Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Rev. Martin Smyth : My hon. Friend was asked earlier about the role of President Clinton. Does he see a parallel between the recent acceptance of a promise from Iran not to proceed with a nuclear warhead and the Clinton era when there was peace, yet the bomb that blew up Canary wharf was being planned?

David Burnside: There should be no appeasement, domestically or internationally, in the fight against terrorism. The double standards that are sometimes expressed in the House, especially from the Government Front Bench, must end. If we are to win the fight against domestic and international terrorism, there is only one standard, one criterion, one end objective, and that is the defeat of terrorism, so I accept the hypocritical nature of that stand.

In moving on to the problem of concluding and finalising the peace and political process within Ireland, it is time that on foreign policy Her Majesty's Government started to re-establish who are the sovereign Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom. We continue to govern Northern Ireland in a consultative manner with the Government of the Irish Republic, as though there were some form of joint authority. The internal affairs of the United Kingdom are the internal affairs of the United Kingdom, and the institutions of government that may or may not be established at Stormont should be the institutions that are agreed by this Government and this Parliament. There should not be a form of joint authority. I worry about my own party in this regard, but I also worry about my friends and colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party, who appear to have been sucked into a negotiating position—whether at Leeds castle or at Weston Park—that has given the impression that the
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 188
 
future of Northern Ireland is to be determined by a form of joint authority between the United Kingdom and the Irish Government.

Rev. Martin Smyth: Does my hon. Friend agree, therefore, that the recent discussions on criminal justice reforms, which seemed to settle on a type of criminal justice involving Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, should have brought Northern Ireland more into line with England and Wales? If there is a need to protect the Irish citizens in Great Britain or the British citizens in the Republic of Ireland, that could be achieved at international level rather than by placing Northern Ireland in a separate position from the rest of the judicial system here.

David Burnside: My hon. Friend makes an important point; I agree with him completely.

I should like to move on from the middle east and the Irish peace process to the second main subject of today's debate: defence. The international fight against terrorism will be won only when we have strong domestic defence—which the Americans call "homeland security"—and the co-ordination and strength internationally to defeat terrorism from whatever quarter. We can pick and choose our terrorist organisations and our historical analogies, but the international network organisation of terrorism—the historic post-war terrorist organisations with allegiances to the old Marxist system in eastern Europe, to bits of the middle east, to Gaddafi in the old days, to ETA, to FARC in south America, to Castro's Cuba, and to the Provisional IRA—still exists. That old left-wing terrorist element is still operating, and it is heavily financed by drugs and international crime.

Other elements today are called terrorists: Muslim fundamentalist terrorists, for example. We pick these terms, depending on where we are coming from and where we are going to. However, an international network involving drugs, crime and protection is helping to finance perhaps some middle eastern terrorists, and certainly FARC in Colombia, a lot of the terrorist criminal operations in eastern Europe, and many of the potential terrorist trouble spots around the world. The international community—the United Nations, the European Union, and the alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States—needs to examine how it can undermine the corruption and deal with the money that finances much of that terrorist-led activity.

Mr. Kilfoyle: The hon. Gentleman threw Cuba into his list of terrorist organisations. Will he clarify for me where he sees the connection between Cuba, drugs and organised crime?

David Burnside: I should be more than happy to. That was a simple question and I shall give the hon. Gentleman a clear answer. According to evidence given to the international relations committee in Congress, the Sinn Fein-IRA representatives who went to Colombia had received more than $1 million from FARC in Colombia from the illegal trafficking of drugs. Those representatives included the Sinn Fein representative in Havana, Cuba, who then went to Columbia with IRA
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 189
 
representatives, who were part of the international network of terrorism that I was referring to. So the connection is clear.

Mr. Kilfoyle: I am still not clear about this. I understand the geography and the route involved—indeed, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and I were down in Colombia last year and we dealt with this subject in some detail—but is the hon. Gentleman implying that the Cuban Government were involved in some way?

