Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Chope, but I must confess that this is the most difficult debate I have ever taken part in because I feel that I must turn the spotlight on the innocent victims of terrorism and their broken-hearted families.
A few days ago, the Prime Minister of this United Kingdom made his way to the Dispatch Box in the House of Commons and gave an apology to families in Londonderry, which was watched by millions around the world. After his speech, many could hear the shouts and cheers from those in Guildhall square, Londonderry, and the media spent countless hours of airtime propagating one single event in the history of our Province, just as if nobody else had endured any injustice over the years of Ulster's turmoil and trouble.
Outside Londonderry, many other families who have suffered because of countless IRA atrocities simply sat in silence, many wiping away their tears, and feeling dejected and spurned by their own Government. I do not doubt the sincerity of the Prime Minister in his speech, nor do I doubt the significance that it held for those families in Londonderry. However, what about the thousands of other innocent families, who grieve daily for their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, because of years of Provisional IRA terror?
No apology was ever given to the law-abiding Unionist majority, when successive Governments tied the hands of our security forces and allowed the IRA terror campaign to continue for well over 30 years. The IRA claimed that it was at war with Britain, but unfortunately only one side was fighting to win. Our gallant soldiers were-and are-the best in the world, but they were not allowed to fight. They could have crushed the terrorists, but political expedience would not allow them to do so.
I am not entering into a debate on the Saville report, as that will come in its own time. However, I fear that successive Governments, through this £192 million inquiry and the high-wire spectacular response from the Prime Minister in front of the world's media, have left the feeling that there is a hierarchy of victims from our troubled past, and that brings only further division and misunderstanding.
Over the years, I have wept and comforted many families of innocent victims, and although I carry no open wounds on my body from the IRA campaign-although that was not the intention-there are many deep wounds in my heart that no man, but only God, can heal. I honestly confess that I hate what the Provisional IRA has done to our beautiful Province and its people through its acts of barbarity and murder. However, if we allow hatred and bitterness to take over our lives, we destroy ourselves and allow the enemy to succeed.
In 1969, the Provisional IRA was formed with the aim of removing the British from Northern Ireland and bringing about the unification of Ireland by force. It was doomed to fail, not because the Government stood up for the rights of our people, but because 1 million ordinary British people in Northern Ireland determined to remain part of the United Kingdom and exercised their democratic right accordingly. Even though the terrorists tried to bomb us into submission, murdered hundreds of police officers and soldiers, slaughtered innocent civilians across the Province and tried to wipe out Protestant families along the border, they were never able to break our determination. I have often said that they may have broken our hearts-and they did-but they shall never break our will.
It must also be remembered that Ministers from the Fianna Fail governing party in the Irish Republic diverted funds intended as emergency aid, to illegally import weapons directly for the Provisional IRA. One of those Ministers, Charles Haughey, was later rewarded by being made Prime Minister of the Irish Republic for three terms between 1979 and 1992. Surely it is time for an unreserved and unequivocal apology from the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic for the actions of a former Government who helped to spawn and support the IRA, thereby consigning Unionists in Northern Ireland to over 30 years of bloody Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Alas, that has not been forthcoming, and we shall have to wait, although for how long, I have no idea.
I wish to pay tribute to the bravery of our soldiers who patrolled the highways of Ulster for many years, many of whom paid the supreme sacrifice. Standing alongside them, we were blessed by having many courageous local volunteers who joined the B Specials, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Regiment, and who gallantly provided protection for all our community from a vicious foe.
I also salute the bravery of the Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary reserves for their years of faithful duty, not forgetting the Police Service of Northern Ireland. All those forces have been vilified at some time or other by the republican propaganda machine, but those of us who have lived throughout the troubles know how the B Specials, the UDR, the RUC GC and the RUCR GC were politically sacrificed to appease republican agitation.
Let me come to the heart of the debate. According to research carried out by the university of Ulster, the Provisional IRA was responsible for the deaths of 1,706 people during the troubles up to 2001. Of those, 497 were civilian casualties, 183 were members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, 455 came from other regiments of the British Army, and 271 were members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Of its victims, 340 were Northern Ireland Roman Catholics, 794 were Northern Ireland Protestants and 572 were not from Northern Ireland.
That same research states that the IRA lost 276 members during the troubles. However, in 132 of those cases, IRA members either caused their own deaths, as a result of hunger strikes, premature bombing, accidents and so on, or were murdered due to allegations of having worked for the security forces. Those executions killed more IRA members than any other organisation during the course of the troubles.
The IRA was not fighting a just war, but through bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, punishment beatings of civilians, torture, extortion, robberies, racketeering and so on, even to the extent of kidnapping the racehorse, Shergar, and attempting to ransom it, it forced successive British Governments into endless concessions. Having pocketed one concession after another, it got an insatiable desire for more, and the more it demanded, the more it got. Meanwhile, the Unionist population was being castigated across the world for denying those poor downtrodden fearful republicans their rights. This terrorist organisation had a so-called army council, and on 20 February 2005, the then Irish Justice Minister, Michael McDowell publicly named Gerry Adams, Martin Ferris and Martin McGuinness as members of that council.
Let me go back for a moment to the day that the Prime Minister spoke in the House about the happenings in Londonderry. After his speech, the families of those mentioned in the Saville report made their way to a platform in Guildhall square, Londonderry, and to the cheers of the crowd, a member of each family read out the name of their loved one and shouted, "Innocent". The hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) also read out those names for the record in the House of Commons. Let me therefore remind my colleagues at Westminster-and put on the record some of the other names that were not read out-of those families who simply feel forgotten and were left to suffer in silence.
Those victims and families are worthy of justice but unfortunately the possibility of their getting it may be small. What are the Government to do for them? Today, no world media outlet has any interest in spreading the news of the deep hurt felt by the innocent victims of IRA terrorism around the world. No displays of one-upmanship or cheers of victory will resound across the airwaves from this Chamber. However, I am going to honour and remember the innocent victims of Northern Ireland.
Who will ever forget the three Scottish soldiers lured to their deaths at Ligoniel in March 1971? They were completely innocent. Let me recall the massacre of 22 February 1972 at Aldershot barracks. This is a list of the so-called trophies of IRA brutality: Gerry Weston, soldier and acting chaplain, the Parachute Regiment; Jill Mansfield, civilian cleaner; Margaret Grant, civilian cleaner; Thelma Bosley, civilian cleaner; Cherie Munton, civilian cleaner; Joan Lunn, civilian cleaner; and John Haslar, civilian gardener. They were all completely innocent.
What of Bloody Friday-21 July 1972-when there was a massacre of civilians in Belfast by Provisional IRA-Sinn Fein terrorists? More than 20 no-warning bombs were detonated in a crowded Belfast city centre. Nine were murdered and more than 100 innocent people going about their daily lives were injured. Brian Faulkner wrote in his memoirs:
"Few people will forget seeing on television young policemen shovelling human remains into plastic bags in Oxford Street."
Those who died were Robert Gibson, Ulsterbus driver and civilian; William Kenneth Crothers; William Irvine; Thomas Killops; Stephen Cooper; Philip Price; Margaret O'Hare; Stephen Parker, 14; and Brigid Murray. They were all innocent, but of course that was only Bloody Friday-there was no apology to them.
Let us not forget the Claudy massacre of 31 July 1972-Bloody Monday. The roll needs to be called for the nine people who were murdered by IRA terrorists: Joseph McCloskey; Kathryn Eakin, eight; David Miller; James McLelland; William Temple-aged 16, he was in his first job-Elizabeth McElhinney; Rose McLaughlin; Patrick Connolly, 15; and Arthur Hone. The terrorists were no respecters of persons, but those people were all innocent. At Tullyvallen Orange hall on 11 September 1975, five innocent people were murdered: William McKee, farmer; James McKee, farmer; Nevin McConnell, livestock market manager; John Johnston, retired farmer, and William Herron. They were all innocent.
Can we forget the Kingsmills massacre, when 10 Protestant construction workers were murdered on 5 January 1976? Those men were taking their usual route home from a textile factory in Glenanne when their bus was stopped at a bogus security checkpoint. The gunmen asked each person on board the bus their religion. The driver of the minibus was a Roman Catholic. He was told to get out of the way and run up the road. The remaining workmen were lined up and shot down like dogs, with at least four different weapons, some of which were automatic. They were Joseph Lemmon, Reginald Chapman, Walter Chapman, Kenneth Worton, James McWhirter, Robert Chambers, John McConville, John Bryans, Robert Freeburn and Robert Walker. One man was hit 18 times but miraculously survived. He said that after they lined them up, it was all over in a minute, and after the initial screams, there was silence. Those workmen were all innocent.
On 17 February 1978, 12 people were incinerated when the IRA left a firebomb at La Mon House hotel. Three married couples were among the dead. More than 400 people were packed into the hotel. Some were attending the dinner for the Irish collie club and some were there for the Northern Ireland junior motorcycle club dinner. Those murdered that night were Thomas Neeson, Dorothy Nelson, Gordon Crothers, Joan Crothers, Ian McCracken, Elizabeth McCracken, Sandra Morris, Sarah Wilson Cooper, Christine Lockhart, Carol Mills, Paul Nelson and Daniel Magill. They were out for a dinner, and were innocent victims of IRA murder.
On 27 August 1979, 18 people were murdered in the tragedy known as the Narrow Water bombing. That was, I believe, the first time that the IRA used remotely controlled bombs in Northern Ireland. The first bomb that exploded killed six soldiers, and as the Wessex helicopter took off with injured soldiers, the provisionals detonated the second bomb from over the border, killing a dozen more soldiers. Let me give the roll of honour: Lance Corporal MacLeod, 24; Lieutenant Colonel Blair, 40; Corporal Andrew, 24; Private Barnes, 18; Private Dunn, 20; Private Wood, 19; Private Woods, 18; Corporal Giles, 22; Sergeant Rogers, 31; Warrant Officer Beard, 31; Private Vance, 23; Private England, 23; Private Jones, 18; Corporal Jones, 26; Private Jones, 18; Lance Corporal Ireland, 25; Officer Fursman, 35; and Private Blair, 23. All of them were innocent.
On 21 January 1981, the Provisional IRA murdered a former Stormont Speaker, Sir Norman Stronge, and his son James. It bombed their historic ancestral home, Tynan abbey. Sir Norman was 86 years of age and his son was 48. They were shot at point-blank range and died instantly. Sir Norman and James were innocent.
On 20 November 1983, the congregation of Darkley Pentecostal church were singing the hymn "Are you
washed in the blood of the Lamb?" Unknown to them, the Provisional IRA was to arrive at the church outside Darkley with the intent to murder. Three elders of the congregation were murdered and several others wounded. Those murdered were William Harold Brown, John Victor Cunningham and Richard Samuel David Wilson. The killers calmly stepped over the bloodstained bodies and began firing at the defenceless congregation, mainly composed of women and children. Fathers dived over their young children-one over his seven-month-old baby. As the people begged for mercy, the gunmen reloaded their weapons and sprayed the exterior of the wooden hall before cowardly disappearing into the countryside and over the border for safe lodgings. Those victims were all innocent.
On 28 February 1985, the IRA launched a deadly mortar attack on Newry police station, and that night the police lost the greatest number of personnel of any terrorist attack during the troubles. The roll of honour was Chief Inspector Alexander Donaldson, Geoffrey Campbell, John Thomas Dowd, Denis Anthony Price, Rosemary Elizabeth McGookin, Sean Brian McHenry, David Peter Topping, Paul Hillery McFerran and Ivy Winifred Kelly. It is right to note that Alexander Donaldson's brother, Constable Samuel Donaldson, was one of the first police officers to be murdered by the IRA, in August 1970. Those officers were all innocent.
Just before 11 am on 8 November 1987, a Provisional IRA bomb exploded in the heart of Enniskillen during the annual Remembrance day service. Without warning, the provos detonated that bomb, killing 11 people and injuring 63. The victims were William Mullen, 72; Angus Mullen, 70; Kitchener Johnson, 70; Jessie Johnson, 70; Wesley Armstrong, 62; Bertha Armstrong, 53; John Megaw, 68; Edward Armstrong, 52; Georgina Quinton, 72; Marie Wilson, 20; and Samuel Gault, 49. All the dead, who had been standing at that memorial, were civilians apart from one RUCR officer, and they were all innocent.
