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There must be no more double-speak from Mr. Adams on those matters. He has to move. He has to deliver. The people of Northern Ireland have delivered their young men and women to the bullet and the bomb, their mothers and fathers to murder. It is time that Mr. Adams delivered us from that state and
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we return to the ways of peace and the ways of power. He claims that he cannot move until he gets agreement on the modalities of all justice and police departments and until he gets a precise date for the devolution of policing. I refer him to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who can tell him about the unreliability of dates. For Mr. Adams, the dates seem never to develop.

Mr. Adams well knows that none of those things are in the gift of the DUP, the SDLP or anyone else, unless the Sinn Feiners change. The people of Northern Ireland will not change; they will stand fast in the liberties that they believe that they should maintain. It is blatantly obvious that the community is not ready to say that Sinn Fein will do what it is supposed to, so we have to put it to the test. I trust that the test will be one that everyone can believe in, and the first step must be the declaration—not only the declaration but the demonstration—that it has really changed and will help people forward, especially the police. At St. Andrews, I said that the clock had started for Sinn Fein to commit to policing, but since then it has studiously avoided every opportunity for commitment in a practical manner.

The week before St. Andrews, Sinn Fein councillor Tom Hartley declared that Sinn Fein must detach the police from British state control. The week after St. Andrews, there was a dispute in Ballymurphy involving a gang attack, a severe beating and a gun attack, which all went uncondemned by the local Sinn Fein councillor and other local spokesmen for Sinn Fein, and no witness evidence from the community has been forthcoming or even encouraged by Sinn Fein members. Earlier this month, a man and a woman were viciously beaten and then burned to death in South Armagh by a republican family. The Sinn Fein MP for that area bit his tongue when it came to support for the police in their investigation of that horrific and diabolical crime, and once again no evidence is forthcoming from the people in that area who know who did it.

Without genuine community and political support for the police, how are Unionists expected to move forward in confidence that Sinn Fein is ready to support the police? How can this House realistically believe that in 16 weeks it will be proved that Sinn Fein has done everything it should have done, that it is the most innocent of the innocent, and that all is well? Go and tell that even to the Roman Catholic people off the bottom of the Falls road and in Ballymurphy, and they will say what they are going through at this present time.

My party and its executive officers have resolved the following:

The refusal of Sinn Fein even to begin to give support to the PSNI, the courts and the rule of law has clear adverse implications. We must demand at this time that the St. Andrews agreement is kept and that no
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provisions creep in to let these men off the hook. The DUP has met all the tests and conditions set for the agreement, and will meet all the tests and conditions set for democratic government in Northern Ireland.

All I can say to the House is to echo the words of the great German reformer: “Here we stand; we can do naught else.” I trust that the Government will stand up to the terrorists and that we will see an end to terrorism and the beginning of a better Ulster, with pure democracy leading it.

5.45 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): As you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have a pressing and long-standing parliamentary commitment tonight, so I shall make a brief speech, but we have just heard an extremely important one, and I hope that the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues take note of what was said. I have not always agreed with the right hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), but today he spoke with force and passion. As he spoke, I could not help but think that the future is not what it used to be. He has held out real hope to the people of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. His party is the majority party at the moment, but it is for the people of Northern Ireland to determine, on 7 March, whether it remains in that position. He has indicated that, notwithstanding what happened in the past—the murders, the mutilations, the atrocities—his party is prepared to sit down with people who perpetrated, supported or condoned those acts, and to seek to work with them in a common cause, for the sake of the government of that part of the United Kingdom.

We cannot expect any part of the United Kingdom to be governed by people who are not prepared, unequivocally, to sign up to the rule of law and to accept the courts, and the right hon. Gentleman made that plain. I say to the Minister of State that the Government have bent over backwards to try to bring people, and the parties, together, and I support them in that. I devoutly hope and pray that all will be well, and that we will achieve what the Government want to achieve through the Bill.

