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House of Commons

Wednesday 1 February 1995

The House met at Ten o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Northern Ireland (Rules of Engagement)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Conway.]

10.4 am

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the most important issue of the rules of engagement which govern those who serve us in Northern Ireland. One particular case has received a great deal of publicity, but the wider problem of the uncertainty in the minds of many of our soldiers serving in Northern Ireland has not received equal prominence.

I shall maintain four points today. First, we should never allow charges less than murder to be brought in a case of deliberate killing. Secondly, we should put on hold the present review of the law of murder in the Home Office until the Select Committee on Defence has had the opportunity to consider the wider issue of the rules of engagement, and until the House has had the chance to debate it. Thirdly, we should expedite cases involving members of the security forces who are charged while serving on active duty, so that they do not have two-year waits. Fourthly, I shall make some brief remarks on the Clegg case.

I hope that it is in order for me to draw on an illustration from the other side of the world. In 1947, six miles south of Haifa, a party of British soldiers were escorting a civilian convoy--a mixture of Jewish and Arab civilians--when they were stopped by a gun battle between Jewish and Arab gunmen up ahead. The young officer concerned went forward with a party of his soldiers to clear the path, when a civilian vehicle with armoured plating came racing down the road. The officer told the soldiers to stop the vehicle. It was pulled aside and suddenly, a few seconds later, it pulled away and drove rapidly off. Faced with that extremely suspicious behaviour in the middle of a dangerous situation, the young officer, my father, who was aged 20, tried to open fire on the vehicle with a Piat anti -tank rocket launcher. Thank God it misfired, because when that vehicle was eventually stopped, it turned out to contain a large number of women and children huddling in the back.

I make that point only because the House must be clear that, in a situation of conflict of any sort, from time to time tragedies can and will occur, which can cause the most terrible bitterness in the wider community. That does not mean, however, that anyone is culpably to blame. Our forces in Ulster have behaved with a degree of restraint that is not only remarkable, but that we have come increasingly to take for granted in a fashion that may be becoming almost unhealthy. They operate within rules of engagement which are probably the strictest that any army anywhere in the world has ever operated under.

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I have attempted to obtain the statistics for soldiers charged on active duty in Ulster--so far, without much success. The only statistics that I have been able to find came in an answer to a parliamentary question and relate to murder charges. I am not sure whether they are complete. In particular, they appear to exclude the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The material that is available, however, shows a sinister trend. In the 17 years from 1974 to 1990, only six charges of murder are recorded, involving four incidents, and in every case the soldiers concerned were acquitted; yet in the three and a three quarter years from 1991 to the ceasefire, four incidents took place. Five charges were brought in the same number of incidents in a much shorter period. Of those, one resulted in an acquittal, and two, involving Private Thain and Private Clegg, in convictions. The remaining incident involving two soldiers is still sub judice.

An extraordinary statistical freak may have taken place, or discipline is suddenly breaking down across a cross-section of four different regiments in the Army, which I do not believe, or we must face the possibility that the criminal justice system has changed and hardened its attitude towards offences allegedly committed by soldiers while on duty.

The figures also show that, in almost all those cases, the soldiers concerned, whether or not they were acquitted, waited for between 18 months and two years for a verdict. Those soldiers were in a different situation from members of the public awaiting their trials in custody, because they were there not just because there were charges against them, but because they had volunteered to serve in the British Army and had been sent to Ulster. Their families faced the prospect of their men being in custody for two years. A much larger number of lesser charges have been brought against our soldiers. Anybody who has spoken to people who have served in Northern Ireland--I know that some hon. Members who wish to speak have served there- -will know of the concern caused from time to time by the rules of engagement and the yellow card.

The Clegg incident was first raised with me by soldiers in my local regiment, 2nd Battalion, the Princess of Wales Regiment, when I was privileged to visit them in Ulster last year. Individuals told me again and again that they were deeply concerned that the case left them uncertain about where they stood.

The House will expect me to say something about the Clegg case. As a former Territorial Army officer and someone who was privileged to serve for a while in the Parachute Regiment, I have to say that there are aspects of the case that leave me deeply troubled. I know that I was not there, but it seems extraordinary that a junior rank should be charged with and convicted of perverting the course of justice, when an officer who was present at the time was not even disciplined.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) rose --

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West) rose --

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Mr. Brazier: I hope that my hon. Friends will forgive me if I press on and allow time for them to speak later.

