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Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, not least because it rams home the importance of Britain’s involvement in the international community. On trade, does he agree that the welcome news about the Airbus order, worth £5.4 billion, is excellent for the south-west and for Stroud, which supplies parts of the aircraft?

The Prime Minister: It is very good news that both Etihad Airways and Emirates airline have effectively ordered 50 aircraft each. Of course, the wings are made in Wales, the landing gear in Bristol and, indeed, many of the engines will be made by Rolls-Royce in Derby. It is really good news. This is the high-end, high-skilled jobs that we need, and it has very much been backed by the Government, because we have put a lot of money into the Aerospace Technology Institute and the Aerospace Growth Partnership that we are building with the industry.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con): The Department for International Development’s work in the Philippines has been innovative, successful and very popular. Has my right hon. Friend considered supporting disaster resilience programmes similar to the one mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) more broadly, and looking at resilience planning for potential disasters, rather than simply waiting for disasters to happen?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are looking specifically at whether we can do even better in the rapid response element. I remember, particularly from what happened in Haiti, that British firefighters and experts can play a vital job in rescuing people in the early stages of a disaster, but only if they get there quickly. There is always room to try to do better, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will listen to those suggestions.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): The Commonwealth can be a powerful force for good in the world, as demonstrated by the centrality of human rights and shared prosperity to its charter, but does the Prime Minister agree that it is only as good as the commitment of its members? I congratulate him on showing a real commitment to both the Commonwealth and human rights, rather than taking the easy political option of running away.

The Prime Minister: Any institution works only as well as the political will of its members. We can sometimes obsess too much about the precise make-up of the institution, but we need to look at the political will that goes into defending the values to which we have signed up.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): The Prime Minister rightly highlighted the extensive work done by the Foreign Secretary to end the abhorrent practice of sexual violence in conflict. Given the evidence of that having occurred in Sri Lanka, what can our Government do to assist the victims?

The Prime Minister: The first thing we must do is to continue the Foreign Secretary’s excellent work to drive the issue to the top of the international agenda. Some

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really important steps in relation to commitments from other countries and through the UN have now been made. The specific allegations are one reason why the independent inquiry that we have talked about this afternoon is so important.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): With personal experience of being affected by a natural disaster—I lost 30 relatives, as well as my grandfather, in the Kashmir earthquake in 2005—may I thank the then Secretary of State for International Development and the current Secretary of State for the work done by the UK and the public then and now to help rescue people and save lives? I urge the Government to provide long-term support and assistance to hard-to-reach rural areas whose whole livelihoods have been thrown away. Such people need our help, as I know from experience. Will the Prime Minister make them a top priority?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. He speaks movingly about how his family were affected by the situation in Kashmir. The key thing is to consider what long-term help and development assistance we can provide for rebuilding and to look at resilience against future natural disasters. That is something for which the international climate fund can be used.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): Does the Prime Minister agree that the Leader of the Opposition’s cynical approach to his excellent trip to Sri Lanka contrasts starkly with the incredible—

Mr Speaker: Order. I have tried to be generous. We have heard the point. The Prime Minister has made his point of view very clear. We do not need to rehearse the position of the Leader of the Opposition. The hon. Gentleman needs to be a bit more delphic and perhaps a little less clumsy.

Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con): May I welcome the statement and the taskings of HMS Daring and HMS Illustrious, which are joining the USS George Washington? This situation underlines why we need both new aircraft carriers and to ensure that one is always available. Does the Prime Minister agree that the new aircraft carriers and the new Type 26s must have the ability to assist in upstream engagement, stabilisation and humanitarian tasks, as well as having the high-end war-fighting capabilities?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of the aircraft carriers and the capabilities that they will bring. In particular, they will be used as a platform for helicopters, for desalination and for command and control. They will bring a huge amount of capability to tasks like this one.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given the generous response of the great British public to the disaster in the Philippines, it is clear that this is international aid that everyone can support. All of us applaud the efforts of our servicemen and women and British charity workers on the ground. Given that we meet our target of 0.7% of gross national income, that we are one of the most

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generous charitable donors of international aid in the world and that the defence budget is one of the tightest in Whitehall, how is our military spending on such occasions offset against our international aid target?

The Prime Minister: I think that we have the right balance. As a country, we spend almost £35 billion on our defence budget. It is the fourth largest defence budget in the world and it still will be at the end of this Parliament. Under this Government, there is much better co-ordination between international development and defence. That is why we have the conflict pool, which brings Whitehall Ministers and money together to work out how the money can best be spent. Sometimes that involves using our defence assets to help countries that are in need.

Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): If you will bear with me for a second, Mr Speaker, I was disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition did not welcome the £5.4 billion order that Airbus gained over the weekend. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the deal and in congratulating the workers of Broughton, who manufacture the wings? It is their expertise and skills that make Airbus such a world-beater.

The Prime Minister: That was extraordinarily skilfully done. My hon. Friend is right to stand up for the workers in Broughton, whom I have visited several times. They have incredible skills and produce incredible technology. We should be proud of our contribution to Airbus’s international success and must do everything we can to back it. That is why I went to the Dubai air show, where far more British companies were holding stands and putting forward their wares. We should be full-hearted in supporting such industries.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Did the Prime Minister detect any signs, even small ones, from the Sri Lankan Government that crimes against humanity might have been carried out by their security forces when operating in the north of the island?

The Prime Minister: I obviously discussed that issue with President Rajapaksa, as well as the need for an independent inquiry. The Sri Lankan Government’s current position is that they do not believe such an inquiry to be necessary and that they have their own processes and procedures. However, it is fair to say that they recognise that questions are being asked internationally and that they will have to provide some answers. The answer is that we must keep up the pressure.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Many people in our country will be proud of our Government for standing up against mass murder and genocide in Syria and Sri Lanka. The Tamils will be comforted by the Prime Minister’s strong visit to the north of Sri Lanka. Will he continue to ensure that the Sri Lankan regime is held accountable? If there is evidence that any member of the Sri Lankan regime has committed war crimes, whether from a Sri Lankan inquiry or a United Nations inquiry, will he look at bringing them to the International Criminal Court for justice?

The Prime Minister: Of course, that remains an option, but the most important thing is to get the independent inquiry under way. I would urge colleagues who have

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not seen some of the evidence in the recent Channel 4 documentary to look at that, because one really can see the need for rapid answers to the allegations made.

Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for International Development and for Defence for a model example of a joined-up government response to the horrors in the Philippines. Did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have time, in the margins of the conference, to discuss with President Hussain the dialogue that he has managed—singlehandedly more or less—to get going between himself and President Karzai over the vital future of Afghanistan?

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for what he says about the joined-up nature of government between the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development. That joined-up government is now working well, through the National Security Council and things such as the conflict pool, which brings money together for states, particularly those facing instability. We have massively increased the amount of money going into that pool.

I was fortunate to sit next to the Pakistani Prime Minister during one of the sessions and so had a good conversation about the progress we were making with the trilateral approach and the better relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Both countries recognise their mutual interests in peace and prosperity as democratic states living side by side.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): I welcome today’s statement and the leadership the Prime Minister is showing in the Philippines, as well as the comments from my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy). Will the Prime Minister join us in highlighting the important work that Filipino community groups, such as MaccPinoy in Macclesfield, are doing across the country in raising the important funds, clothing and food required by families and friends back in the Philippines?

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The Prime Minister: It is important to recognise that there will be many people from the Philippines here in the UK desperately worried about their relatives back home. We should be with them at this time and praising their efforts to raise money and resources for the disaster recovery appeal.

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will continue to stand up for British values abroad and not play opportunist politics while important human rights issues are being discussed? Many of the people affected by those issues are currently living through a nightmare.

The Prime Minister: That is important on two counts. First, this is the Commonwealth, a multilateral organisation, and we should be there making our arguments, because if we do not, we will lose important battles over the issues we care about. Secondly, it provided an opportunity to talk about human rights specifically in Sri Lanka and to raise their profile in a way that would not have been possible sitting at home.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Human Rights Watch has praised my right hon. Friend for honouring his promise and delivering a strong message on human rights abuses and allegations of war crimes while in Sri Lanka. Does he agree that had he listened to the advice of some political leaders and not attended in Sri Lanka, that message would have gone completely unheard and unreported?

The Prime Minister: It is notable that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which might have had some doubts about my attending, have made it clear that we put forward human rights in a way that Britain can be very proud of.

Mr Speaker: I thank the Prime Minister and all 61 Back Benchers who questioned him.

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Commission on Devolution in Wales

4.43 pm

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr David Jones): Since the general election, the Wales Office has made investment in infrastructure its No. 1 priority to deliver growth in the Welsh economy. This Government have already committed over £2.25 billion to new infrastructure that will benefit Wales, directly or indirectly. We are spending almost £2 billion to modernise the rail network, including electrifying the Great Western main line to Swansea and the railways serving the south Wales valleys. We are investing £250 million to build a new prison in north Wales that will create up to 1,000 new jobs and require a supply chain that will bring an estimated £28 million a year more into the local economy. We have also committed £57 million to bring superfast broadband to Wales, a key element of a modern infrastructure network. Alongside that, Hitachi’s investment in new nuclear at Wylfa Newydd is a great opportunity to create jobs and drive economic growth across north Wales.

Earlier this month, I confirmed in a written statement to the House that we would enable the Welsh Government to use their existing borrowing powers to start work as soon as possible on the sorely needed upgrade to the M4 around Newport, tackling the congestion that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has described as

“a foot on the windpipe of the Welsh economy”.

Today, in making our full response to the Silk commission’s recommendations, the Government are unveiling a new and extensive package of financial powers that will be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government. I would like to commend my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Jane Hutt, the Welsh Minister for Finance, for the positive and collaborative approach taken in agreeing this package of powers, which demonstrates the strength of the United Kingdom, and the flexibility and adaptability of devolution within our Union.

The Silk commission made 33 recommendations, 31 of which were for the Government to consider. Today we are accepting, in full or in part, all but one. We are devolving many new financial powers to the National Assembly and the Welsh Government, potentially giving the Welsh Government control over more than £3 billion of tax revenue, with commensurate levels of borrowing. We are providing the Welsh Government with additional tools to invest in the areas they are responsible for, to enable them to upgrade Wales’s infrastructure and help to quicken the pace of economic growth. This will facilitate the improvement of Wales’s deteriorating road network—not only the M4, which I have mentioned, but the other key Welsh trans-European route, the north Wales expressway.

The devolution of tax and borrowing powers will also make the Assembly and the Welsh Government more accountable to the people of Wales who elect them. Since devolution, the Assembly and the Welsh Government have been accountable only for how they spend taxpayers’ money; they will now become more accountable for how they raise it. The Government’s response to the Silk commission’s first report builds on the announcement made by the Prime Minister and the

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Deputy Prime Minister earlier this month, and sets out in detail the devolved financial powers we are giving to the National Assembly for Wales. We will give Welsh Ministers borrowing powers, so they can invest in the capital infrastructure I have described. We will devolve landfill tax and stamp duty land tax in Wales, ensuring that the Welsh Government have an independent funding stream to pay back the money they borrow.

We will also provide for a referendum to take place, so that people in Wales can decide whether some of their income tax should be devolved to the Welsh Government. Subject to the approval of the people of Wales in a referendum, we will deduct 10p from each of the main UK income tax rates in Wales, with the Welsh Government able to set an unrestricted Welsh rate of income tax for all Welsh taxpayers. This is consistent with the system being introduced in Scotland and will increase the accountability of the Welsh Government, while avoiding significant risks to UK revenues that would result from different Welsh rates for each band.

