Previous SectionIndexHome Page

8.18 pm

Mr. William Ross: Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will recall that I used clear, sharp language on Monday night when I spoke on this Bill. I have heard nothing from that moment to this to cause me to alter my opinion.

We are told about family grief. We have all had that as a result of deaths, some tragic, some natural. Those of us who represent Northern Ireland--none more than the last speaker, who represents the town of Omagh--have seen the consequences of the butchery of bombs, thugs and murderers at close quarters. I will not rehearse the tragedies that I have attended, but there were many. Many good men, decent women and children were killed, and no one ever brought to book for it. Because of the area in which I live and my close relations with the Roman Catholic community, I well understand the importance that they attach to the last rites and the necessity to bury the deceased in sanctified ground. I am also aware that the Bill is a consequence of a deal done with the IRA, which played on the grief of the victims' families.

The right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) said earlier that, when members of the IRA behaved in such and such a way, they had no humanity. People could not get inside their minds. However, the truth is that members of terrorist organisations do not exist in the normal democratic world; they exist in a world and in a mental state that they create and that is a consequence of the actions that they undertake. They believe themselves to be a legitimate army and that they are acting for a righteous cause. They believe that the end justifies the means. They do not adhere to those normal thought processes that most people in this House and in this country would apply to political

12 May 1999 : Column 383

situations. As far as members of those organisations are concerned, the majority has no right to be wrong and has no right to disagree with them.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) takes a keen interest in these matters. He knows Northern Ireland well. I point out to him and to the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) that the Bill may be built on good intentions, but we know what they say about the road to hell--it is paved with them. The Bill falls firmly and squarely into that category, because the Government have allowed emotion to overrule logic. Hard cases make bad law, and that is so in this case. We are undermining the rule of law. We are giving in to the demands of murderous thugs who have used the common decency of citizens as a weapon, and who have used the normal democratic procedures of this House as a weapon against the House itself.

This type of legislation is abhorrent to me, because we are allowing the IRA to call the tune, so that its members can exact for themselves the maximum benefit from this whole affair. We are allowing the IRA to call the tune with no danger to its members past or present. Avoiding injury or damage to, or capture of, its members is, of course, always the first priority for a terrorist organisation. The measure will also allow members of the IRA to believe that they can use ruthlessness on every occasion to obtain their way.

If the IRA really wanted to tell people where those graves were, all that it need do is to go out at night and put a little stake on the graves, if they are in a field. It knows where the graves are. It would be easy to do that if the bodies were recoverable. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) drew attention to the fact that bodies could be under a house, or in the foundations of a house. How could one recover a body if that were the case? What would happen if the Government knocked the house down and there was no body?

The whole matter is open to endless ramifications and to endless exhibitions of evil. Do not worry--those guys will dream it up and they will use it. If we pass this Bill, we shall do no good to justice. Indeed, we shall do great damage to the whole concept of justice and punishment for evils committed. We shall do no good to the democratic principles that we claim to uphold. Responsibility in this matter rests solely with the terrorist organisations; it rests solely with the IRA--not with us and not with the House. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Tyrone (Mr. Thompson) said, pressure would have worked in this instance.

This case is not the same as the weapons issue. The IRA cannot give up its weapons; it is committed to holding them. Without weapons, the IRA is only another political party. Its members have no desire to be members of only another political party; they see themselves as part of something far greater, something that is beyond the concept of a political party. They see themselves as an army, controlling a political front organisation. They are part of a terrorist organisation controlling what is supposed to be a political organisation, but which is, in practice, only an arm of the terrorism that they have carried out and inflicted on us for three decades.

To apply the thinking about the IRA giving up its weapons and to say that it will do so on exactly the same footing as the bodies is wrong. Its members cannot give

12 May 1999 : Column 384

up the weapons because they need them to impose their will; they do not need the bodies. The fact that the bodies are out there and the fact that the IRA is under pressure from its own community is damaging to the IRA. My hon. Friend the Member for West Tyrone lives in an area that is similar to my own in some ways. He is aware that there are many folk around us with that turn of mind. We can speak with greater authority on their thinking processes than most Members of the House.

I agree with my hon. Friend that, eventually, pressure from their own community, their own relations, church members and their nationalist political establishment will force members of the IRA to reveal, at some time, where the available bodies are buried. We have not put pressure on them; we have let them off the hook and we shall allow them, through the Bill, to claim that they are reacting to public pressure and that they are acting out of the goodness of their heart. However, they will have forced the British to let them off the hook and they will be believed within their own community. It is for that reason, among the other more gut reactions that I articulated during Second Reading, that I must vote against the Bill.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:--

The House divided: Ayes 324, Noes 5.

Division No. 172
[8.26 pm


Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnett, John
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corston, Ms Jean
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jane Kennedy and
Mr. David Hanson.


Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Maginnis, Ken
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. William Thompson and
Rev. Martin Smyth.

Question accordingly agreed to.

12 May 1999 : Column 386

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Next Section

IndexHome Page