The 17th of January 1992 would be a day I would never forget. I was in my home when the phone rang to say that a van had exploded at Teebane, outside Cookstown. Construction workers were returning home from work down the Omagh-Cookstown road when a roadside bomb was detonated at the Teebane crossroads, leaving eight men dead and six others wounded. I identified the company whose workers travelled that road for the police, and I made my way to the awful scene of carnage. I assisted the police at the scene, walking among the dead and injured, and I did my best to comfort the bereaved. The victims were: William Gary Bleeks, Cecil James Caldwell, Robert Dunseith, David Harkness, John Richard McConnell, Nigel McKee, Robert Irons and Oswald Gilchrist. They were all innocent. Every year, we hold a memorial service along the roadside at Teebane, come rain, hail or snow.
Let me mention one other major slaughter of the innocent. On 23 October 1993, nine ordinary people on the Shankill road were murdered. The provos walked into Frizell's fish shop dressed in white coats and looking like delivery men. They carried a bomb that was to deliver death and destruction seconds later. The timer gave the terrorists 11 seconds to escape, but it gave the innocent shoppers no time. However, the bomb exploded early, and the carrier of the bomb, Thomas Begley, died in the explosion. Gerry Adams brazenly carried the
bomber's coffin at his funeral-I suppose that by their actions we will know them. The roll of honour that day was: John Desmond Frizell, Sharon McBride, George Williamson, Gillian Williamson, Evelyn Baird, Michelle Baird, who was 7, Leanne Murray, who was 13, Michael Morrison and Wilma McKee. All of them were innocent.
When I came to the House many years ago, I brought with me a wedding photograph. The family circle in it was well known to me; it was the Kerrigan family. The photograph had four people in it: the bridegroom, the bride, the best man and the bridesmaid. Sadly, three of those four people were murdered by the Provisional IRA. The groom, the best man and the bridesmaid were all murdered by terrorists.
I sat in my study pondering again the many individuals who were murdered in our community. The UDR has recorded a list for Magherafelt, where I live: Private Callaghan, Captain McCausland, Private Sammy Porter, Private Hamilton, Captain Hood, Staff Sergeant Deacon, Captain Connelly, Private Stott, Private John Arrell, Private McCutcheon, Staff Sergeant R. H. Lennox, Private R. J. Scott, Captain Bond, Lieutenant-Colonel Speers, Lieutenant-Colonel McCaughey, Major Hill, Private David McQuillan, Lieutenant-Colonel Cloete, Lieutenant Kerr, Captain Gordon, Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery, Private Ritchie, Private Alan Clarke, Lieutenant-Colonel Brownie McKeown, Sergeant Boyd, Sergeant Jamison and Private Boxall.
Then I thought of friends in my former constituency of Mid-Ulster, many of whom I walked among and whom I was happy to call friends: Albert Cooper; Winston Finlay; Ronald Finlay; Colin Carson; Edward Gibson; John Eagleson; Jack Scott; Raymond McNickle; Nigel McCollum; his brother, Reginald McCollum; Mr Watters; Jim Gibson; Robert Glover; Trevor Harkness; Matt Boyd; David Sinnamon; Donnelly Hazelton; George Elliott; Kenneth Johnston; John Proctor; David Shiels; little Lesley Gordon, who was just 10 years of age and who was murdered with her daddy; Wilbert Kennedy; Noel McCulloch; Leslie Dallas; Austin Nelson; Ernest Rankin; Robert McLernon; Rachel McLernon; and Derek Ferguson. The list goes on and on, but let the House not forget that behind every one of those names, and those of many other innocent victims-I apologise because time does not permit me to name them-there is a personal tragedy, a lifetime of heartache and tears. Every anniversary brings afresh the wrenching of the heart and the feeling that, for most, justice will never be done. All that these people see are murderers walking free, with some even being exalted to high office, while they themselves wait for justice.
As a Christian minister, I know that the judge of all the earth will one day call every man to account. For those who have not confessed and repented of their sins, there is a hereafter of eternal woe. They will not escape the justice of God. What, however, will our Government do for the families of these innocent victims? There are certain to be no expensive inquiries for them, and one can rightfully ask why there are such inquiries only for some. I have heard it said that it is because the people in Londonderry were killed by British soldiers. However, unlike those involved in the killings that I have placed on the record, and in many others, the soldiers in Londonderry did not set out to murder anyone; they did not seek to pick a fight with some innocent bystander. There was serious violence in
Londonderry, with pandemonium and confusion across the city. There were stones and bullets, and mayhem had broken out; panic was everywhere. However, the people I have mentioned were threatening and endangering no one. Many were in their own homes, coming home, going to work or going to the shops. I have no doubt that no films will be made about Teebane or La Mon, and few film stars will line up to expose the murdering thugs of 30 years of republican terror.
Some suggest that a truth inquiry should be enough to satisfy my friends, but I simply ask what that will mean. Indeed, how could it be meaningful? When asked about his terrorist past, Gerry Adams looks into the camera and brazenly denies that he has ever been in the IRA. Martin McGuinness was exposed by the Saville report, despite saying in his evidence to the inquiry:
"I wish to make it clear that I will not provide the Inquiry with the identities of other members of the IRA on 30th January 1972 or confirm the roles played by such persons whose names are written down and shown to me...As a Republican I am simply not prepared to give such information."
The same man had the audacity to welcome the report, pointing the finger at soldiers, while dismissing the findings in regard to the part he was identified as having played in Londonderry with a sub-machine-gun.
I conclude by reminding the House that many thousands of innocent people in our Province carry scars in body and mind that will go with them to the grave. Many are the living dead, and some even pray for death itself. I had a mother in my constituency office the other day. She was an elderly lady in her 80s, and she was weeping over her 19-year-old son. It is many years since he was murdered by the IRA, but her pain, like mine, is as real today as ever. She asked what the Government will do for her. She got £200 for her son. Where are the wheels of justice turning?
I read an article about the Saville report in The Times on 22 February 2002. A son of one of the cleaning ladies in the incident at Aldershot said that although the 30th anniversary of Bloody Sunday had been marked by two films, media coverage and a renewed interest in the Saville inquiry that is investigating the killings in Londonderry, he and his three brothers would again have to remember their loss in silence. He said:
"I'm sickened by the fact that whenever Bloody Sunday is mentioned there is never a mention of the atrocity at Aldershot which was committed in the IRA's name."
"There are so many films and documentaries about Bloody Sunday, but the feeling is that we're forgotten. Gerry Adams demanded an apology for Bloody Sunday and I remember thinking 'Where's my apology?'"
"You could hear the people screaming and crying and moaning. The first thing that caught my eye was a torso of a human being lying in the middle of the street. It was recognisable as a torso because the clothes had been blown off and you could see parts of human anatomy. One victim had his arms and legs blown off and some of his body had been blown through the railings. One of the most horrendous memories for me was seeing a head stuck to a wall. A couple of days later we found vertebrae and a ribcage on
the roof of a nearby building. The reason we found it was because the seagulls were diving on to it. I've tried to put it to the back of my mind for over 25 years."
The Government have spent £192 million to give certain families in Londonderry closure: or will it be closure, when so many questions are left in the hearts of others, unanswered? Why did our loved ones have to die? Why did successive Governments allow IRA terrorism to go on for more than 30 years without determining to defeat it, holding to a policy of containment rather than conquering? Why did a Minister in a previous Government state that there was, in Northern Ireland, an acceptable level of violence? Why did it seem that, as long as the violence was kept off the streets of the mainland, the people of Northern Ireland would just have to accept it? Why, in the midst of our turmoil, did a Prime Minister state that his Government had no strategic interest in Northern Ireland? Why did the lying propaganda of republicanism go unanswered across the world? Those involved were the perpetrators and the murderers of the innocent; yet the majority population were maligned. The republican movement sat in their pubs and clubs around the world, romanticising their acts of barbarity against Britain, but there is nothing romantic about butchering men, women and children. It is time for the books to be opened. It is time for the answers to be given.
We, too, need closure. No one can understand the nightmare that the people of Northern Ireland have been through, terrorised in their kitchens and bedrooms, while walking the streets, as they sat in restaurants and hotels, or while worshipping in their churches; leaving their children in the morning and not knowing whether they would ever see each other again. We lived through that. It was reality. We need the truth. We need justice and no one can be too high or mighty to escape the reach of justice. What will our Government do to give it to us? We have to wait and see.
David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Chope and congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) on securing the debate on such an important issue. We can all agree that he spoke with passion and honesty about the issue of victims, many of whom, of course, were murdered in his constituency and in his former constituency of Mid Ulster. All of us who have been elected to this House have lost many friends in the past years.
We in Northern Ireland are under no illusions about the past. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim said, we lived through it. We suffered it, visited the homes and followed all the coffins. We embraced the widows and the orphans, and in many cases we had personal loss and heartache to carry while trying to build a better future for others. I have spoken in the past about the members of my extended family who were murdered in such a cold, brutal and matter-of-fact way by terrorists. Those of us who were there during those dark years will carry the scars to our graves, but we are determined that the next generation will have a future better than the past we had.
We do not want the victims of that terrorist brutality to be left behind and under Government policy we run the risk of that very thing happening; we should not allow that. There are two areas of concern in which I
believe there is a danger of the Government's falling into the routine of previous Governments and making the same mistakes. The effect of that would certainly be that those who bore the brunt of the troubles and of vicious sectarian terrorism would be left behind by the Government. I appeal to the Minister in these early days of the Government to change direction and avoid that state of affairs.
The two areas I want to draw to the Minister's attention are related. The first is the process by which historical cases are dealt with. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim mentioned, the Saville report was recently published; it cost in the region of £200 million. It was essentially a no-expense-spared inquiry. I will not deny those families their moment, but I will highlight the injustice flowing from Saville that automatically falls upon the many thousands of others who have nothing. Very many of those victims and relatives have no answers and no prospect of any answers. In fact, almost daily many people in Northern Ireland have insult added to injury, and must endure lies, which cover like a blanket the truth that everyone knows.
For example, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams continues with the fiction that he was never a member of the very organisation that he was a leader of. How could people ever have confidence in any truth-finding commission when, because of such denials of reality, it is guaranteed that the truth is highly unlikely to emerge? The Government could take a significant step in bringing Adams's fictional account to an end. They could publish the full security file on him and let everyone see for themselves just how much was known about his activities, including his personal role in creating victims. His continued denial only stymies any attempt to take the historical context forward.
The other thing that Saville has highlighted is the great imbalance between the finances that have been poured into it and funding levels associated with the treatment of other victims of the troubles and the handling of other historical cases. Clearly there is a need, even in financially straitened times, for the Government to do everything possible in that regard.
The second general area of concern that I wish to raise today is not about already existing processes. Rather, it is about those areas relating to the troubles, and to the victims and survivors of the troubles, for which at present there is simply no process in place. Recently the Northern Ireland victims commission argued for the establishment of some sort of truth-finding forum. We also have the recommendations of the Eames-Bradley consultative group on the past.
On the question of a comprehensive truth forum, given that one of the IRA's main godfathers is in denial about his role, does the Minister agree that Unionists are justified in thinking that it would be a waste of time? On the Eames-Bradley proposals, the then Secretary of State agreed that the so-called recognition payment was unjustifiable. Will the Minister tell us his view on the granting of legitimacy to cold-blooded sectarian terrorists?
That brings me on to the final matter that I wish to raise under this general heading. Those who campaigned for the Saville inquiry did so in large part because they thought that the involvement of the state set it apart-in other words, the Government were up to their neck in it. It was argued that the state should have higher standards
than terrorist organisations, and that a democratic Government should uphold and enforce the laws that have been passed.
There have been long-standing allegations about the involvement of elements of the Dublin Government in the setting up and arming of the Provisional IRA. If true, we need to keep in mind what those allegations would entail. If elements of the Dublin Government were involved in the formation and arming of the provos, it would mean that actions by elements of the southern Government had led directly to the murder of UK citizens in places such as Warrington and London.
