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Mr. Robert McCartney: The hon. Gentleman raises a fundamental issue--whether in those circumstances there would have to be a preliminary inquiry to determine whether such a person was a terrorist falling within the proscribed classes, which would enable the regulations to apply to him before he could then, in a subsequent terrorist offence, such as the bombing, be subject to the proofs that the new regulations provide.

Mr. Maginnis: Yes. The hon. and learned Gentleman will, I think, agree that in terms of complementing the existing legislation that enables us to deal with terrorists, this will be pretty useless. That is the point to which I should like a response.

I note that in proposed new section 2B in clause 1 the Secretary of State has the power to specify any organisation that she believes

I am pleased that this part of the legislation refers to specified organisations. I do not want, and I do not think that we need, a great broad brush. I am content with that, but I would be interested in hearing details of the logical basis on which the Secretary of State makes that judgment.

The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to a number of incidents. I shall refer to three, which relate to the IRA, the UDA and the UVF respectively. Those are not specified organisations, nor are they likely to be. They are supposed to be observing a ceasefire--perhaps they are the "good terrorists" of the hon. Member for Hull, North.

The IRA, as we all know, shot Mr. Kearney and left him where he was bound to bleed to death. They callously killed him and we know that the senior member of the Provisional IRA was responsible for that incident. It is common knowledge. As we say, the dogs in the street know it.

There was an incident in Londonderry in which two Catholic brothers were shot. It is now known that that was by members of the UDA--I believe they have been charged--who have carried out other acts of terrorism for that organisation. That is admitted.

Most recently, there was the heist in east or north Belfast in the past week, when up to nine members of the UVF were caught trying to hijack a load of cigarettes or whiskey--I cannot remember what it was--in order to fund that illegal organisation.

It is not the discretion of the police that worries me, but the discretion of those in charge of the Northern Ireland Office who are still dominated by the euphoria of the 10 April agreement. Whatever I might think of that agreement and however much I may support it, I am not overwhelmed by euphoria. I know that there is an uphill struggle that must be completed before the agreement can yield what we want it to yield. The politics of headlines and of soundbites are not enough at this time.

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What were spoken of as voluntary contributions from various political organisations or paramilitary-linked political parties in the past are no longer to be voluntary contributions. In so far as those organisations have signed up to the Stormont agreement, those have become obligations, which must be met. The Government must stop trying to implement the agreement unilaterally. To do so is to destroy it for those of us who would be its strongest supporters. We will lose the confidence of society and with it our ability to carry the agreement forward in the way that we would wish.

I caution the Government seriously and without rancour to reassess how they legislate. Whether they will be persuaded to ameliorate the Bill tonight will be important. It needs to be stiffened up. I shall give an example of one of the nonsensical aspects of the Bill. One of the most impractical provisions in the Bill is that in clause 4(3), which refers to the forfeiture of the property of convicted terrorists. That should be able to happen, but what will the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland do with the house or the pub somewhere in south Armagh when it is forfeit? Will she be able to sell it to another resident in the area? We know that it cannot be sold to another resident in the area. So should I expect to see our Secretary of State ordering the bulldozers down? It will be a little bit like more historical times--firing the thatch. I do not think that we are going to indulge in that either, so let us be very careful about property. I am not terribly sure that it can be disposed of. The worst thing that we can do is to seize property that cannot be disposed of and allow the person from whom it is seized to repossess it without paying any penalty.

There is increasing evidence that financial resources are held by terrorists and terrorist organisations. They are not being tackled at present because those who hold illegally obtained finances are supposed to be observing a ceasefire. There must be equity before the law for everyone. I do not believe that it will weaken the agreement one iota, harm the Government or harm any of us to have that equity before the law demonstrated as it should be demonstrated.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): Does my hon. Friend agree that, if the Government are serious about tracing illegal funding, one of the best places for them to start is with public expenditure in Northern Ireland? They should check up on all the miscellaneous expenditure by contractors, many of whom are still paying protection money.

Mr. Maginnis: That is something that, in the more than 15 years that I have been in the House, I have repeated again and again. I have heard colleagues raise this point. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising it again. The Government must seriously look at the massive embezzlement of public funds--for example, the giros that go to convenience addresses. I know that that is not peculiar to Northern Ireland, but it has a significance in terms of terrorism there.

There are many things that one would want to get off one's chest on an occasion such as this, but I conclude by reminding the House why we need more stringent anti-terrorist legislation and why we cannot be content to finish with what we have in front of us tonight. I hope that the Government are serious when they say that they are examining the possibility of using wire-tap evidence

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and investigating other matters that have been suggested by the Chief Constable. I believe that those who have been involved in the process that led to the agreement are being forced, many of them reluctantly, to move inch by inch inexorably towards a democratic process, or at least towards decision point, where they have to jump the psychological hurdle from the Armalite and ballot box strategy to exclusively peaceful and democratic means. As they move, others are drifting away to the Real IRA and perhaps to other organisations--who knows? Those people have to be stopped now before they make an impression on the young.

No one has been caught for the Omagh bomb. No one has been charged. Young people will be impressed that Mr. McKevitt and others whom I could name have managed to elude the Brits, the Irish Government and the Dail. If they are not brought to justice, that will help with recruitment. For that reason, we should be trying to co-operate as far and as actively as we can with the Government of the Irish Republic--yes, to the extent of at least getting internment back on the statute book.

I do not think it is a secret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann and I met the Taoiseach in the wake of the Omagh bomb. Talking about the measures that he was going to introduce, he said that he had no intention of introducing internment at this stage, but that his great problem was that he may need it. He said that he intended ruthlessly to suppress the Real IRA, and if he wanted to intern, he would. He said that only one thing would hinder him--the fact that we did not have the ability to match and assist him because we no longer had internment on the statute book. I leave the Home Secretary with that thought, and I hope that he will respond.

10.55 pm

Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe): The Bill comes at a critical moment in the development of the peace process. I believe that, for most of us, the presumption is favourable in the sense that we have to assume that now, after the Omagh bomb and after the successes of the peace process, it is sensible to take further action to crack down on the small groups that are defying the peace process. Realistically--one needs realism in dealing with the Ulster problem--that was not possible when there were very large organisations with broad popular support, but it now appears possible to isolate the small groups that are still defying public opinion across the whole of northern and southern Irish society. That provides a window of opportunity that the Government are seeking to seize through the Bill.

Despite comment in the media to the effect that the whole of northern Irish society is now behind the peace process and that people have revolted against the Omagh bomb, it would be a dangerous illusion to assume that there is not a small group of people still willing to use and committed to the way of the bomb and the bullet. After every atrocity, there has always been a group of such people; there are still such people today, and there will be in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Robert McCartney: I trust that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the 250,000 people who voted no in the referendum--the number who now agree

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with them is growing--are to be associated in any way with those involved in armed violence alleged to be directed towards wrecking the peace process.

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