We will also fully devolve non-domestic business rates raised in Wales, so that the Welsh Government budget benefits more directly from growth in Wales; enable the National Assembly for Wales to create new taxes, with the UK Government’s consent; and devolve the tools to manage these new powers. A cash reserve will be created that the Welsh Government can add to when revenues are high and utilise when they are below forecast. We will also provide the Welsh Government with limited current borrowing powers to deal with shortfalls if their cash reserve is insufficient.

I was pleased that Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, welcomed the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this month. This package of powers gives the Welsh Government additional tools to invest in Wales to rejuvenate the Welsh economy, which has languished behind the rest of the United Kingdom for far too long. This package will make the Assembly and the Welsh Government more accountable to the people they serve and place important taxation levers in the hands of the Welsh Government, which, if used wisely, can help to make Wales a more prosperous place. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Wales. I hope that the Welsh Government will rise to the challenge and look beyond the M4 to invest wisely and strategically across the whole of Wales. I will place a copy of the response in the Libraries of both Houses, and I commend this statement to the House.

4.49 pm

Owen Smith (Pontypridd) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement on this historic occasion. It is almost a year since the Silk Commission produced its report and 16 years since the last time a Conservative Secretary of State for Wales made a statement in this House—better late than never. Labour Members certainly welcome the acceptance of the Silk recommendations, especially coming from a Secretary of State who once described devolution as constitutional damage.

I would like to thank Paul Silk and his team for their work in producing the report. That report and the Government’s response to it are of enormous significance to the people of Wales—a part of the UK that has been harder hit by this Tory Government than anywhere else. Welsh wages have fallen faster and further than anywhere

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else in the UK, the Welsh budget has been cut by £1.7 billion by the current Tory Government, and we have seen energy and other bills rise higher and faster than elsewhere. That is the reality of the context of today’s announcement.

Because of those cuts, the Welsh Government have sought borrowing powers and agreed with the Silk recommendations that Wales should be able to exercise those powers, as Scotland and Northern Ireland do at present. We welcome the confirmation that Wales will in future have the capacity to borrow in order to invest in infrastructure, but will the Secretary of State clarify some of the many details that are left outstanding after today’s announcement?

First, will he clarify exactly when he expects that package of borrowing to be in place for the initial tranche of investment in the M4 and other roads? More importantly, will he tell us about the process by which that level of borrowing will be agreed? The Government previously indicated that the devolution of the minor taxes such as stamp duty and landfill tax, which are being devolved today, would be sufficient to trigger significant borrowing powers for the Welsh Government. Today’s statement, however, seems to suggest that that borrowing would now be contingent on income tax-varying powers being taken up in Wales. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether that is the case and say how much borrowing will be released once the minor taxes are devolved? Will he further confirm whether a mechanism, a set of methods and a formula similar to that used in Scotland under the Scotland Act 2012, which affords about £230 million of borrowing to Scotland, would be the method employed in Wales?

We welcome the devolution of the minor taxes—stamp duty and landfill tax—as this gives the Welsh Government the capacity to make some changes to the Welsh economy and to invest in order to grow and create jobs. Prior to the introduction of these new Welsh taxes, we would need to be very clear about whether the Welsh people would be better or worse off. That is our primary concern, so will the Secretary of State explain exactly how the process and methods will be agreed and set for offsetting the block grant by the amount devolved to Wales under the minor taxes?

The most significant aspect of today’s announcement relates to income tax and the proposal that the Government will legislate for a referendum in which the Welsh people may be asked if they want a proportion of income tax to be devolved to Wales. Our position on income tax is that we support the proposal as laid out by Silk on the basis of a “triple lock”, whereby we will judge whether the people of Wales will be worse off, we will see through the referendum whether the people of Wales want to take that responsibility and we will see whether fair funding is agreed for Wales. That remains our position today.

It is a significant that, in making today’s announcement, the Government have rejected Silk’s proposal to devolve the income tax bands independently of one another. Can the Secretary of State confirm why he has rejected that recommendation? The Government’s written statement suggests the reason is that the UK Government have discovered an interest in the progressivity of the UK tax system and are concerned that devolving those bands independently of one another might reduce that progressivity. That is ironic from a Government who

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have cut taxes for the wealthiest people in Wales. Will the right hon. Gentleman further confirm that the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in Cardiff Bay has said that he would use the tax powers only for the wealthiest by cutting only the 40% band, thus continuing the anti-progressive policies being pursued in Westminster?

I noted from the media today that the Secretary of State, in contrast, would cut all the bands by 1%. He will know that that would result in a £200 million shortfall in the Welsh Assembly’s budget. Will he tell us exactly how he would fill that shortfall, or, alternatively, tell us which services he suggests that the Welsh Government should cut to make the tax cut affordable?

May I ask the Secretary of State about fair funding? Last year the Government said that there was evidence of convergence in funding between Wales and England. Today’s statement commits them to

“review relative levels of funding for Wales and England in advance of each spending review and, if convergence is forecast to resume, to discuss options to address the issue in a fair and affordable manner.”

Will the Secretary of State tell us exactly what the result of those reviews will be? If there is evidence of convergence, will action be taken? Will we see what Paul Silk wanted, namely a review of the Barnett formula?

Without a hint of irony, the statement provides for the Government to give Wales a facility to save any “surplus revenues” that it might have lying around. Given that the Welsh budget has been cut by £1.7 billion over the last three years, can the Secretary of State tell us when that surplus is expected to materialise? Or have we just been given another set of false promises by a Government who do not believe in the Welsh people, and will not deliver for them? Is today another day on which we should beware Tories bearing gifts?

Mr Jones: I am grateful to the shadow Secretary of State for what I think was a welcome for my announcement. However, we heard the predictable preamble about Wales having been hit harder by the Government than any other part of the United Kingdom. In fact, the grant to the Welsh Government has been reduced proportionately less than that of any other Whitehall spending Department. Given that we are living in times of extreme difficulty—caused to no small extent by the last Labour Government—I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the support that this Government have given the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly.

The hon. Gentleman asked a number of specific questions, the first few of which related to when the borrowing powers would be made available. I am pleased to be able to tell him that, as was announced in my written ministerial statement, the Welsh Government have already been given assurances that they can negotiate with the Treasury for borrowing powers in respect of the M4 and the north Wales expressway to take effect immediately. We will fund that by allowing the Welsh Government’s current borrowing powers to be used without any adverse impact on the departmental expenditure limit.

The hon. Gentleman welcomed the devolution of taxes. The two larger taxes that are being devolved are landfill tax and stamp duty land tax. That will of itself provide a funding stream against which the Welsh Assembly Government can borrow, but we want income tax to be

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devolved as well. The hon. Gentleman is right: I do support the devolution of income tax. I urge the Welsh Assembly Government to trigger the referendum as soon as they can, because the Conservative party will be campaigning vociferously for a yes vote in that referendum, and, furthermore, for a cut in income tax.

The hon. Gentleman made a point that revealed the poverty of the Labour party’s ambition. We believe that devolution should be used to give a competitive edge to Wales, and that the powers that are devolved should be used to make Wales a more prosperous place. Very far from wanting the tax cuts to apply to the wealthiest people in Wales, we would like them to apply across the board, to everybody in Wales, so that the brightest and best want to come to Wales to set up business, to make their livings and to look forward to a brighter future. That is what differentiates the Labour party from the Conservative party. Interestingly, the Welsh Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, hailed today’s announcement as

“a good deal for Wales, and a big step forward for devolution.”

However, the Eeyore-like shadow Secretary of State prefers to look for a cloud in every silver lining. He is out of step with everybody except himself.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): May I congratulate Paul Silk and the Silk commission on the excellent work they have done on part I? May I also heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on his excellent response to this thoughtful piece of work? I am pleased that he has taken time in responding, because it is the right response. I am particularly delighted with the extension of borrowing powers. He will be familiar with the fact that the Welsh Assembly Government have always made excuses about why they could not improve the M4 and the A55. Does he agree with me that we should have a start-date for those improvements this week from the Labour Government down in Wales?

Mr Jones: May I, in turn, commend my right hon. Friend on the hard work she carried out in setting up the Silk commission in the first place? I would also like to repeat the thanks I gave in my response to the Silk commission’s recommendations for the hard work carried out by Paul Silk and his commission. The truth is, indeed, that responsibility for the maintenance and upgrade of those major routes always lay with the Welsh Assembly Government. They have in the past acknowledged that the cost of that was difficult to meet within their budget. We could not allow the deterioration of those major routes to continue indefinitely, and I therefore hope they will proceed swiftly with the upgrade of both those routes. I am pleased to see, however, that they are already consulting on the upgrade to the M4.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Timeo Tories et dona ferentes, as we say in Newport. Are the people of Newport and Wales right to be cautious about Tory promises, particularly in the light of the very small share Wales has had of the Olympic legacy? Although it was promised a larger share, it is on protozoan level. Can we have a guarantee from the Government that

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if the Welsh Assembly Government implement these measures, it will mean fair funding, not a continuation of underfunding?

Mr Jones: Well, we clearly have another representative of the Eeyore tendency in the hon. Gentleman. All I would say is that his concern is not shared by the Welsh Government who, I repeat, have said very strongly that the announcement

“represents a good deal for Wales, and a big step forward for devolution.”

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State on his statement today. We are very pleased that there is a consensus in the Welsh Assembly about the proposals. May I add that I hope that that consensus can spread to this place as well and that best advantage can be made of the proposals?

Mr Jones: Indeed, all parties in the Assembly have welcomed the announcement. The only exceptions appear to be the hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches. It is essential that all parties work together in order to get a referendum as quickly as possible, so that Wales can get the tax-raising powers it needs to give it a competitive edge.

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for advance sight of his statement? I also congratulate all the members of the Silk commission on the very hard and conscientious work they undertook in the past 12 months or so. I think today’s statement is something we can build on; with a little ambition, we can improve the lot of the people of Wales, rather than look for problems with it. I would like to ask one or two brief questions, however. When will the UK Government set out the clear detail on borrowing limits? Will there be separate borrowing powers from those set aside for funding the M4 relief road without the partial devolving of income tax, and will the borrowing deal to fund the M4 relief road contribute towards an overall borrowing limit?

Mr Jones: It is indeed contemplated that further borrowing powers will be conferred on the Assembly Government, although that will depend very much on the income stream that is available to fund that. Certainly, if there were a positive vote in the referendum on income tax, there would be that much more scope. As far as the M4 is concerned, negotiations between the Treasury and the Welsh Government are already well under way to work out the detail of how those powers will be applied.

Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North) (Con): Today is truly an historic day, and it is great to hear these announcements from a Conservative Secretary of State. Given Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ recent assessment that the average per capita tax take in Wales is 25% less than in the UK as a whole, the only appropriate movement for income tax in Wales must surely be downwards.

Mr Jones: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. I repeat that the difference between Labour and the Conservatives is that we are ambitious for Wales, whereas Labour seems to think that Wales should be a

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supplicant nation for ever more. The best way to increase the economic success of Wales is to ensure that it has a competitive edge, and I believe, as does my hon. Friend, that that purpose will be best served by reducing the rate of tax.

Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab): The Secretary of State will know that many thousands of my constituents work in the city of Chester, in Eddisbury, in Manchester, in Liverpool and in Ellesmere Port. Similarly, thousands of people from all those constituencies work in my constituency in Flintshire. Has he thought through properly how the income tax-varying power might work in practice? What consultation on this matter does he intend to undertake with businesses on both sides of the border?