Those allegations, if true, would mean that elements of the southern Government were implicated in the IRA's attempt to kill the entire UK Conservative Government at the Grand hotel in Brighton. It would mean that elements of the Dublin Government were implicated in the attempt to kill the UK Cabinet when the IRA fired mortars at No. 10 Downing street. It would mean that elements of the Dublin Government were implicated in the mortar bomb attack on Heathrow airport. It would also mean that elements of the Dublin Government were implicated in the murder of many hundreds of UK citizens in Northern Ireland. If true, the allegations would help to explain why the extradition of suspects from the Irish Republic was so difficult. It would also help to explain why people could organise open collections for republican terrorist organisations in places such as Buncrana, Bundoran and Dundalk.
It is a truly shameful thing that a succession of UK Governments should have failed to press the Dublin Government to put an inquiry in place to investigate those allegations. A succession of UK Governments, of whatever colour, have turned a blind eye to the allegations; never once did they put their own citizens first and demand that the truth be told. In the early days of this new Government, I ask the Minister to have the resolve to end that silence and to press Dublin for a full independent public inquiry into those long-standing allegations.
I made a similar call in the Belfast News Letter a couple of weeks ago, and I was contacted by a number of victims of the troubles from different parts of Northern Ireland. They all said that they agreed with me, making it very clear that this culture of silence needs to be brought to an end by our Government. I take the opportunity to ask the Minister if he will agree to meet the victims of the troubles and to hear their call for such an inquiry; and I ask for Government support for an inquiry.
I know that other colleagues will wish to speak on other matters relating to the victims of the troubles. I do not want to take up any more time. I simply ask the Minister to remember that it is the first duty of Government to safeguard the country's citizens.
I am sure that this newly formed coalition will have got to grips with the security situation in Northern Ireland, and I am sure that they will agree that there are matters of concern. However, we have a problem in Northern Ireland today with the so-called dissident republicans. I referred to them a while back, saying that I saw no difference between them and the provos because they were all pigs out of the same litter. I was rounded on by many in the press for saying so, because it was thought unsuitable for someone who sits in this grand House to use such language, but I repeat it: they are pigs
out of the same litter. I ask the Government not to allow these so-called dissidents to get the same hold over Northern Ireland as the provos did when causing the mayhem, disaster and tragedies that my hon. Friend outlined.
Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): I apologise for not being here to listen to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea). I congratulate him on securing this debate, which is on an important topic. Indeed, it is an emotive topic, as we saw recently with the publication of the Saville report into the events of 1972 in Londonderry. That was preceded by the publication of the Eames-Bradley report, which examined how we might deal with the legacy of the past.
There is no doubt that we have no consensus in Northern Ireland-no political consensus and none among the people of Northern Ireland-on how we should deal with that legacy. There is no consensus on how we should come to terms with what has happened; on how to deal with matters such as justice for those who have not yet had the people responsible for the murder of loved ones brought to justice; on how to deal with the continuing hurt, pain and grief and, in many cases, the injuries and disabilities sustained as a result of terrorist violence. Those are big issues, and I know that the Northern Ireland Executive, and particularly the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, have been seeking to come to terms with them and to provide a greater level of support for the victims in Northern Ireland.
I highlight the fact that over the past three years, the Northern Ireland Administration has set aside a substantial amount of money-more than £30 million-to provide practical help and support for the victims of violence in Northern Ireland. That is welcome, but in many respects it merely touches the surface. Looking beyond it, we see that a multiplicity of problems needs to be addressed. Indeed, I am aware that the Northern Ireland Executive is beginning the task of engaging in a comprehensive needs assessment. It will seek to engage with all victims, to consider their needs and hopefully to design and put in place practical support for them, including victims with injuries. Indeed, evidence suggests that victims who suffered injuries during the troubles in Northern Ireland feel much neglected. A group has been formed that is pressing for greater recognition of those thousands of people who suffered serious injury and trauma during the troubles-and they are worthy of that recognition. We also have the legacy of more than 3,000 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland, which needs to be addressed. The Historical Enquiries Team faces the difficult and challenging task of examining and re-examining historical cases of murder in Northern Ireland. I have worked with a number of families who have been engaged with the Historical Enquiries Team, and found that it can be a painful process. Very often, they learn things about what happened to their loved ones that they perhaps were not aware of before. Such investigations can reopen old wounds, but sadly, in most cases, they do not often lead to convictions. Although the team has had some recent successes, there is a legacy of people feeling that they have not had justice.
The other issue is one of recognition of the sacrifice that people have made. I include here those members of the security forces who gave their lives or sustained serious injury in the service of our country; and the armed forces, the Army in particular, who served in Northern Ireland. I was proud to serve in the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment, which provided support to the police in Northern Ireland. I know that there are hon. and gallant Members present who have served with the armed forces in Northern Ireland, and we recognise their contribution and sacrifice. One of my saddest moments as a Member of Parliament was attending the final ceremony for the disbandment of the Home Service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment. Her Majesty the Queen presented them with the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in recognition of the huge sacrifice that they and the Ulster Defence Regiment before them made during the period of the troubles.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary was awarded the George Cross in recognition of its gallantry and sacrifice. Hundreds of police officers lost their lives in the course of the troubles. Indeed my own family was affected, as were many families, in that way. My cousin, Constable Samuel Donaldson, along with Constable Roy Miller, was the first RUC officer to be murdered by the Provisional IRA. It happened on 12 August 1970 at Crossmaglen, which later became synonymous with the activities of the IRA. That was unfortunate because many good people live in Crossmaglen. After the murder of my cousin, my family received hundreds of cards and letters of sympathy from the community in Crossmaglen, which was horrified by the murder of these two young police officers. The officers, who were serving and protecting the community, were cut down in cold blood by the Provisional IRA.
Sadly, from those two deaths followed many, many others during the troubles as the RUC stood in the gap between terrorism on the one hand and the community on the other. I say without fear of contradiction that both the Army and the police, who sought to serve and protect the people of Northern Ireland, placed themselves in the firing line. It is unfortunate that there are some who seek to mark out the legacy of the Army and police in Northern Ireland by way of controversy. We saw that with the Saville report. On the day that the report was published, the Prime Minister told the Commons that the events were not the legacy of the Army in Northern Ireland, any more than the so-called shoot-to-kill events were the legacy of the RUC in Northern Ireland. The police and the Army acted in a professional way; they put their lives on the line and sought to protect the community. Had they not done that, Northern Ireland would have slipped over the edge into all-out civil war. There would have been anarchy and thousands more would have lost their lives as a result of the terrorist violence.
We must recognise this legacy and seek to find ways in which to deal with it. As my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) said, it is a matter not just for this Government, the Northern Ireland Administration and the people of Northern Ireland, but the Irish Government. The Provisional IRA and other terrorist organisations used the territory of the Irish Republic from which to launch attacks on Northern Ireland. I have been involved in working with some of the families in the Smithwick inquiry, which is examining
the events surrounding the murder of the two most senior police officers in Northern Ireland during the course of the troubles. That inquiry, which is ongoing and will begin its public sessions in the autumn, involves the Irish Government. There are allegations of collusion between members of the Garda Siochana-the Irish police-and members of the Provisional IRA in the murder of chief superintendent Harry Breen and superintendent Bob Buchanan. They were brutally murdered on their way home from a joint meeting with their Garda counterparts at Dundalk police station. Such issues must be addressed. What we cannot have, and what we will not countenance, is a one-sided process that constantly puts the Army and the police in the dock and ignores the terrorists. Let me be clear, I refer here to so-called loyalist paramilitaries as well. Their actions must be examined and they must be held to account for what they did. We are not prepared to see millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being spent on investigating the activities of the police and the Army while minimal attention is paid to the paramilitaries.
We support the work of the Historical Enquiries Team, but it needs to be properly resourced and given the authority that is required to pursue such investigations. We have concerns about further costly inquiries, which is why we believe that the HET represents the best way forward, but it needs to be properly supported and resourced so that it can investigate unsolved crimes and murders that occurred in the course of the troubles. We want to see justice for the victims. They are as entitled to justice and truth as the people of Londonderry are in respect of the events arising from the Saville report. We cannot have a hierarchy of victims in which a small number of people get priority and precedence and millions of pounds for inquiries to investigate murders. Thousands of others do not have the same recognition and support. They often feel that their loved ones have been forgotten and that the events surrounding their murders have been pushed to one side. That must not be allowed to happen.
I know that my hon. Friends have outlined some of the atrocities that are deserving of further inquiry, and they include incidents where there is evidence either of collusion on the part of Irish state authorities or where the Irish Government turned a blind eye and allowed their territory to be used by the Provisional IRA. I can think of one particular incident and it is relevant to the issue of the Saville inquiry because it involved the murder of many members of the Parachute Regiment at a place called Narrow Water, at Warrenpoint in South Down in Northern Ireland. There were 18 soldiers murdered that day. Incidentally, it was the same day that Earl Mountbatten was murdered by the Provisional IRA. In the follow-up investigation to the events of Narrow Water, two members of the Provisional IRA were identified as potentially having been involved in that atrocity. The RUC tried to co-operate with the Garda in bringing those two men to justice, but its efforts were thwarted. Every legal block was put in the way of the police investigation.
I believe that there are issues there that need to be addressed by the Irish Government. Why, in those days, did the Royal Ulster Constabulary not receive the co-operation that it deserved to receive from the Irish police and from the Irish legal authorities? Those are issues that we need to examine.
In conclusion, as I said at the beginning of my speech this is a very emotive issue. We recognise that it is an issue that must be tackled in Northern Ireland, but it must be tackled sensitively. What we will not countenance is the type of "all-singing, all-dancing" commission that was proposed by Eames-Bradley. We do not believe that that is the way forward. I support my colleagues in their contention that the HET should take the lead in investigating unsolved murders; we want to see it take the lead. We want to see adequate resources made available for the HET. We want to see greater recognition of the suffering of the victims. That means looking at their needs and providing them with the support that they need-both the practical support and indeed the financial support that many of them need, as a result of losing in very many cases the main breadwinner in a family.
I want to begin by congratulating the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) on securing this debate and indeed I thank him for doing so. At the outset, he described it as the most difficult debate in which he had ever spoken at Westminster, but he spoke eloquently and very movingly, not least about the difficult emotions that he faced on 15 June when the Saville report was published. We all remember that day, and the measured, sympathetic and unequivocal terms in which the Prime Minister spoke; I welcomed that approach very warmly indeed. We also remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), who is with us this morning, read out with great emotion the names of his constituents who were exonerated by the Saville report.
Furthermore, I remember, as others will, the very moving statement from the hon. Member for South Antrim on 15 June, when he spoke about the civilian construction workers who were murdered in Teebane in 1992. He also spoke about his cousin Derek, who was murdered in 1991, and about his cousins Robert and Rachel, who were murdered in 1976. He asked on 15 June:
"How do we get justice, and how do we get the truth?"-[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 755.]
He has asked those same questions again this morning, and he has reminded us that often the victims are not high-profile; they are often lonely and isolated, and they often go unheeded. I think that it was important that he read out and put on the record some of the names of those forgotten victims of the troubles of Northern Ireland.
I feel that we must tread very carefully in this territory, particularly those of us who are not from Northern Ireland. We must approach a debate such as this one with great humility and with real respect for the unresolved emotions and feelings of anger, injustice, grief and sadness, which in many cases will simply never go away, certainly not in this life.
We have much to celebrate today about Northern Ireland and the progress that has been made. The tragic pictures graphically painted by the hon. Member for South Antrim are, in a very real sense, a thing of the
past-we have moved on. Right hon. Members and hon. Members in Westminster Hall today have played a great part in that, along with others, by taking us through the peace process and the political progress that has happened as a result of the Good Friday agreement, the St Andrews agreement and, most recently, the Hillsborough Castle agreement.
As the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson) reminded us, today we must of course recognise the tremendous work that has been done in providing practical support to victims in Northern Ireland over the years. That work has been funded by Government in some respects but it has also been helped by voluntary organisations too. However, we come back to the fact that there is still much to do in relation to the past; there is still much that faces us in the search for closure, to which the hon. Member for South Antrim referred.
Of course, one way of trying to achieve that closure is holding public inquiries, and we have heard much about the Saville inquiry. I was pleased that on 15 June, the Prime Minister insisted on focusing on the substance of the Saville report, rather than on controversial issues about the length of time taken to conduct the inquiry and its cost. I hope that the report will enable the families involved and the wider community to move on, as we all wish to see.
