§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
If passed, the Bill will extend the maximum length of the period during which legal immunity may be provided in a decommissioning scheme. It does so by amending Section 2 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997, under which the power to provide legal immunity would otherwise expire on 27th February this year.
Clause 1(2) initially extends the maximum period during which legal immunity may be provided to end at midnight on 26th February 2003. Under the 1997 Act, the Secretary of State has the power, by order, to extend the relevant period further. Such an extension may not run for more than 12 months after the order is made, or five years after the 1997 Act was passed.
Subsection 1(3)—your Lordships may regard this as important—does not affect the former condition. Each order would still therefore be subject to a maximum duration of 12 months. However, 27th February 2007 is substituted for the original five-year period. The effect of that is to extend the order-making power for a further five years beyond the expiry of the current period.
Clause 1(4) provides for retrospective effect, if necessary. That means that anything done in accordance with a decommissioning scheme, even if this Bill is not enacted by 26th February, would, after enactment, fall within the legal immunity provided. In short, the Bill extends the existing arrangements for 1350 one further year, with the possibility of further extensions, subject, of course, to parliamentary approval.
An integral part of the peace process has been to try to convince those who were previously committed to violence, including those brought up in the traditions of physical force republicanism, that there is another, better, way. Almost five years ago, when she introduced the original Bill, Lady Denton, whom we all remember with a good deal of personal respect as well as affection, said that the process of decommissioning would not take place overnight. Of course, she was right.
More recently, the political landscape has changed significantly in Northern Ireland. We now have the democratic institutions; the North-South bodies; stronger British-Irish relations; the principle of consent enshrined in the agreement; the removal of the Republic's historic territorial claim to Northern Ireland, formerly in Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's constitution; the incorporation of human rights in all aspects of life by the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the establishment of the commission in Northern Ireland; the advancement of equal opportunities; and a new start in policing and criminal justice, on which we are about to embark.
In the past six months, we have seen formal cross-community support for policing; successful recruitment to the new police service from both traditions; further progress towards the normalisation of security arrangements; the publication of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill and draft implementation plan; and the act of decommissioning by the Provisional IRA. As we have all agreed on numerous previous occasions, there is a long way to go, but substantial progress has been made.
We have been reminded again in the past fortnight that the conflict is plainly not yet over. We see this amendment to the law as a continuing opportunity to further that progress. We need the legislation to go beyond February, when legislative cover expires. It is not realistic to expect all arms from all organisations to be handed in by the end of next month. We must not allow the potential that we now have to make further progress to be thrown away because we have arrived at a deadline that, in the nature of things, was arbitrary.
We need to be realistic. We have seen the act of decommissioning. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in paying tribute to General de Chastelain and his colleagues in the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning. We are entitled to look to them as persons of integrity, diligence, skill and perseverance.
We look to the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms. The pursuit of that objective must continue. We are providing a legal framework. That will remove an obstacle—not every obstacle—to decommissioning. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)1351
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for describing the Bill so clearly. Before continuing, however, I should like to express our alarm that Jane Kennedy was very nearly seriously hurt last week. Our thoughts are with her good fortune.
Let us consider for a moment where I think we are in the Northern Ireland peace process as a whole. Clearly, as the noble and learned Lord has said, compared with a few years ago, there is a great deal in Northern Ireland about which we can be positive and from which we can take heart. After the protracted crisis of last summer and early autumn—precipitated by Mr Trimble's totally understandable decision to resign—there has been significant progress in the implementation of the Belfast agreement.
Furthermore, the executive and the Assembly, although not perfect in every respect, are by common consent bedding down well and delivering sound local administration for the people of Northern Ireland. What we have now is certainly an improvement on direct rule and is far more accountable to local needs.
Moreover, the police service is making the transition, however painful, from the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Although there remain some serious difficulties over morale and operational effectiveness—as I made my views on this subject heard in your Lordships' House last week, I shall leave it there—the new policing board has made a positive start, albeit without Sinn Fein, especially in its unanimous approval of a new cap badge which includes, I am pleased to say, the Crown. Other aspects of the agreement are also being taken forward.
