|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Campbell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Yes, when the Government indicate that pre-legislative scrutiny should take place on that or other issues in order to test the waters and find out whether there is a consensus, having established that a consensus exists, they disregard it. We remain to be convinced on the matter of Diplock. We will see then whether there is a consensus and what the Government do in response to that.
I draw attention to the apparent double standard. I listened to the Minister trying to explain his version of the absence of double standards with regard to section 108, and his impassioned defence of its retention on the ground of caution. He said that the Government were wary and did not want to be perceived as anything other than strong against terrorism. Their attitude to our amendment was, on the ground of caution and to be strong against terrorism, that the life of the legislation should be extended for a further four years. I am afraid that the Minister failed in any respect to square that circle.
There is an undoubted need for this Bill, despite its faults and with the caveats that we have pencilled in on numerous occasions. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee was in Northern Ireland on Monday and Tuesday, and its members from all parties were able to
30 Nov 2005 : Column 344
see the continuing need for this legislation. Only yesterday, the Committee went to an interface and I was able to point out to some members the tangible, brutal realities of continuing attacks on properties. They are not simply a product of 1973, 1983 or even 2003, but they are the tangible reality of 2005, and, unfortunately, may well be the tangible reality in 2007, when the Minister seems to believe or hope, as we would all hope, that we will have reached the point where this legislation will not be required.
I wish to conclude on the issue of the level of expectation. Unfortunately, I get the distinct impression from the Minister that while he hopes that there will not be the need for this legislation to be renewed 18 months hence, that may be the case. All of us, without exception, hope that it will not need to be renewed. I would hope that we would not need this legislation tomorrow. But the issue in Northern Ireland is where we are likely to be in the foreseeable future. If the Government and the Minister believe that in 18 months the legislation will not need to be renewed, and at that point it has to be renewed, I and my hon. Friends would contend that that would do more to deflate people and to indicate that there is yet more negativity in store for them than if the legislation were renewed and was found subsequently not to be needed because the expected and hoped-for normality had emerged.
Mr. Dodds: It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell), and I join him and others in thanking the Minister for his contribution to this debate and other hon. Members for the way in which the debate has proceeded. It has been very useful in drawing out some important issues.
I want briefly to put on record that we should be grateful that we are not faced with the prospect of debating the immediate end of the emergency provisions in part 7 of the Bill. Certainly the Government's approach on other issues has been one of reckless disregard for caution and the facts on the ground, and they have proceeded prematurely to take a number of decisions on normalisation, disbandment of the RIR and other issues that I will not pursue in this debate, whereas on this Bill they have taken the view that it should continue in place for at least 18 months, with the possibility of renewal thereafter for a year. Nevertheless, we still believe that the Government should reconsider that. I have not heard any really convincing argument today or previously that would have prevented the Government from allowing the legislation to remain in place, or even taking on board the Opposition's proposal for annual renewal of the legislation, rather than arbitrarily putting in place a fixed deadline, which means that the legislation comes to an end at a fixed date without any real evidence that by that stage any of the paramilitary organisations that have been referred to in the debate will have gone out of business. Earlier in the debate, the Minister said that the paramilitary and terrorist situation had improved greatly in terms of bombings, killings and shootings in Northern Ireland, for which we are, of course, grateful.
The Minister needs to be reminded of the most recent IMC report: the seventh report, which was issued on 19 October 2005, stated that many of the paramilitary organisations remained armed and dangerous and that
30 Nov 2005 : Column 345
many of them are involved in internal power struggles and crimes unrelated to terrorism. The IMC found that the Provisional IRA was still engaged in organised crime and violence after the announcement on 28 July 2005. It found that the LVF was still deeply involved in organised crime, especially drugs, and that it remains a deeply criminal organisation. It found that the UDA was still involved in violent and other serious crime and that it remained an active threat to the rule of law in Northern Ireland. On the UVF and the Red Hand Commando, the IMC found that the UVF was an active, violent and ruthless organisation and that it would continue to use violence where it thinks that that would be in its interests.
The most recent IMC report, which was published in October, formed the basis for much optimism on the part of the Government. However, it serves to remind us of the continuing threat posed by all those organisations, not least the Provisional IRA. Given the nature of those organisations and their continuing activities, in our view it is premature to include an end date of 31 July 2007 in the Bill.
My hon. Friends the Members for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) have referred to the continuing violence, agitation and disturbances at the interfaces in Belfast, Londonderry and elsewhere. Those of us who represent constituencies that contain interfacesmy constituency probably contains more of them than any other in the Provinceare only too well aware of the role played by people in the provisional republican movement and other paramilitaries in continuing to keep tensions extremely high, in exacerbating violence, in stirring sectarian fears and in exploiting and manipulating situations on the ground.