However, if there is no credible delivery, and no absolute assurance, it will behove the Government to tell the one party that has refused to play by the democratic rules, and to take its seats in this House, “Enough; no more. We will work with the other, democratic, elected parties of Northern Ireland—the Democratic Unionist party, the Ulster Unionist party, the Social Democratic and Labour party, the Alliance party, and the other parties represented in the Assembly. We will work together to create as wide a power-sharing Executive as we can, in communities that play by the democratic rules, and that accept the rule of law.”

I hope that Sinn Fein will do what the right hon. Member for North Antrim says that it should, but the situation cannot go on and on. This is Sinn Fein’s ultimate chance, and it must grasp it. If it does not, we must lead the people of Northern Ireland to a democratic future that includes all those who play by the democratic rules.

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5.48 pm

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) (SDLP): My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) spoke about many of the Bill’s successes, our hopes for the next couple of months, and the Bill’s failings. I want to address two of those failings, which will have a considerable impact on the community in Northern Ireland.

It is pretty obvious from all that we have heard that there are still many problems to be overcome if there is to be a restoration of the institutions under the agreement. I hope that we can overcome those problems and rein in the vetoes that are allowing people to hold back progress. At a time when direct rule has never looked more high-handed and shady, people need proper accountability. A devolved Government must be restored as soon as possible, and it must be a Government who respond to people’s needs, instead of riding roughshod over their interests, even when those interests are unanimously expressed.

It would be wrong, however, for people to regard the last five years purely as a time of deadlocked politics, because there have been great changes—nowhere more so than in policing, which has been raised many times today. As the oversight commissioner reported, in just five years, 84 per cent. of Patten’s 10-year programme of change has been completed or substantively implemented. That did not happen by accident—it was a huge endeavour by the people of Northern Ireland—and it happened mainly because, in 2001, brave people decided to get on board and support law and order, taking risks to deliver a new beginning in policing. Without them, it simply would not have happened.

Chief among those people were the independent members of the district policing partnerships, which perform the job of holding the police to account on local issues. They are composed of a majority of political members drawn from Northern Ireland’s councils, as well as a minority of independent members. Schedule 8 rightly provides that if Sinn Fein is entitled to political membership of a DPP, all political members of that DPP automatically stand down so that space can be made for Sinn Fein councillors to join. That is fair—we do not want to keep Sinn Fein members out of the DPPs for a moment longer than they keep themselves out—but they must join DPPs only if they are committed to membership of the Policing Board.

Mr. Gregory Campbell: The hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to significant changes in policing over the past five years, but does he accept that whereas in the past many Catholics were prevented from joining the police by IRA threats, now many Protestants are prevented from doing so because of discriminatory legislation implemented by the House?

Mr. McGrady: The hon. Gentleman’s comment is skewed, because a far higher proportion of Protestants join the police force today than Catholics.

The Bill provides that independent members of DPPs will be automatically fired and must reapply if they wish to serve again. That is patently wrong, because independent members are, indeed, independent—they should not be fired just because Sinn Fein has joined
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the board. They are appointed for a four-year term, and they should not be sacked after just a year and a half, especially because many of them have been intimidated by Sinn Fein and attacked by republican dissidents. It will be difficult to encourage them to reapply, and that will deal a lasting blow to the credibility of DPPs in the community. Ironically, the St. Andrews agreement does not require the shoddy treatment of those people, who have delivered a great deal. It is yet another dirty side deal, in which those who have given most are treated worst by the Government.

It is a poor reflection on Sinn Fein that it sought that concession. It shows that its priority is not change for the public good—the independent members of DPPs have worked to deliver such change—but inside jobs for the boys. Surprisingly, the DUP, which saw it coming and secured many other vetoes, did not bother to veto that provision. That demonstrates yet again that the two parties that produced and excused the worst of our past will never deliver the best of our future. For them, it is jobs for the boys that count, not change for the public good or the public weal.

