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Mr. Jenkin: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I wish to say that I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance. I undertake to furnish whatever additional information might be relevant. However, I fear that more than just the Ministry will be involved, as this is a matter between Governments.

Given the embarrassment that the matter has caused between two member states, some members of the Administration--such individuals are present in all Administrations--will wish to bury the issue and hope that it drifts into the past without becoming a stone in the shoe in the relationship between the British and Italian Governments. I wish to re-emphasise the devastating effect that the problem is having on the livelihoods of Mr. Lennox and his family, and on the north Wales farmers who are affected by it.

It is potentially a tragic case, but it is also unnecessary. I urge the Government, as a matter of policy, to consider giving financial assistance to companies and individuals who have been wronged in the way that I described. The Government should assist in the development of the EU law, because we are in a grey area. If we are to be good Europeans--as I believe that we should--we should encourage speedy mechanisms for the resolution of such disputes. Establishing the necessary legal precedents will require far more impetus than can be provided by a small farmer in Essex taking on the whole EU machinery himself.

I hope that the Minister of State will take action on the policy issues involved around Whitehall and ensure that those who would prefer inconvenient and embarrassing problems such as this simply to go away will not prevail.

Mr. Rooker: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the circumstances that he envisaged as a possibility will not arise. There is a policy issue at stake, and I will ensure that it is addressed. I shall report back to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.

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Patrick Finucane

12.44 pm

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): I am grateful to the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) for the additional time that has become available for this debate.

On 12 February 1989, two masked men entered the home of Patrick Finucane and shot him 14 times. He died in front of his three children. His wife Geraldine was also injured, and the Ulster Freedom Fighters claimed responsibility for his murder. It was another brutal atrocity in the saga of killings and violence that has scarred the Six Counties of Northern Ireland for the past 30 years.

However, what is different about Patrick's murder is that a catalogue of evidence has been amassed that points towards its being the result of collusion between British security and intelligence forces and loyalist terrorist organisations.

The background to the murder appeared to be straightforward. Patrick Finucane was born in 1949, in the Falls road in Belfast. He came from within the Six Counties' Catholic and nationalist tradition. After his family were forced out of their home by loyalists at the start of the troubles, he became a student at Trinity college, Dublin. After completing his degree, he returned to Belfast to study law and eventually qualified as a solicitor. He commenced his practice in 1979.

As a solicitor, he represented Catholic and Protestant alike. However, there is no doubt that he gained a reputation for his highly professional competence in representing members of the nationalist community seeking protection in law from human rights abuses; nor is there any doubt that Patrick and fellow lawyers representing clients seeking to secure their rights in law were resented by certain groups among the authorities.

Less than four weeks before Patrick's murder, the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), then an Under-Secretary at the Home Office, said that, in Northern Ireland, there were "a number of solicitors" who were "unduly sympathetic" to the cause of the IRA. He added that that statement was made on the basis of "advice" and "guidance" from people "dealing with the matters".

I do not say this lightly, but I know of no more dangerous a statement to the House from a Minister of the Crown. The statement, in effect, was a declaration to some elements in the loyalist organisations that human rights lawyers in Northern Ireland were legitimate targets. For Patrick Finucane, it was the pronouncement of a sentence of death.

Of course, the statement outraged the nationalist community and the legal profession in Northern Ireland. On the very best interpretation, it was an act of such reckless misjudgment that it put in danger the lives and safety of many brave men and women who were upholding the best traditions of the legal profession in the most adverse conditions.

However, the charges of British state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane do not rest on the culpability of a Minister. They rest on a series of disclosures about the British security forces in Northern Ireland that have come to light in recent years.

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The first such disclosure came with the arrest and conviction of Brian Nelson for conspiracy to murder in the early 1990s, following an inquiry by John Stevens, a Metropolitan police officer. John Stevens was brought into Northern Ireland by the then Government to investigate the release to loyalist paramilitaries of Royal Ulster Constabulary files on supposed suspects, and following the outcry after the murder of Loughlin Maginn.

A summary of the report by Mr. Stevens was released in May 1990, but the full report has never been published. In fact, it is a near-miracle that the report was completed at all. A fire gutted the office of the investigation team, which was sited in heavily guarded RUC barracks outside Carrickfergus. All the files that Stevens had accumulated relating to Brian Nelson were destroyed. Although the Stevens team later stated that they had arranged for the back-up storage of some material before the fire, I believe that not all the files have been fully identified.