Mr Jones: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, 12 months’ thought has been put into this exercise. Over the years, Wales has grown progressively poorer compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, and I hope that he will welcome and support our giving it a competitive edge through a beneficial rate of income tax. Also, he knows that it is easy to move from one side of the border to the other. That is another reason we had to think carefully before doing anything that might unbalance the economy of that important part of the world.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): I greatly welcome the work of Mr Paul Silk and his commission. I also welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement as an exciting step forward for the devolution process in Wales. If meaningful fiscal accountability is to lie with the Welsh Government, it is crucial that responsibility for a significant proportion of income tax should be devolved. Does my right hon. Friend share my hope that all the political parties in the Assembly and here in Westminster will enthusiastically support the campaign for a yes vote in the referendum?

Mr Jones: My reading of the situation is that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties will certainly campaign in that way, and I imagine that Plaid Cymru will do so as well. I am not so certain about the Labour party, however, although I hope that it will be bold and ambitious for Wales.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I should like to press the Secretary of State on a detail that seems to have been omitted. Under the Scotland Act 2012, the Scottish Government can borrow up to 10% of their capital budget, up to a maximum stock of £2.2 billion. I believe that the relevant figure for the financial year 2014-15 will be £230 million. Will the formula be the same for the Welsh Government?

Mr Jones: We certainly propose to use the Scotland Act as a model, but these matters require further negotiation, and further details will emerge in due course.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): The Secretary of State’s statement referred to the investment of £250 million to build a new prison in north Wales. May I urge him to have urgent discussions with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to make sure that from the moment it opens it is a completely drug-free establishment?

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Mr Jones: I am sure that that certainly would be the intention of the Ministry of Justice.

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): The Secretary of State has described Opposition Members as Eeyores, so I will try to be a bit more like Tigger—a bit more optimistic—as long as he does not pooh-pooh this question. May I ask him for some more accuracy on when he expects the discussions between the Treasury and the Finance Minister in the Assembly Government to have concluded on the borrowing powers that will allow the M4 relief road to go ahead, releasing £2.1 billion into the south Wales economy?

Mr Jones: I am glad to see the more upbeat attitude of the hon. Gentleman. Those negotiations are continuing and, knowing both individuals involved—the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the Finance Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government—I have no doubt that they have every intention of concluding them as quickly as possible.

Mr Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State and Paul Silk on this excellent work and the statement. The Secretary of State is right not to take the advice in the puny and unworthy response of the official Opposition, but I urge him to give a good answer on the following matter. Some of us have shared economic interests across the border; as has been said, many people on either side of the border commute. Whether we are talking about the Wrexham industrial park in north Wales and the economic basis, or the Environment Agency and the river catchment areas, there is an absence of accountability—those living on the “wrong” side of the border in England cannot hold anybody in Wales to account for their decisions. At the moment, there is an absence of democratic legitimacy. Will he provide an answer on that point?

Mr Jones: My right hon. Friend raises a fair point, which has been made on many occasions. The devolution settlement, as currently constituted, does lead in some cases to a democratic deficit. These matters were raised on several occasions with the previous Labour Government. At the moment, my right hon. Friend is best served by finding a friendly Assembly Member who will raise the issues that are of concern to his constituents but which relate to matters on the Welsh side of the border. On the basis of the current devolution settlement, that is the best answer I can give.

Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): The Secretary of State says in his statement that the National Assembly for Wales will be allowed to create new taxes with the consent of the UK Government. How does he envisage that process developing? Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer, rather than the Welsh Assembly, be deciding the tax regime in Wales?

Mr Jones: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would understand that any new taxes would need to be constituted in such a way as not to unbalance the national economy, but the response that has been given to the Silk report makes it clear that, subject to that consent, the Assembly Government will be in a position to create new taxes.

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Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): My right hon. Friend will be aware that in the Chester area the Anglo-Welsh border goes through the middle of housing estates—it goes through an urban area—and on one side of the road people are in England and on the other side people are in Wales. Significant differences in tax rates either side of the border could lead to significant strains on the local economy. What consideration has the Department given to trying to ameliorate those strains?

Mr Jones: I am well aware of the points my hon. Friend raises. It was for the very reason he mentions that further consultation was undertaken on the proposed devolution of stamp duty land tax; it was ultimately felt that, as a capital tax, a balance would naturally be struck. There is no doubt that were income tax to be devolved, there might be some impact overall, but in terms of the local economy I would imagine that the same people would live very close to one another, albeit on different sides of the border.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Like everybody else, I support the proposals. However, I hope that my constituents are not watching this session, because all they will be thinking about is the cost of living crisis in Wales. Hundreds of thousands of families are worrying about whether they will be able to heat or eat this winter, and yet here we are again fiddling around with the constitutional settlement. Our constituents want us to deal with the real issues that matter to them. I suggest that we get rid of the idea of having a referendum and that we spend the money instead on keeping open the Porth and Treherbert libraries.

Mr Jones: I am afraid that I cannot speak on behalf of the users of the Porth or the Treherbert libraries. Those are matters for the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government. None the less, those are important matters. The recommendations have been widely welcomed by all parts of the political spectrum, except of course by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): I have the greatest respect for the high office of state that my right hon. Friend holds and fills with such distinction. Wales has a Secretary of State and England does not. I fully support his efforts to devolve income tax rates to Wales and to create a competitive tax economy in Wales, but will he ensure that the administrative costs of the Wales Office are met entirely by Welsh taxpayers?

Mr Jones: We shall consider that interesting suggestion.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): Over recent months, the Tories in the Senedd and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to alter individual tax bands should they form the next Welsh Government. Would not those specific pledges be undeliverable due to the lockstep that the Secretary of State has announced today?

Mr Jones: Yes.

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Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): One solution to the problem raised by Conservative Members from constituencies near the border is to extend the Welsh border eastwards. Ludlow used to be the administrative capital of Wales—[Interruption]as was Oswestry.

Mr Llwyd: And Chester.

Kevin Brennan: There are plenty of suggestions. If that is not within the powers of the Secretary of State, perhaps he could consider once again a more flexible approach to the level of bands of income tax under his proposals.

Mr Jones: That is a very attractive proposition. In fact, Terfyn in Cheshire derives its name from terfyn, which means a border, so perhaps that is something that we should press. However, we have given careful consideration to this matter and believe that the lockstep proposal is the best way forward.

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): After listening to the Minister’s statement, the question that looms large is whether he is proposing tax competition between different parts of the United Kingdom.

Mr Jones: That would certainly be attractive in many parts of Wales. Of course, in Scotland, that is precisely what is available.

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): Will the Secretary of State elaborate a little on the case-by-case process for establishing new taxes to which he referred earlier? He and I served on the Welsh Affairs Committee. I hope that he is not proposing the ghoulish resurrection of the legislative competence order process.

Mr Jones: Certainly not. I would imagine that, in most cases, those would be issues for negotiation between the Welsh Finance Department and the Treasury.

Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab/Co-op): In the referendum to which the Secretary of State referred, will 16 and 17-year-olds be entitled to vote?

Mr Jones: That is very unlikely.

Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Wales is currently underfunded to the tune of £300 million. Why does the Secretary of State for Wales not come forward with a fair funding formula?

Mr Jones: The hon. Gentleman will know that in October 2012 the Welsh Finance Minister, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I announced new arrangements in Cardiff, which ensured that if there were any issue of convergence, there would be further negotiations between the Welsh Finance Department and the Treasury. [Interruption.] We believe thatBarnett certainly is coming to the end of its life. The issue is to rebalance the economy, which was left in such an appalling condition by the Government of whom he was a member.

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Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

[Relevant documents: The Second Report from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Session 2012-13, Draft Northern Ireland(Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, HC 1003, and the Government Response, Cm 8621.]

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 1

Patterns and lessons report on aspects of the past

‘(1) The Secretary of State may appoint a person or persons to prepare an analysis of findings, issues, patterns or lessons from various reports in particular events of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

(2) The Secretary of State may exercise this power in consultation or conjunction with another statutory body.

(3) The reports from which an analysis or narrative might be drawn will include those by—

(a) a body established to investigate, review and report on matters in Northern Ireland’s burdened past in terms, and with standards, which comply with Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights;

(b) the Historical Enquiries Team;

(c) the Police Ombudsman;

(d) Public Inquiry;

(e) an independent panel; or

(f) other review mechanisms.

(4) If the Secretary of State appoints a person or persons to prepare a narrative analysis under this section, any existing provision prohibiting publication of the material to be analysed shall, subject to subsection (5) below, not apply for the purposes of this section.

(5) No personal information shall be included in the analysis as published without the permission of the person concerned or, if they are dead, of their relatives.—(Mark Durkan.)

This Clause would allow reports to be commissioned on aspects of Northern Ireland’s troubled past, drawing on findings in reports by given mechanisms which have investigated or considered particular cases or events. Those mechanisms could include any new body created with particular regard to Article 2 ECHR compliance.

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.19 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss

New clause 3—Annual report an activity relating to Northern Ireland’s past

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall lay a report before Parliament in respect of each year as soon as possible after the end of the year to which it relates.

(2) The Secretary of State may appoint a person or persons to produce the report required under subsection (1).

(3) A report laid under subsection (1) shall contain in relation to the year to which it applies—

(a) a summary of the work of any body established to investigate, review or report on matters in Northern Ireland’s burdened past in terms and with standards which comply with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights;

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(b) a summary of the work of the Historical Enquiries Team of the Northern Ireland Police;

(c) a summary of the work of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland insofar as it relates to Northern Ireland’s past;

(d) a summary of the work of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victim’s remains;

(e) a summary of the work of other public bodies which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, relates to Northern Ireland’s past;

(f) a summary of findings of any inquiry, review or panel which has reported on particular events in Northern Ireland’s past;

(g) a summary of responses made by Her Majesty’s Government or any other Government or body to any of the work covered by the report; and

(h) a clear indication where the findings of any work summarised in the report contradict remarks recorded in the Official Report of the House of Commons or House of Lords, especially by a Minister of the Crown.

(4) After a report under subsection (1) has been laid before Parliament the Secretary of State shall provide a statement to Parliament which shall contain references to—

(a) independent legal assessment of the compliance of the work covered by the report with Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights;

(b) the progress made during the year in dealing with Northern Ireland’s past;

(c) any apologies that have been given by any Government or public body in relation to the work summarised in the report;

(d) any apologies that have been given by any Government or public body in the context of any other reports, revelations or admissions which relate to Northern Ireland’s past; and

(e) any other relevant issues or concerns as they relate to Northern Ireland’s past.

(5) Any existing provision prohibiting publication of the material to be summarised under subsection (2)(a) shall, subject to subsection (6) below, not apply for the purposes of this section.

(6) No personal information shall be included in the report as laid before Parliament without the permission of the person concerned or, if they are dead, of their relatives.’.

This Clause would allow for a new Article 2 compliant mechanism to investigate past events. This could replace the Historical Enquiries Team and Police Ombudsman’s respective roles on the past. It provides an annual report on all work on the past accompanied by a ministerial statement addressing certain matters.

Mark Durkan: New clauses 1 and 3 are tabled by me and my hon. Friends the Members for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell) and for South Down (Ms Ritchie).

I should explain to the House that new clause 1 expands on an amendment I tabled in Committee— in the Public Bill Committee upstairs, rather than in Committee of the whole House. The point of the new clause is to afford the House an opportunity to consider whether some of the work undertaken on the past in Northern Ireland could be consolidated and could have its value advertised and added to by creating the capacity for the Secretary of State to commission a report or reports by a person or persons on various groups or classes of cases, on events in a particular locality or period, or on the activities of a particularly paramilitary group within a particular period of time.

