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Mr. Ingram: I do not think that I will be able to convince the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) of the merits of my argument, and he has not convinced me of the merits of his. We come from entirely different understandings of where we are, where we are going and what we hope to achieve in Northern Ireland. History was mentioned in earlier debates. I do not want to be unkind to the hon. Gentleman, but I believe that he is trapped too much in history. He is not looking towards a new horizon. If we do not begin to look towards those new horizons, we shall never achieve them.

The legislation is specifically targeted. The measures deal with specific organisations. The hon. Gentleman's amendments would make the evidence and inference provisions bite on convictions for membership of all proscribed organisations under the Northern Ireland legislation. He has made that clear. He wants everyone to be included in the legislation. However, his approach ignores all the recent developments, and the substantial and significant statements made in the past 24 hours by Sinn Fein and, by implication, the IRA. That is an important development.

3.30 am

Only time will tell whether those developments have full effect, but we have to give encouragement to such developments, as we have to give encouragement to the so-called loyalist paramilitary groups who are on unequivocal ceasefires in our judgment. We have to make the best judgment--it is a fine judgment at all times, and at all times it is put under close scrutiny. That scrutiny is dependent on the very best intelligence and information made available to us by the Chief Constable of the RUC and the security forces. Those judgments are based on better information than the hon. Gentleman is able to pick up from gossip, rumour and innuendo from other people. Our judgments are based on facts and facts alone. That is what makes a better quality of judgment.

To widen the scope of what we seek to do in the Bill would not be productive in terms of what we are trying to achieve overall in the peace process in which we are engaged. The Bill is a specific, targeted measure. It deals with a particular group that we know about and other specified groups that I mentioned in earlier debates which may be moving into a different frame of activity. If that is the case, it is to be welcomed.

That is why I catalogued in my winding-up speech on Second Reading all the events that had taken place. Most of the events were attributed to the Real IRA. There is a new grouping out there. It is a smaller grouping. It does not have the full support of the wider Republican community. That is clearly the case. Statements have been made to that effect. Gerry Adams certainly supports that view, if we can take those expressions of opinion at face value, and I think that it is right that we do so.

So we have a different landscape to deal with now. We are dealing with a specific group of organisations. If any other group breaks its ceasefire, it moves from its current status to become one of the specified organisations. We will constantly keep that under review.

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I come back to the earlier point about how long this legislation will prevail. If we go back to the position in which we have been for the past 30 years, it may apply to other groups, and it may be around for some time. We hope not. If we are right, and it is not around for a long time, we shall have succeeded in our objectives with the specified groups referred to in the legislation.

I cannot ask the Committee to accept the amendments. I would prefer it if they were withdrawn, but if not, we shall oppose them.

Mr. William Ross: I cannot say that I am disappointed in what the Minister has said. It is perfectly in keeping with the policy that the Government have been following these many months past--in fact, since they came to office--of buying off the Provisional IRA regardless of the unsolved murders.

Rev. Martin Smyth: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I rise because the Minister nodded in disagreement with my hon. Friend's comment. The tragedy is that clear cases of breaches of ceasefire even in the past six months have been overlooked. Sometimes those who think that we are living in the past fail to remember that we live in the Province. The fact that the Government are acting on better intelligence than that of which we are aware is not necessarily a correct argument, given that the Government know that people from the Provos have committed heinous offences but have not been brought to justice for various reasons. When one considers the past, one must bear it in mind that it was a Labour Administration who de-proscribed PIRA and allowed it to grow and develop.

Mr. Ross: In the light of the Government's attitude, which is not going to help the long-term interests of Northern Ireland or, indeed, of the United Kingdom, and as they are clearly unwilling to accept any sensible point of view, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment. The Government will find out eventually that my assessment is correct.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. MacKay: I beg to move amendment No. 20, in page 3, leave out lines 24 and 25 and insert--

This is a probing amendment, but we believe that it would strengthen the Bill. I can say precisely what is behind it. We should now make sure that organisations that are not complying in full with the Belfast agreement are proscribed. We are looking specifically at those that are not co-operating with the decommissioning commission.

