|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): Since, of the 14 places where Robert the Bruce is said to have had his famous encounter with the spider, the BBC commends Rathlin island off the North Antrim coast, may I start by congratulating the Government on having followed Robert the Bruce's example? May I also ask the Secretary of State to clarify an aspect of the expansion of the international inspection? One of the new international inspectors shares nationality with a member of the de Chastelain commission, but the other does not. If the process of inspection is to be continuous, how does the Secretary of State envisage that the second international inspector will be able to carry out that inspection?
Mr. Mandelson: I do not think that the inspectors' respective nationalities will be such a relevant factor or a hindrance for either or both of them. However, the right hon. Gentleman touches on a good point about the relationship. Let me make this clear. We are asking the former President of Finland, who has considerable experience and current activity in relation to international crises and conflict resolution to carve out of his diary at very short notice a considerable commitment of time. I do not want to put him off by rehearsing in advance what the task will involve, but we are looking to those individuals to come and spend at least a couple of days at a time on each inspection that they undertake, which will continue for some time to come. Suffice it to say that I think they know what they are letting themselves in for--at least I hope they do, or rather I hope that they do not know too much of what
Madam Speaker: Order. I should be obliged if I could now have brisk questions and answers. Many hon. Members are still standing, and there is another major statement to come before we get on to our main business.
Mr. Peter Temple-Morris (Leominster): My right hon. Friend's statement is unreservedly welcome. Does he agree that the unprecedented IRA statement that we are discussing represents the best and possibly the last chance of delivering peace to Northern Ireland under the present peace process? Does he further agree that to oppose it without good cause is tantamount to opposing peace itself?
Mr. Mandelson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. I am tempted to say that we should not look a gift horse in the mouth. It is right to question the statement, to probe it and to see what is there behind the smile, but having done all that, which I do not hesitate to do, I hope that at the end of the day, people will embrace it for what it is. It may not yet be perfect in every respect, but for now, it is as good as it gets.
Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): Does the Secretary of State accept that all who have contributed to creating the environment that has allowed him to make this encouraging statement today should be commended? Given that many of us agree with his analysis that we need to build confidence and trust, does he recognise that that would be facilitated if the initial verification visits were regular--indeed, frequent--and the results of each published at the time?
Mr. Mandelson: The inspectors of the dumps are committed to doing whatever is needed to ensure that their remit is properly fulfilled. As for the reports of the de Chastelain decommissioning body, the Governments have given a commitment to publish them fully and promptly in future. I personally attach great importance to that.
Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): Has my right hon. Friend noticed that, while the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) had the decency, good sense and honesty to remark that similar moves should be made by Unionist paramilitaries, no speaker from the official Opposition has referred to that aspect of the problem? Does he agree that it would be constructive if Opposition Members would refer to it?
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): We are discussing a statement not by Sinn Fein but by the IRA. That is a breakthrough in itself. However, there must be some clarification. For example, the IRA has said that it will put arms beyond use. That means that it could put 5 per cent. of its illegal arms beyond use and retain the other 95 per cent. of its arsenal to continue terrorism in the island of Ireland. Will there be some guarantee that all the illegal arms that are currently in the hands of the IRA will be brought under control in some way and that the process is on-going?
Much though we want the normalisation of policing and security, will the Secretary of State assure the people of Northern Ireland not only that the role of the Provisional IRA will be considered, but that the on-going threat from the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA will be a factor in making decisions?
The Belfast agreement placed an obligation on the Dublin Government to create a Human Rights Commission in accordance with the European convention on human rights. We have anxieties about the treatment of minorities in the Republic; that is why we got the requirement written into the Belfast agreement. Two years have passed; will the Secretary of State tell us when it will happen?
On the dissidents to whom the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) correctly draws attention, I shall highlight another paragraph in the joint statement that the Governments issued on Friday. It is important to note that they pledged themselves to taking all and any effective measures necessary for dealing with continuing terrorist activity and threat from dissident paramilitary individuals and organisations. We shall step up our measures as well as our vigilance. It is important to do that in full co-operation with the security forces of the Irish Republic.
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the IRA was talking about all or part of its arms. I have no hesitation in saying that our requirement and my expectation is that all the arms will be placed under the sort of control to which he referred. We are talking about "completely and verifiably": we are talking not about "somewhat", "sometime", "perhaps" or "if", but "will completely and verifiably". In the unlikely but theoretically possible circumstances of the Provisional IRA ceasefire being broken, its breach would be clear for all to see and judge. That would mean that it was impossible for the political representatives of the republican movement to remain active participants in the democratic institutions that we are creating.
Mr. Mandelson: My hon. Friend wrote to me recently, following his visit to South Armagh, about one or more of the installations which, in his opinion, are particularly intrusive. I have considered his comments and brought them to the attention of those who are responsible, but I must make it absolutely clear that I shall not go into the ins and outs of any particular arrangement or installation that exists in Northern Ireland, except to say that nothing will change--nothing will go down, nothing will go up--except on the clear, unequivocal advice and say-so of those who are responsible for advising me on such matters: primarily the Chief Constable, in consultation with the General Officer Commanding.
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): Is not the Provisionals' position unchanged in at least two key respects? First, the full implementation of the Belfast agreement has only the potential to remove the causes of the conflict; full implementation itself will not remove those causes. Secondly, the IRA has still not unequivocally and unconditionally committed itself to decommissioning all its weapons.