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The people of Northern Ireland are looking to the House to defend their rights. They do not want those rights trampled on. They want pure justice. I appeal to hon. Members: give us pure justice. If we have that, we will see our way through this, as we have seen our way through the past.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): May I first add my condolences to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) and say how brave he has been to come to the Chamber today and give us his views? I happen to agree with every word he said.
It is an amazing day in the House of Commons because the leaders of the two largest parties on the Unionist side and the nationalist side are, give or take a few nuances, virtually in agreement. It is also amazing that my Government are pushing through the Bill. They always say, "Why don't people in Northern Ireland get together? Why can't we get the good non-violent
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democratic constitutional parties to work together?", but that is what is happening with the Conservative party, the Liberal Democrats and, I hope, some Labour Membersyet the Secretary of State does not seem to be listening. I hope that many of my colleagues think that the only way to show the Government that the Bill needs radical change is either by voting against the Government or, if they cannot bring themselves to do that, at least to abstain.
I heard the Secretary of State on the "Today" programme this morning, when he went on about the Opposition. I am not here to defend themthey can do that for themselvesbut it was strange to hear him say that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are not supporting the Bill in the cosy bipartisan way that Labour always adopted when it supported the Conservatives on similar measures. When I first came into the House, I remember having almost to hide because I was not prepared to vote against the prevention of terrorism legislation and other measures. Many of my colleagues in the Labour party did not agree with the Opposition line. Even when the Prime Minister was shadow Home Secretary, we voted against some of the emergency powers legislation. I accept that the parties' views changed and eventually we voted for that legislation, but I reject the idea that all Northern Ireland legislation has to go through on a bipartisan basis.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I note what my hon. Friend says, but is not it a fact that the Labour Opposition strenuously opposed the IRA atrocities, as we opposed the loyalist atrocities? We made it clear time and time again that the Government were right to resist the terrorist attempt to unite Ireland against the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland.
Kate Hoey: I respect my hon. Friend and he is right on that, but it does not get around the expectation that people should support the Government because we always support Governments on measures to do with Northern Ireland.
We hear over and over again that the Bill is a necessary part of moving the peace process forward. I am fed up with hearing people talkthe Prime Minister did it again todayabout the pain and anguish that they feel. The Secretary of State talked about the difficulty of the situation. I do not understand how a measure that is against the fundamental principles of our judicial system can move the peace process forward.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Why should we allow a cart and horses to be driven through the judicial system? Who has signed up to the Bill? None of the constitutional democratic parties in Northern Ireland has done so. The Secretary of State told us today that there has been some sort of agreement with IRA-Sinn Fein, but we know nothing about thatwe were not asked. It is shocking to me that the Bill is being pushed through against clear misgivings, even among members of my own party. Several hon. Members have said to me, "I really don't like this. I know that there is something wrong about it. If some appalling terrorist action took place in my constituency and someone was murdered, I could not vote for a measure that meant that the perpetrators would be able
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to come back and walk around and face the victims' families." I do not understand why we should treat Northern Ireland as though it were so different. The people of Northern Ireland are members of the human race. As people living in the United Kingdom, they are entitled to the same rights and duties as the rest of us.
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): It appears that part of the reason why we are being asked to move the process on by voting for the Bill can be found in the words of the Prime Minister. The other day, he seemed to suggest that Sinn Fein had demanded it as the price for ever again entering an Executive in Stormont.
Kate Hoey: I do not know what the Prime Minister has said about some of these things. I feel strongly that the commitments given under the Belfast agreement by the Prime Minister were not always kept. That is why there is so much discontent among the many people who, despite terrible worries, voted for the agreement because they thought that the Prime Minister and the Government meant everything they said. That did not happen. Now, it is the people who have not kept their promisesnamely, Sinn Fein-IRAwho are getting everything they want.
