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Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) : I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent statement and for the way in which he has targeted additional resources to those groups most in need--for example, families and the disabled--the way in which he has doubled resources for the independent living fund, and substantially increased income support for those in residential homes and in nursing homes. I do not wish to take from my right hon. Friend the praise that will be heaped upon him, but will he give an assurance that he will seriously reconsider the uprating of child benefit in future years not just for the first child but for all children as it is the most effective of universal benefits?

Mr. Newton : Until the last few seconds I was going to say that I had better quit while I was ahead. On my hon. Friend's last remarks, the only assurance that I can properly give my hon. Friend is that, just as I have demonstrated that I have carried out in good faith my statutory duty to review this year, so I shall continue in future years.

Mrs. Sylvia Heal (Mid-Staffordshire) : While welcoming some of the small increases that the Secretary of State has announced, I must express my regret and that of many people with disabilities that there has been no increase in the earnings disregard. It was first introduced in 1988, and the sum was then set at £15. In effect, that means that the small number of people who are working and who have had pay rises have received no increase in their income. When will the Government break the link between dependency and disability?

Mr. Newton : Possibly the hon. Lady has missed the fact that one of the really substantial new benefit improvements that we are working on at the moment with a view to introducing it in 1992 is what we originally called disability employment credit, which some other people have called partial incapacity benefit. It is designed to find a much more constructive solution to the problem by enabling people to work and enjoy continued benefit but to get off income support and into a different kind of benefit that will help them while they are working.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that his statement will be very welcome to carers and dependants with special needs and also to those who wish to live independently and to the 10 million pensioners and the parents of 12 million children? To see only 12 Labour Back Benchers shows how much the Opposition care.

Does my right hon. Friend also accept that his meeting commitments on inflation-proofing of many benefits and pensions and finding £350 million for parents and children is much to be welcomed?

To those who are worried about child benefit going to the well-off, may I point out that the value of two personal

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allowances with the married man's allowance and mortgage relief allowance is equivalent to 12 child benefits? Perhaps the hard-hearted could look at those before getting at children.

Mr. Newton : I will not join in the aggression of my hon. Friend's remarks. I welcome his second remark. I shall have to study his third remark with some care.

Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan) : Is the Secretary of State aware that he has not increased child benefit as he claimed, that the accurate description is that he has increased benefit for some children, and that by freezing the rest he has effectively cut it for other children? Is he aware that most mothers will not accept the ludicrous rationale in his statement about the first-born having a far greater financial impact than subsequent children in the family and that most mothers cannot distinguish between the needs of the first-born and subsequent children in the family? Does not his position appear more ludicrous because he is really saying that, in the case of a mother who has twins when childbearing for the first time, the child who was born a few minutes earlier than the other is worth a pound more?

Mr. Newton : The latter question is a good one, and I shall reflect on it. I am sure that we shall be able to find a solution. On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I do not think that anybody could read into my remarks, either in my statement or subsequently, the suggestion that there was a particular difference in costs per child. However, I said that the impact on families is greater with the first child because of the simple, observable fact that at that point the household income tends to fall.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen) : I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. I welcome his commitment to two matters with which I am concerned. I welcome the commitment to child benefit continuing, although I should have liked it to be raised more. I also welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement regarding nursing homes and residential homes.

Will my right hon. Friend clarify one point regarding sufferers of Alzheimer's disease? He knows that I have a great interest in that matter. Quite often, nursing homes cannot cope with people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and families are asked to remove them to more specialised homes which provide terminal care but are not hospices. Will my right hon. Friend clarify whether such individuals and their families will be entitled to the higher rate of benefit to pay for that care?

Mr. Newton : It is rather difficult for me to do precisely what my hon. Friend has asked, although I shall not disguise the fact that she was another hon. Friend whom I had in mind when making the statement--hence the reference to Alzheimer's disease. Because the position depends on whether we are talking about a residential care home or a nursing home, and in which part of the country, and because I cannot specify particular limits for particular diseases, the provisions would depend on all the circumstances.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : Does the Secretary of State accept that his announcement about child benefit will mean absolutely nothing to the millions of children in families who depend on income support because the extra pound that will be awarded to them in child benefit will

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mean £1 lost in benefit entitlement? Will he accept that the time has now come to exclude child benefit completely from income support assessments so that its application will be genuinely universal and so that we do not have the nonsense that those who need the benefit most are those who are excluded from it?

