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Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): Is my hon. Friend aware of the statement issued tonight by the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), in which he claims to have negotiated the retention of the Royal Irish Regiment last year? Is he also aware that soldiers are being briefed across the Province that their
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regiment or the home service battalions are to be disbanded within the next 18 months? Will he therefore comment on what the right hon. Gentleman said?

Rev. Ian Paisley: The right hon. Gentleman has said many things. He told us about decommissioning. It did not happen. He told us that we were lying to the people when we said that it did not happen. I asked the civil servants at the talks at Leeds castle, "What was the decommissioning?" One of them said, "Don't cause my face to get red." How many guns were put away? Possibly two the first time, possibly four the second time, and possibly 12 the third time. Yet politicians tell us that if we only knew how many IRA-Sinn Fein gave away, we would be amazed.

I am not a youngster. I am getting on and have been in Northern Ireland politics not because I wanted to be but because the people put me there. I want the matter settled in such a way that I can think of tomorrow and the children and grandchildren of tomorrow knowing that they are going to live in part of the United Kingdom where there is proper peace and where the enemies of our Province, whether they call themselves loyalists, IRA men or anything else, cannot break the law and be armed to break the law.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) said, the regiment members know that the guillotine is upon them. I have facts on that which I shall give to the Secretary of State for Defence when I meet him tomorrow. The soldiers who served and bore the burden in the heat of the day deserve help from the House to be rehabilitated into the civilian population. They deserve to be treated as honourable people who gave their lives in the service of freedom. I appeal to the House to see that that is done.

The other matter that I am concerned about is the fact that tomorrow I have to meet the Prime Minister of the south of Ireland and our Prime Minister, and I regret that tonight I do not have, and have never got from either of them, an assurance that the IRA are going properly to decommission their weapons. They argue now that decommissioning has to be done in a corner and that we cannot have photographs of it. If there are to be photographs, they will take them. They claim the right to keep them, and any royalties for printing them in a newspaper will be paid to the IRA. That is what they are at now. All I can say to the House is that I believe that both Governments must put to an end to that by standing up and saying, "Do what the Prime Minister said. Let us have completion. Let us come to an end. Finish this once and for all, and give to the people of Northern Ireland the liberties and rights that they deserve."

I have dedicated myself to that task. My party has dedicated itself to that task. We are not going to run away from the table and we are not going to be pressurised. We are going to stick to the issue as it was presented to us. Were we brought into the talks under false pretences, or are the Government going to keep their word? That is the issue. I trust that we will see the Government keeping their word. I trust that soon the people of Northern Ireland will know that the IRA are finished once and for all, the other terrorists are finished once and for all and we will have peace on the basis of democracy—all men equal under the law, and all men subject to that law. That is what it has to be.
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I trust that the House will understand what the Unionist population have suffered and what the Roman Catholic population have suffered from IRA-Sinn Fein. Many thousands of Roman Catholics vote for me. Anyone who does not believe that should go and watch the results coming out of the ballot boxes in some areas—they will get a big surprise. I remember standing with John Hume and saying, "What about those votes, John? Why are those people voting for me?" He said, "Well, Ian, I don't know." I said, "I'll tell you. It's because I have tried as best as I can to do right by all the parties I represent."

I say to the House that now is the time for it to exercise its power with the Government, and see that this sad chapter is closed and that opportunities will be given for all people, no matter what their religion or their political convictions, who want to live in peace to do so. We must use the system of democracy to help their families and to help the future. That is what I wish.

I am glad that I followed the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) because he has always taken an interest in Northern Ireland. We do not see things the same, but he has always been in his place, and I regret the fact that he is not coming back after the general election. Maybe after this debate he will be persuaded that he should come back and finish the job that he feels he should do.

7.3 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): Following the speech of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), I can say that the wishes of everyone in the House are that the talks in which he is to take part will yield positive progress. There is a universal desire among the citizens of this country—in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales—to see the troubles of the past generation or two finally laid to rest and the peace that the hon. Gentleman describes brought to Northern Ireland. He and all those involved in the talks have the good wishes of the House and we hope that they can make progress in the discussions that lie ahead.

