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Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy): In fully endorsing what the Prime Minister said about the vile acts perpetrated on the people of Omagh and about the real and urgent need to bring those responsible to book, may I say that the time allotted for scrutiny of the Bill is totally and utterly inadequate? If there has been an intention for some time to combat international terrorism, why has it not been mentioned in any Queen's Speech since I have been a Member of this place?

The Prime Minister: On the last point, measures to make conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism abroad a criminal offence here have been discussed in this House

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over a long period. The previous Government had a Bill. There was a private Member's Bill; there was a discussion about that. We have always made it clear that we support action on that front. I think that it is the right time to do it, given that we have measures that we are taking against terrorism ourselves, and measures that are necessary to defeat terrorism abroad, examples of which we have seen just in the past few weeks.

As for the time for scrutiny of the Bill, again, let me emphasise: the parts of this that we have done--evidence of a senior police officer being admissible and inferences that can be drawn from the refusal of people to mention facts that they later rely on--were, of course, highlighted in precisely the terms in which they are in this legislation in the statement that I made at the time of Omagh; both of them are here before us.

We have said that we will review at greater length other measures that have been proposed by the police and security services on both sides of the border, precisely because we have been concerned not to rush into legislation, but in the end those two specific things that are in the Bill are very carefully measured and very carefully targeted. They march us, as I say, completely step by step and in line with what is happening in the Irish Republic.

People simply would not understand it if the Irish Government were meeting today and the Dail was meeting in session passing laws that allowed them to act against these terrorist groups in the Republic of Ireland, and we were not meeting here to do the same in the United Kingdom's House of Commons.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): In welcoming my right hon. Friend's statement, I also thank you, Madam Speaker, for agreeing to the recall of Parliament, because, unlike the biblical law of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a body for a body, this shows law being passed in this Parliament to deal with terrorism. I also welcome the fact that we are meeting at the same time as the Irish Parliament--again, I think, for the first time. Perhaps in our British Isles, the different nations, peoples and faiths can at long last learn to live and to co-operate together.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that this legislation is fully in accord with the European convention on human rights and other international conventions, and that what we are about here is the creation of some new international law, acting jointly with Ireland and other sovereign democracies, against that threat of terrorism?

The Prime Minister: Yes. Our view is that it is fully in line with the European convention on human rights--in particular, it is in line with the safeguards that arise as a result of the Murray case before the European Court of Human Rights. We believe that it is, as I say, a targeted and judicious response to the acts of terrorism with which we are faced.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): I endorse everything that has been said by hon. Members about the atrocity in Omagh, particularly the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson), but in looking at the situation at Omagh does the Prime Minister agree that the tragedy there came as no surprise and that there had been, over the previous months, a series of bombs planned and planted by the group calling itself

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the Real IRA? Indeed, just a fortnight before Omagh, a bomb in Banbridge could have had exactly the same consequences. It too had a misleading warning and could have resulted in carnage, had not a member of the RUC been vigilant enough to spot what had happened.

As the Prime Minister has said, this was done, obviously, with the intention of destroying the hopes that people in Northern Ireland have that we are coming out of violence and coming into a new era in which people will be able to work together, and I agree entirely with what he has said about the need to ensure that those hopes are not frustrated. I am sure that by far the greater number of people in Northern Ireland are determined to ensure that those hopes are realised, but, in pressing on with the agreement, does the Prime Minister agree that it is important that we ensure that the integrity of the agreement is sustained? There are a number of things that are linked together and the need for those who have been involved in terrorism to show they have left that clearly and decisively behind is underlined by what has happened. That is why it is necessary for us to focus again on issues such as decommissioning.

On that, I welcome the step that has been taken today, provided that it is only, as it should be, a first step and that it will be soon followed by other steps. We, of course, will take what opportunities we have to press on the leadership of Sinn Fein and other paramilitary-related parties the need for them to take this issue seriously now.

Is there not also a case for the Government to look more closely at some of their own procedures? I am thinking about prisoner releases. There are safeguards, but there is a need to scrutinise them more carefully to ensure that none of those released goes to augment any dissident group. Is the Prime Minister disturbed to learn, as I was, that a leading member of the Real IRA was released--I think by the Irish Government--some months ago as a so-called confidence-building measure at the request of Sinn Fein? We must ensure that that does not happen again.

We shall deal later with various security measures that are being brought forward. The Prime Minister has mentioned other matters. The House will be aware that the Chief Constable of the RUC has mentioned half a dozen measures that he considers important. I appreciate that the Government are looking at that list, although it is the same as the previous Chief Constable's list. We have been waiting five years for one Government or another to take action on it. Can we have an indication of the time scale on which the Government will consider the measures?

The Prime Minister has referred to the desirability of moving in tandem with the Irish Republic. I welcome that, but he should bear it in mind that the Irish Government have said that they do not rule out resorting to internment without trial if that becomes necessary. My judgment is that, if the measures that are being enacted in the Dail and, we hope, here in the next few days are ineffective--as I fear that they will be--the Irish Government will want to move to that quickly, particularly if there is another major incident. It would be gravely embarrassing if the Irish Government were prepared to intern but found that they could not do so because there were no parallel measures in the United Kingdom, allowing members of the Real IRA to flee to a safe haven in the United Kingdom. Must we not ensure that that does not happen?

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The Prime Minister: On that last point, as we have shown today, we can act without delay if necessary. I have made it clear that we rule nothing out for the future. My judgment was simply that this is not the right moment. I entirely agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the Good Friday agreement. For the integrity of that agreement, all parts of it have to be implemented in full. The existing safeguards on prisoner releases have to be followed through and obeyed. We shall ensure that they are.

The measures put forward by the Chief Constable of the RUC will be looked at. A working party is examining them with the Chief Constable, in conjunction with what is happening in the Irish Republic. That can form part of the review of terrorist legislation that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will bring forward in the not-too-distant future.

I agree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman says about not frustrating people's hopes. I congratulate him on the work that he has done over some time to move the process forward. Over the past 15 months, I have learnt that there are two groups of people when it comes to Northern Ireland: there are those who say that there are tremendous difficulties, therefore it is all hopeless and we should give up; and there are those who say that there are tremendous difficulties, so let us overcome them. The fact that the right hon. Gentleman is in the latter group shows his courage and commitment to the process.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): In his response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), the Prime Minister surely was not implying that article 51 covered a country sending cruise missiles to another country without warning.

Was the American evidence on the role of the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory taken on trust before British support was given? Have the Government been shown compelling and convincing evidence on that point since? What support did Britain give at the United Nations to the Sudanese request for an early site inspection of the pharmaceutical factory? Would the Government consider sending a team from Porton Down to make a technical assessment? What steps will the Foreign Office take to resume diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level with Khartoum, bearing in mind the exposed nature of the British community in Sudan and the UK's close involvement with the UN relief work?

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