Mr. Newton : The latter point does not really make sense in terms of any sensible operation of the system. The normal offset between child benefit and income support will operate this year as on other occasions when child benefit has been increased. It is important that the hon. Gentleman should understand that another effect of the operation of this system is that those on income support will effectively receive the amount that they would have received if child benefit had been fully uprated across the board.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. As the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) has intimated to me that because of the pressure on time today he does not intend to move his 10-minute Bill on licensing reform, for which I am sure the whole House will thank him, I propose, therefore, to allow questions on this matter to continue for a further 10 minutes, but then we must move on.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury) : Although I believe that the general uprating of child benefit is still essential, I, too, think that my right hon. Friend has done well in what was clearly a different public expenditure round in achieving additional resources for child benefit. His statement that child benefit will remain a strong element in our policy will be widely welcomed. Does it mean that any alternative ideas of proceeding by way of child tax allowances have now been dropped and will the new extra benefit for the first child require primary legislation?

Mr. Newton : No, the extra benefit for the first child does not require primary legislation. Indeed, one of the advantages of that provision is that it will be possible for me to make the payments effective from April next year, at the normal uprating time. Obviously, child tax allowances are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, and nothing that I have said this afternoon rules out any consideration that he might want to give to complementary measures. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) for welcoming my statement.

Mr. Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central) : Surely the Secretary of State will accept that far more people receive residential care support than nursing home support, yet his statement increases residential care support by only 3 per cent. Is the right hon. Gentleman willing to accept the extra personal stress, tension and the loss in quality of care that will inevitably accompany his statement, especially in those parts of cities where residential care homes have now become a substantial industry? What has the right hon. Gentleman to say to the home owners and to the residents of those homes? Does he propose to put any gate or restraint on accepting more people currently in hospital care into that type of residential care?

Mr. Newton : The last point is, of course, primarily a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health. The hon. Gentleman is well aware of

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the plans, which have recently been deferred, for operating a different system from 1993. In answer to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I can only ask him to read the Price Waterhouse survey--I appreciate that he has not yet had the time to do so--which dealt with the numbers of people in the two types of home. Although the number of people in residential care homes is larger than the number in nursing homes, as the number in nursing homes is moving towards being half the total I do not entirely accept the hon. Gentleman's point. However, the main point is that the disparity in costs as against our income support limit is clearly much greater in nursing homes. It therefore seems sensible to put the extra resources principally there.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : My right hon. Friend has obviously spent considerable time putting together this detailed and welcome package, so will he totally scotch the Opposition's idea that it was rushed together last night?

Mr. Newton : Anybody who believes that the statement was put together hastily last night will believe anything. I have now said twice and, in view of my hon. Friend's question, will say a third time that the major elements in what I have just announced were agreed with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury nearly a fortnight ago.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill) : How many disabled people will still be below the poverty line in spite of today's minor improvements? Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that, although a mother's income drops considerably if she gives up work as a result of the birth of her first child, it remains pretty low between her first and second children if she is out of work or even if she takes a low-paid part-time job, which is the lot of the vast majority of Britain's young mothers?

Mr. Newton : I am not sure what definition the hon. Lady was using in her point about disabled people. However, she can check that last year we significantly increased the disability premium, including the premium for disabled children, and made a wide range of other improvements in disability benefits. I forgot to comment earlier on the comments made by the hon. Member for Oldham, West on this matter, but contrary to the impression that he is seeking to create, the provisions will substantially increase the amount of help given to disabled people in the next few years.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester) : May I join in welcoming the partial uprating of child benefit, but advise my right hon. Friend that the decision to give the increase in respect of the first-born appears to be a radical change in the system of child benefit that we have had thus far? If we seek to provide most assistance to those most in need, would it not be fairer to recognise that some of the largest families are some of the least well-off families? Might it not therefore be better to have a smaller uprating for all children rather than a larger uprating only for the first?

Mr. Newton : These things are obviously matters of judgment, and I have outlined the reasons for my judgment. Larger families are, on the whole, much more likely to be receiving one of the income-related benefits, including family credit. About 40 per cent. of families with

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more than three children are being helped either by income support or family credit, which we have improved substantially in recent years.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East) : The Secretary of State said that the arrival of the first child is most frequently associated with a sharp reduction in family income. What real effect does he expect £1 a week to have on that, especially when, with £1 a week, it will take about one and half years to save up for a second-hand pram, and more than three years to save for a new cot? We should compare that with the position of directors earning £70,000 a year who, in the past 10 years, have received £600 per week in tax cuts from the Government. Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that most parents will see his announcement as being a transparent attempt at Elastoplast politics by Tory Ministers who are on £1,000 per week and have not a clue about the real costs of bringing up children?