Sir Jim Spicer: Will my hon. Friend give way on this point?

Mr. Brazier: I will give way.

Sir Jim Spicer: There is another disturbing aspect of the Clegg case. How can it be possible for a soldier who is to be charged with a serious offence to be on duty out on the street for a further six to nine months with that charge hanging over him and with no action being taken by the authorities? That is inexcusable.

Mr. Brazier: That is a good point.

Another aspect that deeply concerned many people is the disgusting montage erected in the barracks afterwards. It must have caused tremendous offence to Karen Reilly's family and to the wider community.

That said, those aspects are of limited relevance to the subject that we are discussing today and, in fact, are of limited relevance to the Clegg case. People may try to manufacture evidence not only because of guilt but also for a very different reason--because they have no confidence in the system of law. When I discussed this issue with people who have served recently in Northern Ireland, the message I heard again and again was that they are not sure where they stand. If a man is seen throwing a bomb at a patrol and a soldier shoots him before the bomb leaves his hand, he is within the rules of engagement. If he is shot just after the bomb has left his hand, the person firing could be committing a serious criminal offence. If he is shot just before the object leaves his hand and it was not a bomb after all, the person firing the shot may be in serious trouble. Another point is made time and again. Only three days ago, I had a conversation with an officer who had just come back from Northern Ireland. He had nothing to do with the Parachute Regiment, and was not even an infantry officer. He said that, as a result of cases such as this, soldiers are increasingly uncertain whether they can trust the yellow card.

The House knows most of the facts of the Clegg case. Cars have been used frequently as lethal weapons against our soldiers. They have sometimes been packed with explosives but, more commonly, they were simply used to deliberately run down and kill soldiers. In fact, a soldier in B company of 3 Para, Clegg's company, was killed in that way earlier in the same tour of duty, when a car scooped him up on to its bonnet. The car was driven for several hundred yards, and the soldier was then sadistically crushed to death.

It is against that background that the whole of an eight-man patrol, two groups of four, opened fire. Somehow, the court ruled that they were justified in opening fire, but that the man who fired the second lowest number of shots--only four--was doing his duty on the third shot and, within half a second, became a criminal with his fourth shot. I shall quote from the late noble Lord Diplock, from a time when it was still possible to have jury trials in Northern Ireland: "the jury . . . should remind themselves that the postulated balancing of risk against risk, harm against harm, by the reasonable man is not undertaken in the calm, analytical atmosphere of the court-room

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after counsel with the benefit of hindsight have expounded at length the reasons for and against the kind and degree of force that was used by the accused: but in the brief second or two which the accused had to decide whether to shoot or not and under all the stresses to which he was exposed."

Private Clegg did not have a second or two between his third and fourth shot: he had about half a second.

Far be it from me to abuse the privileges of the House and suggest that any judge in this country, in Northern Ireland or any other part of the United Kingdom, does not understand fully--I am sure that they all do--the letter and detail of our common and statute law. However, I believe firmly that, had this case been heard by a judge from Lord Diplock's generation, someone who remembered the war, we would never have had a verdict which so jarred the feelings of justice of the British people. I believe that that would have been the case whether it had been a murder or a manslaughter verdict.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh): I realise, probably more than most, the sensitivity of the matter under discussion. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he is leaving out an important factor, which is that the evidence was given by a police officer who was with that patrol? The evidence from that officer was clear, and totally substantiated the story that the hon. Gentleman has referred to as the concocting of evidence. I cannot for the life of me see why the sympathies of any police officer in the North of Ireland would be towards harming the soldier. Surely the police officer was giving objective evidence about a serious incident.

Mr. Brazier: I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. I did mention the manufacture of evidence earlier, and, as the hon. Gentleman knows, another soldier was convicted and imprisoned for that. None of that alters the fact that a man was convicted of a serious criminal offence--it makes no difference whether it was manslaughter or murder--in the half-second interval between a third legitimate shot and a fourth shot, at a time when shots were ringing out everywhere and no one had any way of knowing whether they were all coming from one side.

I am pleased about the close interest that the Cabinet and the Government are taking, and I am pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces on the Front Bench. I notice that the Home Office is carrying out a review of the law on murder as a result of the recommendations by the judiciary. The change would allow manslaughter charges.

