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Mrs. Iris Robinson: Is my hon. Friend aware that the Taoiseach is on record as saying that he would rather be in opposition than share a Government with Sinn Fein?

Mr. Donaldson: Indeed. We have heard Labour Members trumpeting the July statement and the Secretary of State telling us that the totality of IRA weapons have been decommissioned. Yet even now the Irish Prime Minister says that Sinn Fein is still not fit to be considered as coalition partners in the Irish
 
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Government in Dublin, who will no doubt press my right hon. Friend the Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and my party to form a Government in coalition with Sinn Fein. One standard applies in Stormont and another applies in Dublin.

David T.C. Davies: I am sure that many of my hon. Friends agree with every word that the hon. Gentleman is saying. Does he agree that the double standard, whereby British soldiers will now be treated in the same way as IRA murderers, will be hugely detrimental to our ability to recruit high quality men and women such as those who have for 30 years protected Catholic and Protestant civilians alike in the Province of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Donaldson: I agree, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Some members of the security forces to whom I have spoken find it insulting to be categorised with terrorist murderers in benefiting from the measure. Let us not try to justify the Bill by saying that members of the security forces will benefit from it. That is not the motivation behind the measure. The motivation is to appease Sinn Fein-IRA—that is clearly the bottom line. The Government do themselves no credit by trying to shelter behind the argument that the Army and the police may benefit from the Bill.

The Bill is a raw deal for the victims. My hon. Friends and I will table amendments in Committee in due course. I agree with the hon. Member for North Down that that will not change my mind about opposing the principle of the Bill—I shall continue to oppose it.

Dr. McCrea: Will it not also be a raw deal for, and insulting to, the people of Northern Ireland and the victims if Her Majesty's Government order Labour Members to vote for the Bill? That means that they have not listened to the debate or heard the arguments, but will act as fodder for the Government. They simply obey the Whips.

Mr. Donaldson: My hon. Friend makes a telling point. May I say, as a friend and colleague, how much I appreciated his contribution to the debate? It must have been difficult for him to share some of his experiences with the House. I appreciate the passion and the emotion with which he spoke.

Surely, if the process is to go on, the victims must be given some rights. They should have the right to argue the case to the commissioner that a certificate should not be granted to an offender before going to the tribunal. That is a basic right, but the Bill does not afford the victims the right to put a case that the perpetrators should not receive the certificates that they seek. Victims should also have the right to make a statement in the presence of the offenders when they appear before the tribunal—if they appear. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East said, when offenders have not come forward, surely victims should have the right to approach the commissioner to establish whether the police have evidence or information about the person or persons responsible for the murder of their loved ones and to ascertain whether there is any intention to pursue tribunal proceedings against those individuals—yet not even that right is accorded them.
 
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The measure contains nothing that enables the victims to receive some form of compensation for the crimes that have been committed against their loved ones. Victims groups ask how the Government are recognising them in the process. Such recognition is not apparent in the Bill. Let me be clear—the victims do not want blood money, but they are entitled to reparation and compensation for their loss. The Government need to deal with that.

FAIR—Families Acting for Innocent Relatives—in south Armagh recently submitted an application for a memorial centre for victims. As I said earlier, south Armagh is one of those areas where there has been high loss but low detection and conviction of the perpetrators. The Government could not even give the group the money for the memorial centre. They chided the victims group and said that it had to prove that it was engaging in cross-community activities. In south Armagh, that means working with Sinn Fein and republicans—the same Sinn Fein whose councillors on Newry and Mourne council prevented the victims group from hiring a community hall in Newtownhamilton. Thankfully, those councillors have been surcharged and I hope that they will be kicked out of office. The Government expect the victims to work with Sinn Fein in south Armagh, and if they do not they will not get the money for their memorial centre. What an appalling way to treat the innocent victims of terrorist violence. This shows that the Government have double standards. It is time that they gave proper recognition to the victims.

I welcome the appointment of the victims commissioner—the Secretary of State knows that—but the commissioner and other groups must be empowered and given due recognition in this process. There is too much money involved. I wonder how much this process will cost the taxpayer in the United Kingdom. I suspect that it will be millions of pounds. Would it not be better to give that money to the victims of IRA violence in Northern Ireland? Just to build a memorial centre in somewhere like south Armagh would not cost the Government that much, but they cannot even get that right.

Finally, I want to quote again the Superintendents Association. Its members are senior officers in the police service whose job is to uphold the rule of law, and it has looked at this legislation and found it to be deeply flawed. It states that it will be

That is the verdict of senior police officers in Northern Ireland, and it was, after all, this Government who told us that we should listen to senior police officers. Should not the Government listen to these senior police officers and catch on? They should drop this legislation and stand by justice and democracy. That is the only way to achieve real peace in Northern Ireland. Appeasement did not work in 1939 and it will not work now. If the IRA is genuine about peace, it should not need to have injustice.