There are other public inquiries, of course. Will the Minister, in his summing up, tell us what progress he can report in relation into the Robert Hammill inquiry, the Rosemary Nelson inquiry and the Billy Wright inquiry? All of the reports from those inquiries need to be published. Can he tell us what arrangements he is putting in place for doing so? For example, will they be the subject of statements to the House?
Another issue arising from the negotiations at Weston Park in 2001 is the question of a public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane. I know of and fully respect the desire of the Secretary of State not to rush to judgment on that issue; he wants to meet the family first and have a discussion with them. Nevertheless, can the Minister give us some sense of the time scale involved in relation to that issue and about the discussions that the Secretary of State wishes to have?
There are other cases where there are campaigns for public inquiries, but no such inquiry is promised. One of those campaign is being pursued by the families of 11 people who lost their lives in the Ballymurphy area in August 1971, and the Minister was pressed on that issue last week. Can he tell us what consideration he has given to that particular campaign, and whether or not he or the Secretary of State will meet representatives of the families in the near future?
Another way of trying to examine the events of the past is by holding inquests, which we sometimes fail to remember are a very important form of public inquiry. Before the devolution of policing and justice powers in Northern Ireland, there were about 20 outstanding historic inquests. Many of them have been delayed because of legal challenges and because they were subject to judgments by the European Court of Human Rights. Although the coronial system in Northern Ireland is devolved, the Minister will retain a significant interest in many of these inquests, because of the national security issues involved. I wonder if he can give us an
update on the progress of those outstanding historic inquests and if he can tell us whether the newly appointed Attorney-General has yet exercised his powers to reopen inquests in certain cases. If the Attorney-General has exercised those decision-making powers, how many inquests have been reopened? If any have been reopened, what is the cost and who will bear it?
A further way of dealing with tragedies in the past has been through the Historical Enquiries Team, which we heard about from a number of right hon. and hon. Members. It was established in 2005 to review all the deaths attributed to the conflict between 1969 and 1998-3,268 deaths in all. I want to place on record my appreciation to the former Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Sir Hugh Orde, who established and pursued this very innovative approach to trying to deal with the unresolved deaths of the past. I believe that he should be given great credit for that and I hope that the whole House will join me in expressing that view.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe described the HET as playing an important role in bringing "a measure of resolution" to those affected. The HET enables the state to meet its obligations under article 2 of the European convention on human rights, but more importantly it offers information and explanations to families who are still grief-stricken and bewildered years after the murder of their loved ones.
In his statement to the House on the Saville inquiry, the Prime Minister made much of the work of the HET. However, the £34 million of additional funding that the previous Government made available for the HET runs out next March. Will the Minister tell us whether he has had any discussions with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, about the future funding of the HET? This is a very pressing issue, because with pressure on policing budgets and-who knows?-even greater pressure after the comprehensive spending review the problem will become even more acute in Northern Ireland: every pound that is spent on policing the past is a pound that is not spent on policing the present. Indeed, we were reminded in this morning's debate of the importance of some issues facing Northern Ireland and the importance of putting resources into dealing with the challenges that remain. I therefore wonder if the Minister can enlighten us on any discussions that he has had with the Northern Ireland Justice Minister about the future funding of the HET.
Individual investigation alone, through public inquiries, inquests and the HET, cannot provide deeper answers in the search for truth and reconciliation, which require a wider process that engages the whole of Northern Ireland society. In my view, Robin Eames, Denis Bradley and their colleagues in the Consultative Group on the Past deserve great credit for beginning the process at least of searching for that truth. They said that dealing with the past is a process, not an event, and I agree. Although their conclusions may be imperfect and subject to criticism across Northern Ireland for many different reasons, they are at least a start. The report reflects considerable work and many public meetings and submissions.
I welcome the confirmation last Wednesday that the Government intend to publish a summary of the responses to the previous Government's consultation on their proposals. It is easy to understand why proposals for a
£12,000 recognition payment were rejected out of hand universally, but it is more difficult to begin to tease out what is required for genuine reconciliation.
Eames and Bradley say that two ingredients are essential to the search for reconciliation: forgiveness and truth. Those words are easy to say, but much harder to pursue in practice. It is hard, if not impossible, for some people to forgive. Some, of course, are not yet seeking forgiveness because they still do not regard what they did as wrong. The search for truth is problematic because people have different versions of the truth, and some-although I am not one of them-would argue that we will never get at the truth fully while the possibility of prosecution remains, and that the search for truth requires the removal of that possibility. The experience of the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill demonstrates that although the people and politicians of Northern Ireland may be prepared to speed up the process of justice using early release from prison and so on, they are not prepared to circumvent it altogether.
Eames and Bradley point to many interesting and important initiatives such as healing through remembering, storytelling and days of recollection. In my personal view, there is much to be gained by working with Churches, voluntary organisations and trained volunteers in quieter and less high-profile ways to take people through the healing process, hopefully releasing them from the grip of some of their terrible memories as everybody tries to face the future. It will not be a perfect reconciliation. The hon. Member for South Antrim made the point that in the end, there are some people whom perhaps only God can heal. However, we must try. We must use Eames-Bradley and other initiatives as a stepping stone to move forward and face the issues.
On dealing with the past, I would like to ask the Minister about the independent commission for the location of victims' remains. Great credit is due to Kenneth Bloomfield and Frank Murray for the way in which they have led that initiative. It is traumatic not only to lose a loved one but never to be able to find their body because it is buried who knows where. The commission has taken on the heroic task of helping families by uncovering such information. It has had some success, but what assessment has the Minister made of the commission's work, and what future does he believe it has?
I shall conclude by pressing the Minister on two issues that I believe are important now. First, what is the new coalition Government's attitude on the holding of public inquiries? In his statement on the Saville inquiry, the Prime Minister said that
"there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries into the past."-[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 741.]
"we should look at each case on its merits".-[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 744.]
Those statements are clearly contradictory. Those considering future inquiries as a way of resolving the problems of the past-whether a Finucane inquiry or the inquiry demanded by the families of the Ballymurphy victims-will need to know where they stand. It is important that we understand clearly and as soon as possible what the Government's approach is.
Secondly, what does the Minister understand to be the role and responsibility of central Government alongside
the roles and responsibilities of the devolved Executive in Northern Ireland? Only last week, the Commission for Victims and Survivors laid at the door of central Government in London and Dublin the responsibility for taking matters forward, yet on the very same day, the Secretary of State said that
"we cannot impose. It is up to people in Northern Ireland to work together to decide a strategy going forward."-[Official Report, 30 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 848.]
I end, as I began, by paying tribute to the hon. Member for South Antrim for reminding the House of the forgotten victims of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Their memory should reinvigorate and spur on our search for the truth and for reconciliation.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Hugo Swire): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. I congratulate the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) on securing this debate. No one can have failed to be moved by what he said. I acknowledge the loss that he has suffered with the murder of members of his family, and the horrible scenes to which he has borne witness. My sympathy and, I am sure, the sympathy of the whole House, is with him.
In the time left to me, I will try to answer all the questions that right hon. and hon. Members have asked me. I recognise and empathise with the suffering of all victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland. The list of innocent victims read out was a salutary reminder of the horrors and injustices of the past. What struck me more than almost anything else is how many of them were young and were cut off before they reached adulthood.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his statement to the House on 15 June, we should never forget that the overwhelming majority of those who lost their lives in Northern Ireland-some estimate nearly 90%-were killed by terrorists. The brutal terrorist campaigns waged by republican and loyalist paramilitaries caused enormous suffering, whose lasting impact I do not forget, but I remain firmly of the view that there was and is no justification for politically motivated violence. I want to make it clear that the Government absolutely condemn the terrorist crimes that have been committed.
The hon. Member for South Antrim raised a number of important points about Government policy in relation to victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland. He is right to emphasise the importance of addressing victims' continuing needs. As a UK Minister, I am mindful of the need to recognise that a number of important powers relating to victims' issues have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Our considered response to the Bloody Sunday inquiry report demonstrates that, for our part, the Government take seriously our responsibilities on the past, but I am firmly of the view that dealing with the past cannot be a matter for the UK Government alone. As the victims commissioners said, an effective approach to the past will be based on political and civic consensus.
To answer the question asked by the shadow Minister, the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins), about the Government's approach to future inquiries, I can only concur with Justice Minister David Ford, who said:
"We cannot have a Saville-type inquiry for all the tragedies of the past, but the fundamental matter of dealing with the past is something which has to be dealt with collectively by the Executive."
The shadow Minister also compared the Bloody Sunday inquiry to cases involving other victims. To respond to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson), the Prime Minister made it clear in his speech at La Mon House during the general election campaign, and again in his statement on Saville, that no Government he leads will ever put those who uphold democracy and the rule of law on an equivalent footing with those who have sought to destroy it. We will also not be party to a rewrite of history that seeks to give a spurious legitimacy to terrorist campaigns on all sides. I am clear that the state must be determined to judge itself against the highest standards. In relation to the Bloody Sunday inquiry report, the Prime Minister demonstrated how that had to be true and how the state's standards had to be higher than those elsewhere. It is important that the Government continue to emphasise the crucial distinction between the state's response to wrongdoing, and the actions and responses of terrorists.
The hon. Member for South Antrim is, of course, right to note that the public inquiries that are under way have proved very costly. The Government are clear that there will be no more open-ended and costly inquiries. However, our views on the process followed for such inquiries should not detract from the need to consider the substance of their reports when they are published.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the hon. Member for Upper Bann (David Simpson) raised the work of the Historical Enquiries Team. The Government have been strongly supportive of the HET, which is investigating 3,261 deaths in the period 1968 to 1998, including deaths from all sides of the community. I understand that the HET has completed 782 reviews relating to cases involving 1,007 victims.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the shadow Minister raised the issue of funding for the HET. They will know that responsibility for directly funding the HET now lies with the devolved Administration. However, the Government have made a substantial financial package available to the Northern Ireland Executive to deal with these issues. Despite the pressure on finances, we have honoured the commitments we gave in opposition on the matter. The Government have not directly specified-nor should they-that the Executive should make funds available to the HET or, indeed, to the police ombudsman. That is properly a matter for the Justice Minister and the Executive to decide on. However, the financial package that the Government have provided enables the Justice Minister and the Executive, despite the huge pressure on the public finances, to continue to ensure that such important work has the funding it requires.
On addressing the needs of victims more generally, I welcome the work being done by the First and Deputy First Ministers, the victims' commissioners and the victims' forum. Some positive steps in the right direction include the strategy for victims and survivors-published
last November-the comprehensive needs assessment being undertaken by the victims' commission, and the plan to introduce a new victims and survivors service next year. I am very much aware of the role played by voluntary and community groups on the ground in Northern Ireland. As I am sure we would all agree, their work in supporting victims and promoting reconciliation is crucial. I agree with the victims' commissioner's view that we must build "from the ground up" when considering how best to deal with the past in Northern Ireland.
A number of issues raised by the hon. Member for South Antrim relate to the broader question of how best to deal with the past in Northern Ireland. I reiterate my view that there is no question of the Government imposing solutions on Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I intend to listen to the views of people from across the community on dealing with the past in Northern Ireland. That listening process will be important in helping to determine the role that the UK Government can play.
I also want to reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State and I intend to meet victims and groups from both sides of the community to listen to their views. He has specifically raised a number of cases involving murders committed by republican terrorists. I fully recognise that the memories of those atrocities remain raw for many people in his community. I reassure him that I agree with the point made by the victims' commissioners that the past cannot be dealt with in a way that holds only the state accountable. The commissioners have identified a number of cases that they note retain iconic significance for the Unionist community. I recognise that that is an important point, and I stress to the hon. Gentleman that the Government will approach the legacy of the past in a measured and impartial manner. It is important that any approach to the past does not seek to favour, or is not perceived as favouring, any particular section of the community.
The hon. Member for Upper Bann raised a specific question about the past role of the Irish Government. It is of course for the Irish Government to respond directly to specific allegations relating to their past role. However, I recognise the importance of involving the Irish Government in discussions on how best to deal with the legacy of the past. The hon. Gentleman will want to know that the Secretary of State has already had a series of meetings with the Irish Government, and that I will be travelling there shortly. In the Taoiseach's statement to the Dail last week, he noted that the Irish Government would continue to work with the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive on contributing to the healing process in Northern Ireland. I welcome that commitment.