I mean no offence to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, for whom I have the greatest respect, when I say that it is slightly odd that, of the three Departments concerned--the Ministry of Defence, the Northern Ireland Office and the Home Office--the Department selected to lead on this inquiry is the only one of the three with no internal military advisers. Nevertheless, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary assures me that he will be taking advice direct from the Army as well as from his colleagues in the other two Departments, in whom I also have the greatest confidence.

Of all the things that I have seen in Parliament and that sadden me as a Member, perhaps the saddest instances have been those rare occasions when we have seen the House make a terrible and grievous mistake by legislating in a hurry to change a law, often as a result of some

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well-publicised incident, in which the Front -Bench spokesmen have agreed on a policy which has been widely supported by the establishment outside but which the people on the ground know to be impractical. I believe that we have the chance to make such a mistake now.

If we were to accept the recommendations of successive judges, starting 15 years ago and most recently endorsed by the House of Lords, that we should allow charges less than murder--perhaps some new concept of military manslaughter--to be brought against soldiers in uniform when a deliberate killing has taken place, we would remove the discipline on the courts in which it has to be murder or nothing.

That would not help any soldier. Private Thain would not have come out a day earlier had he been convicted of manslaughter instead of murder, but, should the hostilities start again--we desperately hope that they will not- -we should be opening the way for a string of borderline cases in which civilian judges would in effect be allowed to rule on whether they thought someone had been negligent. Incidentally, the recommendation was made in a wider civilian context. I believe that also to be profoundly wrong, although there is no time to argue the point now.

Instead, we should be considering ways to bring the rules of engagement into the law. One option, suggested in an early-day motion supported by 118 colleagues, is to embody them directly in the law. If that is thought to be too inflexible and impractical, an alternative would be to allow an absolute defence in law--not a defence that would somehow downgrade a murder charge--that a soldier reasonably believed that he was operating within the rules of engagement laid down on the yellow card on the advice of the Government's Law Officers. I suggest that the best body to examine the matter would be the Select Committee on Defence which could take advice from all levels in the Army, as well as from other interested parties and various local bodies involved.

I have four recommendations. First, and perhaps most important, we must reject the idea of removing from our soldiers the protection of an "all or nothing" situation. It would be shameful if we were to change the law in this respect under legal pressure. Secondly, we should suspend the internal inquiry in the Home Office until the Select Committee on Defence, if it chooses to do so--which I understand is likely--has had the opportunity to investigate the matter and report to the House, and until the House has then debated the options in the wider context of the rules of engagement. Thirdly, there is one thing that we could do immediately to reassure our armed forces should hostilities tragically recommence. We could at least ensure that soldiers charged with offences while on active service have their cases heard at an early date. The numbers involved are relatively small, but they should not spend two years in custody waiting for their cases to be heard.

Finally, Private Clegg should be released on licence--as Private Thain was- -and allowed to rejoin his regiment. The Northern Ireland Office has the necessary power to arrange that. I believe that we owe these things to the service men and women who serve us so loyally in Northern Ireland.

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10.22 am

Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West): We are having this debate because of what happened on 13 September 1990. Hon. Members will know that, on that date, two young joyriders--Karen Reilly and Martin Peake--were shot dead by a patrol of the 3rd Parachute Regiment, which included Private Clegg. That same regiment had shot dead 13 unarmed people in Derry in 1972.

I wonder whether hon. Members, especially those on Conservative Benches who might have signed an early-day motion, know all the facts of the case. On 13 September 1990, and on every other night in west Belfast in that period, joyriders were out every night of the week, not only on the Upper Glen road but on Monagh road and Lenadoon avenue. Everybody in Belfast, and especially in west Belfast, and members of the security forces and police officers, were well aware of that fact. Joyriders are a plague; they can kill people and be killed themselves, but they do not deserve to be shot dead. They are not shot dead in England, Scotland or Wales.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Hendron: No, I must be brief.

Hon. Members may be aware that, in the 25 years since the troubles began in Northern Ireland, not once has a car used by joyriders been found to be associated with paramilitary activity. I cannot over-emphasise that point. I have made that statement many times, and never been challenged in any meaningful way. Not once in 25 years has a joyrider's car or the joyriders in it been found to be associated with paramilitary activity.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Hendron: We have been asked to keep our speeches brief. Do hon. Members really know what happened on the night in question? My hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) mentioned the policeman who gave evidence, but another person--Mr. Brannigan from the Lower Falls road- -also made a statement. He came to me within days of the killings. The fact that he came to see me rather than a representative of another political grouping showed that he had a certain credibility.