I regret the fact that the Government have tried to veto another change, thus affecting public confidence in their approach to national security. The Police Service of Northern Ireland has primacy in matters of national security, and the police ombudsman has the power to investigate complaints about its handling of such matters. That accountability has been enormously helpful in building confidence in policing’s new beginning, but the Government have taken a retrograde step by announcing that MI5 will assume primacy for national security in Northern Ireland next year. That does not make any sense whatsoever, as the Government’s own Organised Crime Task Force has conceded that organised criminality and terrorism or paramilitarism in the north are two sides of the same coin. A single body—the PSNI—should deal with all aspects of such issues.

Critically, the Government’s decision has serious implications for accountability on national security issues, because the police ombudsman will be hampered in her ability to investigate national security complaints. Instead, such complaints will be handled by the investigative powers tribunal. That is insufficient, because only people who believe that they are subject to MI5 surveillance can bring complaints against MI5. Terrorists under surveillance—even Osama bin Laden—can complain about MI5, but people who are not terrorists, such as the Omagh families and other victims who have been let down by MI5, which did not bother to pass on important information, cannot do so.

Complaints to the investigatory powers tribunal are fruitless. In the four years from 2000 to 2004, 380 complaints were made to the tribunal, but not one has been upheld, nor have any reasons been given for the failure to conduct further investigation. The police ombudsman can investigate the actions of staff belonging to UK-wide bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and the immigration service. We believe that the Office of the Police Ombudsman should be able to do likewise for MI5. We even proposed an amendment to that effect. Regrettably, it was not selected because of the tight interpretation of the Bill’s long title. I bow to
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superior knowledge, but the long title concludes with those all-important words, “and for connected purposes”. An appendix to the St. Andrews agreement was devoted to MI5, yet the organisation is not relevant to a measure entitled the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) Bill. That is extremely curious, but we cannot debate it tonight.

The Government may avoid facing up to the issue in the Bill, but it must nevertheless be confronted. Faceless men must not be allowed to get away with dark deeds, as has often happened in the past. Accountability is Patten’s watchword, and the police ombudsman—the watchdog for policing—must be able to shine light into the shadowy places where MI5 operates. Our party has always believed that to solve the problems of our society we must ensure that there are working political institutions and working policing institutions. The two go hand in hand. That is why we warn the Government against making underhand moves on MI5 and side deals on policing, which damage not only the new policing dispensation but our political institutions. They weaken trust and strike at the foundations of openness in security and policing on which we are trying to build a new society. Strong, robust policing, as we know, protects everyone, and it deserves everyone’s respect, not least the Government’s.

5.59 pm

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Briefly, despite the curtailment of discussion and parliamentary process, I very much welcome the Bill. The Government have done a great deal to improve the modalities of power sharing and to facilitate much needed devolved government for the people of Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland statute book is seriously deficient, because there has not been proper governance there for a quarter of a century.

We can see that right across the range of services, particularly in regard to matters that relate to the ordinary taxpayer and ratepayer. Those matters include environmental protection and the maintenance and quality of the fabric of Northern Ireland. For example, its beautiful Regency and Georgian architecture does not receive the protection that is afforded to similar places in London or Essex.

The Government have done a great deal to remedy all this, and they are entitled to take credit for working hard over a long period to facilitate this agreement. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will probably be remembered for many things, but he is certainly entitled to be remembered for the energy, enthusiasm and enormous patience that he has brought to trying to achieve a settlement in Ireland—I am using the word “Ireland” deliberately—during his premiership. Many people have contributed to those efforts, some of whom are in the Chamber today. Whatever their persuasion, people have moved and tried to reach concord and agreement, and they are entitled to some acknowledgement for that. We must also remember the significant contribution by members of the United States Administrations in recent years to persuade, cajole and facilitate, and the energy that the Taoiseach has brought to bear on these issues.

The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) mentioned MI5 a few moments ago. The Government
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should, in any event, bring before the House a new security and intelligence Bill. Quite apart from the issue of MI5’s responsibility for security in Northern Ireland, the oversight by this Parliament of our security and intelligence services is woefully inadequate. This is one of the few parliamentary democracies that has no parliamentary oversight of its security and intelligence services. There is no parliamentary Committee to provide that oversight. There is a Committee of parliamentarians appointed by the head of the security and intelligence services, the Prime Minister, but there is no parliamentary oversight. That oversight is long overdue. The Foreign Affairs Committee has made this point in the past.