I have no doubt that life is immeasurably better for a great many people in Northern Ireland as a result of the agreement. Yet for all that has been achieved in recent years, two scars in particular continue to blot the Northern Ireland landscape. The first is the level of paramilitary violence and gangsterism, most notably in North Belfast, which last week saw the obscene murder of a young Roman Catholic postman. The second is the failure of the main paramilitary organisations to make more—in most cases, any—progress on decommissioning their illegally held arms and explosives.
The blunt truth is that while literally every other aspect of the agreement has been—or is well on the way to being—implemented, decommissioning lags way behind the rest. That in itself is one of the principal reasons for the dangerous loss of confidence in the agreement across the wider Unionist community. There have been years of concessions by Unionists, some very painful, but there is still no sign of the end to the armed struggle.
Of course we welcome the first act of decommissioning by the Provisional IRA last October. We also accept the judgment of General de Chastelain that it was, in the words of his report, "significant", and that, again as his report says,The material in question includes arms, ammunition and explosives".1352 I do not underestimate the importance of that act either for the process as a whole or for the republican movement in particular. Anyone who knows the first thing about republicans will understand that it represented a huge psychological hurdle for them. We all hope that it marks the beginning of a clear transition to exclusively democratic and peaceful means.
We should not blind ourselves to the reality of what brought about that act at this particular juncture. There was the undoubted pressure caused by Mr Trimble's resignation. There was also the revelation about suspected IRA links with Cuba and FARC terrorists in Colombia. There was also, of course, the renewed pressure placed on republicans by the United States administration following not only those events but the tragic events of 11th September.
The crucial point now, however, is that whatever brought it about, it must continue. As the US envoy, Richard Haas, put it in an admirable speech in New York, on 9th January,decommissioning must he a process, not a single event".On the day when Sinn Fein Members take up residence in this Palace, with their special status granted by the Government, they should be reminded again of their obligations, and they should get on and fulfil them. That means a process that leads to what is clearly stated in the Belfast agreement asthe complete disarmament of all paramilitary organisations".In other words, there must be a cut-off point at which General de Chastelain—whose independence and integrity in these matters we fully respect—can say that to his satisfaction decommissioning has been completed.
I also stress that all paramilitary organisations must disarm, as our focus—not least because Sinn Fein Ministers are in the Executive—is often concentrated on the IRA. We should never forget that so-called loyalists also have an obligation to get rid of their illegal weapons. The threat from loyalist organisations, especially the UDA and its sub-contractors the UFF, remains very high. In the past three years, three quarters of all paramilitary murders in Northern Ireland have been committed by loyalists. Like their republican counterparts, they continue to engage in the most savage beatings, mutilations and shootings. They are involved in all kinds of Mafia-style gangsterism. In this context, it is right to remind loyalist political leaders that they too have a particular responsibility to use their influence to defuse some of the tensions that currently exist and to help bring about loyalist decommissioning.
Decommissioning should of course have been completed, under the terms of the agreement, within two years of the referendum, by 23rd May 2000. Had that happened, this Bill would not have been necessary. We are where we are because of the Government's total ineptitude in dealing with Sinn Fein/IRA over this matter so far; their continuing policy of appeasement; and, more recently, their double standards in relation to world terrorism. If a terrorist shoots a British or an American soldier in 1353 Afghanistan, he is likely to forfeit his life, but those who have done the same in Northern Ireland receive an amnesty or have been released from gaol. In return for what? It has certainly not been in return for decommissioning.
Furthermore, as I said, the Prime Minister's double standards for Westminster are being demonstrated today. He has played the world stage in good company, but his Government have totally failed to take on the challenges of terrorism at home. The regrettable truth is that the May 2000 deadline came and went without the decommissioning of a single bullet or ounce of Semtex; as I pointed out, decommissioning began only three months ago. The Government have therefore been forced to introduce this Bill to extend for a further five years the decommissioning regime, including the amnesty period, in the 1997 Act. It is here that we have a problem.
