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The Prime Minister: On my hon. Friend's last point, the staff were withdrawn after two of them were actually ordered to leave by the authorities there. The view taken was that it was best for the protection of the rest that they leave. The Americans do have strong evidence of attempts to manufacture chemical weapons in Sudan for use by terrorists, and that evidence has indeed been shared with us. Indeed, bin Laden himself lived in Sudan for some four years and has retained extremely close links with the regime.

Those states that sponsor terrorism must expect to have action taken against them. In respect of the Al Shifa plant, no one was actually killed; but, as a result of those bombs that went off in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, almost 300 people were butchered--wholly innocent people. It

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is important and it is justified for states to take action to make it quite clear that those who take terrorist action against their citizens will not do so with impunity.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I should like to associate myself with the remarks made today by hon. Members on both sides of the House in respect of those who have been bereaved and those who are still suffering from the results of the Omagh massacre. We are all indebted to the hon. Member for the constituency, the hon. Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson), for his moving and touching speech. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) mentioned that he was moved by the coffins and the little corpses of babes. I was moved by the coffins that could not be opened, because they contained only parts of the bodies recovered. As one of my own Sabbath-school teachers was one of the victims, it was brought home to me in a very real way indeed.

No doubt, in the coming debate, there will be an opportunity to deal with the matters on the minds of Members from Northern Ireland, but I should like to put one point to the Prime Minister. I am sure that, when he read the reaction of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to the atrocity, he was aware that four men were arrested who were known by the security forces to be members of the so-called Real IRA: I refer to the brothers O'Hagen, Francis Curran and Shane Mackey. They were released. There is one question on the mind of the people of Northern Ireland today and they would like the Prime Minister to answer it. If the laws that he is now saying we must pass today had already been in operation, could those four men have been kept in custody and brought to trial to prove whether they were guilty or not guilty when the security forces said that they were members of the organisation that committed the atrocity?

The Prime Minister: I cannot comment on individual cases of individual people and it would be wrong if I did so. What I can say is that we believe that the legislation gives us a far better chance of being able, where people are members of the proscribed organisations, to prove that membership, because we have dealt with two of the major problems that the police have with proving such a charge.

I also say that, of course, the very purpose and object of the bomb were to wreck the agreement and produce a violent reaction from others. We all have a responsibility to make sure that that does not happen.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): In his statement, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the best way forward is by way of continuing political reform. I agree with him. I also agree whole-heartedly with his view that strong and decisive steps must be taken against those murderous fascists who committed that terrible atrocity. However, he must take cognisance of the genuine and utterly legitimate concerns of many people that the implementation of the legislation might harm the civil liberties of decent ordinary citizens.

We need sustained, methodical police investigation on both sides of the border to track down these dreadful, evil people. The Government must fulfil their promise of the early creation of a human rights commission for Northern Ireland with strong investigative powers. That is surely essential as part of the continuing political reform to which my right hon. Friend referred.

The Prime Minister: It is precisely because of our recognition that, with any such legislation, there will be

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genuine, legitimate concerns about whether the balance between strong action and protection of civil liberties is right, that we have taken the measures that we have. Those measures are specific. There are also forfeiture provisions, but in evidential terms the changes are twofold: the admissibility in evidence of the word of a senior police officer, and the right to draw inferences from the failure to mention certain facts. Both those powers are carefully circumscribed. I think that we have got the balance right.

The human rights position is set out in the agreement and we will proceed accordingly. There is now a different context in which the British and Irish Governments take measures together. In the past 20 or 30 years, measures taken by the United Kingdom Government were fiercely resisted, not only by large parts of the community in Northern Ireland, but by many in the Republic, where they had no political support and there was no political base for them. The context today is completely different.

I urge on my hon. Friend, as I did on my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), that, while we must learn the lessons of the past--that is why we are moving in step with the Irish Government and the measures are so carefully targeted--we need to have an answer to the problem of small groups of people who will carry on with terror irrespective of the political process. The ordinary, decent people who expressed their democratic will in referendums in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have a right to the protection of the law in so far as we are able to give it to them.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down): I, too, welcome the sensitive manner in which the Prime Minister expressed the sympathy of the House for the victims at Omagh, but certain aspects of the Bill are disturbing in the light of what he himself has said. There seems to be a distinction between small terrorist groups committing acts of terror with no political support and larger groups of terrorists who may, broadly speaking, have such support.

Do we now have a two-tier system under which the proposed measures will apply to groups such as the Real IRA but not to Provisional IRA, which, through its alter ego, Sinn Fein, has considerable public support? Sincethe Belfast agreement was signed, there have been 37 murders: 28 at Omagh and nine outside that outrage. There have been 29 punishment shootings and about 57 brutal beatings, inflicting terrible injuries. Almost every one of those crimes was committed by what might be called the good terrorist groupings that are party tothe agreement: Provisional IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries. It seems that the new provisions would not apply to what might be called the major terrorist groupings prior to the advent of the Real IRA. Will the police be called upon to make a preliminary determination as to whether one is a wicked terrorist of a small group that is outside the process, or a good terrorist who belongs to a group within the process and, having so determined, apply the new provisions? If that be the case, we are entering a two-tier system of terrorist opposition and a two-tier system of the administration of justice, and many people would regard that as a grave mistake.

The Prime Minister: Obviously, we have to make a judgment in respect of any group about whether it qualifies under the provisions. There is a provision, which

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we are entitled and able to use should the situation change in respect of any group, to add that group to this list. It is simply not correct to say that there is a division between one group of terrorists which operates according to one rule and another group which operates according to different rules. There is provision to change the list if that becomes the right thing to do. Our judgment in the round is the one that we have expressed about the activities of the Real IRA and other groups.

Kali Mountford (Colne Valley): Justice for victims cannot be achieved by providing a safe haven for terrorists; nor can it be achieved by miscarriages of justice such as have occurred in the past. I welcome the Prime Minister's words about the admission of evidence and about the European convention on human rights. What further assurance can he give that the process will lead to a full and fair trial so that justice can be done and be seen to be done?

The Prime Minister: The short answer is that the standard and burden of proof remain exactly the same. As I have said, this is an attempt to amend the law simply in these two respects. They are important respects, because we know perfectly well that, on occasions, it has not been possible to convict people of these offences, precisely because of gaps in the law. We have very carefully attempted to steer a path between some knee-jerk reaction, by which we would bring in a whole range of measures that, on examination, cannot be justified, and ending up not acting at all in circumstances where people would not expect that. The fact that that is the collective view, not just of this Government but of the Irish Government too, is some earnest not merely of our good intent, but of the fact that we have been able to deliver the intent in practical legislation.

Mr. Michael Mates (East Hampshire): May I say with the greatest respect to the Prime Minister that what he said a few moments ago about internment is wrong? It is not a matter of judgment: it is a matter of fact that internment's only use is as an element of surprise and a weapon of surprise if a situation arises in which it has to be used. We all hope that that will not happen; but if it should we would be in a ludicrous position, because the Irish Government would be ready to exercise that surprise and act decisively but we would have to come here to debate the matter for a couple of days, during which all that we should be doing is bolting the doors on empty stables. Will the Prime Minister reflect on that and perhaps consult his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary? I make the point seriously. We are rightly following the Irish and agreeing with them on joint measures for the island. This is a glaring exception and we ought to put it right.

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