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Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): Will the Minister make it clear whether IRA prisoners can be released regardless of whether there is decommissioning?

Mr. Ingram: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, one of the factors that has to be taken into account--it is one of the four factors--is commitment by those organisations to be engaged fully in that process. That factor is quite clear both from what the Prime Minister has said and in the legislation.

I tell the right hon. Member for Strangford that every hon. Member wants an end to paramilitary weapons. We all want decommissioning. The Government have initiated legislation to achieve that end. In the next few weeks, we will be signing the scheme to put into effect the means to achieve it. However, ultimately, the mechanism that those organisations would apply in decommissioning is voluntary. It is the organisations that will have to comply with the factors and produce the weapons. We do not have mechanisms to take weapons from organisations unless they co-operate with the schemes, which will be signed up to within the next few weeks.

I shall deal now with the points raised by the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay), which were raised again by the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss).

Mr. Robathan: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram: No; I should like now to deal specifically with the transfer of prisoners, as I am very conscious of the time.

Mr. MacKay: On decommissioning, and in response to the Minister's reply to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), may I ask whether the Minister agrees with the Prime Minister's statement on the Floor of the House that

If decommissioning is part of release, surely the Minister will agree that it must be a prerequisite--rather than the Secretary of State or her successors merely saying that they will take it into account. If the Minister can give us that confirmation today, I think that we will have very few problems with the rest of the Bill.

Mr. Ingram: Of course I agree with the Prime Minister. However, let me quote the Prime Minister's exact comments, which have been quoted selectively. In reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said:

We all agree with that. He continued:

    "Decommissioning is part of that, of course, but it goes further. It is not just a question of decommissioning, but a question of making sure, as the agreement says, that there is a complete and

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1164

    unequivocal ceasefire. What is more, there is provision in the agreement for that to be kept under constant review."--[Official Report, 6 May 1998; Vol. 311, c. 711.]

So what the Prime Minister said--

Mr. MacKay: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram: No.

What the Prime Minister said--[Hon. Members: "Give way."] I am answering the point. The Prime Minister's comments went further than the assurance now sought by the hon. Member for Bracknell. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman now finds it within himself to judge that he can support the legislation.

Mr. MacKay: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has quoted the passage in full--it was purely because of the time that I did not--because I agree with the rest of what the Prime Minister said. Any reasonable person who looks at what he said--a lot of reasonable people in the Province looked at it and decided in the end to vote yes during the referendum campaign--would judge that decommissioning had to take place before prisoners were released. That is absolute fact. If that is not conceded in the legislation, the people of Northern Ireland will have been ratted upon.

Mr. Ingram: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is being so offensive about the Prime Minister, who made such a--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. I remind the hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) that we should always use temperate language in the House.

Mr. MacKay: I will withdraw the words "ratted upon" and say misled.

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Gentleman is merely finding another way of being offensive. Clearly, that has been the whole import of what he has been saying. We have a bipartisan approach and we are trying to move forward. The hon. Gentleman is now saying that the Prime Minister has misled the House and the people of Northern Ireland, while at the same time saying that he welcomes the agreement and recognises the major contribution that the Prime Minister made in bringing it about and getting that tremendous vote on 22 May. Can the hon. Gentleman get his act together? Can he begin to think clearly whether he wants to compliment the Prime Minister or to insult him?

Mr. MacKay: I am not saying that the Prime Minister misled the House, if the legislation is corrected. I am assuming that the Prime Minister acted in good faith and was saying what would be in the legislation; but it is not in the legislation, and unless the legislation is amended, people will assume that the right hon. Gentleman has misled the House. I am asking the Minister to ensure that that provision is in the legislation--then there will be no problems whatever.

Mr. Ingram: Perhaps I should have taken longer for my winding-up speech, if that had been permitted; because of those interventions, I will not now have time to cover all the points made.

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1165

I shall deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Bracknell about the Prime Minister's assurances and what is reflected in the legislation. Clause 3(9), which must of course be considered with all the other factors that have to come into play, states:

Those are four clear factors, which the Secretary of State will take into account and which are wholly consistent with what the Prime Minister said in the House and to the people of Northern Ireland. I hope that when the hon. Member for Bracknell leaves the Chamber he will reflect on those--he probably will not correct his thoughts at this point in time. He has complimented the Prime Minister in the past and he should compliment him again for ensuring that those factors are in the legislation. They are important and they will have to be taken into account.

The transfer of prisoners from England--not from the mainland as the hon. Member for Bracknell said--to the Republic of Ireland is another critical area that has been mentioned. Repatriation of such prisoners was agreed on the basis that the Republic would continue to enforce their sentences. The hon. Gentleman and others referred to a particular prisoner, Magee, who would normally expect to serve a period similar to that which he could have expected to serve in England.

Under the Belfast agreement, both Governments agreed to introduce mechanisms for the early release of prisoners--the agreement that the hon. Gentleman says he supports. The sentences of those prisoners repatriated to the Republic of Ireland may therefore be reviewed under the terms of the agreement. That is a clear reading of the agreement. It cannot be interpreted in any other way. It is a matter for the Republic of Ireland how it implements its aspect of the agreement, in the same way as it is a matter for the House how we implement ours. My understanding is that legislation will not be required in the Republic, but that is a matter for its jurisdiction.

Many other points need to be dealt with, and I am sure that we will do that in Committee.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 343, Noes 10.

Division No. 299
[9.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Arbuthnot, James
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bennett, Andrew F
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blair, Rt Hon Tony
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Collins, Tim
Colman, Tony
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cox, Tom
Cran, James
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Doran, Frank
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Duncan Smith, Iain
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Nigel
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
Garnier, Edward
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Grant, Bernie
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hammond, Philip
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr Evan
Hayes, John
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heald, Oliver
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkin, Bernard
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Key, Robert
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lansley, Andrew
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Lidington, David
Livingstone, Ken
Llwyd, Elfyn
Love, Andrew
Luff, Peter
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGrady, Eddie
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
MacKay, Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
McLoughlin, Patrick
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Madel, Sir David
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mallon, Seamus
Mandelson, Peter
Maples, John
Marek, Dr John
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Maxton, John
May, Mrs Theresa
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Moss, Malcolm
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Nicholls, Patrick
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Paice, James
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Nick
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spring, Richard
Squire, Ms Rachel
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trend, Michael
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vis, Dr Rudi
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Janet Anderson and
Mr. Greg Pope.


Donaldson, Jeffrey
Flight, Howard
McCartney, Robert (N Down)
Paisley, Rev Ian
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Thompson, William
Trimble, Rt Hon David
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. John D. Taylor and
Rev. Martin Smyth.

Question accordingly agreed to.

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1168

Bill read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills),

Question agreed to.

Committee tomorrow.

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