Mr. Newton : I do not think that the nearly 7 million mothers who will receive an extra pound a week in child benefit will engage in the kind of political posturing in which the hon. Gentleman indulges.

Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : At a time of a tough spending round, with other Departments pressing for increases in real resources, my right hon. Friend deserves warm congratulations for having secured these nuggets. He will recall the meaning of that expression from an earlier incarnation. Is he aware that we welcome the fact that, despite the attention that will rightly be given to the increase in spending on the family, my right hon. Friend has not forgotten the poorer pensioners and the long-term sick and disabled?

Mr. Newton : I am grateful to my hon. Friend because that is precisely what I have sought to do--to bring forward what I regard as a balanced package, looking broadly at the needs of families. I sense that most of my right hon. and hon. Friends think that that was the right thing to do.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Nothing that the Secretary of State has said today will compensate those pensioners who have been crippled with £20, £30 and £40 per month poll tax bills and who will receive only £5 per

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week extra as a result of his statement today, notwithstanding the fact that the wealthiest 1 per cent. in our society have received more than £26,000 million from the Government in tax cuts in the past 10 years. The pensioner in Downing street is living on £8 million per year from the taxpayer. That keeps her in Downing street and Chequers and as she gallivants around the world while 10 million other pensioners have to make do with an extra £5 per week. Does not that sum up the Government's attitude to the welfare state?

Mr. Newton : In this statement, we have fully fulfilled our commitments to raise the retirement pension and to steer some additional help to less-well-off pensioners. But for the taxation and economic policies that the Government have pursued over 10 years and more, it would have been far more difficult to sustain the improvements that I have announced this afternoon.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East) : I congratulate my right hon. Friend on so effectively fighting his corner on behalf of all those mothers who depend on child benefit and have lived in uncertainty for the past three years.

Will he, however, acknowledge that there have been difficulties in giving help to the most needy families by targeting family credit? The money was there, but families were not always forthcoming. I hope that that lesson on targeting will help to convince him, as it has convinced me, that the present procedure for child benefit is the most popular and should remain a universal benefit. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right not to cause a divide by separating the under-fives from older children.

Could I also ask--

Mr. Speaker : No.

Mr. Newton : I suppose that I, too, had better be brief. I hear what my hon. Friend says and I am grateful to her. I am not sure that I want to refer to "fighting my corner" with the Chief Secretary. As I have said three times, we agreed on these matters a fortnight ago.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am very sorry that I could not call those hon. Members who wished to speak. I shall certainly bear them in mind when we return to the subject.

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Terrorist Attacks (Northern Ireland)

5.31 pm

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke) : I regret to report that in the past two days seven people have been murdered by the Provisional IRA in three attacks in Northern Ireland. We must be grateful that a fourth attempted attack failed. This follows a number of other terrorist attacks in recent weeks, in which members of both communities have been brutally murdered. I know that the House will join me in extending sympathy to the families of all those killed and injured and also to those used as hostages in these atrocities.

First, at approximately 11.25 am yesterday, Mr. William Aiken, a taxi driver, was at the entrance to the Royal Belfast hospital for sick children. Two unmasked gunmen approached his Ford Sierra car, shot him in the head, and made off towards the Falls road. Mr. Aiken died a short time later from his injuries. The RUC are investigating and have appealed for witnesses.

Shortly after 4 o'clock this morning, a massive bomb exploded at the permanent vehicle checkpoint on the Buncrana road out of Londonderry, a few hundred yards from the border with the Irish Republic. The bomb is estimated to have consisted of about 750 kg of home-made explosive. It is thought that the bomb was contained in a vehicle which was driven into a search bay at the checkpoint. As a result of this attack, five soldiers were killed and nine injured, one very seriously.

The soldiers killed were serving with the 1st battalion the King's Regiment, based at Ballykelly. A number of civilian motorists in the area at the time of the explosion narrowly escaped death or injury. The checkpoint and about 25 houses in a nearby estate were extensively damaged ; some residents were injured and many other houses sustained blast damage.

Prior to the attack, a house in Londonderry was taken over by terrorists and the householder abducted while his family was held hostage. He is still missing and there is grave concern about his safety. The follow-up operation by the security forces on both sides of the border is continuing and close co-operation is being maintained with the Garda, who have arrested a number of men earlier today.