It is not good enough for an organisation simply to say that it renounces violence and is operating a ceasefire. We believe that an organisation can renounce violence and operate a ceasefire only when, as it says in the Belfast agreement, it is co-operating with the decommissioning commission and ensuring that the large arsenals of guns and explosives are handed in over a two-year period. Unless that happens, it seems that we have no reason to believe that the paramilitary organisations on both sides of the community divide can be taken at their word when they say that there is a cessation of violence or a ceasefire.

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We commend the amendment to the Committee. It would strengthen the Bill and would also put further pressure on paramilitary organisations to decommission. As I said on Second Reading, I greatly welcome the announcement--yesterday's announcement, as it is now--that Martin McGuinness had been appointed by Sinn Fein-IRA as its negotiator or co-ordinator with the commission. That is a welcome first stage. We need to see the loyalist paramilitaries doing the same fairly quickly. I know that that is a wish that the Minister and the Prime Minister share. I commend the amendment, although I suspect that we are not going to get much further.

Mr. Ingram: We are all watching the clock, as there is very little time on this part of our proceedings. We have covered a wide range of issues in the past three hours, but it is a pity that we have not--

It being three hours after the conclusion of proceedings on Second Reading, The Chairman, pursuant to the Order [this day], put forthwith the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings to be concluded at that hour.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No. 61, in page 2, line 46, after 'court' insert 'or jury'.

No. 62, in page 2, line 48, after 'belongs' insert

Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 2 to 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

England and Wales

Mr. Beith: I beg to move amendment No. 42 in page 7, line 7, leave out 'an' and insert 'a terrorist'.

The First Deputy Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 43, in page 7, line 8, after 'event' insert 'involving acts of terrorism'.

No. 45, in page 7, line 28 at end insert--

No. 50, in page 8, line 12, after 'Any', insert 'terrorist'.

No. 51, in page 8, line 23, leave out first 'an' and insert 'a terrorist'.

No. 57, in clause 7, page 9, line 28, leave out 'an' and insert 'a terrorist'.

No. 58, in clause 7, page 9, line 28, leave out 'an' and insert 'a terrorist'.

No. 59, in clause 7, page 9, line 39, after 'event' insert 'involving acts of terrorism'.

Mr. Beith: We now embark on a three-hour period during which we are intended to discuss a substantial change in conspiracy law, as well as Report and Third Reading. A great deal of detail is contained in this part of the Bill and because of the need to discuss it at greater length, my right hon. Friends and I felt that the business motion had got it wrong. Experience has demonstrated that. To continue Second Reading for six hours or so, and

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devote such a relatively small period of time to important detailed changes between 3.40 am and 6.40 am is not a good way to tackle such major legislation.

The clause and the amendment are part of what I would describe as the Home Office add-on to the Bill--a fact that was given away when the Prime Minister said that the Government had taken the opportunity of the recall to propose the measures, which were put before the House in a different guise two years ago, as a private Member's Bill proposed by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson). The case for the Government doing so was based on the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings, with which there was no known United Kingdom connection. As far as I am aware, there has been no suggestion that any conspiracy took place within the United Kingdom to further those, so the connection is, indeed, distant.

Perhaps the most important point is that people did not expect the Bill to concern anything other than terrorism. Many people outside the House and, I suspect, some inside it have still not realised that it covers a great deal more. The object of this amendment, and those grouped with it that stand in our names, is to ensure that the conspiracy provisions relate to terrorist acts and offences, not to a wide variety of other matters.

The rather odd title of the Bill illustrates my argument. It is the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill, not a prevention of terrorism Bill, which is what we normally deal with on such occasions. The bit about conspiracy only partially concerns terrorism. It is a wide-ranging measure and because it is so wide ranging it does not justify the urgent proceedings that have been applied to Northern Ireland. We were advanced reasons for dealing with those matters by urgent procedure; the situation following the Omagh bombing, the fact that the Irish and United Kingdom Parliaments are acting in parallel and at the same time and the need to deal as quickly and as effectively as we can with republican splinter groups. None of those arguments applies to this section of the Bill.

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