Before I conclude, I shall address some of the points raised during the debate. The shadow Minister, the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East, asked for an update on progress with the Wright, Nelson and Hamill inquiries. We expect all those inquiries to publish their findings by the end of this year, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will today lay a written statement on the pre-publication process for the Billy Wright inquiry report. Other inquiries will follow a similar process, with a written ministerial statement.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked whether the Attorney-General had reopened any inquests and what their costs will be. He will understand that in Northern
Ireland, the new Attorney-General has exercised his powers in that regard. With devolution of justice powers, issues such as the cost of specific inquests should now be addressed to the Justice Minister, David Ford. The right hon. Gentleman also asked about the Finucane inquiry, and I can tell him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to the family and offered to meet them. I know he is very keen for that meeting to take place as soon as is practicable. On Ballymurphy, again, the Secretary of State has met the Ballymurphy families and intends to do so again in the very near future.
The hon. Member for Upper Bann raised the issue of the security file and Gerry Adams. Regarding the publication of any security information held by the Government, he will know that it has been the long-standing policy of successive Governments never to comment on security matters. The hon. Gentleman asked me to meet the victims, and I would of course be happy to meet him and any of the victims he mentioned in his speech. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already met many victims' groups and will continue to do so.
Today's debate has been on the Government's policy on the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland, and in the time available to me I have tried to show that we do not believe that it is just for the UK Government to impose such a policy on the people of Northern Ireland. If it is to succeed, it must be done in co-operation with the Northern Ireland Executive and, at times, the Irish Government. However, crucially, such a policy can provide some of the answers to the questions we have discussed this morning only if it is done by the people of Northern Ireland-the people who have suffered in the ways we have heard about this morning. I was particularly struck by what the hon. Member for Upper Bann said about wanting our children to have a better future than their parents did. I can think of no better way to end the debate than with a note of cautious optimism. With devolution now working in Northern Ireland, we can all-those of us who have responsibility-work together to make Northern Ireland a better place in the future.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope, and I hope that you will pass my thanks to Mr Speaker for granting the debate. It is a welcome opportunity because the debate on the effectiveness of DNA and CCTV in tackling crime has, up to press, been rather sterile. It has been characterised as a debate between those who claim to believe in civil liberties and those who are seen as authoritarian; if one believes in the use of DNA and CCTV, one is automatically regarded as an authoritarian, and if one does not believe in their use, one must believe in civil liberties. I do not accept that rather simplistic premise. Today I want to make the pro-freedom case for CCTV and DNA.
I am a Conservative because I believe in freedom, and I am also proud to be a member of an excellent organisation called the Freedom Association. The last Government were one of the most authoritarian, intolerant and illiberal Governments that the country has ever seen, so I certainly do not support some of the measures they introduced. I consider measures such as identity cards and the ability to lock people up without charge, potentially for 90 days, to be authoritarian
The police asking to see one's papers is something one would expect to see in an authoritarian state; that would impinge on my individual freedom. However, CCTV cameras being installed on a particular street and forensic laboratories holding my DNA do not in any way impinge on my freedoms, because they do not stop me doing anything that I would otherwise want to do or going about my daily lawful business. We need to distinguish between those measures that impinge on people's freedoms and those that do not.
The coalition Government have pledged to regulate CCTV and remove from the DNA database the profiles of individuals who are not successfully prosecuted after three years. I believe that the first duty of any Government is to protect the public; it is for that reason that I believe we need, if anything, more CCTV cameras and more people on the DNA database, rather than fewer. Some might argue that that would be an infringement of people's civil liberties, but I do not know what that term really means. "Civil liberties" is one of those terms bandied about that we are all supposed to believe in because they sound good, such as sustainable development, but no one really knows what they mean. We all believe in social justice, but no one really knows what it means. I am sure that we all believe in civil liberties, but we do not know what the term means. In fact, the definition of civil liberties states:
"They are given to treat all the people equally under the law and make them enjoy rights of speech, protection, enjoyment and liberty."
It seems to me that the word "protection" is often missed out when people quote about civil liberties. I believe that one of my civil liberties is to walk down the street safely without being the victim of a serious crime. If DNA and CCTV means that more rapists, murderers and muggers are in prison, that enhances my freedoms rather than diminishing them.
I want to be clear from the outset that I am not in favour of the overuse and abuse of CCTV cameras. I do not agree, for example, with local authorities putting
cameras into people's bins to see what kind of rubbish they throw out, which is ludicrous. I am talking about using CCTV as a crime-fighting measure for identifying and prosecuting criminals. There are many reasons for further regulating CCTV; it has been suggested that the images are often of poor quality, that the cameras are costly to install and run and that they can be used for underhand purposes. I want to tackle all those concerns. We should not, however, be provoked into a knee-jerk reaction and, as a result, remove cameras, reduce their numbers or over-regulate their use, which would make them worthless. CCTV images are now often of high quality and have good time frames, and many pictures are now in colour. It is possible to see things from different angles using footage taken from different cameras.
A Scotland Yard study into the effectiveness of surveillance cameras revealed that almost every Scotland Yard murder inquiry uses CCTV footage as evidence. In 90 murder cases over one year, CCTV footage was used in 86 of the investigations, and senior officers said that it helped in of the 65 cases by capturing the murderer on film or the movements of suspects before or after an attack. Scotland Yard's head of homicide, Simon Foy, said:
"CCTV plays a huge role in helping us investigate serious crime. I hope people can understand how important it is to our success in catching people who commit murder."
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that CCTV evidence has had a big impact in reducing the number of contested prosecutions and, therefore, the cost to the criminal justice system?
Philip Davies: The hon. Lady is absolutely right and has pre-empted what I was about to say. In this age of austerity, we should be trying to find ways of reducing the cost of the criminal justice system, and as she rightly noted, CCTV is a key way of doing that.
Unless millions of police officers are stationed on every street corner, in every park and on every road, without CCTV those crimes would go unreported and often undetected. A prime example is that of the so-called "crossbow cannibal", who was arrested on suspicion of murdering three prostitutes in my home city of Bradford, but only because he was caught on CCTV. Without CCTV, that arrest would never have been made. We would never have been able to identify the 7 July bombers without the CCTV footage from the tube because the police would have been unable to track their movements on that day.
Let us look at the cost-effectiveness of CCTV. The average running cost of a CCTV system with 150 cameras is about £320,000 a year, and on average 3,000 events are monitored every year by each system, giving an average cost of about £100 per incident. It seems to me that that is good value for money in this age of austerity. It seems even better value when we consider that a 12-month experimental study in Burnley showed a 28% reduction in crime in an area with CCTV, compared to a 10% increase in crime in an area that relied solely on policing. Therefore, CCTV is not only cost-effective,
but effective in reducing crime in the real world. An initiative in my constituency in west Yorkshire set up a CCTV camera, which cost only a few thousand pounds, and Crimestoppers has stated that the number of arrests and charges has increased by 40% as a result, so its cost-effectiveness has been proved beyond doubt.
As the hon. Lady pointed out, CCTV is a valuable tool not only for the police, but for the courts. It is an invaluable tool on two levels: for convicting the perpetrators of crimes; and for acquitting those who have not committed a crime. CCTV footage provides conclusive and unbiased evidence, void of anyone's spin or mistaken recollection. When viewed by defendants and their solicitors, footage often leads to a change of plea, from not guilty to guilty. That invariably happens in cases in which defendants were drunk or on drugs when they committed an offence and could not recall it. That not only saves the courts time and money, as the hon. Lady suggested, but prevents witnesses having to give evidence in court, which is often a stressful and unpleasant experience. CCTV prevented Richard Whelan's girlfriend from having to testify against his murderer, Anthony Joseph, who brutally stabbed Richard on a bus when he was attempting to defend her. That attack was caught on camera and Joseph, a paranoid schizophrenic, was jailed.
Equally, CCTV can prove that someone has been wrongly accused of committing a crime, as was the case with Edmund Taylor, who was convicted of dangerous driving. His conviction was quashed on appeal, when CCTV footage showed that a white man had committed the offence-Mr Taylor was black. Similarly, Garry Wood was cleared of raping Natalie Jefferson after police studied CCTV footage of his movements on the night of the rape and realised that he had not committed the crime.
I want to touch on the automatic number plate recognition scheme because it was through its use, and that alone, that the murderers of PC Sharon Beshenivsky were caught. Without an ANPR system around Bradford, those people would never have been brought to justice. On 18 November 2005, PC Beshenivsky was shot and killed during a robbery in Bradford. The CCTV network was linked in to an ANPR system and was able to identify the getaway car and track its movements. Because of that system, the police realised that the people responsible were in London, virtually before those people knew it themselves, and six suspects were arrested. At the system's launch in May, Chief Superintendent Geoff Dodd of West Yorkshire police called it
"a revolutionary tool in detecting crime".
Many of my constituents are sick to the back teeth of drivers who do not have insurance, and who not only put other people at risk, but cause them unnecessary expense. Many of my constituents think that it is absolutely fantastic that the police can use ANPR to stop people who drive without insurance, and can confiscate the cars. I would not want anybody to try to stop the police doing that.
"I think CCTV would help to make an important difference in supporting the local police. It will also make clear to those intent
on causing crime in Elm Park that their images will be recorded, increasing the likelihood that they will be identified, prosecuted and punished for their offences."
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I do not think that in this debate any Member is likely to say that they are not in favour of CCTV, but I do want to see where the boundaries of the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for these systems stop. The ANPR system in Birmingham was installed in a predominantly Muslim area, with a view to tracking vehicles coming in to and going out of the area. Does the hon. Gentleman support that? Does his enthusiasm go that far?
Philip Davies: One purpose of this debate was to flush out the fact that people do support CCTV, even though they are always reluctant to say so, and I am therefore grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he now supports it. On his point, surely the solution is to have more CCTV, because if there is more CCTV and more ANPR systems no community can feel that they are being unduly picked on, or picked on to the exclusion of others. If everybody has the systems, nobody can feel that they are treated unfairly. I think that the hon. Gentleman's argument is, therefore, for more rather than fewer of these systems, and I wholly support him in that.
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): Has the hon. Gentleman, or any Member here, ever had a constituent come to their advice surgery asking for less CCTV, or for CCTV systems to be taken away?
Philip Davies: The hon. Lady makes a fantastic point. I certainly have never had anybody in my surgery making such a request-quite the opposite. If I am ever lobbied by any of my constituents regarding CCTV, it is because they want more of it-they would like some of it down their street, for tackling crime.
Of those surveyed for a 2005 Home Office report into public attitudes towards CCTV, 82% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "Overall, the advantages of CCTV outweigh the disadvantages." I do lots of surveys in my constituency, and fear of crime is always the top issue, whatever else is in the news. It seems, therefore, that the public, once again, are streets ahead of politicians in recognising the importance of these crime-fighting capabilities.
Many opponents of CCTV and ANPR use this "civil liberties" argument, but I fail to understand how footage taken by CCTV cameras on a public street invades anyone's privacy. If someone chooses to walk down a street, or go shopping in a town centre, they have made a conscious decision to do so in the public domain and their actions are clearly not private. I could understand the concern if it were proposed that CCTV cameras were put into people's bedrooms or bathrooms, because those are clearly private domains, but the only thing that a public CCTV camera can possibly do is prevent people from committing crime, or from doing something antisocial or something that they should not otherwise be doing. It does not impinge on their freedom to go about their daily, lawful business.
The same civil liberties argument seems to be used against the DNA database, with people claiming that innocents' profiles should be removed. Again, I do not understand for the life of me why forensic laboratories holding somebody's DNA infringes that person's liberty; it does not prevent anybody from going about their daily, lawful business. We all have a national insurance number, which is used for identification purposes, and I am sure that hon. Members know the benefits of national insurance numbers in identifying constituents when corresponding with various parts of the state, for example the Child Support Agency and Revenue and Customs for tax credits. How is a DNA number different from a national insurance number? The use of DNA is heavily restricted by legislation that permits its retention only for purposes related to the prevention or detection of crime.
Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): My hon. Friend rightly mentions that at birth everyone is issued with a national insurance number. It seems that if a DNA sample was linked to a child's national insurance number when they were registered in the national insurance system, the allegation that the retention of DNA profiles is unfair would be eradicated at a stroke.