In a separate terrorist attack at around 4.15 this morning, a bomb exploded at the permament vehicle checkpoint at Cloghogue on the main A1 road south of Newry, some three miles from the border with the Irish Republic. It is believed that the bomb was contained in a van which had earlier been hijacked by terrorists near Newry and was driven into the checkpoint. An elderly man had been forced by terrorists to drive this vehicle while his family were held hostage. As a result of this attack, one soldier was killed and 11 soldiers and two RUC officers were slightly injured. The soldier killed was serving with the 2nd battalion Royal Irish Rangers. Fortunately, a shouted warning was able to be given, thus preventing further loss of life. The driver of the vehicle received a broken leg as a result of the explosion and is now in hospital. Homes, a church and a primary school were all damaged in the attack. A follow-up operation by the security forces is now under way.

In a further incident at about 7.45 this morning, terrorists made an unsuccessful bomb attack against

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Lisanelly barracks in Omagh. The terrorists had previously taken over a house in Gortin and assaulted the householder. They then placed an explosive device in his car, tied him to his seat, and forced him to drive the vehicle to Omagh. Fortunately, he was released by the sentry before the bomb partially detonated, and there were no casualties. The security forces are now carrying out a follow-up operation to make the bomb safe.

I am sure that the whole House will join me in utter condemnation of these appalling attacks. One civilian and six soldiers have been killed. A civilian is missing. A number of civilians and members of the security forces have been injured and one is very seriously ill. The security forces personnel were carrying out their proper duties in Northern Ireland for the safety of the whole community. Today's attacks have also seen the callous exploitation by the terrorists of members of the public in mounting these attacks. Not only has the IRA once again damaged and destroyed houses, schools and churches, leaving families injured, devastated and homeless ; it has sunk to new levels of depravity by using people, whose families have been held hostage, as human bombs. It is hard to imagine anything more evil than tying a man into his car laden with explosives and then forcing him to drive to where the bomb was detonated.

The reaction of humane men and women the world over at crimes of this enormity is one of outrage, and justified anger. It is also, in the case of Northern Ireland, one of infinite sadness at this further and futile waste of human life. I can, however, assure the House that, horrible as these murders have been, they have not advanced the cause of those who perpetrated them by a single millimetre--indeed, they have set it back still further.

The security forces--to whom, today more than ever, I pay the warmest of tributes--will continue to defend the community and to bring terrorists to justice. They undertake this difficult and dangerous task on behalf of the whole community--and we owe an immense debt of gratitude to them.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North) : On behalf of the Opposition, I join the Secretary of State in extending our sympathy to the families of the victims and to all those whose lives have been so severely affected by the actions of the Provisional IRA and by the Ulster Freedom Fighters. As well as extending sympathy to the families of those murdered in the past 36 hours, the House will want to extend its sympathy to the families of Mr. Craig and Mr. McGuinness.

The murder of Mr. Aiken yesterday morning was an appalling overture to this morning's carnage. The IRA's choice of a children's hospital as a suitable venue for murder has sickened many people in Britain, Northern Ireland and particularly west Belfast. The House will wish to pay tribute to the efforts of both the unions and the management to ensure that no sections of the community will be deprived of the services of an internationally renowned children's hospital because of the activities of sectarian assassins.

I have heard--perhaps the Secretary of State can confirm it--that regrettably there has been another murder this afternoon. It was tit for tat for the murder of Mr. Aiken. To that unfortunate victim's family we also extend our sympathy.

This morning's atrocities also inspire us with horror. The death and destruction inflicted only highlights the

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political and moral bankruptcy of the IRA. As the Secretary of State has said, it is difficult to imagine anything more evil than the treatment meted out to the men forced to drive car bombs while their families were held hostage and did not know whether they would see their fathers and husbands again as they departed as human bombs.

If the IRA believes that such murders can further its cause, it is only deluding itself. It cannot offer anything positive for the future of Ireland--it offers only dead ends and graveyards. We hope that the security forces will soon bring the perpetrators of those evil deeds to justice. We welcome the co-operation of the Irish authorities in that respect.

The House will want to join me in thanking the Northern Ireland emergency services, the Housing Executive and social services staff for their efforts since the early hours of the morning to cope with the aftermath of the personal and environmental damage inflicted, particularly on Benview estate.

The Secretary of State and his advisers will no doubt want to review the security situation, particularly the policy of maintaining permanent vehicle checkpoints.