Stevens discovered that military intelligence agents were being used in the Ulster Defence Association. Senior British Army officers at first denied that the Army ran any agents at all, but for the first four months of the inquiry they concealed 1,100 documents from the inquiry team. They handed them over only when Brian Nelson revealed their existence to the Stevens team. As a result of the inquiry, two Ulster Defence Regiment members were convicted in relation to the killing of Loughlin Maginn. However, no one was charged with conspiracy to murder--except Brian Nelson, whose central role in the wider picture as an agent of British intelligence was exposed.

The Stevens inquiry exposed Brian Nelson's role as an agent of British military intelligence. He was placed as a senior intelligence officer in the UDA. The Stevens inquiry did not look fully into collusion, as it was restricted to considering the leaking or release of RUC documents to terrorist squads.

Nelson described his role as a British military intelligence agent in his journal, which was exposed on BBC's "Panorama" in June 1992. The information contained in the journal was largely confirmed when classified Army files were brought to light by a journalist, John Ware, in an article in the New Statesman in 1998. It is clear that Nelson served as a chief intelligence officer of the UDA. He infiltrated the UDA through the actions of the British security forces.

According to a British colonel--Colonel J--who gave evidence at Nelson's trial, the UDA had been persuaded to centralise its targeting of IRA suspects, as they were described, through Nelson. It was persuaded to concentrate on known IRA activists. John Ware, in the New Statesman, described how Nelson operated. He said that Nelson assisted the targeting of IRA activists by compiling personality cards--P cards, as they were called. Those cards listed the target's address, associates and identification details, and they included a photograph.

When a target was selected for assassination--often by Nelson himself--Nelson passed the P card to the hit squad. Nelson, however, often did not know precisely when the assassin would strike. From the moment he passed on the P card, he and the British security handlers had lost control of the exercise.

In the case of Patrick Finucane, Nelson was asked to gather information weeks before the murder. He informed British intelligence officers--his handlers--of the request.

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He passed a photograph of Patrick Finucane to a UDA member, Eric McKee, a few days before the killing. Loyalist sources claim that Nelson reconnoitred the Finucane home with the killers before the attack.

Despite the warning given by Brian Nelson to the British intelligence services, Patrick Finucane was not informed of the threat to his life. A similar and simultaneous threat against another prominent lawyer, Paddy McGrory, was not relayed until two months after Patrick Finucane's death. Nelson was never charged in connection with the killing. His claims have never been examined in open court. No one has been prosecuted for the murder of Patrick Finucane. No one has been charged in connection with the murder, but three men were charged with possession of the murder weapon.

According to Ed Maloney, a journalist, in The Sunday Tribune, the man who asked Nelson for the photograph of Pat Finucane, and who was subsequently taken to the Finucane home by Nelson, was the head of the UDA's murder gangs. That man served a sentence for possession of scores of leaked documents, along with four others. One of the four was the UDA leader, Tommy Lyttle. All were arrested by the Stevens inquiry team. As at the Nelson trial, a deal was struck preventing full details of collusion between British forces and loyalist murder gangs from coming out in open court.

The Stevens inquiry did not, unfortunately, interview Patrick Finucane's widow, his partner, Peter Madden of the Madden and Finucane legal team, or any of the clients to whom threats had been made against Patrick Finucane. Since the original Stevens investigation, there have been many calls for a further inquiry based on the examination of the available evidence by various bodies.

In April 1998, Param Cumaraswamy, the United Nations special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, set out a special review of the Patrick Finucane murder in his report on Northern Ireland. He stated:

The rapporteur also revealed that, before Patrick Finucane's murder, Patrick had received a number of death threats from RUC officers, mainly delivered

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through his clients. One client, Brian Gillen, who received compensation for ill-treatment suffered while in detention, has testified that he was told by an RUC officer, following the filing of a habeas corpus petition by Patrick Finucane, that

    "it would be better if he were dead than defending the likes of you."

The RUC threatened to give details of the solicitor and his client to loyalist paramilitaries.