Philip Davies: My hon. Friend makes a good point. If he is arguing that we should take people's DNA at birth, I certainly do not disagree with that. I am afraid, however, that we are in the position of trying to persuade the Government not to take people off the DNA system, rather than to add people to it. I would rather try to win the first battle before fighting for more ambitious targets, but I am sure that if anyone can persuade the Government it is my hon. Friend, and I will happily support him in any way that I can.
"the material stored says nothing about the physical makeup, characteristics, or life of the person to whom they belong."
The whole reason for introducing the legislation that allowed the retention of data was based on two very serious cases. One was the rape of an elderly woman and the other was a murder. In both cases, the DNA matches of the perpetrators had to be ignored, as prior to the rape and the murder the individuals concerned had been arrested for offences but not convicted. In the murder case, there was even a conviction based on the DNA evidence, but it was quashed by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the evidence should not have been admitted in the first place. That means that somebody who was clearly a convicted murdered walked free. It was not the first time that had happened, and it will not be the last, if those calling for fewer people to be on the DNA database get their way. I would like to know how on earth that fits with the Government's first duty to protect the public.
If we accept the Government's suggestion of removing the unconvicted people from the DNA database, murderers such as Ronald Castree would be free to roam the streets and to kill again. Castree stabbed 11-year-old Lesley Molseed in 1975, when she was on the way to the shop to buy bread for her mother. Stefan Kiszcko was wrongfully convicted and jailed for 16 years for the
murder, until 2005 when Castree's DNA was taken after he had been arrested, but not charged, over another sexual attack. A cold case of Molseed's murder provided a match with Castree's DNA, which would not have been on the database if the Government and those other people had their way.
Figures from the National Policing Improvement Agency state that, in 2008-09, 32,209 crimes were connected in which a DNA match was available or played a part. The latest annual report on the national DNA database concluded that six in 10 crime-scene profiles loaded to the database were matched to a subject's profile. Many violent criminals have only been jailed because their DNA was taken when they committed a minor offence.
Dennis Fitzgerald was sentenced to eight years in prison for the rape of a woman in November 1987. Nasser Mohammed was jailed in 2008 for raping a woman in 2002, after his DNA was taken when he was picked up for a minor offence. Often, a DNA match is the only thing that brings perpetrators to justice. Harry Musson raped a woman in her own bed while high on horse tranquillisers, and was jailed after 19 years when South Yorkshire police used DNA technology to match his profile to the crime scene. The case was reopened in March 2007, following advances in DNA science. Similarly, Neil Hague was jailed for six years in January 2010 for raping a woman on her way to church in 1987.
I could go on-I have case after case of people who have been convicted simply using DNA matches. I know that the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) has been prominent with her campaign about anonymity in rape cases, but that, I suggest gently, is to me a sideshow compared with what might happen to rape convictions if we start taking lots of people's DNA off the database.
The statistics can also speak for themselves about the so-called innocent people on the DNA database. In 2008-09, a research project looked at 639 profile matches in murder, manslaughter and rape cases. The results show that 11% of those matches belonged to individuals who did not have a conviction at the time of the match, but whose DNA had been retained on the database. If the law was changed to stop those people being on there, they would not have been brought to justice-we are talking about 70 serious offenders who would still have been out on the streets.
I am interested to know what my ministerial colleague believes. Our right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), now the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, said in a question-and-answer session in 2007:
"We shouldn't forget that the DNA database has enabled the police to solve a huge number of crimes, including very serious ones. I myself would have no objection to my DNA being put on it."
I endorse that-I tried to give my DNA to the local police force in my area, because I am such a keen supporter. However, I was told that I was not able to do so because I was not a suspect or involved in a previous crime. I have written to the Home Secretary to ask why people who volunteer their DNA are being refused the right to put it in the database. I await her reply.
The DNA database can also be used to acquit the innocent. The first murder conviction using DNA evidence, in 1988, proved the innocence of another suspect. Richard
Buckland was suspected of separately assaulting and murdering two schoolgirls in 1983 and 1986, but subsequent comparison of his DNA sample with DNA found on the bodies of the two victims proved that he was not the killer. Colin Pitchfork was later arrested, having been one of the 5,000 local villagers who volunteered their DNA after which a match was found.
Another famous case is that of Sean Hodgson, who was wrongly imprisoned for 27 years for the rape and murder of Teresa de Simone in 1979. The police ignored a confession at the time by David Lace, and not until his body was exhumed in 2009 and his DNA cross-checked was he found to be the real killer.
Even if the Government disregard what I think about DNA and CCTV, and disregard what the public think, I hope that they will listen to what the professionals think-those professionals who have to deal with the repercussions of any change in policy.
"DNA sample analysis plays an important part in protecting the public, and in the detection and prosecution of serious crime, as well as enabling the proper exculpation of the innocent."
"a suspect's failure to account for the presence of his DNA at the scene of a crime may, in some circumstances, constitute appropriate supporting evidence."
"The larger the better from a policing perspective."
"DNA puts a person in a place and then they have to explain that."
Lord Justice Selby, one of England's most experienced Appeal Court judges, told the BBC that he thinks-like my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) -that the entire UK population and every visitor to Britain should be put on a national DNA database. He thinks that the current system
"means that a great many people who are walking the streets, and whose DNA would show them guilty of crimes, go free."
We must also be careful making changes to the rules on DNA retention while looking to the Scottish model as the holy grail. First, we are not comparing like with like, as there is a distinctly different judicial system in Scotland. Secondly, the Scottish system for dealing with DNA is not fairer than the UK's at all. The DNA of adults arrested or charged but not convicted of violent or sexual offences can be held for an initial three-year period-an important point, because if a sheriff believes that there are reasons for keeping such data beyond the three-year period, he can extend it for an additional two years, and so on.
In the cases of the most serious crimes, it could be many years before a further offence is committed by someone cleared or not charged with an earlier criminal
act. That concerns me greatly-the proposals to destroy what could be potentially crucial information need to be carefully considered before people who have committed a crime are let off.
Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman is making an excellent speech. Would he agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson), the former Home Secretary, that before we rush into any hasty decisions, it is at least worth retaining the DNA database until 2012, when for the first time we will have six years of statistics? That would be wise, considering that the Scottish police say that they would rather have our system than their current one.
There is always the risk that, the day after any cut-off point, someone could, for example, go out and commit a murder. In that instance, such a person's previous DNA would not be available to the police so that they could detect the crime and prevent further murders, because it would have been destroyed in the name of civil liberties. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider that carefully before coming up with any reduced time scales for the retention of data, as it is Ministers who will have to live with the consequences of their actions further down the line.
In the fight against crime, effective technology such as DNA and CCTV should be encouraged, not discouraged. Those methods can hugely speed up police detection of crime, which could mean the difference between life and death for someone else. It really is that serious, which is why I am so determined to fight any proposals to restrict the use of those technologies in the name of so-called civil liberties.
Philip Davies: I think I dealt with that in an earlier intervention. If my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North was proposing taking people's DNA at birth, I would agree. However, that is a battle for further down the line. What I am worried about at the moment is that we are removing from the database a limited number of people's DNA. We have not yet reached the issue of whether to extend the database-I wish we were and that that was the nature of the debate we are having today.
I am trying to stop the Government from making the stupid mistake of removing people from the DNA database. That is why I am so determined to fight the proposals to restrict the use of such technologies in the name of so-called civil liberties. Organisations such as Liberty are not really arguing for civil liberties but for anarchy, which cannot be right. I am sure that they would prefer it if no one was arrested for anything, but I am afraid that in the real world that is not what we are here to do.
All our liberties are at stake-our liberty to walk down the street safely is at stake. Again quoting the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs, I totally agree with what he said in a speech last week:
"crime can never be too low; our streets can never be too safe and there can never be excuses for inaction."
Unfortunately, the Government give the impression that they do not believe in CCTV or DNA. They may not go as far as I would, but I hope that this debate will at least give the Minister the opportunity to make it clear to the House and to the police that he supports the use of CCTV, DNA and automatic number plate recognition as essential tools in fighting crime that keep us safe, enhancing our freedoms, not diminishing them.
Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) on securing it. This is the second time in a week that we have appeared together on the same side, so we are in strange times in terms of alliances. What unites us today is the argument about the balance between respecting individual freedoms and liberties and recognising that the people we represent want the freedom to live and work safely in their communities, free from crime as much as possible.
We all know that crime has gone down, but the reality is that often people's perception is that it has not. We politicians in the previous Government tackled that and tried to do so further. I am sure that the present Government will find that they face the same problem. CCTV has contributed to people's sense of personal safety. In Doncaster, CCTV cameras at the taxi cab ranks in the town centre have undoubtedly helped to solve crimes. I know of one case where some young men waiting in a queue for a taxi were attacked by some other young men. Before the victims had rung the police to inform them of the attack, the police had already seen it on camera and, by tracking the offenders by camera through Doncaster, they picked up the culprits before the victims got to the police station. That is a good example, showing how effectively CCTV can work.
CCTV has also been a tool in respect of antisocial behaviour. I was pleased that we in the previous Government had started to talk more about how communities could have more say in where cameras would be positioned. Undoubtedly, mobile CCTV units have been effective when placed in hotspots for antisocial behaviour that may lead to crime.
Today we should be talking not about restrictions, but about how we can improve the quality of the technology that is available. Let me tell an anecdote. Before I was a Member of Parliament, my husband and I were involved in helping stop an armed bank robbery in a local bank on a Saturday. Unfortunately for us, as part of the solution in solving that crime, it was the early days of CCTV and the Saturday staff who came in from another branch forgot to turn on the camera inside the bank. We have moved on a long way since then. It is important to ensure that the equipment is of the highest quality.
The hon. Gentleman cited a number of important cases. I should like to mention that CCTV was used in pursuing Steven Wright, who was responsible for the
murder of five women in Ipswich. As I have said, CCTV is also used in multiple cases of drunk and disorderly behaviour, antisocial behaviour, graffiti and vandalism. I appreciate the points that have been made by hon. Members about other organisations, including local authorities. Again, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not advocate putting cameras into people's refuse bins. But when tackling fraud, for example, CCTV cameras can be useful, whether they are used by the Department for Work and Pensions or the local authority, where people say one thing about their inability to work, although the reality, which is caught on camera, is that they are working at or are seen leaving local sites regularly each day. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world with enough police officers and benefit fraud inspectors out there on every street-and I do not think that that would be a good use either of public money or their time.
It is vital that we equip the police with the technology that they need. I am proud, as a former Home Office Minister, to have been in charge of this area of work. Automatic number plate recognition is a fantastic tool. I recommend that all right hon. and hon. Members sit in a police car and see how it works, connecting up to the cameras. It is amazing. Undoubtedly, despite police complaints about bureaucracy, they welcome that technology wholeheartedly, as do the people that they work with in the community.
We have to ensure that CCTV can be used and that it is not stopped. It needs to be made more effective. I am pleased that under the previous Government an interim CCTV regulator was appointed to look at that. I hope that in all the rhetoric that is used we do not lose sight of the important job that CCTV does.
It has been suggested that we should reduce the amount of time that DNA is retained in the database. By 2012 we will have six years' worth of statistics. I urge the Minister to be cautious about doing anything to destabilise that information, which can then be looked at, allowing us to make a more considered choice. This is a good example of devolution politics. Although there is a three-year limit in Scotland, with a caveat on its being extended, we need to be clear about what we are talking about. Despite the three-year headline, in Scotland they are still mindful that the period for which information is kept might want to be extended. I understand that the Scottish police would like a system that is more like the one in England. Why not have something more like English policy once in a while?
The DNA database has been transforming. It has been used, for example, in south Yorkshire to resolve a case involving rape some decades old. The culprit was found because his sister was picked up years later on a drink driving charge. Her DNA was taken and matched in the system, making a connection with her brother, who had been responsible for a huge number of rapes many years ago. Without doubt, the DNA database has contributed to solving thousands of crimes.