He said that he came up the Suffolk road and turned left into the Upper Glen road to take a short cut home, but realised that it was not a short cut at all and did a U-turn in the dark. Of course, his car lights were on. Members of the Parachute Regiment's patrol seemed to come out of the darkness, and they surrounded him. He was threatened and ordered not to drive on. He put the car to one side and got out, and was searched with his hands on the car.

As Mr. Brannigan stood there, he heard the joyriders' car in the distance approaching quickly, as joyriders' cars are wont to do. As it came nearer, soldiers of the patrol further up the road, whom he had not seen and of whose presence he had not been aware, started firing. As the car went past him, the soldiers standing beside him also started firing at the car; and as the car passed, more soldiers who were part of the same patrol--also people he had not seen--started firing, too. The car came to a halt.

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Mr. Brannigan said that he saw no checkpoint, but when is a checkpoint a checkpoint? Is it when a soldier or policeman steps out with a red light? I am not sure of the definition, but Mr. Brannigan did not see a checkpoint. I am not arguing that there was not a checkpoint further up the road in the darkness, but, if the patrol was so innocent, why did it try to subvert the course of justice? Why, according to the policeman's evidence, did one soldier try to hurt another soldier's leg? That is an important point. Hon. Members will be aware that Pierce Jordan was also shot dead on the Falls road while running away.

According to the law, any soldier who kills a civilian is exonerated if he testifies that he believed that his life or that of one of his comrades was in danger. We should remember that tens of thousands of soldiers have been in Belfast and Northern Ireland in the past 20 years and thousands of people have been killed, with many more thousands being injured. It is fair to say that millions of shots have been fired. Yet, of all those shots, it would appear that when only two of them were fired can it be said that the soldiers acted outside the law.

Sir Brian Hutton, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said that it was right that Private Clegg should be convicted in respect of the unlawful killing of Karen Reilly and should receive a just punishment. I accept that there is something wrong with the accusation of murder, and that perhaps a charge of culpable homicide or manslaughter should have been considered a long time ago.

Mr. Mallon: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The difficulty is that we are trying to solve a legal matter by military means. We should remember the words of Lord Denning:

"Be you ever so high, the law is above you."

Over the years in Standing Committees, in the House and in debates on emergency legislation, I have proposed the introduction of lesser charges-- not for the reasons outlined by the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier), but so that the Director of Public Prosecutions and the legal process would have an opportunity to deal effectively with serious crime rather than the opportunity being wholly obviated by the single charge, especially as a result of the McIlhone decision made in the House of Lords in, I think, 1970. In effect, that decision makes it impossible for the whole gamut of the law to apply in these circumstances.

Madam Speaker: Order. This is a short debate, in which many hon. Members have a great deal of interest and a direct involvement. If we must have interventions, I hope that they will be very short. I need to call many hon. Members.

Dr. Hendron: The present campaign in Britain appears to want Private Clegg released whatever the evidence shows. If he is set free as a political gesture to that campaign, a new set of rules will have been established--one for soldiers and one for citizens in Northern Ireland. The conviction among many of my constituents that double standards apply in Northern Ireland will only be reinforced.

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Let us look at the campaign. I shall quote directly from the Daily Express , which reported Private Lee Clegg's words on 20 January. Lee Clegg was supposed to have said:

"If I am released it would not be a victory. Two young people have been killed in a tragic situation which could have been avoided if I had been given the correct rules."

I give Private Lee Clegg credit for stating his regret. But he also said on radio one morning recently that he had been well briefed that morning. Perhaps the issue surrounds not only Private Clegg but that whole patrol of the Parachute Regiment out that night. What about the senior officer or officers who gave that briefing?

On television the other evening, a former lieutenant colonel of the Parachute Regiment was asked on the "Counterpoint" programme in Northern Ireland whether he would offer an apology on behalf of the Parachute Regiment to the family of Karen Reilly. His answer was "Never." I say to that and to other comments, especially in some of the papers such as the Daily Mail : let us not have the cheap rhetoric of pseudo-patriots. Let us not have cries that, in reality, seem to amount to "Rule Britannia": that no matter what our boys at the front do, it seems to be all right.

I was asked on a television programme in the past few days whether the people of my constituency were sympathetic to the family of Private Lee Clegg, considering that he was--possibly--facing many years in prison. I answered that they most certainly would be sympathetic to the family of anybody, soldier, policeman or anyone else, if their son were facing a long time in prison.

