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England and Wales have by far the most generous legal aid provision in the whole world. For example, Spain spends £2.55 a head, France spends £3.31, and Germany spends £4.69. Countries with a
similar system, such as New Zealand, spend on average £8 a head, compared with £38 a head in England and Wales.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): In his capacity as the new anti-corruption tsar, will the Justice Secretary have a word with Andy Coulson? Andy Coulson and Rebekah Wade both admitted that they had paid police officers for information when running newspapers. They paid police officers; that is suborning a police officer. Will the Justice Secretary institute a review of the process whereby newspapers sometimes pay for information from police officers, and put a stop to it?
Mr Kenneth Clarke: Personally, I think that this Government are going to give a very high priority to restoring and, I trust, maintaining this company's reputation- [ Laughter. ]-this country's reputation as one of the leading advocates of the elimination of corruption in trade and in Government contracts. We shall also ensure that the Bribery Act 2010, which we supported, is properly enforced, and that we are in the forefront of the people paying regard to this matter. With respect, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's question bears very closely on that. I would also say to him that making allegations against people who are not Members, under cover of parliamentary privilege, should be done with great caution. He should not accuse people of corruption in the course of putting a question to me on this subject.
Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op):
Will the Justice Secretary acknowledge that, when our constituents are the victims of crime, they often need support and assistance to navigate the criminal justice
service? Will he take this opportunity to, at the very least, ring-fence his Department's expenditure on services for the victims of crime?
Mr Clarke: The Government will give priority to victims to exactly the extent that the House would expect. It should be in the forefront of all our minds when trying to protect the country against crime that the interests of victims should be paramount. My reflection on this hour of questioning is that it is no good for the Labour party to respond to every suggestion that there might be budget constraints as though that represents a threat to an essential service. The fact is that there is no money, and that is the fault of those in the Labour party. They will not be taken seriously again until they face up to the reality of the situation to which they have largely contributed, and start producing some realistic alternative policies to challenge those being put forward by the Government.
Mr Robert Buckland (South Swindon) (Con): Will the Secretary of State clarify whether his Department is to review the current system of classification of controlled drugs-which has been called seriously into question in recent months-and particularly the role of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs?
Mr Clarke: We have been looking at practically every aspect of policy in our first weeks in office, but we are not rushing to readdress the categorisation of drugs and we are going to ensure that scientific advice on this subject is treated properly, objectively and in the public interest. Any views that my hon. Friend wishes to put forward on the workings of the present system will be carefully considered by myself and my team of Ministers.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the recent spectacle of Roy Whiting exploiting British taxpayers to demand a reduction in his sentence is an abuse of justice and an insult to the memory of Sarah Payne?
The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement. Today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is publishing the report of the Saville inquiry-the tribunal set up by the previous Government to investigate the tragic events of 30 January 1972, a day more commonly known as "Bloody Sunday". We have acted in good faith by publishing the tribunal's findings as quickly as possible after the general election.
I am deeply patriotic; I never want to believe anything bad about our country; I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our Army, which I believe to be the finest in the world. And I have seen for myself the very difficult and dangerous circumstances in which we ask our soldiers to serve. But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear: there is no doubt; there is nothing equivocal; there are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.
"did so as a result of an order... which should have not been given"
"on balance the first shot in the vicinity of the march was fired by the British Army"
"none of the casualties shot by soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm".
"there was some firing by republican paramilitaries... but... none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties",
"in no case was any warning given before soldiers opened fire".
"reacted by losing their self-control... forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training"
"a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline".
"despite the contrary evidence given by the soldiers... none of them fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks by nail or petrol bombers"
"knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing".
"crawling... away from the soldiers"
"when he was lying mortally wounded on the ground".
"hit and injured by Army gunfire after he had gone to... tend his son".
"The immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries",
"none of the casualties was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or indeed was doing anything else that could on any view justify their shooting".
For those people who were looking for the report to use terms like murder and unlawful killing, I remind the House that these judgments are not matters for a tribunal, or for us as politicians, to determine.
These are shocking conclusions to read and shocking words to have to say, but we do not defend the British Army by defending the indefensible. We do not honour all those who have served with distinction in keeping the peace and upholding the rule of law in Northern Ireland by hiding from the truth. So there is no point in trying to soften, or equivocate about, what is in this report. It is clear from the tribunal's authoritative conclusions that the events of Bloody Sunday were in no way justified.
I know that some people wonder whether, nearly 40 years on from an event, a Prime Minister needs to issue an apology. For someone of my generation, Bloody Sunday and the early 1970s are something that we feel we have learnt about rather than lived through. But what happened should never, ever have happened. The families of those who died should not have had to live with the pain and hurt of that day, and with a lifetime of loss. Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The Government are ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces, and for that, on behalf of the Government-indeed, on behalf of our country-I am deeply sorry.
Just as the report is clear that the actions of that day were unjustifiable, so too it is clear in some of its other findings. Those looking for premeditation, those looking for a plan, those even looking for a conspiracy involving senior politicians or senior members of the armed forces, will not find it in this report. Indeed, Lord Saville finds no evidence that the events of Bloody Sunday were premeditated. He concludes that the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Governments, and the Army, neither tolerated nor encouraged
"the use of unjustified lethal force".