Many people on this side of the Irish sea may regard those activities as trivial by comparison with the violence over the past three decades in Northern Ireland. However, the people who live in communities that contain interfacesin my constituency, Tigers Bay, Glenbryn, the White City, Twaddell avenue and other areas that I could mentionare suffering continually because of the ongoing violence, threats and attacks against them. Yes, such attacks are not one-sided, but their weight is directed against the Protestant and Unionist community. One has only to visit those areas to see vacant houses and dereliction because Protestant and Unionist families have been forced out as a result of the activities of republicans and paramilitary organisations from that side. We therefore believe that the legislation should be extended beyond the deadline that the Minister suggests.
The other reason for doing so is that these organisations are deeply involved in criminality, as well as terrorist activities at a number of levels. I will not rehearse all the various examples of that criminality, but one need only look at the report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee which cited the involvement of paramilitaries in drug dealing, fuel laundering and so on. The extent of that involvement in criminality means that it will not be got rid of quickly or easily. It beggars belief that anyone could think that it will all have disappeared in 18 months' time. It will not, and that is very clear even from the standpoint of today.
30 Nov 2005 : Column 346
We have seen the strenuous efforts that have gone into tracking down those involved in the Northern bank robbery that took place last December. The IRA was clearly involvedthat is the settled view of the Chief Constable and authorities on both sides of the border. Imagine what would happen if, after the legislation has left the statute book, the police are able to gather evidence and bring people to court to face charges. Is the Minister seriously telling us that a trial in the case of the Northern bank robbery, for instance, could be run before a judge and jury in the normal way without any fear of intimidation or harassment of jurors? That does not square with the facts. The McCartney family are currently the subjects of intimidation, with witnesses being threatened and the family having to move out of Short Strand because of intimidation and threats. Last week, a friend of the family said that they had been threatened by the Provisional IRA. At some point in the future, charges may be brought against individuals for their involvement in that crime or for covering it up. Is the Minister seriously telling us if that happens after July 2007 such a case could be run in a normal court with a judge and jury? Intimidation is already taking place and threats are being issued. The Minister suggests that that would not happen in the context of a jury trial, but of course it would. That is why we find it hard to understand why he and the Government are so set on a cut-off date that has no basis in logic or fact and is wildly optimistic.
The Minister tells us that we should be reassured by the fact that if we reach that point in time and it is felt that the legislation is still necessary, the Government would have no hesitation in coming to the House to propose that it should continue. He would presumably base that on the recommendation of the Chief Constable, primarily, and on other security advice. Having listened to what the Minister said about that, I am not reassured by one iota. Our belief in the Government's willingness to take on board the Chief Constable's security advice was gravely undermined over the summer by the atrocious behaviour of the Secretary of State, who was prepared to re-imprison one Sean Kelly on the basis of the Chief Constable's recommendation that he was involved in terrorism and acts of violence, and yet released him six weeks later, against the Chief Constable's explicit advice, because Sinn Fein was demanding it as the price of its statement the very next day.
What confidence does it give the people whom I represent and the people of Northern Ireland generally if the Under-Secretary claims that he will take police advice and listen to the Chief Constable, when evidence from the summer shows a clear decision by the Government to reject the Chief Constable's advice when it came to a choice between protecting the people in my constituency and appeasing Sinn Fein? For those hon. Members who do not know, Sean Kelly is a mass murderera child killer who murdered nine people on the Shankill road in 1992.
Apart from the atrocious Bill to allow an amnesty for IRA terrorists, one reason for the grave lack of confidence in the Unionist community is the feeling that everything is done to make concessions to the Sinn Fein-IRA movement and that normal processes are put to one side. That is clearly shown by the case of Sean Kelly and one of the reasons why we can take no assurance from the Under-Secretary's comments today.
30 Nov 2005 : Column 347
I conclude by reinforcing the point that has already been made about the contradictions in the Government's approach. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) spoke about the difference between the approach to terrorism in Northern Ireland and that to terrorism internationally. Whatever the merits of that argument, there has been a different approach to different terrorists even within Northern Ireland. Some terrorist organisations and groups are regarded as the good terrorists and others are regarded as the bad terrorists. Ministers hailed and praised those who signed up to the Belfast agreement as unsung heroes of the peace process, only for them to be rearrested and flung back into jail a couple of month later for being up to their necks in violence and all sorts of terrorist activities. The Government have applied a clear double standard to terrorism even within Northern Ireland.
However, as several hon. Members have pointed out, the most glaring contradiction in the Government's approach is shown by their caution towards the Bill and insistence on retaining the provisions for 18 months because they are not convinced that the time is right to remove them, and their introduction last week of the most appalling Bill that has been presented to the House in recent years. The latter measure will give an amnesty to IRA terrorists and others. The Government also want to reinstate allowances and money for Sinn Fein-IRA and other groups.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|