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Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): My right hon. Friend's statement is to be welcomed wholeheartedly and I pay tribute to the perseverance with which he and his team have entered into political contact and dialogue over the past months. Is it not the case that any political grouping in Northern Ireland that declares itself to be in a ceasefire should be starting to work constructively with the Police Service of Northern Ireland so that they can work together with their communities to deliver a final end to paramilitary violence in those constituencies? What assurances and commitments has my right hon. Friend received from the UPRG or, indeed, the UDA to enter into constructive dialogue with the police service on these matters?

Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend is right. On the drugs issue, for example, it is very important for the UPRG and others to work closely with the Police Service of Northern Ireland to deal with those particular matters, which I have already described as a scourge. It is then for the organisation and the Chief Constable to decide whether a meeting would be fruitful. I agree with the general thrust of my hon. Friend's remarks, that relationships with the police are indeed very important.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): The Secretary of State will know that all the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland are engaged in types of activity similar to those for which the UDA is responsible. Will he accept that for the people of Northern Ireland, in this case as in others, the real test is action, not words, and that it must be tested over a period of time? That applies to republican organisations as well as to loyalist ones. Will the Secretary of State also accept, as I and elected representatives in these areas have an overwhelming electoral mandate, that he and the Government must deal urgently with the serious social and economic issues in loyalist areas that we have highlighted, in a way that has the confidence and support of local people in those communities?

Finally, the Secretary of State will have the support of all right-thinking people for encouraging those who wish to turn away from violence and crime. However, those same people will look to him and the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the full force of the
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law is brought to bear against those who refuse to turn away from violence, criminality, racketeering and so forth.

Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. He represents an area where there have been many difficulties on the interface over the last months. Like others in the House, he will be aware of the particular problems that face Protestant working-class areas in Northern Ireland. Nationalist areas face them, too, of course, but we are dealing particularly with loyalism today. The hon. Gentleman is right that these organisations should be given a chance. He is also right to point out that paramilitary groups of all sides are still proscribed and that there should be no let-up in pursuing criminality. The economic and social problems that have bedevilled these areas must be dealt with. If we can do that, we will go a long way towards ensuring that there is no return to violence, which the hon. Gentleman and I both condemn.

Mr. Tony Clarke (Northampton, South) (Lab): The UDA and the UFF are late in coming to the peace table. We all welcome this small step forward, but as long as paramilitary activity continues—racketeering, drug running, the rise of race-hate crime on certain estates—our reservations and concerns will continue. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the PSNI reports back to him regularly on whether those crimes on estates are decreasing? That will be the real measure of success. As politicians, we can welcome this move forward, but people living on estates who continue to have those crimes committed against them will be the real judge of whether the UFF and UDA are genuine and reasonable in their intent.

Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend is right to point out that people will inevitably have reservations about the despecification of the UDA. I repeat that the matter was not taken lightly, and nor was the decision. He is also right to point out something that has not yet been mentioned, which is the appalling increase in race hate crime that has occurred in Northern Ireland in the last number of years, which must be addressed.

People in Northern Ireland will be aware of it if things do not change as they should. I was convinced that there was genuineness about the people whom I met who want to try to change things. There is a question, of course, about whether the whole organisation is able to follow on from the aspirations of those people and of those who lead the UDA. Here is its chance, however. It is the chance to show the world that things are going to change. No one is going to say that the world will change dramatically by a week next Tuesday on the estates and elsewhere in Northern Ireland—it does not work like that—but if we see an absolute and consistent trend towards improvement, that will be what we all want.

I shall, of course, be in touch with the police and the other security agencies to assess whether there has actually been progress. The people I met highlighted drugs, so-called punishment beatings and other issues of criminality that they admitted they had to address in order to get the confidence of people in Northern Ireland.
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Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that many of us agree that he must move extremely cautiously, bearing in mind the history of the UDA and the UFF? Does he also agree that the definition of terrorism should be broad? That applies not only to loyalists, but to republican paramilitaries. There may be an end to traditional terrorist violence, but there has been no end to punishment beatings, to racketeering or to drug dealing. If that continues, through any paramilitary group, will he revise his initial decision?

Mr. Murphy: That is absolutely right. The hon. Gentleman is right to point to the history of the organisation and the appalling crimes that it committed against people in Northern Ireland, particularly in the Catholic community, although, obviously, what he said applies right across the board and to all paramilitary groups. He is right to emphasise what so many hon. Members have emphasised during the past half hour, which is that while we have indeed seen a welcome end to what could be termed political terrorism, the move over the last number of years to criminality, racketeering and all the rest of it is something that we have to address. If, as we hope it will, this organisation does turn its attention away from all that and genuinely towards community activity to try to help the people it lives with, we will all be pleased. We shall watch the moves very carefully.

As I tried to emphasise in my statement, because of the history of these groups, it is right to recognise the importance of their victims. It is important that all hon. Members are aware that the Government and other agencies and groups in Northern Ireland do their best to try to help the victims of appalling crimes. They are not forgotten, but we believe that if we can change the course of the UDA, there will be fewer victims in future.

Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): May I welcome the comments of the Minister and the moves by the UPRG? A positive move by that group must be met with a positive response from the Government, but I am sure that the Secretary of State will be aware of apprehension given the long record of criminality among the paramilitaries. Will he assure us that the level of criminal activities and their association with the UDA and other paramilitaries will be measured? Will he assure us that, if necessary and appropriate, the issue will be reconsidered? Will he assure us, too, that criminality will be defined in terms of race hate, and not just those crimes traditionally associated with paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Murphy: My right hon. Friend the Minister of State has already done a great deal of work with regard to race hate crime in Northern Ireland, including changing penalties to make them harsher. My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey), like hon. Members from across the spectrum of the House, is right to say that if this does not work, we will obviously have to consider going back to where we were before last Friday. Our hope is that that will not have to happen. He will recall that one of the important ingredients of the Good Friday agreement was the presence of loyalism at the talks. Of course, that
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meant David Ervine's party, the Progressive Unionist party, but it also meant the party that represented the UDA—the UDP with Gary McMichael and others. They made a valuable contribution to those talks and I want to get back to the situation in which we can deal with people in loyalism from a political point of view and put the paramilitary and criminal side to one side.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): The hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) cannot be here, but he would have raised, as I now do, the case of Davy Adams, who helped with some of the earlier loyalist ceasefires. Is the Secretary of State aware that on Thursday, five days ago, threats were made against the lives of both Mr. and Mrs. Adams? Will he make it plain to the UDA that that is unacceptable and must stop now?

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