We are suggesting that a class report, based on other reports and findings that have already been produced—whether by the Historical Enquiries Team, established

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inquiries or independent panels, or even by reviews that might be established in the future—would be necessary because at the minute we have a fairly inadequate arrangement whereby if the HET reports on a case the report is given to the family concerned and treated as though it is the property of the family. It is published only if the family chooses to publish it and only in the manner the family chooses.

When there have been issues with some of the HET’s work, not least when it has investigated what have been called “Army deaths”, that situation has meant that although the HET has done some good work over a number of years, which has been valuable to the families, many families have not felt that they could discharge the burden of publishing the work. Of course, other families have been able to publish that work or to turn to the assistance of others to have it published. In recent times, a powerful compilation examining different HET reports has been produced by the Pat Finucane Centre, resulting in a book called “Lethal Allies.” It draws on the HET reports on a number of cases, on Ministry of Defence files and on other papers in the national archive to set out more of the circumstances behind a certain group of murders—the up to 120 murders conducted by the Glenanne gang. That powerful book has been able to draw on HET reports simply because those families gave the reports to the Pat Finucane Centre and entrusted it with that work. That points towards a wider gap in the provisions on the past, not least those that the Secretary of State would preside over in the public interest and in the name of the wider political process.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have enormous regard, in full flow, but is he speaking on behalf of a small group of families whose loved ones’ murder the HET has investigated, or is he speaking on behalf of the majority of those families, they having asked him to make this change?

Mark Durkan: In no way could I claim to be speaking for a majority of all the families whose cases have been investigated by the HET, but I have met many of the families, and I appreciate the very different experiences that they report to me. Some families are unhappy about how the HET investigated their case, and what it was able, or not able, to find; other people were particularly satisfied, and have taken consolation and a sense of closure from what the HET has been able to do for them. The point is that many families feel that there may be an unequal process in relation to the past, and they are coming at that from different points of view and experiences. The new clause tries to ensure that our approach to the past, not least in terms of the HET, is more holistic.

The Historical Enquiries Team has been seriously compromised by a report by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary that found that the HET’s conduct of investigations of what are called “Army deaths” was so unequal and off-standard as to be illegal. That has put a serious question mark over the future of the HET’s discharging of its investigative role. Many of us believe that there is a need to replace the HET with a new body that is clearly compliant with article 2 of the European convention on human rights, and that if such a new body

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were created, the role relating to historical investigations that attaches to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland could devolve to that new body; we see the possibility of that article 2 compliant body taking over both the HET’s role in investigating the past, and the police ombudsman’s role in investigating complaints about past police conduct. Whether or not that new body is created, there needs to be an ability to draw on the good work already done by the HET in a lot of cases—work that currently is not celebrated, or shared in a meaningful way with the wider public.

Lady Hermon: Will the hon. Gentleman indicate to the House whether the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Matt Baggott, has in recent weeks made it evident that he has any intention of replacing the HET and has lost confidence in it? That certainly was not the information that he gave to the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs two or three weeks ago.

Mark Durkan: I am not speaking for the Chief Constable; I am speaking to the new clause. I have said that many of us believe that the HET has been seriously injured, and that the viability of it serving its purpose in future, and its reliability, have been fundamentally wounded. I know that many people on the Northern Ireland Policing Board have that view as well. As to whether the Chief Constable has come to that view, we will have to see. The new clause does not legislate for a new body; it simply allows us to ensure that if a new body were created, that would not negate good work already done by the HET, and good work done, and sound reports produced, by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

The new clause would ensure that reports can be commissioned not just on individual cases and events, but on evident lessons or patterns in findings relating to different cases and events. Anne Cadwallader, on behalf of the Pat Finucane Centre, has been able to bring out glaring and compelling points relating to the Glenanne gang and its work: the connections between many different killings; the repeated use of various weapons; the likely involvement of some people; and issues of collusion and complicity in all that. That approach should be available for other cases, too. It is not just about being able to tell that narrative about the activities of loyalist paramilitaries; there are compelling narratives that need to be told about the activities of republican paramilitaries as well.

Naomi Long (Belfast East) (Alliance): The new clause has been tabled while talks are under way with Haass and so on, and there is a process that deals with issues from the past. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the new clause puts the cart before the horse, or does he think that it complies with that general process?

5.30 pm

Mark Durkan: I believe that it is entirely compatible with the Haass process. I have no wish to pre-empt—and I would not ask the House to vote to pre-empt—what may or may not come of the Haass process. However, the House has responsibility in relation to the past, as it was the main chamber of accountability for many years in relation to Northern Ireland’s troubled past. It is not enough for us to say that we do not want to address the

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past as we consider the Bill because the Haass process will do that. It is right and proper for parties in Westminster and the Chamber to reflect on some aspects of the past.

The new clause tries to say, first, that it is not the case that nothing has been done in relation to the past. However, it is clear that not enough has been done, and that not enough has been done with some of the good work that has already been done on the past, not least some of the good work by the HET. Although I accept many of the criticisms of the HET, I cannot ignore the fact that I have heard directly from families who have been helped by what the HET has been able to do in their case. I believe, however, that the wider process and the wider community could be helped if we drew together some of the lessons and compelling findings that the HET has been able to share with families. Not all of those findings have been shared with the wider public, and not all of them have been shared equally.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Before the hon. Gentleman responded to the intervention from the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long), he was speaking about the need for a complete record that involved a spotlight not just on one set of paramilitaries but on all of them. How will his proposal ensure that an analysis or narrative drawing on the various reports that have been cited gives a complete picture of the many hundreds of deaths in which the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary groups were involved? How will we get the right proportion in the overall picture, and a proper investigation or analysis of the role, for instance, of Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein’s current leaders in the disappearance of Jean McConville and others? How is all that included on the basis of the list of reports that he cited?

Mark Durkan: First, the new clause does not seek to introduce an omnibus report in relation to all the events of Northern Ireland’s burdened past. It is not one received version that looks at all the tragedies and atrocities in Northern Ireland’s troubled history. The new clause would create the ability or capacity for the Secretary of State to commission reports on different classes, groups or possible groups of crimes. Just as many people have found the book, “Lethal Allies”, a compelling drawing together of a number of different reports, plus other evidence relating to the work of a network of loyalist activity over a period of six years, so there could well be room to say that we need a report that draws together HET and any other findings on the work of the IRA in a given area or over a given period, or of the Irish National Liberation Army, or of loyalist paramilitaries in other areas, so that people who were victims know that their experiences were not isolated cases in which they were victimised and bereaved but were part of a network or pattern at a particular time. That narrative should be brought out and should be available to people.

Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Is there not a confusion in what the hon. Gentleman has presented to the House? On the one hand, he tells us that there is a report about the HET and its fairness and ability to investigate collusion and so on which puts a question mark over it. On the other hand, he brings out the virtues of the HET, which somehow aids a “powerful” book, so-called, whenever it comes to security force collusion.

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Mark Durkan: The HET has done some good work, but it has also done some work of very questionable quality. No less an authority than Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has found the HET’s work wanting in relation to the investigation of Army deaths, how they were investigated and how witnesses and potential witnesses were treated in that situation. It was a damning indictment by HMIC that the HET’s standard of performance in relation to a certain class of cases was illegal. That is not my finding, but accepting and recognising it and its seriousness does not lead me to rubbish cases in which the HET has done some good work and been able to marshal firm evidence that was of significance to families—evidence that was not shared with those families by anybody except the HET before now.

Dr McCrea: But how can we be sure that the reports that the hon. Gentleman says are virtuous actually are so?

Mark Durkan: First of all, I am not creating a class of good HET reports or bad HET reports. I am not saying that the Secretary of State must commission reports in relation to every single death on the basis of HET reports. My aim is to make good a deficiency in the work of the HET to date: its work counts solely as the private property of families, unless the families themselves choose to publish it. There is no formality in this House, for instance, whereby the Government may make an apology to a family on the back of an HET report. The Government up till now have treated that apology as a private matter, not a matter for the parliamentary record. An apology was duly given by the Ministry of Defence after a family had shared with it an HET report, but we had to go to the bother of an Adjournment debate, which I called, to get that apology voiced on the record. That shows that there is a problem in how HET reports are treated.

This is not just a point that we in the SDLP have come up with. Others have addressed it as well. There are victims groups who say that this is one of the deficiencies in relation to the HET. There is a question mark not only over the quality of the HET’s work, but over what the rest of us are doing with the HET’s work and whether the rest of us are interested in it. In the Haass talks the parties are meant to be addressing what is to be done about the past and what is being done, and it is important to acknowledge that some good work that has been done may not have been valued enough and is not well enough advertised or circulated. The measure is an attempt to improve that.

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): When we talk about a level playing field with other parties, and all parties being included in the collusion issue, does the hon. Gentleman agree that there should be a further investigation into the Garda Siochana and the allegations made about collusion there? We talk about apologies. Is it not time that we got a proper apology from the Irish Government and their part in the troubles many years ago?

Mark Durkan: I have no resistance to any inquiries about any allegations of collusion that there might be against Garda Siochana or anybody else. In relation to the point that is often made by the DUP about the possible involvement of members of the Irish Government in arming the Provisional IRA initially, I have no problem

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with an investigation of that or anything else. I point out that members of the Irish Government were sacked at the time and former Ministers stood trial alongside others, so it is not as though the issue passed without moment at the time.

The Berry papers brought those issues out again, in much the same way as the Pat Finucane Centre was able to find in the national archives in Kew many documents that provide a strong back-light on the murderous machinations of the Glenanne gang. In Irish Government records, including the Berry papers, which were perused by significant elements of the media some years ago, there is also significant back-lighting of what happened in and around the arms trial.

I want to return to the point of new clause 1. It is not to prescribe that there shall be one sweeping narrative in relation to all issues in the past, or to refuse any, but to say that where there have been various investigations or reports, whether by a public inquiry, the HET, the police ombudsman, or any other investigative means—the Ballymurphy families, for example, are talking about having something like the Hillsborough independent panel look at their case—if there were common strands to be brought out in relation to different cases, the Secretary of State could commission a report that would do that.

Naomi Long: I understand the merit in the proposal, but is the HET, for example, the right basis for the kind of reports that the hon. Gentleman seeks? The purpose of the investigation, for example of the HET, is to look at the matter with a view to the prosecution of those guilty of offences. The understanding and the narrative that forms the backdrop to those events are not necessarily the job of the HET, but are a more complex mix. I want to probe whether the hon. Gentleman believes that those are the right bases for this kind of narrative-building report.

Mark Durkan: I believe that they potentially are. If one has been privileged to have a HET report shared with one by a family, one has only to read it to see that it may be pointing less towards any possible prosecution, than bringing out significant information about the background events and circumstances. The first time that many families found out that their loved ones were murdered by the same weapons was when they read the HET reports that dealt with murders by the Glenanne gang. No one ever told them that before. They were never told that as a result of RUC investigations or any other revelations, or comments or observations made by Ministers about the nature or network of crimes or murders. None of that information was ever shared with those families until they received it from the HET, and until the Pat Finucane Centre literally brought them together as victims of the same weapons.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I seek clarification on the issue of the HET inquires. As an elected representative during the last couple of years I have made four, perhaps five, referrals on behalf of individuals to the HET. The HET has replied, but they are confidential, private, individual issues. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that they should be made known to everyone, even though the families themselves want them kept secret?

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Mark Durkan: I refer the hon. Gentleman to subsection (5):

“No personal information shall be included in the analysis as published without the permission of the person concerned or, if they are dead, of their relatives.”

