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Mr. William Ross : I beg to move amendment No. 18, in page 3, leave out lines 10 to 12 and insert--

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin): With this, it will be convenient to consider amendment No. 34, in clause 2, page 5, leave out lines 10 to 12 and insert--

Mr. Ross: The amendment's intention is clear. It seeks to replace the provisions in the Bill relating to the legislation that was passed earlier this year with the provisions in the 1996 legislation. It addresses one of the Bill's key defects.

The Bill's scope is limited. It applies to only a small number of terrorist organisations that are presently admitting that they engage in terrorism that is directed at Northern Ireland's constitutional position. The Provisional IRA alleges that it is not so engaged. It is presently milking the agreement for all the political clout that that gives it, but we must not shut our eyes to the fact that PIRA may change its view and its attitude when the milk stops flowing.

To keep PIRA peaceful, or apparently peaceful, the Government have decided to concentrate on the small terrorist organisations that are engaged in a murder campaign. Some earlier comments implied that it was possible to deal with those small groups by security measures, but that such methods should not be used on the larger ones because they have political, intellectual support. If the Government say that it is possible to deal with one organisation by security measures, I cannot understand why Governments did not similarly deal with the major ones over the past 30 years.

The Government ignore the fact that the changes to Northern Ireland's constitutional position that were brought about by the violence of the larger terrorist organisations gained for those organisations the electoral support that they currently enjoy. I--and, I think, most people in Northern Ireland--see no difference whatever in the carefully planned murders of members of the security forces over the years, the murders of Senator Barnhill in Londonderry, of Airey Neave in the precincts of the House or of Ian Gow, who, like Neave, was murdered for the simple reason that he had thought out for Northern Ireland a system of government that would work, or any of the other PIRA murders.

The intention of those murders, and the evil spirit that drove their perpetrators, was exactly the same as the intention behind the Omagh bomb. The intent of the terrorists was to murder people who stood in their way or to terrorise people into doing that which they would not otherwise do. That is the purpose of political terrorism.

The Bill ignores the major terrorist organisation, and, most significantly, it ignores the activities of Sinn Fein-PIRA. It seems to ignore all the murder activities of PIRA that are not sanctioned by the present leadership. The Government seem to be willing to come down with a heavy hand only on the small organisations.

Dr. Palmer: We are aware that the hon. Gentleman is not one of those who support the Good Friday agreement,

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because he feels that agreement with Sinn Fein is undesirable. Does he agree that the amendment is an attempt to pursue his opposition to that agreement by other means?

Mr. Ross: Certainly not. It is an attempt to treat all terrorist organisations in exactly the same way. If the hon. Gentleman waits for me to finish my remarks, he will see exactly what I am trying to do.

The Bill applies the criterion of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 rather than that set out in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996. In so doing, it diminishes the number of terrorist organisations that fall within the ambit of the Bill. No truer words have been uttered than those that fell from the lips of Gerry Adams when he said PIRA had not gone away. It has not gone away. It is still there. It still has its organisation, its weaponry, its Semtex and the capacity to engage in massive violence should it so desire. It has no intention of going away until it accomplishes its goal of a united republic of Ireland.

At present, as I said, PIRA is engaged in milking agreements for every drop of influence and power that it can achieve, but some day it may well decide that this agreement has taken it as far as it is possible to go, and at that point there is a danger that it will once again consider violence--either it or a successor organisation. With its structure and weaponry intact, it could rotate from peace to war very quickly indeed. It may not happen, but, given the history of republican violence, prudence should be the order of the day when we are creating this legislation.

I and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) tabled a number of amendments to provide a safety net of measures to meet the possibility of sudden and massive violence from such a quarter. Sadly, only two have been selected, which disappoints me somewhat. The others would have placed on the police rather than the Secretary of State the responsibility of declaring, in court if need be, that an organisation and its individual members were again involved in terrorist violence.

I hope that the fact that the amendment was not selected simply means that the responsible Minister will accept the advice of the police and other security forces, and make that advice a determining factor in deciding whether an organisation is specified as engaged in terrorism should the need arise. I hope that he will be guided solely by that advice, and not by short-term political expediency. It would be atrocious if such advice given by the security forces were to be ignored for such short-term hopes of political gain.

The other amendment not selected, although I thought that it fell well inside the scope of the Bill's long title, would have restored to the statute book the power to intern, a power foolishly removed by the present Administration. That power is much needed, given the demonstration of the IRA's capacity to enforce its decree that the Real IRA should cease its violence. PIRA issued that decree because it considered that the violence was damaging to the Irish republican cause. It said so, simply and clearly, and we should not ignore what it said.

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Nor should we ignore the words of Mitchel McLaughlin when interviewed shortly after the Omagh bomb. He was asked why he condemned it, and he said that he could not do anything else in the circumstances, or words to that effect. That was a telling interview. If the Minister has not seen it, I advise him to look it up, because it would be instructive, even for him.

The amendments under discussion bring all the terrorist organisations within the ambit of the Bill. In so doing, they perform a valuable service by removing the distinction that has been created in recent months between good terrorists--those terrorist organisations not currently engaged in an active murder campaign for political and constitutional ends--and the bad terrorists, who are. [Interruption.] The Minister may laugh, and his hon. Friends may find that amusing, but the people of Omagh did not find it amusing two weeks ago, and I did not find it amusing over the past 30 years.

If the amendments were accepted, they would allow the Secretary of State to take into account the punishment shootings and the beatings that are the method by which the larger terrorist groups keep control. It is they, not the smaller organisations, that are in charge of their various areas. The other smaller fish swam in the sea created by the Provisional IRA and the Protestant paramilitary organisations in their own ghettos.

If the Secretary of State is eager to discover the extent of the involvement of those groups in such activities, she should inquire of the RUC whether the weapons used in recent punishment shootings in Belfast, one of which ended in the death of the victim, have a history of being used by PIRA. Perhaps she is already aware of the answer. The Minister will know from my remarks that I am aware of the answer. It would be instructive for the Committee if he would tell us the extent of the Government and police knowledge in that regard.

Without the changes that my amendments would accomplish, the Bill will be a dead letter--of that I have no doubt. "Savage assault by a dead sheep" are words that spring to mind. A telling remark to that effect was once passed in the House. That is the most likely outcome of the Bill.

Large sections of the community in Northern Ireland have the impression that the intention is to create an illusion of determined action when none is intended. If the legislation is considered effective, why was it not introduced 30 years ago?

In May this year, I wrote to the Chief Constable and asked him a simple question--whether he could provide me with information about the number of murders committed by terrorists over the past 30 years for which no one had been brought to court. His answer, which arrived in a letter dated 29 July, stated that the total number of murders attributed to terrorists was 2,719. The number of cases in which charges were brought--only those cases where a person or persons were charged with the offence--was 938. The number of cases where no charge was brought--the unsolved murders--was 1,796. Charges were brought in just over 34 per cent. of cases. There may be a few more, as some cases are still in the pipeline.

If the House and the Government are prepared to forget 1,796 murdered people, I can tell those on the Front Bench that the people of Northern Ireland are not. The

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people who committed most of those murders are those in the Provisional IRA, who are outside the ambit of the Bill. They should be brought firmly within it.

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