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8.45 pm

I refer particularly to the Prime Minister's keynote speech at the Balmoral showground in Belfast on 14 May, in which he set out the terms on which parties linked with terrorist organisations would be eligible for prisoner release. The key was that those organisations would have been maintaining a "complete and unequivocal ceasefire". In determining what constituted that, one of the key factors was full co-operation with the Independent Commission on Decommissioning, which of course implements the provisions of the agreement.

New clause 2 refers to the Secretary of State, at the time of suspension, specifying organisations, as defined in section 3 of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, which deals with prisoner eligibility for release. A condition of such eligibility is that

In subsection (8), a specified organisation is clearly defined as

    "an organisation specified by order of the Secretary of State; and he shall specify any organisation which he believes--

    (a) is concerned in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland . . .

    (b) has not established or is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire."

Subsection (9) states that the Secretary of State shall take into account, when coming to that decision, that the organisation

    "(a) is committed to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve its objectives;

13 Jul 1999 : Column 242

    (b) has ceased to be involved in any acts of violence or of preparation for violence;

    (c) is directing or promoting acts of violence by other organisations".

That is the link between Sinn Fein and the IRA, which the Prime Minister still contends is inextricable--although the Taoiseach, Mr. Ahern, says that the two are separate. Subsection (9)(d)--this is the key point because itlinks legislation passed in this House to the Belfast agreement--states that the organisation

    "is co-operating fully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997 in implementing the Decommissioning section of the agreement reached at multi-party talks".

We would maintain that there is a clear link and that legislation is already on the statute book for the Secretary of State and the Government to act.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Adam Ingram): We have a very few minutes to deal with this matter. A certain amount of heat has been generated in the debate so it is right, for a moment, to reflect on some of the sensitive issues with which we are dealing.

The sensitivity of this issue of course impacts greatly on the victims--those who have suffered over the past 30 years. As the Minister with responsibility for victims, I have probably met more, either in groups or as individuals, than anyone else in the House, with the possible exception of one or two Northern Ireland Members. I understand only too well the hurt and grief that they have suffered. Some of them are speaking up for the first time about events that go back 10, 15 or 20 years.

Much of that has been brought to the surface by the process of the release of prisoners--early or otherwise. It is not just the early release of prisoners that can impact on those who have suffered most. We as a Government have had to deal with that. I make the point again that, effectively, we inherited a blank sheet from the previous Administration on the issue. That is why there was recognition in the Good Friday agreement of this very important issue, which no one had addressed and which we had to pick up and take forward.

At the same time, we had to take on board the other commitment that was placed on the Government--the one on the early release of terrorist prisoners. Everyone who was party to the agreement signed up to such an commitment. I accept that the hon. Members for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) and for North Antrim(Rev. Ian Paisley) do not support the Belfast agreement. We do not know whether they support some of it or none of it--in a sense, they have never quite specified--but we know that they do not want it to succeed. Given that, they cannot cherry-pick; they cannot say, "We like this bit, but we don't like that bit." They must understand the complexities that the two Governments and those who are engaged in the process must take on board. Prisoner releases are a critical aspect of that.

After moving forward and implementation, we must consider what that means and how we interpret and judge whether groups are on complete and unequivocal ceasefire, and that is what the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 sets out. I accept that many Opposition Members did not accept the principles of that legislation although they were in line with what was set

13 Jul 1999 : Column 243

out in the Good Friday agreement. Many of those who defended the agreement voted against what became the 1998 Act, thereby cherry-picking and more or less leaving it to the Government to proceed with an undoubtedly vexed and difficult issue, primarily because of the impact that it has within the wider community.

There is no direct linkage between prisoner releases and any other part of the agreement, including the political institutions. There are no linkages and no pre-conditions. We are talking of a totality and of everything being part of a whole.

The hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss) spelled out the purport of new clause 1. He explained that the intention behind it was to suspend section 3 of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, which sets out prisoners' eligibility for release, and section 10, which deals with accelerated release arrangements. That is a clear proposition. That is what the official Opposition want to happen, while saying that they still support the Good Friday agreement. There is an inherent contradiction in that position.

Mr. Moss: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Ingram: No. There are only three minutes left to me.

The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) talked about important linkages in terms of republican terrorists who could be judged as somehow failing to meet their commitments under the agreement, and those of loyalists. We must recognise the importance of loyalist decommissioning alongside that of republican decommissioning. The right hon. Gentleman was right to raise the matter. There are some loyalist and republican groups which do not have linked parties even in the Assembly, let alone the Executive. However, all groups on ceasefire have a common interest in achieving decommissioning on a mutual and reciprocal basis. That is why they have a ceasefire in the first place. They find themselves being committed to the principle of the Good Friday agreement because movement is taking place. We are moving into a new political environment within Northern Ireland and so they sign up to that very principle.

I suggest that loyalists know that there will not be republican disarmament without loyalists giving up guns at the same time, and vice versa. They each watch and study the other in trying to understand what the other is seeking to do. It is right that some groups will not be directly affected by suspension. However, the main purpose of suspension is to give the parties time and space to allow them to agree on how to deal with any breach of commitments, including sanctions on which they may agree. The suspension process involves those who are actually dealing with the issue--those who conceived the Good Friday process in the first place and those who have signed up to it. The issue returns to their agenda and they must deal with it.

Mr. Öpik: Will the Minister state unequivocally, yes or no, whether the clauses contravene the Good Friday agreement?

Mr. Ingram: The 1998 Act sets out the ways in which the Secretary of State would judge whether a group is on

13 Jul 1999 : Column 244

a complete and unequivocal ceasefire and whether it would be subject to that Act. We are dealing with complex issues and trying to make judgments. We are putting in place, through the failsafe, a new proposal that allows a judgment to be made by a body that everyone respects. We are allowing that process to be considered and--

It being five hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of the Bill, The Chairman, pursuant to Order [this day], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The Committee divided: Ayes 147, Noes 349.

Division No. 235
[8.55 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forsythe, Clifford
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hague, Rt Hon William
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McCartney, Robert (N Down)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Pickles, Eric
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, Rt Hon David
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mrs. Eleanor Laing and
Mr. Stephen Day.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Bennett, Andrew F
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fearn, Ronnie
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hume, John
Hutton, John
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGrady, Eddie
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mallon, Seamus
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
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)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
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
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sawford, Phil
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
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
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Mike Hall and
Jane Kennedy.

Question accordingly negatived.

13 Jul 1999 : Column 247

Clause 1

Suspension of devolved government

Mr. Trimble: I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 13, leave out from 'Commission' to end of line 16.

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