One of the issues at the moment with the HET—too much of this debate is focusing purely on the HET—is that it is limited in that it cannot make its reports public. Many of us assumed that that was a statutory restriction on the HET, but it turns out that it is not. The clause allows germane facts that can point to the wider pattern and help to fill in the wider narrative in relation to forces, whether paramilitary or anybody else, who carried out murders and series of crimes. Where that wider narrative is brought out it would not be at the expense of publishing any information that is in the HET report that has previously been regarded as private, for whatever reason of sensitivity. But the wider narrative lesson should be able to be drawn out by a wider report.

Again, I make the point that there has been a significant response to the book “Lethal Allies”, including in Armagh and Tyrone. The Glenanne gang carried out its nefarious sectarian murder campaign against innocent Catholics. Remember that only one of the 120 whom it killed had any link whatever with the provisional republican movement. The people it killed were members of my party, the SDLP, people who were in the Gaelic Athletic Association, people who had bought property who were setting up in business. That is why they were targeted. Those who were specifically targeted and shot in their workplace or in their homes, as opposed to those who were more randomly killed by bombs, were all people of the ilk that I have described.

It was not only those forces that were involved in a sectarian campaign in Tyrone and Armagh and other places; so too, I believe, were the IRA and many others. That is the belief of many of the IRA’s victims in those places in those years.

5.45 pm

Dr McCrea: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because we are moving into a very sensitive area. There seems to be a hierarchy of victims. Will he tell me why Robert McLernon, at 16 years of age, and Rachel McLernon, at 21 years of age, on the day she was engaged to be married, were targeted by the IRA? Should we not know that? Who is going to tell us that?

Mark Durkan: I absolutely believe that, in so far as anybody can tell us, we should know that. If there is ever an HET report that could tell us that, we should be told, rather than someone saying, “Oh no, it’s an HET report, so it’s the private property of the family.” The onus should not be entirely upon the family to make good that report.

The HET produced a very significant report on the Kingsmill massacre, but I do not believe that it received as much attention as it deserved. Its import was not fully registered in this House, or indeed in other places, and I believe that it should have been. Of course, the Kingsmill massacre is not the only evidence that discounts the cosy claim that has been made in the past for the IRA, and is still made to date, even on behalf of Sinn Fein, that there was nothing sectarian about the IRA campaign and that only loyalist paramilitaries carried out campaigns with an eye to a sectarian agenda. That

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is quite clear from a number of events, and not only those carried out by the IRA, but arguably those carried out by other republican paramilitaries at the time, when it was or was not the IRA, or when another flag of convenience was being flown, for example in the Darkley massacre.

I do not believe that it is only in relation to the murders of the Glenanne gang that we could benefit from a clear account based on sound findings from other inquiries. Remember that the power that new clause 1 would give the Secretary of State is to commission a report that draws on the findings of other bodies, not to set up a new investigative mechanism or some new roving or roaming inquiry into everything and anything. It would take the value and significance of what has already been found by other competent inquiries and investigations, so it would take what is already there in reports and marshal it together to draw value, and not just for the victims, but for wider society. I hope that idea will commend itself to the parties as they consider these and other issues in the Haass talks.

Mr Dodds: Apart from the reports of the HET, which we have spent a lot of time on, the hon. Gentleman has mentioned reports from other bodies, such as the police ombudsman and public inquiries. Subsection (3)(f) of new clause 1 refers to “other review mechanisms.” Will he explain what that phrase means?

Mark Durkan: That is to do with the fact that we cannot pre-empt what other review mechanisms might come out of the Haass talks. Other review mechanisms could cover a variant of something like the de Silva report, in which people basically examine what is on the record in various archives. Of course, those archives need not be just in the UK, because, as we heard earlier in relation to the southern Irish dimension, there could be significant records in the south. There are also different forms and models of inquiries available in the south. Some of those inquiries that have looked at some of these issues might have relevant findings that could be drawn into a wider report that the Secretary of State might commission others to do.

We have left it very open as to who might be commissioned to do those reports. The Secretary of State will not necessarily appoint civil servants. The Secretary of State might appoint other competent and credible people, be they academics or those from other groups, or indeed groups who have worked with victims and would be very trusted to draw together the narrative from certain reports in ways that would be seen to bring out the salient truth, and not only for the victims, but for the wider community and future generations.

New clause 3 provides for the idea that in future the Secretary of State could present an annual report to Parliament that summarises all the ongoing work by various bodies in relation to the complaints about the past during that year, whether those bodies are the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, the HET, if we still have it, or the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains. It also relates to whether, as I believe, there should be a new article 2-compliant mechanism to investigate the past. Other bodies may undertake work that touches on facts of the past. Of course, those bodies could be outside the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland.

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Lady Hermon: In the new clause, the hon. Gentleman refers to the Historical Enquiries Team, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and various other inquiries and inquests. Will he kindly take this opportunity to put on the record his genuine appreciation of all the retired police officers, members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and members of the armed services who, time beyond number, have willingly and freely given up their time to co-operate with the police ombudsman, the HET and various other inquiries and inquests?

Mark Durkan: I have no problem acknowledging where there has been very good and sound co-operation with the HET and with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. However, both have put it on record that they have not universally found such co-operation on the part of every single person they have sought to interview.

I further note that the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association recently issued its own qualifications in relation to its future co-operation with the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, regarding the latter’s report on a murder that happened in my constituency in the late 1980s. I question the terms in which the retired police officers have voiced their position. Indeed, the statement the association has issued adds to the questions about that event and the background to that murder. Two innocent civilians were allowed to die when, after 10 o’clock mass, they went to inquire after a neighbour they had not seen for some time, so there were questions about whether he was at his flat. When they did so, purely out of their good nature, they became the victims of a booby-trap bomb that was in the block of flats, having been planted by the IRA, who are absolutely the culprits in this—let nobody else say anything different. It is clear from the police ombudsman’s report that the police—the security forces—were aware that the bomb was there. They made sure they did not go near it, but it was left and civilians died. I regret that the retired police officers have chosen this particular report on which to voice a strangely couched position in relation to the police ombudsman.

Mr Dodds: Here and now is not the place or the time to open a debate on the particular event that the hon. Gentleman refers to, although he has gone into a bit of detail on it. I merely point out that the retired police officers would say that one side of the story is told but theirs is not always told in the same depth or to the same extent in the circumstances of the time. Does he agree that retired police officers who served in the RUC are in a uniquely invidious position, because unlike others they do not have all the legal back-up and wherewithal to support them, and many of them are getting on in age, yet an onerous task has been put on them with all these inquiries and so on? These issues need to be recognised.

Mark Durkan: The right hon. Gentleman makes a point that gives rise to questions about what other support should be available as a way of assuring people when they are co-operating with inquiries. Perhaps that would also encourage more people to co-operate in future, given that we have experience of times past when some did not, and we now have a signal that fewer would in future.

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New clause 3 provides for whatever work goes on in the future in relation to the past; it is not prescribing what work should go on. It states that, whatever different channels are used to review and report on the past, it would be right and proper for this House, year on year, to receive an annual report that reflects the work that has gone on and for that report to be accompanied by a statement by the Secretary of State that refers to whether there is independent legal advice to show that all that work is compliant with article 2 of the European convention on human rights and addresses other salient matters.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): While I understand the merit of what the hon. Gentleman is proposing, is there not a huge danger of such a process creating a free-for-all for lawyers, with ultimately only lawyers benefiting from it?

Mark Durkan: No, there would be no free-for-all for lawyers in my proposal, because it would not add any new form of investigation relating to the past. The new clause basically says that whatever different strands are dealing with complaints about the past, whether it be the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains, the HET or any successor body, the police ombudsman, or any other inquiries or panels—and whatever their work is—this House would receive an annual report showing what had been done in that year. It would also address article 2 compliance, because that is a serious issue that has arisen in relation to the HET, and other matters.

One issue the annual report could address is whether the reports of that year show new findings and put new light on events that were previously the subject of very different accounts in Parliament. We know that Ministers reported very differently to Parliament about a lot of these events, compared with the evidence now available from HET reports and Government papers that have emerged from the archives, thanks to the work of the Pat Finucane Centre and others. The annual report, with the statement from the Secretary of State, could be a parliamentary point of record for any apologies that have been issued by anybody in Government, and not only the British Government. Any apology by any public body or any Government in respect of findings or reports would be recorded, rather than being left as though it is just a matter of private correspondence between a victim’s family and a Government Department, which is the Government’s current position. The Government say that if they issue an apology on the back of something in an HET report or anything else, they do not see it as being up to them to record it or to acknowledge it in Parliament in any way. If the Government are iffy about doing that in every single instance, an annual report that reflected on work on the past and responses to it would provide a way for them to do it.

It would be very important for this House, as its encouragement to the parties in the Haass talks, to say, “Yes, we know that on the issue of the past there is a huge responsibility on the parties to come to an agreement and an understanding on how better to deal with it. More honestly addressing the serious events of Northern Ireland’s past is not the job of the Northern Ireland parties alone; there is a serious and particular role for

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the British Government and for this House, which held Northern Ireland under direct rule for so many years and heard so many accounts and versions of events that may now have to be addressed differently in the light of what reports find.”

Lady Hermon: Does the hon. Gentleman recognise that what he is proposing smacks entirely of a one-sided report, account and interpretation of the past? The vast majority of murders throughout the 30 years of mayhem in Northern Ireland were committed by the IRA. Who, exactly, is going to stand in this House and apologise for the murder by the IRA of innocent victims in their hundreds?

Mark Durkan: Unfortunately, I do not know who will do that. If families have received apologies from the British Government or the Ministry of Defence, there is no reason why they should not be recorded in this House. Remember, many people lost loved ones and saw those deaths misreported and mis-accounted for in this House and in other places, and that is one reason why we need to reflect that. If apologies have been given in response to any reports on or inquiries into the past—whether the HET, the ombudsman or any of the other channels provided for on a non-pre-emptive basis in the new clause—there is no reason why they should not be properly recorded.

6 pm

That would add to the indictment of the IRA, which has either not apologised or has offered mealy-mouthed, generic apologies. Those who speak to those apologies on behalf of the IRA still try to have the rest of us receive them under the pretence that the IRA campaign was somehow a clean campaign compared with the loyalist death squads, or under the pretence that the IRA only targeted people in uniform in the heat of battle or direct confrontation. The IRA killed many people by murdering them down lonely lanes, by shooting them in the back, by shooting them as they came out of their workplace and by shooting them as they came from their place of worship. It would then say that there was nothing sectarian in its campaign. Apparently, the loyalist campaign and collusion by members of the security forces was sectarian, but the IRA campaign was meant to be clean and sectarian-free. We know, and not just from IRA victims, that that is simply not so, and we need to have that spelled out in wider narrative accounts. New clause 3 aims to ensure that that can happen, and that we are not denied the means to draw together that wider narrative based on other reports that might emerge in relation to investigations of particular cases or events.

Ian Paisley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generosity in giving way so often. He will be aware of the phrase, “Victors write history.” Is he not in danger of handing the historiography of the troubles to a group that he would not even agree with?

Mark Durkan: No. The new clause is aimed precisely at preventing that. In the absence of anything wider, people are getting away with their own gable wall histories. They are getting away with their own pretences about the nefarious character of violence during the troubles being attached to one side and not the other. Equally, we still sometimes get the nonsense from some spokes- persons within sections of Unionism that the loyalist

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campaign existed only as a response to republican violence, and that it needs to be understood in that context. As far as I am concerned, all the violence was wrong. None of it could be justified, and none of it could be justified by the violence or excesses of anybody else. What the IRA did, did not justify what the loyalists did. What the loyalists or security forces did, did not justify what the IRA did either.