Surely the message that should be coming from the Government now is that decommissioning must take place as a matter of urgency. But that is not what the Bill as drafted does. It allows the paramilitaries the luxury of another five years in which to consider decommissioning their illegal weapons. In the opinion of the Opposition and, I know, of very many people in Northern Ireland, that is just too long. Surely in these circumstances it would have been more sensible, and would have at least conveyed a sense of urgency and importance on the part of the Government, to extend the legislation for a period that falls within the life of this Government.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Lord Molyneaux of Killead
My Lords, when the IRA announced a "cessation of military operations"—that was the phrase it used—I chanced to be in Downing Street, and I publicly welcomed the statement. I expressed the hope that those who had influence with terrorists of all shades would use that influence to persuade all of them to take the subsequent steps to the creation of an unconditional and permanent peace.
Before that decision was announced, Mr John Major and Mr Albert Reynolds were already engaged in negotiations. They subsequently intensified those discussions, to which I was not exactly an outsider, and they set out very clearly the path for any and all terrorists to follow.
The IRA leadership sought and obtained clarification from Her Majesty's Government on the proposals set out in the Major-Reynolds statement. That clarification phase was handled with great skill by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In due course, they had talks with the IRA and the civil servants, later with Northern Ireland Ministers and eventually with the elected representatives of Northern Ireland.
1354 The key to understanding the process appeared in a report of Senator Mitchell's commission in these words:Everyone with whom we spoke"—that is, the commission—agreed in principle, with the need for decommissioning".The report added,The main principle of total disarmament [was agreed by]… all paramilitary organisations".I share the disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that all terrorists of all shades have not moved to any significant extent in that direction of disarmament.
The language used in all such documents insisted upon a "progression" of decommissioning, in line with the Belfast agreement. It must be said that most of us believed that that foundation would be preserved. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, and as was reflected by the Leader of the House, it was not a question of a one-off stunt; it was to be a progression step by step, and step by step as between various paramilitary bodies.
When it became clear that that was a false assumption on our part, it was naturally expected that the sensible reaction of both governments would be a stoppage of the conveyor belt of concessions. In such circumstances a step-by-step process was, and would be, expected and understood. Now, two years on, the conveyor belt continues to deliver to one side only. The other side—the greater number of decent citizens, Protestant and Roman Catholic—now know that they have been conned. Their representatives have been hung out to dry, helplessly awaiting their inevitable fate when the assembly elections occur next year. That is something which should give us all food for thought.
Support for the representatives of the greater number of people of all shades plunges with every government concession to terrorists and fellow travellers of all shades. Apart from one derisory gesture, real decommissioning is no nearer than on the day the Belfast agreement was signed. Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland fears that Ulster will become a cold house for those who longed for peace and harmony within a law-abiding community?
It is true that the Secretary of State has not publicly supported the recently declared aim of the Irish Foreign Minister of,removing all traces of Britishness from Northern Ireland"—a very large cat to be let out of the bag! But of course Mr Cowan, the Irish Foreign Minister who used those words, is, with our Secretary of State, a form of joint governor. So we can hardly expect one of Her Majesty's Ministers to contradict his Irish partner. Is it any wonder that the "cold house" objective is now becoming a reality for many people? I refer to the greater number who have been let down and feel betrayed. That betrayal is made the more real by the interpretation of this sordid little Bill indicating that the Government are prepared to put off decommissioning—not for yet another 12 months, but for five whole years.
1355 Lest my earlier references to the Irish Government should appear somewhat harsh, perhaps in fairness I may quote a statement made by Mr Ahern, the Irish Prime Minister, at the weekend. He had been asked to comment on the possibility of co-operation with Sinn Fein candidates should they be elected later this year. He said,Sinn Fein has to resolve its relationship with the IRA before becoming part of a sovereign Irish government, exercising collective responsibility for justice and defence".Mr Ahern continued,Even if the IRA were disbanded, all weapons put beyond use and there was a complete end to vigilantism and punishment attacks, North and South, and full support given to the police service of Northern Ireland, there would he insufficient time to establish confidence for government participation to be realistic".It is passing strange that the Irish Government should be so forthright when Her Majesty's Government have already installed Sinn Fein in Cabinet in another part of the United Kingdom and have today installed Sinn Fein in the Palace of Westminster itself.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, the report of the International Committee on Arms Decommissioning of 1996 said unequivocally that the decommissioning process should result in the complete destruction of the armaments, whether by handing them in for destruction or by destruction sur place in the presence of the commission. It was to have legal and technical advice available to receive and audit armaments and to observe and verify the decommissioning process, and to be able to call on the resources and relevant technical expertise of the British and Irish armies.