Having listened to the hon. Gentleman, it seems to me that the answer is that the Government need to introduce with some expedition a new security and intelligence Bill to create a Committee of Parliament, rather than one that is appointed by the Prime Minister, to scrutinise MI5, MI6 and the other security and intelligence services right across the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. That would give some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman.

If the Government give an undertaking to expand the membership of the Security and Intelligence Committee, that will require legislation in this House. It cannot be done by a decision of the Prime Minister or by order. The Government should come clean and acknowledge that, because I understand that that is their intention. I believe that they should increase the Committee’s membership, to facilitate the involvement of the parties that take part in the deliberations of the Westminster Parliament. Members of those parties should have seats on the Committee, which should, for the first time, be made a Committee of Parliament.

I want to counsel caution on another issue. The Northern Ireland Assembly is extraordinarily large for a democratic legislature, but I think that we all know why. It is to make room in the garden for everyone, and it is a price worth paying. There is talk of reducing the size of the legislature in the long term, but I would counsel the need to keep the large numbers. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) talked about the need for normal politics. I cannot help but reflect that Northern Ireland is not greatly different from the central belt of Scotland, where Protestant and Catholic working-class people have a truce and, by and large, vote for a radical party— [ Interruption.] I carefully crafted my words when I said that. There is certainly a tradition among the Protestant and Catholic working-class people in Scotland of voting Labour. There are many people who hold office in local government in the Labour party who are members of the Orange Order. The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson), looks surprised at that. He really ought to know a bit more about the Labour party. There are many members of the Orange Order in Scotland who are active in the Labour party, to their credit, and there are of course many good Catholic folk as well.

I dream of a day when people’s aspirations regarding the national issue of Ireland can be accommodated in normal politics. Across Europe, we see the social democratic parties, the conservative parties, and so on. Given time, there could be a realignment of the political position in Ireland—in Northern Ireland, in Ireland—that would make people feel more
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comfortable voting in a way that reflects the normal tradition. These provisions might be a vehicle for that.

Most reasonable people will find it unacceptable for a political party not to accept a policing structure that has been carefully crafted. Supporters of Sinn Fein in the United States of America prevailed on it to sign up to the policing arrangements and worked with the political parties to craft the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It cannot be acceptable that any party is able to say that it still does not accept the policing structure, while expecting others to serve in government with it. There must be a test of reasonableness. If people are to be in government, they must accept the arrangement that has been agreed and welcomed by the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland, namely, the courts and normal policing by the PSNI.

I would not use terms such as “United Kingdom courts” or “the royal courts of justice”. They are Irish courts. It is an Irish police force. It happens that people have different traditions, but I would say to the people of Ireland that they can be Unionists and also proud to be Irish, as the regiments are. The point is that these are Irish courts, and it is an Irish police force.

Lady Hermon: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but I cannot allow him to get away with that. He knows perfectly well that, when the people of Northern Ireland voted in their thousands for the Belfast agreement, they voted that Northern Ireland should remain an integral part of the United Kingdom unless or until they voted otherwise. The courts in Northern Ireland are British in the same way as the courts in Liverpool, London, Birmingham and everywhere else in the United Kingdom are. It is not correct to describe them as Irish. It is completely constitutionally and technically incorrect.

Andrew Mackinlay: I fully accept the long-standing agreement that Clement Attlee’s Government made that, unless or until there was any change in the views of the people of Northern Ireland, freely expressed, the constitutional arrangements would remain, and that the six counties of Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I fully accept that. Perhaps my inability fully to explain the position is the problem. I was appealing to the people who do not subscribe to that agreement, and saying that they could feel confident that those courts were in the ownership of the people of Northern Ireland. They demonstrably operate in Ireland—for some people, it is Northern Ireland. We also have the Irish regiments. We do not talk about “the Northern Irish Guards”; they are the Irish Guards, and everyone is comfortable with that. I notice that many people come from Ballyfermot in Dublin to join the Irish Guards. People do not see this in any other terms.

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