It is important that we are able to bring those sorts of narratives out. If reports are available from the various mechanisms to deal with the past, they should be sourced and reported on in the way I talked about—on a class basis, which can straddle a number of years and localities, as under new clause 1—or through future annual reports to this House. Such reports would provide an assurance that the past is being dealt with by due standards and is receiving a due response from those in Government and in other public bodies who should be responding to it. I make no pretence to claim that either of the new clauses would directly burden paramilitary organisations with compliance with giving evidence or the truth. However, the new clauses would be a lot better at addressing the truth and being open to all dimensions of Northern Ireland’s difficult past than some other partial proposals.

I remind hon. Members that back in 2005, this House saw what was probably the worst piece of proposed legislation: the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill. It attempted to set up an entirely secret tribunal whereby people could go in, unbeknownst to the relevant victims, and claim complete indemnity and immunity from anything in the past. Not only would the issuing of certificates have been secret; the then Government proposed a clause through which an added seal of secrecy could have been imposed by the Secretary of State. The only person who could have gone to prison in connection with any crime committed in the past would have been a relative or a reporter who reported or alleged that somebody had benefited from a certificate relating to their particular victimisation. Potentially, only the victims, or people who were reporting in sympathy with the victims, could have ended up in jail—not anybody else.

I do not pretend that the two new clauses are perfect, and nor are they complete. I do not want to pre-empt what might come out of the Haass process, but they are offered as honest contributions, recognising that more could be done with what is already being done in relation to the past. Whatever happens with Haass, this House has a continuing responsibility to address the past and to acknowledge its responsibilities during that past.

Mr Dodds: I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). New clause 1 is new in the sense that it is a proposal that has come before us at relatively late notice. I am not being unkind to the hon. Gentleman—he tabled the new clauses properly in the context of the Bill—but this proposal has not received much consultation or discussion, or indeed any elucidation heretofore in any forum of which I am aware. It is certainly worthy of consideration and debate, but I am not sure whether we want to take it on board and include it in the Bill today.

Mark Durkan: I should remind the right hon. Gentleman that in Committee I proposed a shorter version of new clause 1 that focused entirely on the HET. By sheer

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coincidence, it rhymed with a significant article in the

Belfast Telegraph

that week, which pointed out that nothing joins up the work of the HET in individual cases and that something needed to do so.

Mr Dodds: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for explaining that, and I understand that. It is indicative that this came to him only relatively recently and prompted him to table the new clause. There are a lot of ideas out there, many conflicting, in relation to the past. There are many good ideas coming from many different sources, which is one reason the Haass process is important—he will be taking all of them on board. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will put forward this idea as part of that process. It would be somewhat at odds with the Haass process if we were to pass new clause 1 and new clause 3, because it would seem that the House was legislating in advance of any agreement or full-scale negotiations. It is another contribution and the proper way forward might be to feed it into the Haass process and to seek other people’s views on it. I am not sure whether it is right to push it in the House today.

Naomi Long: I see this as a constructive proposal, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is the potential for it to become another partial solution that addresses part of the past, and is therefore not the comprehensive solution we seek?

Mr Dodds: I will deal with the point about partiality and a holistic approach in a moment, but I want to make some points about new clause 1, having had a reasonably cursory look at the details and having listened to the hon. Member for Foyle.

On the proposal for the Secretary of State to

“appoint a person or persons to prepare an analysis of findings, issues, patterns or lessons”,

it seems to me that one man’s analysis is another man’s prejudiced point of view that comes with political baggage. I can see all sorts of difficulties in finding someone or some people who would be acceptable right across the board, whom everybody would say was fair, and whom people would trust enough to permit them to do the analysis and be broadly content with whatever they came up with. I think that is a recipe for further contention and arguments about the past. Even very detailed judicial and other investigations over many years, costing lots of money, have not drawn a line under anything for the relatives, and certainly have not done so for the public. One wonders how far the proposal would take us and what its purpose is, because it might provoke more hurt on behalf of others, or more contention, strife and difficulties.

My other point, which has just been mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long), is about the problem of partiality. I asked the hon. Member for Foyle about the list of reports from which an analysis or a narrative might be drawn, and he kindly said that the “other new mechanisms” under subsection (3)(f) of new clause 1 might include what comes out of Haass, a de Silva-type review of archives or investigations in other jurisdictions. However, if those are added to reports from the other bodies mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (e), we would have a list of official investigations that will inevitably and invariably result—this is one problem of current investigations into the past—in a

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preponderance of evidence coming out, issues arising or events being investigated that involve members of the security forces. That is because members of the security forces and the authorities keep records, which are the means through which such matters can be investigated.

In that list of reports, I fail to see any real analysis or narrative that would include any great in-depth investigation of any paramilitary murders, whether loyalist or republican. That is just the reality of all reports that we have seen up to now. It is one reason we hear reasonable people on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland say time and again, and I have a lot of sympathy with the view: “All this concentration on the past is one-sided and is designed to rewrite history, because all we see is a massive concentration on the 10% of deaths”—every death is regrettable, so I make no issue about the sorrow of the relatives of those killed—“in which members of the security forces were involved.”

That fact has to be remembered. I want to put on the record the fact that 3,530 deaths are attributable to the troubles, euphemistically called, that Northern Ireland went through. Even to state that figure brings home to us the terrible tragedy and devastation inflicted on Northern Ireland over the years: more than 3,500 deaths, with many hundreds of deaths in some years. Some 297 of those deaths involved the Army and low hundreds involved members of the police, but more than 1,700 were the responsibility of the Provisional IRA. We do not, however, see a proportional concentration by the press and the media or by investigations and anything else into that category of deaths. There were also 500, 600 or 700 deaths at the hands of loyalist paramilitaries, which is equally abhorrent and wrong. The vast majority of deaths in Northern Ireland were the responsibility of illegal paramilitary organisations. Where is the balance in the hon. Gentleman’s proposal, and where will the concentration be that can lead to closure for people who have suffered from the deaths that occurred at the hands of the Provisional IRA and others?

6.15 pm

Jim Shannon: There are many such examples in Northern Ireland, but a prime one would be in Castlederg. For the people of Castlederg, a good example is that 28 out of the 29 murders are unsolved murders by the Provisional IRA.

Mr Dodds: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Castlederg was very much in the news this summer. We all need to be very sensitive in dealing with the past, but a party whose Members do not take their seats in this House, Sinn Fein, organised a celebratory parade through Castlederg, at which the speaker was Gerry Kelly, a leading Sinn Fein Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. That was seen as deeply hurtful by relatives who lost loved ones in Castlederg.

Yet we are lectured about the need to move forward. We do need to move forward in Northern Ireland, but everybody needs to move forward. Republicans and Sinn Fein—and, indeed, loyalists—cannot have it both ways: they cannot say that they are willing to move forward, but then eulogise the terrorist activities in which they engaged in the past. They cannot make a false distinction between the sordid activities of so-called

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dissidents today, which they say are intolerable and unacceptable, and exactly the same behaviour 30, 20 or 10 years ago, which they say was perfectly acceptable because it was by the Provisional IRA. It was all unacceptable and totally needless: it was all about inflicting pain and suffering on innocent people.

I understand what the hon. Member for Foyle is seeking to do through new clause 3, but I have concerns about the overall impression left by laying reports before Parliament. Paragraphs (c) and (d) of subsection (4) mention

“apologies that have been given by any Government or public body”.

The only reference to apologies is therefore in relation to Governments or public bodies. I understand what the hon. Gentleman has said, but that points up the difficulty here, because the clear impression that would go out is that nobody is laying reports of apologies for the 1,700 deaths by the Provisional IRA and the hundreds by loyalist paramilitaries. They would not get the same kind of attention or concentration. That issue is very live and raw in Northern Ireland today, and it needs to be addressed.

The proposals therefore have some merits in some respects, but they are flawed for the reasons that I have set out. They should be fed into the Haass process, but the House should not take them forward tonight.

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): I rise to make a short contribution in support of the new clauses tabled by me and my hon. Friends the Members for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell).

We want to bring some clarity to the issue of victims and the past. There are various issues that relate to the troubles, as they are euphemistically called, which took place over 30-odd years in Northern Ireland and during which many people right across the community lost their lives. The SDLP wants to underscore the fact that murder was wrong and that those who perpetrated it were wrong to do so and were culpable in doing so. There are issues with the past that relate to victims, flags and emblems. All those matters are rightly being addressed by Richard Haass in the current talks process, which is due to be completed by the end of December. We look forward to those findings.

It is opportune that my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle has tabled the new clauses and particularly new clause 1, which relates to patterns and lessons from reports on aspects of the past. One of the critical cases happened in my constituency. I do not highlight it because six men were murdered by loyalists, but simply to illustrate a point. A police inquiry was carried out by the RUC in which the families were not really involved. They were never really asked for their opinions or asked about what happened on that night. They were always searching for the truth. There was a police ombudsman’s report into the police investigation. Both were found wanting. The police ombudsman’s report was contested because it suggested that what happened was tantamount to collusion, but it did not say that.

That report required there to be a further police investigation, which is still ongoing. The police are fact checking what they have put in their voluminous report. The senior police officers who have undertaken the investigation have told me that forensics show

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that some of the weapons that were used on the night of 18 June 1994 were used in other incidents in which people were killed at around the same time, which was a couple of months before both ceasefires were announced. They cannot provide their comprehensive report into Loughinisland because it relates directly to other deaths, murders, bombings and incidents.

Naomi Long: The hon. Lady touches on a point that I had intended to raise with the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan). At the end of an Historical Enquiries Team review of a case, it is not necessarily a closed case, but could still be an open case in which new information could lead to prosecution. Is there a risk that publishing detailed reports that imply patterns could prejudice the outcome of future prosecutions? Would that not have to be carefully managed?

Ms Ritchie: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. I do not necessarily disagree with her, but I will proceed with the point I am making.

Senior police officers have highlighted the fact that various weapons that were used in the Loughinisland incident were probably used in other incidents. That has precipitated further analysis and fact checking to establish who or what group may have perpetrated that dastardly crime. I am sure that there are patterns of activity in other incidents throughout the 35 years.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Am I right that the hon. Lady suggested that in 1994, the Royal Ulster Constabulary did not discuss what had happened with the victim’s family, or did I mishear? I would be surprised if that had happened.

Ms Ritchie: The RUC did not discuss the case adequately and left all six families, some of whom are directly related to me, feeling very unfulfilled. I think that that would be the best way of describing it. If the matter had been adequately addressed at the time and prosecutions had been forthcoming, we might not be in the place we are in now.

To return to new clause 1, there is a clear need for the Secretary of State to

“appoint a person or persons to prepare an analysis of findings, issues, patterns or lessons”.

In the case that I am describing, the police have said that there are patterns and lessons. The best way to deal with such matters is for somebody to document them. I believe that that is true right across the board and right across the community. I am sure that there are many similar incidents.

Given that the Minister was formerly at the Ministry of Defence, perhaps he could provide some elucidation on the Ministry of Defence files that have been held in Derbyshire and which the Historical Enquiries Team alleges it was not aware of until June or July of this year. The contents of those files could have been helpful in bringing prosecutions and in providing elucidation.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Andrew Robathan): I am afraid that I have no knowledge of that and that I now have no responsibility for it either.

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Ms Ritchie: I thank the Minister for his helpful intervention. I have received some parliamentary answers on this issue, so it is on the record. However, I am still not satisfied because I know that those files are available. I simply want to know why they were not pursued, given that they might have been helpful in bringing prosecutions. Perhaps he could pursue that with Ministers in the MOD.