In its report of July 1999 the commission published an annex setting out its mandate which stated that in both the Northern Ireland Decommissioning Act 1997 (UK) and the Decommissioning Act 1997 (Ireland) it was specified that.Methods and manners (schemes) to be used for decommissioning require the destruction of the arms being decommissioned",adding that,at the request of the two governments the Canadian Armed Forces and the US Army have made available to the Commission on an as-required basis two officers who are experts on arms, ammunition and explosive ordnance disposal. These two officers have taken part in refresher training with the Defence Forces in both jurisdictions and they are called upon to join the Commission when needed".The commission also reported that it had consulted with all the parties to the Belfast agreement, which included Sinn Fein/IRA, to see which of the two methods of decommissioning would be acceptable to the paramilitary groups, and each group was asked to nominate a representative or point of contact. In September Martin McGuinness was nominated to be the point of contact with the IRA.
The commission had already set up operations centres in Belfast and Dublin, consulted experts in forensic and destruction techniques, the disposal of residues etc., and explored the acquisition of commercial sources for vehicles and equipment. Its 1356 scheme was in place by June 1998. It actually hoped, at that stage, to carry out decommissioning by 22nd May 2000 (already an extension from February 1999 when the amnesty period had ended). Its report, both then and in the next two years, reflected however a process of effortless political manipulation of the commission by the IRA.
The February 2000 report quoted the IRA as "engaging frankly and helpfully", and described as "valuable progress" and "particularly significant" the assertion made to them by Mr McGuinness that,the IRA will consider how to put arms and explosives beyond use in the context of the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and in the context of the removal of the causes of conflict"—IRA-speak for the destruction of the RUC and the withdrawal of the Armed Forces from a part of the UK.
The commission welcomed the IRA's commitment to sustain and enhance its contribution to a durable peace—and much more of the same, and it reports that,The representatives indicated to us today the context in which the IRA will initiate a comprehensive process to put arms beyond use in a manner to ensure maximum public confidence".Already the IRA had moved the whole process to their agenda.
In May 2000 three things happened. First, the British and Irish Governments asked the commission to consider with the paramilitary groups,further proposals for decommissioning schemes beyond the two approved by them".Those two, in both Acts, required the complete destruction of arms and explosives. The commission was anxious to explore the IRA's proposals to put arms beyond use—a rather different thing. Secondly, the IRA, as the then Secretary of State reported on 8th May, committed itself toa process that will completely and verifiably put arms beyond use",and to resume contact with the commission, which had been broken.
Thirdly, the IRA agreed to a confidence-building measure to confirm that its arms remained secure. Independent inspectors were to scrutinise a number of arms dumps and report to the commission and that would be an ongoing process with regular inspections. There have been three such inspections, the last in May last year, when the inspectors said, as they had done in previous reports, thatthe arms dumps held a substantial amount of military material including explosives and related equipment as well as weapons and other material. We confirm that the arms dumps have not been tampered with and that they have remained secure".I should like to know from the noble and learned Lord first, whether the Government's request to the commission to consider further decommissioning schemes not requiring total destruction of the arms, as the legislation did, had any connection with the IRA's brilliant new idea for putting arms beyond use rather than destroying them in that same month. I should like also to know whether when the two distinguished 1357 inspectors went to inspect the dump they were accompanied by the trained military Canadian and US advisers who were provided for in the Act, and if not, why not? It was clearly originally considered to be a necessary part of any effective operation.