Following Patrick Finucane's defence of Gillen, other clients have testified, numerous death threats were made against him by the RUC. He is reported to have received threatening phone calls at home. On 5 January 1989, five weeks before his death, one client alleged that an RUC officer

In January 1999, Mr. Cumaraswamy reiterated his call for a public inquiry. In a further report, the UN rapporteur made clear his view that the Government might have misunderstood the reason for his call for an inquiry. His concern over the murder was over doubts about state collusion--that is, military or RUC collusion. In materials that he had seen, he said, there was at least prima facie evidence of such collusion.

Mr. Cumaraswamy reiterated his earlier call for a royal commission of inquiry into the murder. In his view, on behalf of the UN,

The Finucane family has submitted papers to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland listing further information on Patrick Finucane's murder. The Irish Government have examined those papers, and, according to David McKittrick in The Independent on Monday, in a letter to the British Government, enclosing documentary evidence, the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister said:

    "I believe the case for a public inquiry is compelling. The allegations serve to undermine confidence in the rule of law. In my view, they can only be answered with confidence--one way or the other--through the mechanism of a public inquiry."

The evidence is building, as is pressure for a public inquiry. There is support for the UN call for an independent judicial inquiry from, among others, Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, the Committee on Administration of Justice, British Irish Rights Watch and the Law Society of England and Wales.

We are aware that John Stevens has reopened his inquiry and we welcome that, but there is a general view that confidence can be restored only by a full public inquiry. The breadth of the evidence of intelligence collusion between British forces, the RUC and loyalist terrorist squads in the murder of Patrick Finucane demands that sort of public inquiry, but the evidence goes further: it demonstrates that while he was an agent for military intelligence sources Brian Nelson played a role in the supply of arms from South Africa to loyalist

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murder squads; that he informed his intelligence handlers two years in advance of the supply of the arms; and that, although there was a sweep to obtain those arms, only some were obtained by the security forces and others are being used even today by loyalist murder squads.

Our view is that all the allegations of collusion between the British state and loyalist murder squads warrant inquiry, but I am using today's debate to call for an inquiry specifically into the death of Patrick Finucane. We believe that the Stevens inquiry would be usefully supplemented by a public inquiry summoned by invoking the Tribunals of Inquiry Act 1921, as we had in respect of the investigation of Bloody Sunday.

We all believe that peace requires confidence building. The nationalist community and all those who are searching for a just peace have been battered by the deaths of so many of those who stood up for human rights, including Patrick Finucane and, more recently, Rosemary Nelson. The Irish community in this country and in Ireland have been offended by last week's failure to prosecute anyone for the killing Diarmuid O'Neill and by the long-standing refusal to reach for truth in the case of Patrick Finucane by way of a full public inquiry. Today, I urge the Government to act, not only to secure prosecutions, but to ensure that we arrive at a full and thorough understanding of what happened to Patrick Finucane. If, as we suspect, his death came as a result of collusion between security forces and loyalist murder gangs, that should be exposed, because that exposure will enable us to build the confidence that we need for peace.

Just as a truth commission was established in South Africa, perhaps the search for peace in Northern Ireland will require the establishment of a series of truth commissions to investigate different cases and different issues that affect the whole community. We have appealed for all terrorist organisations to identify the location of the graves of all those who disappeared, so that their families know what happened to them and their minds can be put at rest. If the Lawrence inquiry taught us any lessons, it must be the prime importance of listening to the families of those who have been lost; that is the wish of the Finucane family.

I hope that the Minister will offer a constructive response to the debate. I have seen today's reports in The Independent that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is trying to secure the fullest possible inquiry into the case and that she seeks prosecutions of those who murdered Patrick Finucane. However, I hope that we have not closed our minds to the potential of a full public inquiry, for in that way we may be able to expose the range of collusion that went on.

Let me give one further example. The supply of arms from South Africa to loyalist groups increased the number of assassinations; that was one of the roles played by Brian Nelson. In the six years before the arrival of the South African arms, between 1982 and 1987, 71 people were killed by loyalist murder groups; in the following six years, between 1988 and 1994, 229 people were killed--an increase of more than 300 per cent. Yet British intelligence were given two years' notice of the supply of those arms by Brian Nelson. I believe that there was a degree of collusion involved in the murder of Patrick Finucane that must be exposed, and that doing so might expose a level of collusion that we never dared to expect from the British security services, serving in the name of the British Crown.

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