In summary, the new clause is eminently sensible at this time. It could inform the debate.

Lady Hermon: I wonder whether the hon. Lady will take this opportunity to address a valid point that was made by the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds). How do she and her colleagues propose that the Secretary of State would appoint the person or persons who would prepare such an analysis? What criteria would be used? Would it be done by a man or a woman? Would the person be an international figure? Who do she and her colleagues have in mind?

Ms Ritchie: We would be happy to provide some information on that. It could be an individual, a range of individuals or a range of bodies.

Suffice it to say that we believe that this device is required in order to inform because patterns have emerged in various cases, such as in the weapons that were used, that suggest who might have been involved in carrying out murders. It is good to learn those lessons and to have them documented. The compendium of work by Anne Cadwallader, which was published several weeks ago, suggests that such a device is urgently required.

Dr McCrea: I have listened with interest to the speeches that have been made. New clause 1, which was proposed by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), states:

“The Secretary of State may appoint a person or persons to prepare an analysis of findings, issues, patterns or lessons from various reports in particular events of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.”

Let us be honest in saying that the past is a difficult subject. It is rightly called “Northern Ireland’s troubled past”.

6.30 pm

If we are to ask someone

“to prepare an analysis of findings, issues, patterns or lessons from various reports”,

these reports must already have been issued, but the HET reports concern only a small number of those who suffered. Why, then, should we ask someone to collate those reports and not take into account all the families? The murder of any individual is very personal and the pain very real, and the death of any loved one is as important as any on whom a report has been issued. I genuinely believe, therefore, that a collation of these reports would be skewed, given that only a small percentage of cases have been reported on.

We and many families are searching for the truth, but how will we ever get it? It seems only to come from one side. We have the records of the Army and others, but what about the vast majority of murders committed in Northern Ireland by members of paramilitary organisations on which there are no records? What about the truth for those families? I have said it before and will say it again: we have Gerry Adams standing up and saying, “I’ve never been a member of the IRA”. We know that

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is the biggest lie. And that brings me to another point. Let us not have a selective revelation of the archives. Why should we have only the Army or MOD records? The Loughinisland and other tragedies should never have happened and deserve to be unreservedly condemned, but why should we have only those files? I can assure the House that the Army also has records on McGuinness, so why are the hon. Members for Foyle and for South Down (Ms Ritchie) not asking for the archives on Martin McGuinness or Gerry Adams? The Army has those records. I know that one of the files disappeared, but it has those records on the “Fisherman”. The files are there on these people.

Surely we do not have to wait for the revelation of the Boston tapes; let us have the records now. If we want the Army and MOD files, let us be open and honest about all these files. My loved ones and the loved ones of other innocent victims of Northern Ireland’s troubled past equally desire truth and justice, but they cannot see those records or know who is responsible. To this day, the police have not talked to us about our loved ones. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), who has left, was surprised that the police had not gone to see the families of Loughinisland, but the family of Robert and Rachel did not get many visits either telling them how their loved ones were brutally done to death one night as they travelled along the road. They were not, and never had been, members of the security forces. If we want the archives opened, therefore, let us have them completely opened, let us have the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not simply the MOD files on soldiers or other members of the security forces. I have heard it peddled so often, but I have not heard those people saying, “Let’s have the files on the likes of McGuinness. Let’s have them opened and on the table as well.” That has never been mentioned. If we really want the truth, we must have those files. If they are to be opened—if that is what is wanted—let us not cherry-pick; let us have the whole truth.

I lived in a community where many members of the security forces were brutally murdered. I do not know about proof of collusion, but I know that the vast majority of police officers, whether in the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, and members of the Army in Northern Ireland served with distinction and great bravery in the face of a merciless foe. Let us never forget their bravery every time they donned their uniform or went out, even with their children. I think of a young banker and part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment in Magherafelt who went out one morning to get his car from the garage to take his child to school and was blown to bits. Let us not forget the sacrifice. This is the troubled past. All these archives need to be opened.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Even with a commitment to opening up all the files, would not most of them show only what the security forces did, because there are not the files on what the terrorists did? Indeed, many of them, including the current Sinn Fein president, deny ever having been involved in terrorism.

Dr McCrea: I accept that many of the atrocities carried out by members of the IRA are not in the files, but there are files on McGuinness and Adams, and it is about time they were brought out, if we are to have this openness we talk about.

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The apologies, too, are selective. We have had apologies in the House, but they have been selective. Where was the Government’s apology to the people of Teebane? People might say, “Well, the Government didn’t let it happen”, but yes they did. Successive Governments of this United Kingdom allowed the Provisional IRA to carry out its atrocities. They could have stopped it on many occasions, but what did they do? They wined and dined its members and took them into the places of power, instead of bringing them to justice. If we are to have apologies, therefore, I do not want selective apologies; I want apologies to the families of La Mon, Teebane, Castlederg. I represented that constituency when those people were killed, and I would take Members to visit a little graveyard outside the town of Castlederg— 30 mph speed limit—because proportionally more members of the security forces lie there than in any other part of this United Kingdom. But who really cares? They were just members of the RUC and UDR along the border. They were just ordinary families.

Ian Paisley: Does my hon. Friend agree that we have a pup’s chance of getting an apology from the Provisional IRA? The MLA for Belfast North, Mr Gerry Kelly, shot a man in the face when escaping from Her Majesty’s prison Maze, but not only does he deny it, he has now authored a book in which he makes no apology and shows no shame for organising an escape from the prison. What are the chances of ever getting an apology from that type of scurrilous individual?

Dr McCrea: One thing about that man from north Belfast: he knows who shot that prison officer and so he should be making a revelation.

I heard more about the Glenanne gang, but let us be quite clear. If we are going to have the record of the troubled past and if we want to appoint a person to prepare an analysis of the findings, issues, patterns and lessons from previous reports, there are an awful lot of gangs that were around in Northern Ireland, and I can assure hon. Members that they brought a lot of grief to a lot of families and homes whose lives will never, ever be put together again. We had 30 years of terrorism— 30 years of appeasement by those in authority.

Jim Shannon: I thank my hon. Friend for the impassioned speech he is making on behalf of us all inside and outside this House. He talks about the contribution of the security forces. When four UDR men were killed in Ballydugan outside Downpatrick, 12 people were brought in for questioning, yet none was made accountable for that crime. I knew three of those four men who gave their lives for the Province—as, indeed, did many others. That is an example of sacrifice and no accountability for those who committed the crime.

Dr McCrea: We could tell that story over and over again; all I am saying is that I do not want a partial telling of the story. When it comes to the story of the tragedy of the 30 years of trouble in Northern Ireland, I am certainly not willing to allow the provos or the Shinners to rewrite the history. I would say this to the hon. Member for Foyle: remember, there is no excuse for any paramilitary act or for taking the life of another person. Let us remember that the Provisional IRA started a campaign of murder against an innocent, law-abiding people. The only sin we were guilty of was that we wanted to be British. We wanted to remain a

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part of this United Kingdom, and the only good thing—on which I will finish—is this. Thank God we won, because we are still British and the Union flag is still flying—I trust it will be brought back for every other building, as well as those on which it is flying now. Thank God they did not beat us, they did not beat the ordinary people of the Province and we are still a part of this United Kingdom.

Mr Ivan Lewis (Bury South) (Lab): It is good to have this rare opportunity to debate Northern Ireland matters on the Floor of the House. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the right hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr Robathan) to his role as Minister of State and wish him well on behalf of all Members. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is unable to be here, but I am sure she has important matters to deal with that require her attendance elsewhere.

I have said that we will work in a bipartisan way with the Government where we agree. For the most part, the proposals in the Bill are common sense and consistent with devolutionary principles, which is why they have our support. Our only disappointment is that they are relatively minor matters when considering the scale of the challenges facing Northern Ireland, whether about the past or building a shared future.

Before turning to specific elements of the Bill, I would like to use this first parliamentary opportunity to pay tribute to Eddie McGrady, who sadly passed away last week. He was a tireless campaigner for social justice and peace and was held in high regard by many Members in all parts of this House. Our thoughts and prayers are with Eddie McGrady’s family and friends at this difficult time.

I would also like to take this opportunity to condemn in the strongest possible terms the petrol bomb attack on the Alliance party office in east Belfast over the weekend.

Dr McCrea: I had the privilege of serving with Eddie McGrady in this House and I concur wholeheartedly with that tribute. Indeed, I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to him as a gentleman of integrity and distinction.

Mr Lewis: That is very generous of the hon. Gentleman. Eddie McGrady earned tremendous respect, not only in all parts of this House, but across the divides in Northern Ireland. He genuinely believed in peace and condemned the use of violence at every opportunity. Perhaps most of all, he will be remembered for being a great fighter for social justice and fairness.

Ms Ritchie: I thank my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) for their tributes. As the successor to Mr McGrady in South Down, I thank them both for their kind remarks, which I will pass on to all our colleagues but most of all to his family, who are grieving. My predecessor was a person of certain distinction and certain political intellect, and somebody whose political representation stretched right across the community.

6.45 pm

Mr Lewis: I agree with the hon. Lady. I know from my attendance at the SDLP conference only a couple of weeks ago of the high affection and respect in which

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Eddie McGrady was held by the party, too. He will be a great loss to all who knew him.

Lady Hermon: I would not like this opportunity to pass without saying that when I was first elected in 2001, I was then an Ulster Unionist, and Eddie McGrady was a marvellous friend. At the end of a lengthy debate, he and his then colleague Seamus Mallon—both brilliant parliamentarians and very fine gentlemen indeed—would often ask me to join them for supper. It was a spontaneous act of kindness, which was the mark of the man. At Eddie McGrady’s requiem mass in Downpatrick on Thursday, there really was standing room only, which was a tribute from right across the board and the political spectrum in Northern Ireland. We wanted to pay tribute, because rarely do we see that kind of parliamentarian and politician in Northern Ireland. He was of the old school and a gentleman in every sense.

Mr Lewis: I hope that the sincere words that have been uttered in all parts of the House will be some comfort to Eddie McGrady’s family and friends at this difficult time. Indeed, perhaps we can ensure that those words are relayed to them from this House.

If I may make some progress, let me again condemn in the strongest possible terms the petrol bomb attack on the Alliance party office in east Belfast over the weekend. All Members of this House will want to express their support and concern for the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long), the Alliance MLAs and their staff. A first principle of any democracy is that elected representatives should be able to speak and vote free of intimidation or the fear of violence. That is why, irrespective of political differences, we should take every opportunity to express our solidarity with the hon. Lady, who frankly has suffered intolerable attacks in recent times. It is not good enough for politicians, either in Westminster or Stormont, to remain silent in the face of such an affront to democracy. They should turn up the volume in making it clear that such intimidation and violence are entirely unacceptable and can never be justified. It is also essential that the Police Service of Northern Ireland continues to do all in its power to prevent such attacks and bring those responsible to justice.

Naomi Long: I thank the hon. Gentleman and, in her absence, the Secretary of State for contacting me over the weekend about the events that took place, as well as the Deputy Prime Minister for phoning today. I pay tribute to the police officers who attended the scene on the evening. Without their swift response and the actions they took, the situation could have been much more serious. As it is, the damage to the property was rather minimal. However, nothing that happens at that office will deflect me from doing the job that I was elected to do here on behalf of the people of my constituency.

Mr Lewis: The hon. Lady’s courage is truly inspirational. She speaks up without fear or favour. Whether Members agree with her or not, the fact that she shows that courage should be an inspiration to all of us who have the privilege of participating in the political process.