Moving to the IRA's next manipulation of the decommissioning process, we come to its offer of August 2001. This was around the time when, at an awkward moment for it, the PIRA connection with FARC in Colombia, and Sinn Fein/IRA's quasi-diplomatic link with Cuba (denied by Sinn Fein, but unfortunately confirmed by the Cuban Government) had both become public. The commission reported that the IRA had proposed a method—yet another one—for putting IRA arms completely and verifiably beyond use. The commission believed it would do so, and that it met the commission's remit in accordance with the Government's scheme and regulation. By the time this allegedly historic event, announced as such on 24th October last year by a euphoric Secretary of State, who believed ittook the peace process onto a new political leveltook place, the events of 11th September had made the IRA, because of its recently revealed active collaboration with terrorists near home, unpopular even with Irish Americans, most of whom are Americans first. We were told that the commission had "witnessed" an event which it regarded as significant, in which the IRA had put a quantity of arms beyond use. The material in question had included arms, ammunition and explosives. It added that it wassatisfied that it would not further the process of putting arms beyond use were we to provide further details of this event".When the Secretary of State announced this "historic move"—I do not deny its relative significance for the IRA—he also promised without delay to amend the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000, barely a year old, toreflect more fully the Patten recommendations(that is, to diminish if not destroy the Special Branch and weaken the police yet further) andin response to yesterday's developments undertake a progressive rolling programme of security normalization—reducing levels of troops and installations in Northern Ireland as the security situation improves".All this while Sinn Fein/IRA has continued to refuse to recognise the new police service, has tightened through the paramilitaries its brutal grip of its own communities, and has openly threatened recruits to the new police force. Work on the demolition of observation towers was, according to the Secretary of State, to begin on that very day in October, and while the Government have promised further amnesties for men on the run by March this year, families have continued to be exiled from their own country.
Although I have the greatest respect for the commission and I recognise that the Government have had little choice but to continue with this long and deplorable process, the IRA has taken the two governments for a ride over decommissioning since the beginning. It has used each report of the commission 1358 to press further its own agenda of forcing ever more concessions on troop levels, policing and security—the IRA context. It has moved the whole process from the destruction of arms to putting them beyond use, but most of all it has gained both time and massive further concessions (and by its failure to act has, incidentally, given the loyalists an excuse not to act either).
In the hope of getting some movement the governments have steadily weakened and diluted the whole process to a so-called "inspection of arms" which, unless the Minister can tell us otherwise, was conducted with none of the safeguards of military expertise which the Act specially provided. The process is hailed as confidence building, yet no one outside the commission is allowed to know how many arms or what explosives have been not destroyed but put beyond use.
The Government never stop talking about transparency. What could be more opaque than an event known only to the IRA and the commission, despite the fact that it is a matter of deep and proper public concern, and has been hailed as confidence building? Why does the commission think that it would not further the process of putting arms beyond useto provide details of this event"?If it was a significant quantity, that could really have encouraged the unfortunate people of Northern Ireland and could have given the IRA some credibility in the peace process. If it was not, then why should the IRA be getting yet more concessions with such indecent and craven haste to placate it? The IRA was for the first time on the run—partly because of outside events—and still it was allowed to dictate the agenda, and I strongly suspect that after all this the mountain has brought forth another mouse.
The IRA has managed throughout the whole decommissioning saga to manipulate it to its own advantage and it seems clear that nothing will stop the Government from giving it more concessions whenever it asks for them in return for meaningless inspections or processes conducted in the dark. Both governments ought at least to admit to the people of Northern Ireland that the whole process of decommissioning has proved to be largely a series of victories for the IRA. It matters, not just because of the arms—we all know the IRA can go out and buy more when it needs them (and has done so in the last four years)—but because the people who believed things were really going to change see that, just as before, the IRA calls the tune.
It will be pointless to resist the Government's intention to extend the amnesty, if necessary up to 2007, and clear that the IRA will continue to use the process to secure even more of its objectives. Time is on its side and it is now playing the political card—including the ballot—with the guns behind its back. Can the noble and learned Lord at least assure us that there will be no more concessions on security, the police, the military presence or anything else on the Sinn Fein/IRA agenda and that now we have, for the first time, a US Government who perceive the threat 1359 we should require Sinn Fein/IRA to end the violence against its own community, a point which I am glad to say the Secretary of State recognised in his statement in October, but I want to see some action? Of course the loyalists are just as bad, but that does not alter the Government's duty to refuse to promote the IRA's agenda. Incidentally, an invitation to Downing Street today to celebrate Sinn Fein/IRA's victory in winning the undeserved right to enter this House does not send a message of principle but rather of appeasement.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Lord Dubs
My Lords, of course we all wish that decommissioning had been completed by now. That was the fervent hope of everyone in this House and, indeed, of people in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the speeches today, with the exception of that of my noble friend on the Front Bench, have been extremely negative and have not given a balanced picture of what has happened in Northern Ireland.
