosemary Nelson. The Irish community in this country and in Ireland have been offended by last week's failure to prosecute anyone for the killing Diarmuid O'Neill and by the long-standing refusal to reach for truth in the case of Patrick Finucane by way of a full public inquiry. Today, I urge the Government to act, not only to secure prosecutions, but to ensure that we arrive at a full and thorough understanding of what happened to Patrick Finucane. If, as we suspect, his death came as a result of collusion between security forces and loyalist murder gangs, that should be exposed, because that exposure will enable us to build the confidence that we need for peace.

Just as a truth commission was established in South Africa, perhaps the search for peace in Northern Ireland will require the establishment of a series of truth commissions to investigate different cases and different issues that affect the whole community. We have appealed for all terrorist organisations to identify the location of the graves of all those who disappeared, so that their families know what happened to them and their minds can be put at rest. If the Lawrence inquiry taught us any lessons, it must be the prime importance of listening to the families of those who have been lost; that is the wish of the Finucane family.

I hope that the Minister will offer a constructive response to the debate. I have seen today's reports in The Independent that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is trying to secure the fullest possible inquiry into the case and that she seeks prosecutions of those who murdered Patrick Finucane. However, I hope that we have not closed our minds to the potential of a full public inquiry, for in that way we may be able to expose the range of collusion that went on.

Let me give one further example. The supply of arms from South Africa to loyalist groups increased the number of assassinations; that was one of the roles played by Brian Nelson. In the six years before the arrival of the South African arms, between 1982 and 1987, 71 people were killed by loyalist murder groups; in the following six years, between 1988 and 1994, 229 people were killed—an increase of more than 300 per cent. Yet British intelligence were given two years' notice of the supply of those arms by Brian Nelson. I believe that there was a degree of collusion involved in the murder of Patrick Finucane that must be exposed, and that doing so might expose a level of collusion that we never dared to expect from the British security services, serving in the name of the British Crown.

1.4 pm

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

My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) has spoken of a tragic event—the murder 10 years ago of Patrick Finucane in front of his family. As he says, a further police inquiry into the murder of Mr. Finucane was announced last week. I shall say more about the background to that investigation in a moment, but the point I need to stress is that I shall not be able to comment on the substance of the issues that are being investigated, as I have to ensure that I say or do nothing that would impede the police inquiry, or any possible future prosecutions. In addition, in relation to the murder, there are on-going civil proceedings in the courts in Northern Ireland, which severely limit how much the Government can say; and there is an on-going case in Strasbourg under the European convention on human rights. Because of that, my hon. Friend will understand why I have to be circumspect in my comments in this debate.

The Government unreservedly condemn the brutal murder of Mr. Finucane, and we are determined that all necessary steps should be taken to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. Certain allegations have been made against the security forces in relation to the murder; likewise, we are determined to ensure that all the allegations are fully and fairly investigated and are seen to be so. As I have mentioned, a police investigation into the murder and related issues is under way, but that does not mean that the Government have closed their mind on what additional action, if any, is necessary in relation to the case. All options remain open. Nothing has been ruled out.

It might be helpful if I were to outline in more detail the background to the recent developments in respect of the murder of Mr. Finucane.

Mr. McDonnell

When my right hon. Friend says that no option has been ruled out, he is explicitly stating that the option of holding a full public inquiry has not been ruled out at this stage.

Mr. Ingram

That is correct, and I shall stress that again later in my speech.

To return to the background of the case, Patrick Finucane, a Belfast solicitor, was murdered in February 1989. The murder was investigated by the police at the time and, although the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland decided that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for murder, three people were charged with and convicted of possession of one of the weapons used in the attack and received sentences of two, three and four years respectively. As my hon. Friend says, unease about the background to the murder has not gone away, and it has been the focus of an on-going campaign over the years.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met Mr. Finucane's widow, Geraldine, on 12 February 1999 and took receipt of a document that contained alleged new evidence prepared by British Irish Rights Watch about the murder of Mr. Finucane. My right hon. Friend gave an assurance that the document would be examined fully, and that is now being done. The Irish Government have now written to us with their assessment of the document—an assessment that has now been widely published, although it would have been inappropriate to discuss the content of that assessment during this debate. My right hon. Friend met Mrs. Finucane again this morning; she also plans to meet the Irish Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs to discuss the Irish Government's representation. As my right hon. Friend said yesterday: I take the situation very, very seriously. I am determined that no option will be excluded. Be assured, I am not going to leave the issue alone… I am not going to let this drop.