The House trusts that the Secretary of State will continue the fight against the paramilitaries on the basis that only the determined and persistent application of the rule of law can ultimately end the violence in Ireland.

Mr. Brooke : I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the tone in which he has spoken. I share his condemnation of the events at the hospital for sick children yesterday. I can confirm that a further incident has occurred today and that the body of a taxi driver has been found in Dungannon. It is reasonable to assume that it is yet another tit-for-tat murder.

I share the hon. Gentleman's praise for the authorities who have worked to cope with the aftermath of last night's events. The lessons that could be learnt from such episodes will be learnt and, above all, the conduct of the security forces will continue, as always, under the rule of law.

Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East) : In reinforcing my right hon. Friend's determination and that of the security forces--rightly commended by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara)--to continue to do a difficult job, will he use all the efforts of his considerable propaganda machine to get the message across to citizens north and south in the island of Ireland that, by sheltering people who are prepared to stoop so low to commit ever more ghastly crimes, they are aiding, perhaps passively, the cause of the terrorists?

The best thing that citizens on both sides of the border can do is to tell the security forces where those murderers are, so that they can be brought to justice. Given the turn the IRA has taken in its depravity, my right hon. Friend should warn such citizens that they might well be used next as human bombs to be delivered to the security forces.

Mr. Brooke : I thank my hon. Friend for his tribute to the security forces. I confirm that there is a constant appeal to members of the public throughout the community--we also receive assistance from the republic--for help to bring such terrorists to justice.

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Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence uses the words "propaganda machine", is that exactly a parliamentary term?

Mr. Speaker : I did not judge it to be out of order in this context.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : The Secretary of State has made a grave statement to the House this afternoon. He referred not only to the immediate incidents that occurred in the past 24 hours, but to earlier incidents that have occurred in the past few weeks. In the past few weeks, there has been a regrettable upsurge in IRA activity across Northern Ireland and, unfortunately, that activity involved the deaths of two of my constituents. Constable Louis Robinson was killed on the border as he travelled back from holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Constable Samuel Todd was shot dead as he handled his dog on the streets of Belfast.

Right hon. and hon. Members on the Ulster Unionist Bench join the Secretary of State in expressing our sympathy to the families whose relatives have been killed and injured. In so doing, we speak for the entire Protestant community of Northern Ireland and at least 75 per cent. of the Roman Catholic community. Regrettably today, almost 25 per cent. of the Roman Catholic community vote for Provisional Sinn Fein, as in west Belfast.

We join the Secretary of State in condemning the latest low level of depravity exercised by the IRA earlier this morning, when its members tied the driver of a car to the time bomb that he was instructed to drive in the hope that he would be blown up into small bits. I hope that that did not happen. The IRA has reduced itself to a terrible low by such action.

There are three questions that I should like to ask the Secretary of State. The first relates to the prompt action and co-operation of the Garda Siochana in apprehending suspected terrorists in Donegal. Will that lead to anything? When the Government signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they sold it to many hon. Members on the basis that it would bring about improved extradition. Five years later, we know to our regret that, successful as the Garda Siochana is in capturing wanted terrorists, they are never extradited by the authorities back to Northern Ireland. Tomorrow, when the Secretary of State meets the Dublin Government authorities, will he ensure that extradition is the No. 1 item on the agenda?

The second issue relates to border roads. I have already mentioned that one of my constituents was murdered on a border road coming back from the Republic of Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) visited the republic last week and he was not allowed to use the roads : he had to fly to Dublin. I went to the republic on Friday and discovered that, even though I was accompanied by security forces, I was forbidden to use two of the main roads between Northern Ireland and the republic. Has the Secretary of State yet advised the Prime Minister that the British Government have surrendered authority over two of the main roads in Northern Ireland leading across the border into the republic?

Finally, I should like to ask the Secretary of State about dog handlers. My constituent was shot through the window of his stationary van. For more than a year, the small number of dog handlers that are employed in the

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Royal Ulster Constabulary have requested bullet-proof glass in their vans. That request has been consistently refused on the ground of lack of finance. It would take so little money to provide bullet-proof glass in the few vans used by dog handlers--perhaps the life of my constituent could have been saved. Will the Secretary of State please address that problem?

Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks, speaking as he does for those sitting on the Ulster Unionist Bench. I join him in extending sympathy to the families of his two constituents, of whom I am aware.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the apprehension of suspects by the Garda today and to extradition. I shall see the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the republic tomorrow at a meeting of the Conference, and I guarantee that extradition will take up a large part of our discussion.