The report also specifically deals with the actions of key individuals in the Army, in politics and beyond, including Major-General Ford, Brigadier MacLellan and Lieutenant-Colonel Wilford. In each case, the tribunal's findings are clear. The report does the same for Martin McGuinness. It specifically finds that he was present and probably armed with a "sub-machine-gun", but concludes
"we are sure that he did not engage in any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire".
While in no way justifying the events of 30 January 1972, we should acknowledge the background to the events of Bloody Sunday. Since 1969, the security situation in Northern Ireland had been declining significantly. Three days before Bloody Sunday, two officers in the
Royal Ulster Constabulary-one a Catholic-were shot by the IRA in Londonderry, the first police officers killed in the city during the troubles. A third of the city of Derry had become a no-go area for the RUC and the Army, and in the end 1972 was to prove Northern Ireland's bloodiest year by far, with nearly 500 people killed.
Let us also remember that Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service that the British Army gave in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 2007. That was known as Operation Banner, the longest continuous operation in British military history, which spanned 38 years and in which over 250,000 people served. Our armed forces displayed enormous courage and professionalism in upholding democracy and the rule of law in Northern Ireland. Acting in support of the police, they played a major part in setting the conditions that have made peaceful politics possible, and over 1,000 members of the security forces lost their lives to that cause. Without their work, the peace process would not have happened. Of course some mistakes were undoubtedly made, but lessons were also learnt. Once again, I put on record the immense debt of gratitude that we all owe those who served in Northern Ireland.
I thank the tribunal for its work, and thank all those who displayed great courage in giving evidence. I also wish to acknowledge the grief of the families of those killed. They have pursued their long campaign over 38 years with great patience. Nothing can bring back those who were killed, but I hope that-as one relative has put it-the truth coming out can help to set people free.
John Major said that he was open to a new inquiry. Tony Blair then set it up. That was accepted by the then Leader of the Opposition. Of course, none of us anticipated that the Saville inquiry would take 12 years or cost almost £200 million. Our views on that are well documented. It is right to pursue the truth with vigour and thoroughness, but let me reassure the House that there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past.
However, today is not about the controversies surrounding the process. It is about the substance, about what this report tells us. Everyone should have the chance to examine its complete findings, and that is why it is being published in full. Running to more than 5,000 pages, it is being published in 10 volumes. Naturally, it will take all of us some time to digest the report's full findings and understand all the implications. The House will have an opportunity for a full day's debate this autumn, and in the meantime the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and for Defence will report back to me on all the issues that arise from it.
This report and the inquiry itself demonstrate how a state should hold itself to account and how we should be determined at all times-no matter how difficult-to judge ourselves against the highest standards. Openness and frankness about the past, however painful, do not make us weaker; they make us stronger. That is one of the things that differentiates us from the terrorists. We should never forget that over 3,500 people, from every community, lost their lives in Northern Ireland, the overwhelming majority killed by terrorists. There were many terrible atrocities. Politically motivated violence was never justified, whichever side it came from, and it
can never be justified by those criminal gangs that today want to drag Northern Ireland back to its bitter and bloody past. No Government I lead will ever put those who fight to defend democracy on an equal footing with those who continue to seek to destroy it, but nor will we hide from the truth that confronts us today. In the words of Lord Saville:
"What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the Provisional IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed. Bloody Sunday was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland."
Those are words we cannot and must not ignore, but I hope what this report can do is mark the moment when we come together, in this House and in the communities we represent; come together to acknowledge our shared history, even where it divides us; and come together to close this painful chapter on Northern Ireland's troubled past. That is not to say that we must ever forget or dismiss that past, but we must also move on. Northern Ireland has been transformed over the past 20 years and all of us in Westminster and Stormont must continue that work of change, coming together with all the people of Northern Ireland, to build a stable, peaceful, prosperous and shared future. It is with that determination that I commend this statement to the House.
Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): May I thank the Prime Minister for his statement? As he said, it is more than 12 years since the then Prime Minister Tony Blair set up the Saville inquiry to establish the truth of what happened on what became known as Bloody Sunday. For the 14 families whose loved ones were killed, for the 13 who were injured, for the soldiers and their families, for all those whose lives would never be the same again, the report has been long-awaited. We all recognise how painful this has been, and the Prime Minister has been clear today. He said that there is no ambiguity, that it was wrong; he has apologised and we join him in his apology.
I remind the House of what Tony Blair said on the day that the House agreed to establish the Saville inquiry. He said that Bloody Sunday was a day we have all wished "had never happened" and that it was "a tragic day" for everyone. I reiterate his tribute to the dignity of the bereaved families, whose campaign was about searching for the truth. He rightly reminded the House of the thousands of lives that have been lost in Northern Ireland. May I restate our sincere admiration for our security forces' response to terrorism in Northern Ireland? Many lost their lives. Nothing in today's report can or should diminish their record of service. They have been outstanding.
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