Let me now explain the process involved in the examination of the material. After receiving the document, the Government sent it to the RUC and to Mr. John Stevens, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police, asking for their views on the significance of the material. Because the material contained allegations of criminal offences having taken place, we also passed it to the Law Officers. The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland in turn received a copy of the report from the Law Officers.

The Director wrote to the Chief Constable of the RUC on 16 March in regard to the report, asking the Chief Constable to inform him whether it contained facts and information in respect of offences alleged to have been committed against the law of Northern Ireland, which had not been the subject of investigation and report to him, whether by Mr. Stevens or any member of the RUC, and which required investigation by the police. The Director also asked to be informed whether the report contained additional facts and information in regard to offences alleged to have been committed against the law of Northern Ireland which had been the subject of investigation and report to him, whether by Mr. Stevens or any member of the RUC, and which required further investigation by the police.

I recognise that some have criticised the Government for referring the paper to the RUC and Mr. Stevens. However, in doing so, we were not only following up the most effective lines of inquiry to assess the material, but we were legally obliged—I want to stress this —to pass to the police any evidence of criminal offences having been committed. Practical and legal imperatives therefore required us to act in this way. The way in which the RUC then carries out its own criminal investigations is for the Chief Constable to decide, and it would not be appropriate for the Government to interfere in that process. That does not mean that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has ruled out the option of an independent public inquiry.

As I stated earlier in response to an intervention, that option remains open. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is determined to keep developments under review and will not hesitate to act if she concludes that the public interest and the interests of justice require her to do so. For now, however, it is right that the possibility of bringing those responsible to justice in the courts should be pursued.

The Chief Constable announced on 19 March that the British Irish Rights Watch paper had been referred by him to Mr. Stevens for investigation. Mr. Stevens then made an announcement on 28 April about his remit. He said that he would be investigating the murder of Mr. Finucane and associated matters raised by the British Irish Rights Watch report and the report of the United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Mr. Param Cumaraswamy.

In order to progress his investigation, Mr. Stevens has set up an independent team of investigators, with current and former officers from the Metropolitan police service and the Northumbria constabulary. He has called for anyone who can provide information to get in touch. I reiterate and re-emphasise that call today. If people want this investigation brought to a successful conclusion, they should co-operate fully with those responsible for carrying out the investigation.

While there are no RUC officers on his team—

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

Does the Minister think that it would be better if Mrs. Finucane also spoke to Mr. Stevens?

Mr. Ingram

I think that I have made things clear. I have said that anyone who has any information—it is not for me to assess whether someone has information—or who thinks that he or she can help Mr. Stevens in his inquiry, from whatever quarter, should do so. That will help in bringing to justice those responsible for the murder.

I was about to comment on the fact that while there are no RUC officers on Mr. Stevens's team, Mr. Stevens explained that it would have access to RUC information and resources as necessary to support the investigation.

In September 1989, Mr. Stevens, then deputy chief constable of Cambridgeshire, had been appointed by the then RUC Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Annesley, to inquire into allegations of breaches of security by the security forces in Northern Ireland. Mr. Stevens's team had not previously investigated the murder of Mr. Finucane itself, but information emerging from the previous investigations had linked individuals involved in those investigations to the murder.

Mr. Stevens's first investigation had begun after the theft of photo-montages from a Belfast police station. It resulted in 43 convictions and more than 800 years of imprisonment for those convicted. The report of that investigation contained more than 100 recommendations for the handling of security documents and information. All were accepted and they have now been implemented. To quote from the published summary of Mr. Stevens's report, the analysis of the evidence makes it clear that the passing of information to paramilitaries by security force members has been restricted to a small number of individuals. It is neither widespread nor institutionalised.

Mr. McDonnell

I would ask my right hon. Friend to take back to the Government and the Law Officers who would be involved in the decision on this matter the message that part of the restoration of confidence in the overall investigatory processes in Northern Ireland would be assisted by the publication of the full Stevens report rather than just the summary.

Mr. Ingram

That predates this Government taking office. In any event, the documents refer to highly sensitive intelligence material. If they had been put in the public domain, they could have put at risk the lives of those who are acting in the interests of us all in the defence of democracy. Very difficult decisions have to be taken by Governments in the pursuit of democracy and in the defence of it against determined paramilitary and terrorist forces. However, if there is some form of inquiry, public or otherwise—as I have said, nothing is ruled out— it becomes a matter of deciding at that time what is published and what goes into the public domain. I am not at liberty at this stage to say that that should or could happen. It remains a matter for the authorities at that time.

