|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I fail to see how anyone could have any objections to the amendment just moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. I believe that all Members of this House have been demandingindeed, if not, they should beexactly what this amendment demands. The noble Lord made particular reference to the return of exiles who have been exiled by the IRA and who are not allowed to return to their homeland where they were born and reared. At a meeting only last week chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, this subject caused great concern. I see no indication from the IRA, or by way of the demands that have been made, that they will allow such exiles to return.
When discussing the previous amendments, the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Privy Seal, said that you could discuss the whole Northern Ireland Bill with this set of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Rogan, made reference to the appointment of independent members to the DPPs. I meant to speak to the previous group of amendments, but I believe that it will be quite in order to mention here the appointment of independent members.
Everyone knows what "independent" means in Northern Ireland. Whatever people over here may regard as independent, people in Northern Ireland will know the identification of that so-called "independent" member, with his former colleagues, given their
I read in a recent report from Northern Ireland that there are at present somewhere in the region of 2,000 unsolved murders in the Province. The vast majority of those murders have been carried out by paramilitaries of one side or the othereither the so-called "loyalists", or the IRA. What position would the board be in when making an appointment of a so-called "independent" member when it is found that perhaps 10, 20, or 25 years ago he was guilty of a paramilitary offence right up to and including the most dangerous one; namely, the crime of murder? What happens if he is appointed to a DPP as an independent member? Are the police still carrying out inquiries into those murders? If it is then found that a person sitting as an independent member on a DPP was involved in a paramilitary crime of 10, 20, or 25 years ago, will the police pursue that conviction? Alternatively, will that person be put into the category of the OTRs who, under other legislation, will be given something approaching an amnesty?
Can the Lord Privy Seal give me and the people of Northern Ireland an assurance as regards those appointed as independent members, who have perhaps no overt connection with former paramilitarism? If it is subsequently found that such people have been involved in paramilitary activities, will they be disqualified from the DPPs? They may have given an indication that they are perhaps not involved in paramilitarism at present. However, although they have not been convicted, they may have been so involved. Would the latter affect their membership of the DPP?
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, while welcoming the valuable formula of Amendment No. 48A, I was glad to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, agreed with this amendment, which I also support. It is right and necessary that what constitutes acts of completion should be clearly defined on the face of the Bill since the texts for consideration are already implicit in it. It is difficult to see how the Government could object. Once these texts are in the Bill, implicitly they will be regarded as a commitment, just as the Weston Park agreement has been regarded as a commitment by Sinn Fein/IRA.
As things stand, the Government are, not for the first time, allowing Sinn Fein/IRA to set their own agenda, without a shadow of commitment on their part, a bare four days after the interview with Martin McGuinness reported in The Times, in which he,
How can the Government contemplate putting virtually all the texts for consideration into the legislation, even though it is suspended, after that? This is supposed to be a Bill to enable the police to function effectively, a Bill about restoring law and order. Unamended, it will be a charter for Sinn Fein/IRA to continue to behave as if they were the only arbiters of the lives of innocent people who have been unfortunate enough to cross the paramilitaries.
It will be a mockery of justice if we do not spell out what Sinn Fein/IRA must do first if they are even to return into government. The only acts that have taken place have been a long series of acts of terrorism. Would Mr McGuinness be predicting, as he has, that,
I commend the amendment to the House. It clearly sets out what must be done unconditionally by SinnFein/IRA, and what indeed I thought was expected of them by the Prime Minister and, I hope, the Taoiseach when the Belfast agreement was signed. It is utterly unacceptable that, five years on, the people are still helpless victims of the paramilitaries and that the police and the courts are virtually powerless to help.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, in my book the amendment that was withdrawn was the best of the amendments, although I must accept the advice of the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Privy Seal, that it was not very well drafted and might not have been manageable. I do not have his legal expertise. To me as a lay person the amendment seemed excellent. I am sorry that it came from the Liberal Democrats and that then they withdrew it. I am complimenting them in one way, while regretting that they did not stay with it. However, we all understand each other. I should have liked to see that amendment, of all the amendments, passed.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: If I may say so without appearing to be patronising, the Liberal Democrat motion primarily in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, had the desired effect because it obliged us to concentrate on an important issue to see whether we could accommodate all views and achieve the most appropriate outcome.
In any event, I return to my earlier theme. Acts of completion are not limited to mechanical delivery of weapons. After all, if one wanted to be deeply cynicalI am sure that none of your Lordships would wish me to fall into that category of sinone could say that decommissioning itself is not the answer. It is part of the answer, but it is not the total answer. As your Lordships have pointed out to me on many occasions, decommissioning of itself means handing over existing weapons; it does not prevent the further acquisition of weapons.
Therefore, I return to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. What we are looking to is a process that will involve individual acts, but that process and all those processes must be seen as steps to a situation that we are lucky enough to have in England and Wales, namely, democratic politics as the only acceptable form of political or quasi-political activity. Although I sympathise with the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Rogan, this is not the way to achieve the desired outcome.
The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, asked a number of detailed questions. The removal of members from office is dealt with in paragraph 7 of Schedule 3 to the 2000 Act. An independent who does not "make the necessary disclosure" can be removed. If,
I repeat what I said earlier: We are only at the preliminary stage. We are not even at the stage of empowering the Secretary of State to make the order. What we are saying is that in due time he may, on affirmative procedure, issue the commencement order. He still has to come to his political fine-tune judgment.
I recognise the sincerity of the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, but I do not recommend to your Lordships that we adopt his proposed course of action.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page