I also asked whether the people running the campaign, especially Conservative Members, would show sympathy for the families of Patrick Kane, Sean Kelly and Michael Fitzsimons, who seem to face many years in prison for a crime which I believe they did not commit. Would they show sympathy for Mrs. Sarah Conlon, the widow of Guiseppe Conlon, mother of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four? Hon. Members have seen, I am sure, the film "In the Name of the Father". Guiseppe Conlon, who was my patient and constituent, was allowed to die in prison. An apology has never been given to his widow, Mrs. Sarah Conlon, who still lives in west Belfast.

The people I represent would support generosity towards prisoners. I most certainly support generosity towards prisoners. I shall not be so arrogant as to say how long Private Lee Clegg should be in jail. However, many others should be there with him, or at least should be facing the due course of the law. When generosity is shown--I believe that it will be shown--let it be across the board and to both communities in the North of Ireland.

10.33 am

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford, South): I welcome the opportunity to speak in today's debate on behalf of Lee Clegg and his family, as his constituency Member of Parliament. Thousands of words have been written over the past few weeks about this tragic case, and I have received hundreds of letters urging me to do everything in my power to put right this injustice.

Lee Clegg did not set out to kill anyone as he went on his patrol on that dark night. He was a soldier trying to do his duty. He was faced with a split-second judgment: a car speeding towards his colleagues. He thought that the

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occupants were terrorists. He fired, and we are asked to believe that the first three bullets were lawful, but that the fourth shot, fired in that same burst, was not. That fraction of a second has resulted in Lee Clegg being convicted of murder and serving a life sentence.

I do not believe that, had there been a jury, it would have found Lee Clegg guilty in those circumstances. Perhaps his case is a perfect and clear example of why we need to get rid of Diplock courts as soon as possible and return such judgments to ordinary men and women, who can bring common sense and a sense of decency to bear. Only in that environment can normality and trust develop to bring about peace and sustained development.

I understand and acknowledge the frustration felt by people in Northern Ireland, who believe that far more media coverage has been given to a British soldier accused of murder than to Irish people faced with injustice. Whoever is at fault in the press campaign, it is not Private Lee Clegg. I say to the fair-minded people of Northern Ireland that it is wrong to want an innocent man to stay in prison just because he is a British soldier.

Injustice must be fought wherever it occurs, and I hope that all cases that have been mentioned in the context of Clegg's case are examined again. The Government have a tremendous opportunity to investigate all cases of injustice in Ireland and on the mainland, to convince people of their continuing vigour to pursue a just and lasting peace settlement.

There are many questions relating to this case that cause Clegg's legal advisers and me considerable concern. The initial investigation by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Army found no case to answer. A television programme later implied wrongdoing and promoted the existence of a shoot-to-kill policy, citing this case as an example. It is interesting to note that the producer of that programme now says that he has an open mind on Lee Clegg's guilt. That was not the case in the programme.

The quality of Clegg's legal advice is also in question. I find it staggering to hear that there was no detailed questioning and examination of the ballistics evidence. We have heard this morning about the 34 shots fired. There was also the question of who had been involved in the briefing that night. If the security forces knew that the car was driven by joyriders, why were the ordinary soldiers on the patrol not told, as Clegg maintained? Why did not the defence at Clegg's trial pursue that point?

It is clear that, at the time of Private Clegg's conviction, there was a rising tide of belief in the nationalist community that the security forces were out of control. I cannot help but feel that Clegg's murder charge had more to do with politics than justice. I have a suspicion that it was decided to make an example out of someone, and Lee Clegg happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If there was a problem with the security forces--I am in no position to judge either way--it was not that of an ordinary private soldier trying to do his duty in a difficult and dangerous situation.

Lee Clegg's legal advisers are collecting new evidence for presentation in the very near future. Lee Clegg does not want to be seen as a hero, but nor is he a murderer. The Law Lords in their judgment indicated the need for change in the law, and it is right for Parliament to consider such changes as required, in detail and not in haste. Never again should security forces face such a dilemma. Regulation of the security forces is definitely required, but it must be fair, and it must be just.

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The attempt to discredit Clegg should also be resisted. The courts found that he had no part in the perjury of the feigned injuries. He was also not connected with the infantile and insensitive actions of other companies in the Parachute Regiment.