In 1993, following further allegations that had been made, Mr. Stevens was again asked by the then Chief Constable to investigate further matters which related solely to the initial inquiry. Mr. Stevens's second report to the Chief Constable was considered by the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, who concluded that the evidence was insufficient for any further prosecutions to be brought. As I have said, the fact that the new investigation has been established very much limits what I can say about the substance of the recent allegations surrounding the murder of Mr. Finucane. I hope that the current police investigation will leave us in a better position to assess what further action, if any, we need to take.

I emphasise again that no options have been ruled out. That means that a public inquiry has not been excluded as a possible outcome. It is important that every support and encouragement is given to the police in carrying out the current investigation to bring to justice those who murdered Mr. Finucane.

Mr. McDonnell

One of the issues raised in discussions about the potential for an inquiry is the nature of that inquiry. The United Nations rapporteur has made it clear that he would welcome a judicial inquiry. Are there any plans to meet the UN representatives to discuss the potential of an inquiry as an option, and the nature of the inquiry—for example, whether the inquiry should be judicial, whether it should have an international element or whether any other steps should be taken that would at least move the process on in reassuring the UN rapporteur that the Government have taken this matter seriously?

Mr. Ingram

I know of no plans at present to do so. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has met Mr. Cumaraswamy. He was very satisfied with the way in which the Government were dealing with the issues that he raised at that time. I have probably said about three times that nothing has been ruled out. I do not think I can say that more clearly. Therefore, further meetings with those who have expressed an interest in this matter may prove beneficial if we move into that phase in dealing with the issue.

Mr. John D. Taylor

The Minister says that nothing has been ruled out. As everyone in Northern Ireland knows, the Finucane family is a strong republican family. Mrs. Finucane has made it clear that she will not work with the RUC. She has now rejected the English police as well. She refuses to speak to Mr. Stevens. Has the Minister not destroyed Mr. Stevens's inquiry already by saying that nothing else is ruled out? There is no need to speak to Mr. Stevens now because the Minister has already said that he is going to go ahead beyond that.

Mr. Ingram

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to put words into my mouth. Clearly, we do not know what Mr. Stevens will report on. I think that it is appropriate, therefore, to say that nothing has been ruled out. It may lead to a requirement to proceed in the way that has been suggested during the debate or in another way, which would then be defined, based on what information was available. The statement that Mr. Finucane's family are a well-known republican family does not justify the murder of a member of that family. When we put labels on people, we must be careful about the possible consequences.

Mr. Taylor

In no way am I saying that that is an excuse for a murder. I deplore all murders. I was nearly murdered myself, as the Minister may know. What I am saying is that the family are one of the strongest republican families in Northern Ireland, who despise all police, whether they are RUC or English police. They have now said that they will not co-operate with Mr. Stevens. By saying that he will look beyond to an independent inquiry, the Minister has cut away the credibility of the Stevens inquiry, and people will no longer co-operate with it.

Mr. McDonnell

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A statement has been made in the House about a certain family despising the police, but no evidence has been presented in the Chamber. When statements were made about the Finucane family 10 years ago, Patrick Finucane's life was put at risk and he eventually lost it. I believe that we should caution right hon. and hon. Members to be careful with their words when we are dealing with such matters. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) should know that full well, with his wealth of experience.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

That is not a point of order for the Chair, but all hon. Members should take care about the language that they use in debates such as this.

Mr. Taylor

All I am saying is that Mrs. Finucane herself has said that she will not co-operate with Mr. Stevens.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has made his point.

Mr. Ingram

The right hon. Gentleman has indeed made his point, and I am glad that he was able to correct any false impression that may have arisen from the way in which he phrased his remarks. I am not suggesting that he set out to create a particular impression, but it is important to put on record that, in a democracy, the fact that someone has certain labels put on him and takes a view on the institutions of the state does not justify action by paramilitaries to murder any member of our society. We have a duty of care for all members of our society, irrespective of how they view that society. That is the strength of the democracy that we seek to uphold in the House.

Before that exchange, I was about to conclude my remarks. It is important that we give every support and encouragement to the police. The best way that anyone who has information can bring people to justice is to co-operate with the police. It does not undermine Mr. Stevens's inquiry one iota to say that we must consider the possible consequences of his report. It would be wrong to rule anything out, as we do not yet know the contents of his report.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington for initiating the debate. It has allowed me the opportunity to put on record the thoroughness with which the issue has been tackled by the Government and the RUC. We owe that to the Finucane family and to the rule of law.

1.23 pm

Sitting suspended.

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