We all know that progress in Northern Ireland is slow and has tended to be two steps forward and one and a half steps back. But we have made progress. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, Lady Park, portrayed such a negative impression of events, as did the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Molyneaux. I do not think that it is fair or proper to say that the Government have appeased Sinn Fein or the IRA. The peace process demanded give and take on all sides. Of course, some concessions were made to one side, but some were also made to the other side. In the end I believe that we achieved a balanced package.
I accept that decommissioning has been far too slow and should have finished by now. However, we are where we are and it is not right to say that the Government's approach has been flawed or that the Government have helped only one side.
The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said that the Government installed Sinn Fein in government. That would suggest that there had been no elections in Northern Ireland and no agreed process whereby parties were given positions in the Executive based on the number of seats they had obtained in the Assembly. This debate has not had the balance that I would have wished.
There are, of course, strong negatives in Northern Ireland: the situation in north Belfast is—and has been—horrendous. There are unacceptable levels of paramilitary violence. People are being forced out of their homes, and there was the tragic murder of the postman. Those are all serious blots on Northern Ireland. However, there is a more positive side. Overall, the level of violence is lower. The number of murders, particularly of the security forces and of civilians through the troubles, is down. There is a ceasefire.
§ Lord Glentoran
My Lords, I saw the statistics last week. The number of murders for the 11 months ending 25th November last year was the second highest ever recorded since the statistics that I read were started.
§ Lord Dubs
My Lords, I shall have to go back to the figures; I do not have them to hand. However, I was 1360 looking at them earlier and I do not think that we can dispute the fact that, taking the run of years since the Good Friday agreement, the level of murders and violence has gone down. However, that level is still too high. Any single murder and any act of grotesque violence is unacceptable; we all agree on that. I very much sympathise with the Government's efforts to get the level down. However, people in Northern Ireland also have to do things themselves. I refer to the unacceptable levels of violence in north Belfast in particular.
I return to decommissioning. The noble Baroness, Lady Park, seems not to accept the concept of arms being put beyond use. She suggested that there was no substance—I hope that I state her argument accurately—in that claim and she wanted arms handed over publicly to the decommissioning body, the Government or the police. I am satisfied that when General de Chastelain says that arms have been put beyond use, he means just that. He means that those arms can no longer be used by anyone. Surely that is good enough. If the arms cannot be used, that is just as good as if they had been handed over in a ceremony in front of the television cameras.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, when the issue was considered by the two governments, it was made absolutely clear that total destruction was required. My point was simply that we have moved from that position to a far more nebulous concept and that proof is far more difficult.
§ Lord Dubs
My Lords, obviously none of us was present to see the arms being put beyond use. However, I have confidence in the integrity of General de Chastelain. I have met him—I do not know whether the noble Baroness has—and I know that he is a man of integrity and trustworthiness. If he vouches for the fact that the arms have been put beyond use, I am satisfied that those arms could not be used by anyone, no matter how hard they tried. If they have been concreted in in such a way that they cannot be got out again, that, frankly, is good enough for me. If there is a difference between that process and what appears in earlier legislation, I suggest that that is a technical distinction and that the substantial point is that arms have been put beyond use. I should like all arms to he put beyond use in the same way.
The IRA made an important step, although it was not the final step. Before that, there was a limited amount of decommissioning by the LVF, which seems to have stopped the process. We want all arms to be put beyond use so that they can never be used again. That is the reason for the Bill. It would demonstrate a total commitment to democratic politics and the peace process. That is what we want—it is surely the desired aim. How to get it is, I agree, very difficult.
I wish that some positive loyalist decommissioning was currently taking place. That can come only with clear political leadership from local people on the spot. The Government can encourage, advise and provide the context, but in the end alternative political leadership is required. I fear that on the loyalist side, 1361 with the exception of the PUP—I believe that it is making efforts—there is no such political leadership and no effort to stem the level of violence in north Belfast in an attempt to achieve decommissioning. That is what matters. The loyalists need to reciprocate the step that has been taken by the IRA. That does not mean that the IRA should stop; it must go on decommissioning until all arms are decommissioned.