Between March 1998 and March 2009, DNA evidence helped solve more than 304,000 crimes. In 2008-09, there were 252 homicides and 580 rapes with a DNA scene-subject match. It is also important to recognise that DNA also picks up people who have not been convicted of a former crime. In 2008-09, 79 rape, murder
or manslaughter charges in England and Wales were matched to the DNA database from DNA profiles that belonged to individuals who had been arrested but not convicted of any crime. The evidence shows-this is not easy to come to terms with-that there is a justification for retaining the DNA of people who have been arrested but not convicted because their risk of offending, as measured by the risk of re-arrest, is higher than that of the general population. This risk is higher than the general population for six years following the first arrest, at which point their DNA would be removed.
We should also not forget the potential deterrent effect of DNA. People are less likely to commit crime if they know that there is a good chance they could get caught. There are many ways of deterring people from committing crime. We can look at our neighbourhoods and create designs to make them safer, but we should embrace and deal with technology and not be luddite about it. If people know that DNA can play a significant role in securing convictions, they will be less likely to commit crime in the first place.
"most effective tool for the prevention and detection of crime since the development of fingerprint analysis more than a century ago."
As the hon. Gentleman said, DNA does not only find those who are guilty; it can ensure that those who were thought to be guilty, or who were sent to jail as a result of a court conviction, can be proved innocent. I urge the Minister to be cautious in proceeding in this area in a way that could undermine some tools that are effective in fighting crime in the 21st century.
Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair): Order. Before calling the next speaker, can I say that it would be sensible to have the wind-ups starting at 10 minutes past 12 to allow more time for Back-Bench participation?
Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West) (LD): I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) on securing this debate on an important subject. For me, the title of the debate is important because it specifies tackling crime by effectively dealing with either the prevention or detection of crime. In this way, it mimics the most basic aspects of my police training 20 years ago, where I was taught the function of a police officer, which is fourfold: to protect life and property; to preserve law and order; to prevent and detect crime; and to prosecute offenders. We judge the effectiveness of policing against those four aims, and, equally, as tools used as an aid to those aims, we should judge DNA and CCTV against them. We all agree that more rapists, muggers and murderers should be in prison, but we have to be clear about whether a DNA database or CCTV will achieve that.
DNA is undoubtedly an effective tool in detecting offenders. In 2008-09, DNA evidence helped to clear up 1,700 serious crimes. However, when looking at broad figures such as those, we should remember that in many cases the DNA evidence might not have been the only evidence or the decisive evidence. In my time in the police, I spent two years as a scenes of crime officer and attended many murder scenes, and murders are by far
the best example. Most murders are committed in the heat of an argument by friends and family members, and, after the fact, no attempt is made to conceal the crime or to evade detection. DNA swabs would be taken as a matter of course and form part of the evidentiary process, but, in real terms, they would add very little.
We need to be careful about seeing DNA evidence as some sort of scientific knight in shining armour for serious crimes. It is still too expensive to be used in all but the most serious crimes, and fingerprints will still be left at many more crime scenes and are identified far more cheaply. Whether we have the correct legislative balance between DNA's effectiveness in crime detection and an individual's right to privacy is an important question. The European Court of Human Rights does not think we do. It described existing English and Welsh legislation as "blanket and indiscriminate", but noted the consistency of the Scottish approach. The problem is the blurring of the line between innocence and guilt.
The national DNA database is the biggest DNA database in the world, with 5.6 million people on it, but 1 million of those have not convicted of any crime. Despite the growing database, its effectiveness is declining year on year. Its costs doubled between 2006-07 and 2008-09 to £4.2 million, but detections fell by a quarter, and we must examine why. It is because we are getting closer to the point at which the database captures our criminal fraternity. It is the law of diminishing returns; as we capture the criminal profiles of fewer and fewer new convicted criminals, we are instead trawling our way through more and more innocent suspects. The focus needs to change, and we must ensure that anyone convicted of a crime is on the database; they have forgone their right to privacy, but the innocent have not.
CCTV is a far more difficult subject. Many people like CCTV, because it makes them feel safe and secure, but it is a comfort blanket. Surely, something that costs the Government hundreds of millions of pounds should be judged on its effectiveness. There is nothing in police legislation, which mandates the police to deal with the fear of crime. The right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) mentioned a politician's need to deal with fear of crime, which we must do, but if we mandated the police to deal with it, how would it be measured? How would we measure DNA and CCTV's usefulness in dealing with it? In examining their effectiveness, we must ask, do they prevent crime? Some crime, in some areas, possibly, though whether it is prevention or displacement is arguable.
In city centres, where alcohol is involved in the commission of many crimes, as mentioned earlier, CCTV has little effect in crime prevention. Even in the examples of crime falling, the extra lighting, fencing and security guards, which come with many CCTV installations, might be the active element in preventing crime. Interestingly, the public believing that cameras are effective can have two adverse effects: first, people may become careless, having been given a false sense of security by the presence of cameras, which makes the commission of crime easier; and, secondly, people believe that someone is watching the footage in real time, which allows them to abrogate responsibility for becoming involved upon seeing a crime being committed. CCTV can work against creating the involved responsible society we need.
Do DNA and CCTV help to detect crime? Possibly, in some circumstances. It is important to be clear about the purpose for which a camera is introduced. If it is for number plate recognition in a car park, to detect stolen cars or cars with no tax, and that information is acted upon immediately, then it is effective. If it is city centre CCTV being watched in real time and acted upon, as in the example mentioned, then it can be effective. However, we should be clear that a tiny fraction of the 4.2 million CCTV cameras across the country fall into that category, and that is the issue. We have allowed the unrestrained proliferation of CCTV over the UK. We have reached the point where Shetland has more cameras than San Francisco, and Scotland, as a whole, has 10 times the number of cameras as Johannesburg, with a population of 4 million. In London, only one crime a year is solved for every 1,000 cameras. The hon. Member for Shipley mentioned the age of austerity as an argument for CCTV; I am sorry, but the numbers do not stack up. The time for regulation of CCTV is definitely here, not only to ensure that those systems that effectively help in the detection and prosecution of crime can continue, but to ensure that those systems that do not contribute to the fight are overhauled.
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): In essence, the debate is about what we mean by "freedom" and whose freedom. The body snatchers have taken the Conservative party and turned it into a libertarian party in which the rights of the individual are supreme over those of the community. The safety of the community gives many people their freedom. For an elderly lady who wants to cash her pension at the post office or a woman who works shifts and goes home at night from the tube station, a CCTV camera can provide freedom. For someone who can drive or has someone who will drive for them, and has a secure home in an area where there is little or no crime, these things mean nothing, but, for most of our constituents for most of the time, these things give them freedom. Not only freedom from actual crime, but freedom from the fear of crime, allowing them to use their lives to the best of their abilities, go to work and enjoy a social life, without which their lives, and our lives, would be sad and miserable.
At certain point, the media always appear to go one way, and those who are regarded as part of the intellectual class move away from our constituents. In my experience over the past 13 years, our constituents are the ones who generally get it right, such as on tackling anti-social behaviour, as the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, was brave enough to do when he was ridiculed by the media. Now, our responsibility as MPs-representatives of our constituents-is to say no to the Government and no to those forces who see this as an arithmetical argument. It is an argument about an individual's safety and the detection of crime, and things that allow us to lead our lives as we see fit. Not only us, but the people who are the biggest victims of crime in town centres-young black men. They are often the people used to oppose CCTV and the DNA database, but they will tell us that those tools provide them with safety and security.
We must be suspicious of the things that we read and of the great causes often presented by individual newspaper columnists who do not see life as we or our constituents see it. Our constituents are the people to whom we should give first prominence.
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) on securing this debate and on his courageous opening speech. For my constituents, crime and antisocial behaviour are consistently among the top three issues in all the surveys that I have done. There are persistent problem areas that would be ameliorated by the greater use of CCTV-I do not argue for the unregulated use of CCTV, but for its greater use.
In Stourbridge town centre we have good CCTV coverage and, like the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), I have been out with the local police force and seen the cameras in action. I have visited the viewing facilities, and it is an effective tool, but it covers only a small proportion of my constituency. The remainder of my constituency is covered by one single "Sherpa" camera, about which I will say a little more later, because there are some lessons to be learned from that. Technology is a vital tool in policing, and I am concerned that we should not go down the road of regulating it so that it becomes a problem for the police to deploy it. I am sure that that is not the Government's intention.
We have heard a little about the image of CCTV from the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart). There are arguments that CCTV is not effective, that half the time there is no film in it, that nobody-including the police-is watching it, or that the quality of the film and the resolution are not adequate to provide decent photographs that might aid a prosecution. However, those arguments are not against the deployment of CCTV but rather against the deployment of ineffective CCTV, which is not something that we ask for or promote. Of course, CCTV alone cannot solve crimes, but it is a fundamental part of the armamentarium held by the police in their battle against crime on behalf of society. The hon. Member for Edinburgh West also mentioned displacement, but one cannot have it both ways. One cannot argue that CCTV causes the displacement of crime at the same time as arguing that CCTV is not effective against crime. That does not seem to stack up.
Liberty and privacy are important, and I am hopeful that whatever regulation the Government have in mind, they will attend to those important issues without deterring the use of CCTV for rightful matters. We have heard a few quotes from my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), the Minister responsible for the police, and I am encouraged to report another statement in which he said that our liberty is protected by ensuring that people can live safely. That is the point about liberty as far as I and the vast majority of my constituents are concerned. If we are to have more-or different-regulation, we need a system that is proportionate and facilitates proper usage, and that recognises the important role of CCTV when it is of decent quality and integrated with other policing methods.
I would like to speak briefly about the effectiveness of that tool within the overall armamentarium that the police have at their disposal as used in the Safer Leeds initiative, a crime and disorder partnership that operates in Leeds between the local authority and the police. The CCTV element is known as Leedswatch, and it is a powerful weapon against crime, according to the police and local authority members in that part of the world. The chief of police is quoted as stating:
"The CCTV cameras play a key role in the prevention and detection of crime and the recorded images provide vital evidence to law enforcement agencies to assist in the apprehension and prosecution offenders."
I want to draw attention to the point about apprehension and prosecution, because sometimes CCTV is defended too much for its use in crime prevention, and not enough for its benefits in the detection of crime and in improving the rate of prosecution. The quality of some of the camera footage and the ability to zoom in and get close-ups can help with the identification of individuals, or rule people out of prosecution who might otherwise have been deemed to have been involved in a crime.
The identification of people who have committed a criminal act addresses one of the key public concerns about the criminal justice system in this country, namely that all too often, people assume that they can get away with crime. I am afraid that in large parts of my constituency, they can and they do because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley maintains, the police cannot be on every street corner. There are vast swathes where antisocial behaviour is prevalent, and there is no real means of building up a decent evidence base to deal with the perpetrators and return to law-abiding people the right to a decent quality of life.
I have a few statistics from the Leedswatch initiative. The Leeds police installed 14 cameras in what was effectively a no-go area in east Leeds. Within 18 months, crime had come down by 48% and the number of burglaries had fallen by 65%. I do not argue that that was solely due to CCTV, but the Leedswatch management stated quite clearly that the introduction of CCTV was pivotal to that improvement. While doing my research, I noted that during one week in June this year, CCTV coverage in Leeds led to 57 arrests. Such statistics demonstrate the value that CCTV can provide, and we cannot afford to ignore that when our constituents' fear of crime is very real.
When the Minister considers how best to regulate CCTV in future, I would commend to him the Leedswatch code of practice, which runs to 30 pages, and covers all the important issues concerning who accesses the photographs, the public's human rights, data protection, how the system is operated, on what basis the photo footage is disclosed and so on. The Government will probably find everything that they need to know about how best to regulate CCTV nationally from observing the code of practice in Leeds.
I mentioned the sole roving camera that we have at our disposal in my constituency to cover areas outside the town centre. The regulations covering the use of that camera are stringent. Before putting the camera up, the police must demonstrate that they have deployed extensive preventive measures and that those measures have failed. They can erect the camera for only 72 hours before taking it down. I could go on, but my point is that the system is already pretty well regulated. I hope that the Government will look at existing codes of regulation around the country and develop a sensible system that protects the liberty not only of those who are concerned about privacy, but of the vast majority of people who are concerned about crime and who, I believe, are far better protected by the use of CCTV within the overall mix than they are by any fear of regulating it so that it becomes more difficult to deploy.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), with her very informative speech, and to serve under you, Mr Chope, for the first time. I was about to describe the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) as the Shami Chakrabarti of the Conservative party until he described Liberty as an anarchist organisation, so I shall have to refrain and instead describe him as a kind of male Boadicea from Yorkshire, on his chariot fighting for the civil liberties of this country.