6.31 pm

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): This is a shameful Bill. It relates to a deal that was obviously done between the Prime Minister and the leaders of the
 
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IRA. The right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), who was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland until May, would not introduce the Bill—at least, that is my reading of what happened. He made a good speech today, and he should vote against it, as should the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). She pointed out the Bill's deficiencies, and she should vote against it. As the right hon. Member for Torfaen appeared unwilling to introduce it, he was replaced by the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), who was much more willing to do so. We know his background with the Troops Out movement, and we know where his real instincts and feelings lie. I believe that he was appointed because he was acceptable to the IRA and Sinn Fein, and that is why he is introducing this disgraceful Bill. I feared that the Belfast agreement might be built on sand, but I hoped otherwise. But as we have seen, Danegeld has been paid, and the thing about Danegeld is that one keeps on having to pay it. Concession after concession has been made. What will be the next one?

In this brief speech, I want to concentrate on the treatment of public servants. The RUC, to which I pay due respect, should certainly be considered, but I particularly wish to talk about the Army, as I served in Northern Ireland with certain hon. Friends sitting around me, and the Bill affects friends of mine. Loyal public servants who were doing the bidding of the Government will be in the firing line as a result of this Bill. What will be the next concession? The Saville inquiry was a concession to the IRA, costing £200 million and rising. I expect that charges against soldiers will result from it, because otherwise there would be no point in making that concession to the IRA. Under this Attorney-General, I expect that the commanding officer will be charged, for he was there, and possibly the adjutant as well. The adjutant was the present Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson.

Mark Durkan: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Robathan: I am sorry, I have not got time.

The former Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Boyce, has said:

We have seen the setting up of the historic investigation team by the 6th Regiment, Royal Military Police in Northern Ireland to help the Police Service of Northern Ireland in its historic investigation. But, of course, it is investigating only soldiers. It will be working with the historic inquiry team of the PSNI. More Danegeld is being paid.

I want to concentrate on two cases that I know a little about. Friends of all ranks were involved. The first was in Gibraltar in 1988. We all remember "Death on the Rock"—what a shocker that was. The Minister will tell us what the next concession will be, but I am sure that there will be an historic investigation into this case. Why? The terrorists were plotting to blow up the changing of the guard at Government House and they would have killed hundreds of people. An outrage was being planned. Actually, it is a moot point whether the soldiers were right when they shot the IRA terrorists,
 
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because the bomb was still in Spain. But that is the point. The historic investigation could therefore easily bring charges, although the soldiers were acting in good faith, on instructions from the Government and from their commanders, and prevented a dreadful atrocity. The Government will hang those SAS soldiers out to dry, as they have done to some soldiers in Iraq, to placate the IRA.

The other case is even worse. In May 1987, eight IRA terrorists who were armed to the teeth drove a JCB with a bomb on it into Loughall police station and exploded the device. They were then ambushed by soldiers and police officers who had been so instructed by the Secretary of State. That took place with Government approval. I would say that it was a great success in the battle against the IRA, but I fear that that is not how it strikes this Government and this Secretary of State. This Government passed the Human Rights Act 1998. When the European Court of Human Rights said in May 2001 that the human rights of those poor murdering terrorists had been violated, the Government had to pay £10,000 to each family. Under the Human Rights Act, those soldiers are already guilty. It is no surprise that in a written answer to me on 11 November, the Secretary of State said through the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward), that

What confidence can any soldier or ex-soldier have in this Government? It is a disgrace. More SAS soldiers will be hung out to dry, and there will be another concession to the IRA.

Should Adams and McGuinness—both on the IRA army council, and both have blood all over their hands—appear before the tribunal and should they be released on licence, will they be allowed to sit in the House of Commons as murderers under licence? I make this prediction: I guarantee that, should it happen, this Government will make another concession.

Arguably, this is the worst Bill to come before the House in recent times—certainly while I have been a Member of Parliament. I should like Defence Ministers and senior commanders of the armed forces to stand up and say, "This is a disgrace", because it is a disgrace. The Sun accused me, and my hon. Friends, of being soft of terrorism. Where does it list the people who will vote for this disgraceful Bill tonight?

When we come here we should always know what we are doing, and we should know that what we are doing is right. We should always strive to do what is right. We swear before the House that we will try to do what is right. It is not right to pass this dishonest and corrupt Bill. I hope that all Members who vote for it will hang their heads in shame.

6.37 pm


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