Every day that Lee Clegg spends in jail is an indictment of British justice. I am pleased that the Ministry of Defence has agreed to pay for fresh examination of the ballistics evidence. Lee Clegg and his family have suffered enough. I hope that the Minister who has the jurisdiction will release Private Clegg as soon as possible. That, I believe, is the will of the overwhelming number of people in Britain.

I must also say, thank God we do not have capital punishment. Otherwise, we may have been arguing about somebody who could have been hanged. Conservative Members especially should note that, many of whom vote in favour of capital punishment. Clegg could have been an innocent victim. I hope that Ministers will look at the case and will release Clegg as soon as possible.

10.38 am

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) for raising this important subject so well. I think that, across the House, there is general agreement on many points. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) that no injustice should be allowed to go unchallenged, which includes many of the people mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron). People have been unjustly treated by Diplock courts, but each case must be judged on its merits.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West asked many questions which I shall try to answer. I spent the best part of a year of my life as a British soldier in his constituency, and I have a certain affection for parts of it. I speak with a little knowledge of the subject. During that time, I operated under the rules of engagement--the so-called yellow card. The rules are very tight and clear. I always believed that they were legally binding, and that is extremely important.

For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with the so-called yellow card, I will quote from a white photocopy of it:

"In all situations, you are to use the minimum force necessary. FIREARMS MUST ONLY BE USED AS A LAST RESORT."

A soldier is meant to challenge, if at all possible:


I suggest that that is difficult in the middle of a gunfight. Paragraph 5 states:

"You may only open fire against a person:

if he* is committing, or about to commit an act LIKELY TO ENDANGER LIFE" .

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that the yellow card is a classified document.

Madam Speaker: Thank you. Apparently it is all right to quote from a classified document, so the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) is in order to do that. I learn something all the time.

Mr. Robathan: The document is indeed classified and restricted. I am afraid to say that I have one somewhere in my bottom drawer from my first tour in 1976.

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The card states:

"if he* is committing, or about to commit an act LIKELY TO ENDANGER LIFE, AND THERE IS NO OTHER WAY TO PREVENT THE DANGER." The asterisk informs the reader:

"*`She' can be read instead of `he' if applicable."

I hope that that is not political correctness creeping into the military.

It is essential to have clearly understood rules, and soldiers are trained in respect of those rules. They are asked questions about the yellow card during their training. The yellow card also states that a soldier may "fire only aimed shots" and

"no more rounds than are necessary".

The hon. Member for Bradford, South referred to a shoot-to-kill policy. In the light of the yellow card, the idea of such a policy is ridiculous. When we talk about shooting, people expect the best trained marksmen to hit someone in the leg. We always hear people asking, "Why didn't they shoot him in the legs?"

I spent a lot of time shooting and I was damned lucky to hit the target. That is the case with nearly all soldiers, especially at 100 m in the dark. One is very lucky to hit the target in such circumstances, let alone inflict a neat flesh wound in someone's calf. People who talk about a shoot -to-kill policy and want to know why soldiers do not shoot at people's legs show a remarkable naivety and lack of understanding.

The rules of engagement state:


It is essential to understand that.

It is important to understand why soldiers are in Northern Ireland. They were sent there in 1969 to protect the nationalist population. Wiser and greyer heads on the Opposition Benches might remember these things better than me. They were sent to keep both communities apart. Their mission is, and remains, to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the defeat of terrorism. Every soldier knows that. Ask any soldier on the streets of Northern Ireland and he will confirm that. Incidentally, I am glad to see that soldiers are not allowed out in daylight these days, not because they are so ugly, but for other reasons.

As soldiers are aware of their mission, and as they walk around day in, day out--night in, night out, as it now is--for six months, they remember that they are supporting the RUC in the defeat of terrorism. Most soldiers are unlikely to see a terrorist. Most soldiers are issued with 30 rounds at the beginning of their tour, and they return the same 30 rounds at the end of their tour, which are carefully checked back in by the quartermaster.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West referred to millions of rounds being fired. That is simply not true. I was shot at, but I never fired a round. About 300 people have been killed by the security forces, but that must be balanced against the 2,800 or 3,000 who have been killed by terrorist action.

The problem about firing is that soldiers are sent to Northern Ireland to react. They can only react. They do not go out shooting. They can only react to an incident as they see it. I am delighted to say that there is currently a ceasefire, which I hope will continue. However, we do not send soldiers to Northern Ireland as targets. They must

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