I think that there is no disagreement among Members of the House that we need both DNA on a database and CCTV as tools in our fight against crime. I would be amazed if any hon. Member said that we should stop using either of those two very important techniques in trying to detect crime. The division will be over the extent to which we use DNA and a DNA database and cameras to detect crime.
It would be churlish of me not to welcome what the Government propose, because it is fully in line with two reports by the Select Committee on Home Affairs in the previous Parliament. Both were unanimous and both called for changes to be made. To be fair to the former police Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson), we had the Government moving in the right direction, at least as regards the DNA database.
We have the largest DNA database in the world; 15,000 profiles are added every week. It is much larger than that of any other country in Europe, given the new information put on it on a daily basis. I shall explain the problem for the Select Committee and, I think, for other Members of the House. I am sure that the hon. Member for Shipley has discussed this with his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands). Quite innocently, he was asked to provide DNA to the police for an inquiry, and he waited for months and months to get information about whether the police had that DNA on their database. The issue for members of the Committee and Members of the House was very much one of process. I think that if the process of getting information from the police was a little better, we would not now be talking about trying to control the very large number of names on the database.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for whom I have huge respect, mentioned the black community and their willingness to be protected by the taking of DNA, but she will know that 75% of young black men are on the DNA database. It disproportionately takes DNA from young black people, so there are lots of faults with the current system. I think that all the Government are seeking to do-obviously, it is for the Minister, not me, to make the Government's case-is control it and to allow innocent people to have the opportunity, if they choose to do so, to apply to one organisation and receive a reply about whether their DNA is on the database.
If we examine the process, the issue of whether the database should be extended can be dealt with, but I think that if people are innocent and are caught in a situation in which they have absolutely nothing to do with a crime, their DNA should not be on the database. The former Government moved significantly, from 12 years to six, and I hope that the present Government will carefully examine the process as well as the principle of what is proposed.
I understand that there are 4.2 million CCTV cameras. Someone can be caught on average 300 times a day on a CCTV camera. I had no idea that we had more in Orkney than in San Francisco per head of population, but those are very important statistics. We are not saying and the Select Committee, in its unanimous report, did not say, "Stop using CCTV cameras," simply because every time that I go back to my constituency, local residents are calling for more cameras.
Philip Davies: I do not want to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman's flow, but I want to make the point that the figure of 4.5 million CCTV cameras is derived by Professor Clive Norris for the EU-funded Urbaneye project. It counts the number of cameras in Putney high street and extrapolates that figure across London and then the UK. There are nowhere near 4.5 million CCTV cameras. According to the people who actually use the system, the figure is much nearer 1.5 million.
Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman-I knew there would be an EU dimension to this debate somewhere. However, we have reached the stage at which we have too many cameras in the wrong places. As the hon. Member for Stourbridge said, we need more in different areas; they need to be fit for purpose; we need to know what their use is. That is why the Select Committee suggested that we have not reached the stage of being a surveillance society, but we are almost there, so let us stop and pause, which is precisely what the Government are doing in adopting the recommendations of the Select Committee, and examine the current situation. We also proposed that we should ensure that once a year the Information Commissioner lays a report before Parliament on this issue and that we have a proper debate, not in Westminster Hall but on the Floor of the House, where many more hon. Members can participate on these two very important subjects.
The hon. Member for Shipley and other hon. Members have quoted police officers and others in support of their arguments. The hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) served as a police officer for eight years in Lothian and the Borders, so he comes to the House with huge experience on this issue. However, we do not always accept everything that the police have to say. They are very useful in providing us with information. The only time that the Select Committee divided in the previous Parliament was over the 42 days issue. That was the only time we had a vote, and that was because powerful evidence was given by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. We take such information, and obviously we have huge respect for those who implement these decisions, but at the end of the day, it is our judgment as politicians.
I shall just put one more expert into the pot, for the purposes of the discussion. I am referring to the views of Sir Alec Jeffreys, the man who discovered DNA profiling and who, in evidence to the Select Committee, said that he thought that it had gone too far or at least Governments had gone too far in extending and expanding the database. He suggested that there was a limit. We understand why DNA should be kept on the database if people are convicted, if they are charged, but if they are innocent, a time limit should be the order of the day. If not, they should have the ability to ask at least whether their DNA is being retained on the database.
Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I will obviously now cut what I intended to say. I generally agree with pretty much everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) had to say, particularly on European matters, on which he has some very sensible views indeed. However, I depart from him a little when it comes to the DNA database.
I shall deal with CCTV quickly. Like every hon. Member who has spoken, I am generally a supporter of it, but I represent a largely rural constituency and there are huge issues associated with the coverage of CCTV cameras in rural areas, the funding streams and the way in which CCTV cameras have generally developed through the crime and safety partnerships in the past few years. We cannot argue simplistically that because we have had CCTV, crime has fallen, because recorded crime has fallen-we might well have a debate about whether crime has fallen-both in areas where there is CCTV and in areas where there is not.
I do not accept what I think was the argument of the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), which was that if we can generally justify the ends, the means do not particularly matter. That is a somewhat utilitarian approach and not one I would wish to find myself on the side of.
There is an issue regarding the retention of DNA profiles for children, which I shall comment on in a moment, but no one would underestimate the value of DNA evidence in solving crimes. I would not wish to do that at all. It exists, it will continue to develop and I support its continued use. However, if we followed to its logical conclusion what some hon. Members have said, we would end up with everyone being microchipped at birth, because the technology is almost there for that, and everyone would be followed no matter where they went throughout the day. Consequently, everyone's actions would be entirely visible for everyone else to see. The argument is that as long as we are not doing anything wrong, why would we worry about that? That is the logical conclusion. If people want to pursue that argument and defend the notion that we should take everyone's DNA profile at birth, that is fine-it is at least logical and consistent. However, the situation now is that we
have innocent people, convicted criminals and people in between-people who are innocent, but who are not really innocent, because it will be argued, as we have heard it argued today, that there is a good chance they will commit a crime. However, people are either innocent or they are not.
As we have so little time, let me turn to the issue of children. There are 24,000 innocent children on the DNA database, and I would not want that to become a self-fulfilling prophecy for them. In one case in Hull recently, a 15-year-old boy who was completely innocent ended up on the DNA database through no fault of his own. Those of us on the city council at the time had to shout, scream and bang on the door of Humberside police to get that child off the database and to extract an apology from them. Everything in moderation.
Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Amess. I congratulate the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) on securing the debate. It was a pleasure to listen to his argument, although we will have to wait to see whether the Minister shared that pleasure. At times, it felt a bit like we were witnessing a domestic dispute, although I am not sure whether it was about body-snatching or political cross-dressing. We are used to Lib Dem supporters complaining that they voted Lib Dem and woke up to a Tory Government and cuts, but we now have Tory supporters who voted Tory only to find that they have a Liberal Democrat law and order policy, if that is not a contradiction in terms. More seriously, however, the hon. Member for Shipley questioned whether the Government have forgotten their first duty-the protection of their citizens.
Let me deal first with the DNA database. The previous Government responded to the S and Marper judgment in a balanced and proportionate way. The police told us that the database provided them with about 3,300 DNA matches a month and that it was a key instrument in bringing people to justice. However, we also understood the need to uphold the right to privacy, which is why we proposed a balanced and proportionate system of retaining DNA for six years. After that time, the evidence shows that the risk of offending levels out to match that for the rest of the population. There was strong argument over the issue on two successive Bills in the previous Session, and although the then Opposition-now the Government-allowed the second of those Bills to proceed in the wash-up, we are now told that Ministers intend to press on with the Scottish model, under which DNA would be held for only three years, without evidence that that would be in the public interest.
I therefore want the Minister to answer the following questions. What discussions has he had since the election with Chris Sims, the chief constable of West Midlands police and the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on DNA, who said:
"There are 40,000 crimes matched every year; it is helping us to keep safe. Reducing the numbers on the database will tip the balance towards making people less safe"?
What discussions has he had with Sir Hugh Orde, who said in his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry on DNA that anything that takes intelligence away from the police service can make our lives more
difficult? What discussions has he had with the Scottish police, most of whom favour the English rather than the Scottish model?
Has the Minister spoken to Baroness Stern, the author of the recent report on rape, about the role that DNA might play in deterring stranger rape? Has he met Sara Payne, the victims' champion, to discuss his proposals? She said:
"I am pleased with the Government's"-
"new proposals as I believe they strike the right balance between individual liberties and the ability of the police to apprehend offenders and bring them to justice."
Given that the ACPO criminal records office has said that 10% of DNA matches in murder, manslaughter and rape cases come from individuals who do not have a conviction at the time, but whose DNA has been retained on the database, what estimates have the Government made of the number of serious crimes that may not be solved if the Scottish model is adopted in England?
I now want to say something about CCTV. Designing out crime has a big role to play in reducing crime, and it has proven its worth in relation to vehicle crime. The Design Alliance brought young people to the Home Office some months ago and asked them what made them safer in their schools and communities, and their answers were very revealing. The first thing they asked for was better lighting and the second was CCTV. They wanted to feel safe even if cameras were watching. We should remember that young people are more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators, as we have heard this morning.
What discussions has the Minister had about CCTV? Has he discussed it with Sir Hugh Orde, who said that CCTV is not something that the public continually air concerns to him or many of his chief officers about? Has the Minister had discussions with Commander Simon Foy, the head of homicide at Scotland Yard, whom the hon. Member for Shipley quoted? Commander Foy talked about the importance of CCTV in catching people who commit murder. Has the Minister had discussions with Members of Parliament, most, if not all, of whom have probably campaigned with constituents for more CCTV? Will he come to Victoria terrace in my constituency to talk to residents, who believe that CCTV will be of enormous help in coping with the fallout from the nearby evening economy?
If the Minister remains unconvinced, let me return to the person to whom most of those who have spoken have returned-the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who is the current Minister for Police. He wrote in the West Sussex County Times:
"Some people object to this proliferation, but I don't. I agree that there is no substitute for police officers on our streets, but cameras help to make neighbourhoods safer and solve crimes...to those who claim that this all heralds a Big Brother society, I say, why should innocent people worry that someone is watching out for their safety?"
CCTV protects the most vulnerable, often in high-crime areas where people just want to be able to walk home
alone at night, as the hon. Member for Shipley said. These people cannot afford the expensive security systems that Ministers enjoy in their homes and workplaces.
We are told that the freedom Bill might roll back CCTV because of the threat to civil liberties. We are also told that the public, who I believe support CCTV, can nominate regulations to be scrapped in the Bill. If the public call for more CCTV and less regulation of it, will the Government accept that view and act on it in the Bill?
Crime is down by a third, whether we look at the British crime survey or the recorded crime figures. The previous Government were the first since the second world war to leave office with crime lower than when they came in, although we now have the unedifying spectacle of the Home Secretary looking for a counting system that will allow her to disprove that record. However, part of the reason why crime is down is that we had more police officers, who had more access to new technologies, including DNA profiles and CCTV. It now seems that budgets will be cut by between 25% and 40%, and the Government might want to limit DNA profiling and CCTV. It is one thing for any Government to risk their reputation on crime, but it is much more dangerous to put the safety of citizens and communities at risk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (James Brokenshire): I welcome you to the Chair, Mr Amess. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) on securing the debate and on raising a number of important issues. I noted the initial comments of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), and it is interesting to see the coalitions that can sometimes form during a debate. I do not know whether it includes the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), but a coalition has certainly been created in this debate.
Perhaps I can reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley and other hon. Members by saying that I absolutely agree with what they said about the importance of DNA and CCTV in tackling crime. My hon. Friend referred to comments that I made, not necessarily in a previous life, but in a previous seat. I certainly believe in the importance of CCTV, which can be harnessed in such a way as to protect our communities.
In many ways-to take the point made by the right hon. Member for Don Valley about many people's perception or fear of crime within their community-CCTV can be an important tool for that if it is used effectively with the appropriate framework and public support. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Margot James). I do not want to give the impression that the Government are fundamentally opposed in some way to CCTV cameras. They have an important role in supporting communities and aiding the police in their work.
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