HC Deb 20 October 1999 vol 336 cc423-4
1. Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

What progress has been made through the Decommissioning Authority on the proposals for the purchase of decommissioned weaponry. [92968]

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

Decommissioning schemes were published in June 1998 after extensive consultation. They make no provision for the purchase of paramilitary weaponry as that option was not supported by any of the parties. The people of Northern Ireland need to know that paramilitary weapons have gone for good and I believe that they would not find the concept of giving money to terrorists acceptable.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, but the purchase of decommissioned weaponry has played a part in internal conflict resolution in various parts of the world. Would not it be wrong to rule it out even at this stage?

Mr. Ingram

I note what my hon. Friend says. Although that is a matter not only for the Government, but for all the parties, I think that I have made our view clear.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Does the Minister recognise that there is no democracy in western Europe where terrorists or insurgents in possession of weapons or associated with those who are in possession of weapons enter government? Will he reassure us, as Parliament reassembles, that it is still Government policy that no one who is a terrorist or terrorist linked can enter government while those terrorist organisations continue to hold weapons?

Mr. Ingram

Those matters undoubtedly are subject to the discussions currently taking place under the Mitchell review. Clearly, the principles set out in the Good Friday agreement are ones that the Government uphold entirely. I am sure that that is consistent with the views the hon. Gentleman has expressed.

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the key question in determining whether an individual is a terrorist is attitude and commitment to peace? Without wishing to downgrade the importance of decommissioning, perhaps even more focus should be put on the commitment to ending the war.

Mr. Ingram

This is undoubtedly a difficult process. What the Good Friday agreement has set in place, and what previous Governments and this Government have sought to achieve, is a new climate of opinion to persuade people away from the culture of violence and into the culture of democratic politics. The Good Friday agreement established a good framework for that, which is why we ask all the parties associated with the review to proceed with all haste and good intent to bring it to a conclusion.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

On decommissioning, does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister that Adams and McGuinness are sincere and that the IRA leadership are prepared to give up violence for good when there is no evidence at all that they are prepared to give up violence? Not one ounce of Semtex or one weapon has been surrendered, although we read that the IRA is recruiting students at Belfast freshers' fair, and we know that it is torturing and intimidating people daily on the streets of Ireland. When will the Minister and the new Secretary of State take action against that serious security problem?

Mr. Ingram

The Government take all those issues seriously, which is why we keep the status and the quality of the review under close scrutiny. To do otherwise would fail all the people of Northern Ireland and what we are trying to achieve through the Good Friday agreement. The hon. Gentleman uses emotive language, but he should apply some good common sense to it and try to look at the matter in a much more balanced and progressive way, because that is what the Good Friday agreement did.

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