I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about security on particular roads. The security forces must necessarily make their own decisions about what is required to provide safe passage and security on those roads. I should be happy, however, to enter into a separate dialogue with the right hon. Gentleman on that matter.

His question about dog handlers and their cars is not strictly germane to today's statement, but I am grateful to him for raising that matter, which I shall pursue.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : I should like first to join in the expressions of sympathy to the relatives of the men killed in the outrages. They died to protect all the people in Northern Ireland, regardless of their political or religious faith. Is the Secretary of state aware that the men who commit such crimes are depraved? They revel in slaughter and are way beyond persuasion to show mercy and deaf to pleas for pity. They reject Christ's teaching about the sanctity of human life.

During the past 20 years, from the Dispatch Box, successive Secretaries of State have promised a security review after each atrocity. We have had those security reviews, expressions of sympathy, condolences, platitudes-- everything--but the truth is that terrorists continue to kill innocent people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. The people of Northern Ireland expect constitutional politicians to respond to the outrages by redoubling their efforts to make political advance in Northern Ireland. They also expect the Government--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but will he be kind enough to ask questions rather than make a speech that should be made on another occasion?

Mr. Kilfedder : I am putting it to the Secretary of State that the people of Northern Ireland, who have seen the Government send an armada to the Falkland Islands and forces to the Gulf, expect the Government to send sufficient forces to Northern Ireland and keep them there until this evil is eradicated.

Mr. Brooke : The same word "depravity" was included in my statement. Of course, it would be difficult for any Government, in an environment polluted by terrorists, to be able to guarantee total security to the citizens of this land. The defeat of terrorism involves more than purely the working of the security forces, central though they are

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to it. More people have been charged and convicted in relation to terrorist offences during the current year than in the previous one.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : Speaking on behalf, I hope, of all people in the north of Ireland who value life, irrespective of their political persuasions, I wish to condemn this and other murders, and to offer my sympathy to the bereaved. I ask anyone in the north of Ireland with any information whatsoever about those who perpetrated the recent acts to make it available to the police, so that those responsible may be brought to justice.

Early this morning, I stood at the scene in my constituency of the murder of one of the soldiers in Cloghogue. Once again, I saw the grisly remains of an IRA night of carnage.

The murders at Derry, Cloghogue and Belfast, and the potential murder at Omagh, were particularly cynical, cowardly and evil. They were cynical because they involved hijacking and kidnapping people, and taking their families as hostages. They were cowardly because, on those occasions, the IRA, rather than do its own dirty work, took innocent members of the public and made them drive its bombs to the scenes of murderous destruction. They were evil because, above all else, they added to the appalling violence that is tearing the heart and soul out of the fabric of Northern Irish life. Will the Secretary of State reinforce my view that those murders were evil, cowardly and cynical?

Mr. Brooke : I am particularly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the vehemence of his condemnation. I know the extent to which his constituency in particular has been stricken by murder during the course of this year. I am sure that the House is grateful for the manner in which he has just spoken.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West) : I endorse the sentiments expressed by the Secretary of State, but is he satisfied with the co-operation that he has received from the Southern Irish Government? It certainly looks as if the excellent work of the Garda Siochana could not have come about were it not for the progress made under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Will he comment generally on future co-operation with the Southern Irish Government on cross-border security matters?

Mr. Brooke : I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the Garda's actions today and the co-operation that we have received from it. Intensive investigations are in progress on both sides of the border, and I reported the arrest of a number of men by the Garda. I shall be seeing Mr. Collins, the Irish Foreign Minister, at a conference tomorrow, when we shall discuss the border issue and its consequences for security.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South) : Does the Secretary of State not agree that the justification for the cowardly killings by the Provisional IRA over the years that it represents the aspirations of people in all of Ireland is disproved by the fact that its total vote is about 2 per cent. of the people of Ireland? What we hear from the elected representatives in the north is the true voice of the people of Ireland. All the Provisional IRA does is prevent any political action and, sadly, encourages tit-for-tat murders. I shall ask a precise question. As someone who no longer has a detailed knowledge of the subject, I thought

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that the use of large agricultural nitrate bombs, topped up with small amounts of commercial explosive and commercial detonators, had declined but it seems to be increasing. Do we no longer know the origin of the commercial part of such devices by markings and scientific tests? Surely we could find out where the commercial parts for such bombs come from.

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