David Burnside: I am not, but there is a long historical link between Governments such as the Government of Cuba and the international network of left-wing terrorist organisations, which all arose in their own countries because of different historical backgrounds but which are tied into an international network. The connection that I made was between the Provisional IRA, its representative in Havana, the home he was given there and the help that he was given in Cuba in its relationship with FARC, the anti-American, drug-financed terrorist organisation in Colombia. I think I have made the connection very clearly.

The domestic and the international fight against terrorism can be achieved only if we have a stronger, better, more efficient and, in my opinion, bigger Regular Army, Navy and Air Force, so some planned projections from Her Majesty's Government on the size of the infantry and of the Army cause me major concern. I have one point to make, and I do so with respect to a soldier for whom I have the highest personal regard—General Sir Michael Jackson, who is a paratrooper: great history, great regiment, great honour. I hope that the House will decide on the future of the British Army and the importance of its regimental system.

Even if General Sir Michael Jackson recommends that we have management within the Army and within companies, mergers and forming super-regiments will be so fundamentally harmful to the future of the British Army—this will end the British regimental system, which every other army in the world would give its eye-teeth for—that we must debate that in the House and fight it. If that reverses some of General Sir Michael Jackson's management decisions, so be it. I believe that we can gain cross-party support in the House and that the regimental system—with its strength, its honour, its past and its future—is something that we cannot give up. I hope that Labour Members, Liberal Democrats and the Conservative party will come together to save the British regimental system.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): My hon. Friend will know that the Conservative party's official position is that we are determined to save the regiments, because we need the necessary number of troops to fulfil the obligations that are being imposed on them. We believe that it is not yet time to take a peace dividend from Northern Ireland.

David Burnside: I agree with my hon. Friend.

My concluding subject is normalisation in Ulster. In a recent exchange, the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, asked me whether I believe in normalisation. There is nothing that I and the vast majority of people
 
24 Nov 2004 : Column 190
 
want in Northern Ireland more than normalisation. We want our garrison strength, police on the streets, and the total and absolute end of terrorism. We want our Territorial Army regiments travelling throughout Ulster to train for the future role of the TA.

We do not want Regular Army back-up for our police service or the civil power for any longer than is necessary, but does anyone think that we can say that there is normalisation when the terrorist organisations continue to exist and do not disarm? The Provisional IRA has gone four years—almost five—beyond the Belfast agreement date for completing disarmament, but it still holds on to its arms, explosives and criminal empire.

On the so-called loyalist paramilitary side, again there are illegal weapons and much criminality, which should not live in a normal society. Therefore, I look forward to the peace dividend coming out of Northern Ireland. I believe it will help the deployment of our armed forces to meet national and international needs, but we are not there yet.

I want to make yet another appeal to the Secretary of State for Defence. We in Northern Ireland have always had an armed back-up to the civil power, which currently exists in the three home battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment. One battalion is in Aldergrove in my constituency, one is in Omagh and one is in Armagh, comprising 3,300 men and women. One does not do away with the tradition of the Royal Irish and the Ulster Defence Regiment—the defence against future terrorism and future threats—give that up, and say that another few battalions have gone, we do not need them, and it looks reasonably peaceful at the moment. We must maintain those three home battalions within the Northern Ireland garrison—I believe that the Government are considering numbers of 5,000, although we are not at that stage yet. Will the Secretary of State therefore give us a commitment that even in a more peaceful society, we will maintain the three home battalions?

I am extremely optimistic on peace settlements around the world. We have the opportunity to establish a foundation for peace in the middle east, and we can make progress on the peace process in Northern Ireland, but we must not go too far, too fast. We must always make every judgment, every decision and every executive decision relating to our armed forces, police and home defences based on reality and not hope for peace. If we do that, we will have a more peaceful domestic and international society.

5.6 pm


Next Section IndexHome Page