As I listened to the Queen's Speech, I was struck by two things. The first was that this Queen's Speech is a clear indicator that the Government are increasingly out of touch. That is perhaps inevitable when one has been in office for several years, had one's diary organised every day, made ministerial visits in which one is met by welcoming parties and been told what one wants to hear by all around. The second was that, wrapped in all the Bill titles and messages in the Gracious Speech is the Government's obsession with spin. This Queen's Speech is about fighting a general election campaign. It is a public relations exercise, which is the wrong strategy for the country. The Bills mentioned will not make the difference claimed by the Government. I look forward, over the next few months, to taking messages from our side of the House to the country, to explain precisely why the Government's strategy is wrong, will not work and cannot work.

Put simply, the Government seem to believe that new laws mean action. If that were true, we would not this year have a Queen's Speech full of Bills from the Home
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Office—another series of Bills designed to tackle crime and disorder. Over the past seven years, we have had endless Bills on crime and disorder—more than 20—including the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Act 1998, the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999, the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, the Police Reform Act 2002 and another Criminal Justice Act in 2003. Yet crime is becoming more and more of a problem for more and more people in our society, despite the Government's claims. Out there, our constituents, including those of Ministers, find that crime, antisocial behaviour and the threat of violence on our streets are getting worse and worse, year by year.

What is the Government's response to all that? A propensity to establish new offences where none is needed. I can think of two obvious recent examples. The Government, to create a headline, introduced legislation on the use of mobile phones while driving, but the existing offence of careless driving was perfectly adequate to do the job. We voted recently in this place on smacking, but there exists an offence, assault, which is perfectly adequate for dealing with genuine violence against children. Too often the Government introduce Bills and create new offences, not because that will make a difference in the fight against crime but because they want to create the impression that they are trying to do something in that fight.

What we need is proper enforcement of existing laws. The police do not say that they need more offences to deal with people. When one goes out on a Saturday night with one's local police force, as I suspect Members on both sides of the House do, one does not hear those officers asking for additional penalties to levy on offenders. They say, "I wish we just had a few more officers on the beat. We wish we were not one of only two cars on patrol in a wide area." We need more police officers on the streets and less bureaucracy.

Mr. Woolas: We have them.

Chris Grayling: The Minister says that we have them. I can tell him that I recently talked to a chief superintendent in my area, who said that the truth is that we have far fewer police on the streets today than we did 10 years ago, not because they are fewer in number, but because the police are now committed to doing so much stuff behind the scenes on behalf of the Government: collecting data, filling in forms and dealing with a raft of bureaucracies that simply did not exist a generation ago. That means that, out on the streets, the thin blue line is thinner than it has ever been. If the Minister does not accept that, he is simply reinforcing my point that the Government are increasingly out of touch.

What is the experience on the ground? Let me share some experiences with the Minister, since he does not believe me. Earlier this year, I did an exchange with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman). I went and spent some time in some of the rougher areas in her constituency, where I talked to people who are suffering from antisocial behaviour. I remember talking to one young family in particular. They live in a run-down block, and every night a gang of youths comes into the stairwell outside the flat, takes drugs, causes trouble and vandalises the place extensively. One has to
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ask: where are the police? When someone is in that position, being traumatised, night after night, is it really beyond the wit and wisdom of our society to deliver policing to tackle those problems? That experience is shared by people across the country. When they seek and need the police, the police are not there. That is not because officers are not committed. We have some fine police officers in this country, but there are not enough of them on the streets and in patrol cars to do the job when needed.

In my constituency, which is in many respects a great contrast to that of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside, the lack of police presence is all too common. We had a terrible case recently. A young man walking across a recreation ground late at night was tackled by a gang of young people. He was assaulted, viciously attacked, had a number of his teeth kicked out and was left unconscious. The police took 45 minutes to arrive. The ambulance got there first, and the ambulance staff were assaulted by the gang of yobs. It is simply not good enough that the police took 45 minutes to arrive.

The police try to do something about antisocial behaviour. To give another example from my constituency, a local beat officer faced a problem of over-18s buying alcohol for under-18s. He wanted to point a closed-circuit television camera at a specific off licence to enable him to identify those buying alcohol for under-age groups. He said that it took days of paperwork to enable him to do so—endless form-filling and process just to tackle one problem. That is madness and it should not be happening.

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