The implication is that the Bill is a precondition for restoring the Assembly and the Executive. Whose precondition is it? What party has said, "We'll be in no Executive and no Assembly without it."? If we are to believe what the leader of Sinn Fein has said todayI know that that is a hard thing to ask of the Houseit seems that Sinn Fein does not even want the legislation. It did not ask for the Bill or at least not for large parts of it, so who asked for it? Has any party demanded it as a preconditionand if none has, will the Prime Minister revise what he said?
The hon. Gentleman has quoted the Prime Minister's statement and I can only say that, in my view, we are faced with a secret, stitch-up deal with IRA-Sinn Fein to allow people who have carried out some of the worst atrocities of the past 35 years to obtain an amnestyan amnesty with a pseudo-judicial face and one that has the appearance of a trial.
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Many peoplenot just those in the pro-Union community in Northern Ireland, but people in all the communitiesare profoundly disturbed by the secret dealings that go on between democratic Governments and an illegal armed group. That has been a real problem. It is why the constitutional nationalists and the constitutional Unionists have felt many times during the whole peace process that they are an unimportant bit on the side because, as the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr. McCrea) said, they do not have arms.
I shall refer to a letter that many hon. Members have received from a very brave woman, Aileen Quinton, whose mother was murdered by the IRA in the no warning, poppy day massacre in Enniskillen in 1997 as she stood wearing her medals from service in the Royal Air Force. Aileen was in the group of victims whom many of us met last week when they came to Parliament. I agree with the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire that Aileen Quinton and the other victims have shown great dignity. They do not want revenge or retribution; as has been said, they just want justice. My distaste for people who get away with such crimes would be the same if the perpetrators were from a loyalist background. I resent the idea of Unionist versus nationalist, or Catholic versus Protestant. The sides that matter are the terrorists, their supporters, their apologists and appeasers, and the rest of us. We must decide which side we are on, and I hope that hon. Members will decide that they back the right to justice and the rights of our constituents.
I did not receive a proper answer from the Secretary of State when I intervened on him earlier. We did not see IRA-Sinn Fein dispose of their of weapons, but we know that they decided who would witness that disposal. I should have liked the right hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) to be present when Sinn Fein-IRA destroyed their weapons, but nevertheless, if it is not a threat any moreif that event took place and Sinn Fein-IRA are genuinely committed to democracy after disposing of their armswhy have we introduced the measure? Why is it needed? The explanation of closure does not mean anything, and it is clear that the whole thing has been brought about by secret agreement.
"As for it being 'difficult', 'difficult' does not matter. We have been doing 'difficult' for over 30 years. We can handle 'difficult' and would be prepared to do 'difficult' for real peace, glad to in fact. This is wrong and it should be impossible."
I believe very strongly we have used the victims to justify the measure. The victims groups, however, have not asked for it. They want to tell the House that even if we do not particularly care about what happens in Northern Irelandlet us face it, many of my colleagues are listening to our debate, but other hon. Members on both sides of the House are not doing so, and will simply come to the Chamber tonight to go into the Lobbyeveryone who lives in the United Kingdom has a vested interest in fighting this dangerous precedent, otherwise justice itself could become a victim.
We voted against holding people without trial for 90 daysI opposed internment, and was involved in the Anti-Internment League many years agobecause
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summary justice does not work and leads to more resentment. However, on the very day on which other hon. Members and I were accused of being soft on terrorism, the Government introduced a Bill that will allow all those people, whatever atrocities they have committed, to get away with it.
Many hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall conclude. However much the Government seek to dress up the measure as a judicial process, the reality is that it is a costly sham. It is masquerading as a judicial process and, if accepted, it will drive a coach and horses through the process of justice. It is an abomination and we should all think carefully before accepting it. If my colleagues are the slightest bit worried about how they will vote tonight, if they would not want it to apply to their constituency, and if they cannot bring themselves to vote against the Government, they should abstain. I hope some of my colleagues will do that.
I hope that the Government will listen. The Prime Minister is supposed to be in a listening mood these days. My party and the Government are supposed to be in a listening mood. They need to listen to the House. If we do not get rid of the detail of the Bill and change a large amount in it, we will be doing a huge injustice not only to the victims, but to people generally in the United Kingdom.
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