Over the past month I have had the privilege of visiting Northern Ireland twice and have been fortunate enough to meet business people, civil society groups, athletic

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associations and representatives of inter-governmental bodies, as well as religious and political leaders. It was a privilege to attend the Ulster Unionist party conference in Belfast and the SDLP conference in Armagh. I look forward to attending the DUP conference this coming weekend and to paying a further visit before Christmas to Stormont and the UK’s city of culture, Derry/Londonderry. I have already learnt that Northern Ireland is an amazing place, home to people of tremendous courage and aspiration—a place that has been transformed over the past two decades by the peace process. Despite that remarkable progress, we know that significant challenges remain on security, the economy, building a shared future and, crucially in the context of new clauses 1 and 3, dealing with the past.

I have been particularly moved—and, I should say, troubled—by my meetings with the families of victims of violence. It is clear to me that not only their search for truth and justice, but the scale and depth of the trauma that continues to afflict so many people and communities in Northern Ireland is not sufficiently understood or recognised by outsiders. That is one major reason why the Haass talks are so crucial. As I promised during the recent DUP Opposition day debate on the past, I will make a formal submission on behalf of my party to Ambassador Haass in the next few days, and that submission will be put in the public domain.

Turning to the two new clauses I mentioned and, briefly, to other elements of the Bill, our position on political donations has been clear both when we were in government and now we are in opposition. We support greater transparency on political donations in Northern Ireland and it is a testimony to the progress made by all political parties that we are able to move towards this reality.

I share the view of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson), who has well made the point in the past that Northern Ireland politicians, serving both at Stormont and at Westminster, made an important contribution to the peace process. However, we agree that now is the time to end the practice of double-jobbing. It is right that this provision applies both to the Assembly and to the Dáil Éireann to maintain parity. As suggested by DUP Members, there is also a valid case for reducing the number of members of the Legislative Assembly, and we believe that this should be done on equal basis across constituencies, with a continued coupling with Westminster constituencies.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I appreciate that the hon. Member has recently taken up his post. He has now made a few general remarks, but I would prefer it if he would come on to deal with the new clauses. Perhaps he was about to do so as I interrupted him.

Mr Lewis: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have a long track record of obeying your instructions in a variety of contexts, and shall do so again.

Dealing specifically with new clause 3, I ask the Minister to look sympathetically at the proposal that the Secretary of State should provide an annual report to the House on the work of the various organisations that deal with the past. As the current Haass talks

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highlight, dealing with the past in a serious and meaningful way is essential if the people of Northern Ireland are to make progress on building a shared future. While it is right that dealing with any processes relating to the past are led by the Northern Ireland Executive, there must be full and consistent engagement by the UK and Republic of Ireland Governments both because of their central role in the troubles and because likely solutions will require their active participation and their legislative and financial support.

Although we broadly support the Bill, as I said at the beginning of my contribution, it is somewhat disappointing in its lack of ambition. It fails to do anything that will support economic growth or create opportunities for young people, which in my view are the greatest challenges Northern Ireland faces. While those issues are primarily the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive, the UK Government have a key role to play.

As the Minister will be aware, unemployment in Northern Ireland remains above the UK average, with almost one in four young people out of work. Too many communities are struggling with the corrosive cycle of poor educational attainment, worklessness and inter-generational deprivation. That is on top of a cost of living crisis in which prices are rising and wages are falling.

In conclusion, the Bill is necessary and, broadly speaking, deserves the support of the House. However, there are far bigger issues facing Northern Ireland that require the full engagement of the Government working with the Irish Government to support the Northern Ireland Executive. I hope this Government will start to show the leadership that is so essential at this crucial time for peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

Lady Hermon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way to me a second time. Before he concludes, would he address some of the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) for whom, I repeat, I have enormous regard, even though I have not agreed with half of what he has said this evening? While the hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis) is considering new clauses 1 to 3, would he particularly address the hon. Gentleman’s criticisms of the Historical Enquiries Team?

Mr Lewis: At Madam Deputy Speaker’s urging, I was bringing my remarks to a conclusion, but I will address the specific point that the hon. Lady mentions. We will deal with the issue in our response to Ambassador Haass, which the hon. Lady asked me to put in the public domain; we shall do so in the next few days. My view is that, on the whole and in many cases, the work of the Historical Enquiries Team has been effective and has delivered some level of justice to victims. I think we should applaud that and draw attention to it at every opportunity. However, some serious and legitimate concerns have been raised about elements of the HET’s work, which must be seriously considered. There are also questions about the criteria applied to the investigations, the independence of the HET, its capacity to do its job, and the HET’s ability to carry out its functions given the limited resources available to the PSNI.

Haass therefore provides an important opportunity not only to review and recognise the successes of the HET, but to reflect in the context of any new framework that is developed on some of the weaknesses and to try

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to put them right. We need a balanced and a measured approach to the HET. In speaking to victims, it has brought truth to a number of them—there is no question about that—but we know that independent evaluation has raised some serious and legitimate concerns. In the role that Ambassador Haass is fulfilling in the all-party talks, it is very important to get the balance right. Options would include a reformed HET or a replacement body to build on the successes of the HET, but there must be some structure to deliver truth and justice for the victims of violence in Northern Ireland. We need a balanced and sensible view of the HET’s successes, reform of the HET and of any future replacement body.

Sammy Wilson: Despite the hurt they have experienced, many people in Northern Ireland wish to put that hurt behind them. Often without invitation from the people concerned, the HET reopened the sores and the wounds. Indeed, rather than help the situation, it has made it worse for those people. We need to give careful consideration to simply saying that we need another body to replicate what the HET did, without any reference to the wishes of the victims.

Mr Lewis: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The first and overriding principle in any discussion about truth and justice has to be putting the victims centre stage. We know that victims have very different needs and very different wants. Some victims make it clear that they simply want truth. Others want justice, and others simply want to get on with their lives. Any process must therefore appropriately reflect the fact that we must start from the perspective of the needs and wants of victims. It is incredibly difficult to get that right, because there are such competing and different views of what people want, but the overriding principle has to be the needs of victims—not lumped together in a collective way, because the needs of every individual victim, treated sensitively wherever possible, must take centre stage.

Having spoken to victims, I still believe that there remain so many outstanding cases for which we have neither truth nor justice, but if we were to close down the process at this stage, we would not be doing right by the families and relatives of the victims of violence in Northern Ireland. The question is how to reconcile all those competing pressures and extremely difficult challenges and come up with a system that enjoys maximum support in all communities in Northern Ireland. I certainly think there is a strong case for the importance of truth recovery, which has been mentioned in the past, and there is still a lot of work to be done around it. That, however, cannot be an alternative to justice for many people. It is vital to get the balance right.

7 pm

This is a crucial time for peace and stability in Northern Ireland, and let me say to the new Minister in particular that it is a particularly important time for the Government to demonstrate the leadership that is necessary there. It is not a time for disengagement on the part of the United Kingdom Government; it is incredibly important at this stage for them to work in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Ireland.

I believe that new clauses 1 and 3 have a great deal of merit. However, I also believe that it would be wrong to prejudge the Haass process or to straitjacket the ambassador

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at this stage, and if the House were forced to express a view on what is proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), that would be the impact of tonight’s proceedings. I therefore urge my hon. Friend not to press the motion to a Division at this stage, but rather to see the points that he has made in his new clauses as a vital contribution to the debate, and a vital submission to the all-party talks.

Mr Robathan: Let me first repeat an apology that I am sure you have already received, Madam Deputy Speaker, from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is currently on ministerial duty in the United States of America. Let me also echo the condolences and sympathy that have been expressed for the family of Eddie McGrady. I knew him a little, and took part in debates with him. I would say of him, overall, that he was a particularly decent man. I may have disagreed with him on various issues, but he certainly stood up for his constituents, and stood up for what he believed in in Ireland. He was both decent and courteous. I wish that we could say that about every Member of Parliament, but I am not sure that people would.

Let me also say that I deplore the petrol bomb attack on the constituency offices of the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long), who represents the Alliance party. As others have said, such acts have no place in the democratic process. This was a very worrying incident, and I hope very much that we shall not see more such incidents.

I used to take a great deal of interest in Northern Ireland affairs, but this is the first time that I have spoken in a Northern Ireland debate for eight years. I have been otherwise detained elsewhere—and I think that that is more or less the right description. I believe that I made my last speech about Northern Ireland during a debate on what the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) described in his opening speech as one of the worst pieces of legislation ever brought before the House, namely the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill. I dug out my speech the other day, and I stand by every word of it. The Bill was indeed a disgraceful piece of legislation, and—as a result of pressure from all sides—it was rightly dropped by the last Administration.

I understand that the issues raised by new clauses 1 and 3 were considered in Committee, and that the hon. Member for Foyle initiated those discussions as well. I appreciate that his party would like more to be done to address legacy issues, and I sympathise with that to a large extent. Like him and, I think, all Members of Parliament, we want to see a way forward that commands the support of all parts of the community and all parties in Northern Ireland, but it was not evident from the interventions on his speech that there was support for this particular way forward.

Much of the responsibility for dealing with legacy issues is now devolved, and it is right for us to allow the local parties—which are, of course, represented here—to work towards an agreement on dealing with the past. I welcome the initiative that is being taken by the main local political parties in Northern Ireland to address the issue of dealing with the past through the all-party group chaired by Richard Haass. We have heard a certain amount about that today, and I agree with the hon. Member for Bury South (Mr Lewis) that we must not pre-empt, or in any way undermine, what is being

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done by Richard Haass. The Government support the efforts that are being made, and hope that progress can be made. As a House and as a nation, we should await the outcome of the talks, and Dr Haass’s report.

A great deal has been said about the Historical Enquiries Team. We should be clear about the fact that its work and the work of the police ombudsman are not the responsibilities of UK Ministers. Those bodies are accountable to the devolved institutions, and a carefully negotiated framework exists in relation to accountability of policing. There are already mechanisms for reporting on the work of the bodies that are the responsibility of the devolved Administration; creating a further mechanism is likely to incur unnecessary expense, and would also duplicate the work of other bodies.

Let me say in relation to new clause 3 that the Secretary of State already reports to Parliament by way of parliamentary questions and the Northern Ireland Office’s annual report regarding the work for which she is responsible. That does not provide for everything that the hon. Member for Foyle wants, but the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee does examine the annual report.

We cannot agree to the removal of the Secretary of State’s powers to exclude certain material from publication when it is in the interests of national security—or some other important public interest, such as the protection of life and safety—for that to be done. The Government therefore cannot support the new clauses, and, although I listened with interest to what was said by the hon. Member for Foyle, I ask him to withdraw his motion.

Mark Durkan: A number of points have been made about both new clauses, and I accept the spirit in which many of those points were made. I could readily rebut the detail, but I shall desist from doing so.

Let me take this opportunity of acknowledging the warm tributes that have been paid to Eddie McGrady, with whom I served in the House and whose election campaign I managed in 1987, when he unseated Enoch Powell. He served all his constituents, and indeed the wider community in Northern Ireland, well, and he was clearly held in high honour. He was also a man of much greater humour than his public persona may often have allowed him to express, but he was absolutely dedicated to the sanctity of life and the solidarity of community on a totally inclusive basis. The parity of esteem of which he always spoke was something that he himself clearly enjoyed across the political divide.

Important issues have been raised. I said at the outset that I did not wish to divide the House, or to do anything that could possibly be seen as pre-empting the Haass process. However, I think that the House must face up to its responsibilities in relation to the past, both now and in the future. It is in that spirit that I tabled the new clauses, and it is in that spirit that I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 2