Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, in the light of last July's events on the London Underground and of the current Home Office review of police force structures, what contact and discussion is taking place between the Department for Transport and the Home Office about strengthening the links between the British Transport Police and the rest of the police service in England and Wales?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is an important point, particularly relating to issues about the capital city, about which my noble friend is well informed. He is right that changes to the structure of police forces in the United Kingdom necessitate a response to, consultation with and understanding of the role the British Transport Police plays in circumstances where we all recognise that difficulties have accrued in recent years due to the terrorist threat. I assure him that the changes to the police will also involve the fullest consultation with the British Transport Police and that all issues are adequately covered.

Northern Ireland: Street Disturbances

2.56 pm

Lord Smith of Clifton asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they have taken in response to the recent outbreaks of violence in Northern Ireland; and what steps they are taking to prevent further disturbances.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, apart from the brutal murder of Jim Gray, most of the recent violence in Northern Ireland has been related either to the feud between two of the loyalist paramilitary organisations, the UVF and the LVF, or to the Whiterock parade. The Government's direct response has been to specify the UVF, and intensive police operations against loyalist paramilitary and criminal activity are ongoing and will continue. The Government are developing a multi-stranded strategy to engage with the wider loyalist community.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure that the whole House would welcome the belated decommissioning of IRA arms. Is it not now time that the DUP, as the largest Unionist party in Northern Ireland, asserted its leadership over the loyalist paramilitary organisations and tried to discourage the encouragement that the Orange Order has given of the mayhem created by the loyalist paramilitary bodies?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is in the interests of everyone that we obtain an end to criminality and
10 Oct 2005 : Column 9
obtain peace within and across all the communities. All political parties that aspire to leadership should play an active role in that. Northern Ireland is on the verge of entering an era of adult politics, with substantial reform programmes in economic, social and other areas, and the people of Northern Ireland will be looking to their political leaders to live up to that aspiration.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, would the noble Lord like to remind us all of the fact that, unlike Sinn Fein, neither the DUP nor the UUP has ever given encouragement or sympathy to terrorists, that they have never had a terrorist arm of their political party, and nor has the Orange Order? It would be appropriate if people kept matters a little more in proportion in relation to the terrorism that has been perpetrated at the behest of Sinn Fein and not at the behest of Unionist parties.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is difficult to respond to the points made by the noble Lord, although they are valid in many respects. Later this week the Secretary of State expects to make a Statement in the other place. I have no doubt that there will be a desire to have it repeated here, with more time to explore the current situation and what happened over the Recess, when apparently substantial progress was made. I am interested in ensuring that we do what we can to take that progress forward, notwithstanding that allegations will always be made against individuals and particular parties. But we must take things forward. We do not forget the past—far from it—but I am not in a position to respond about which party supported whom, which party attacked another or which party said this, that or the other. We have had too much of that.

Baroness Blood: My Lords, I have listened carefully to what the Minister said but, first, I should like to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton. The recent riots in the streets in my area were not about the Whiterock parade; nor, indeed, were they about the Orange Order, in case anyone has that idea. It was the match that ultimately lit the rioting but that was not the reason for it. It has been known for many months that this was going to happen.

The Minister was asked what is going to happen and what is being taken forward now. My community is most anxious to hear that. I have lived in Northern Ireland all my life and I have never felt the fear that is in my community today.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, at the end of my original Answer, I said that the Government are developing a multi-stranded strategy to engage with the wider loyalist community. We need to be able to seek discussions with them across a wide range of issues. I do not think that any section of the communities in Northern Ireland should feel that they have been left behind. There is no doubt that some aspects of the Protestant working class feel that but, so far as I have been able to see in the short time that I have been there,
10 Oct 2005 : Column 10
the Protestant working class in Northern Ireland has not been represented by working-class Protestants. The fact is that those voices must be listened to.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, we certainly join in condemning without hesitation the disgraceful violence that has been perpetrated by so-called loyalists against the police in recent times. But does the Minister understand that disaffection with the political process in Northern Ireland is not confined to loyalists? It extends throughout the entire Unionist community, the overwhelming majority of whom would never dream of resorting to violence or attacking the police. What steps do the Government now intend to take to restore the confidence of the decent law-abiding majority and assure them that this process is not simply a one-way street of concessions to republicans or thugs?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, first, because we want to engage with all sections of the community, we have to ensure that engagement is not seen as a reward for violence. There is no doubt about that. There has been violence, and we want it stopped, and the security forces will take firm action in regard to criminality. As I said, engaging with the communities at all levels must not be seen as a reward for the violence that takes place; the engagement must be positive and meaningful. People must feel that they are being listened to and that they are not left behind, with the substantial changes that have occurred over the past 10 years and those that lie ahead. The consequences of some of the decisions and announcements that have been made during the summer will set in train a whole series of other changes requiring legislation and full debate in this House. During that process, it is crucial that there is as even-handed an approach as possible and that it is not a question of the language of victory or defeat but that every section of the community feels that they have been successful. That is the way forward. The idea that "we were victorious" or "we defeated them" is negative, whichever way one looks at the matter but, if everyone can feel that they are sharing part of the success of a new Northern Ireland, that must surely be the way forward.

Lord Laird: My Lords, with respect to affairs in Northern Ireland, is the noble Lord aware of the widespread public acclaim and support for recent anti-racketeering raids in both Manchester and Dundalk? Will he confirm that much of the information for the raid came from a raid on premises owned by a Mr Phil Flynn and, in particular, a notebook that contained detailed financial information of senior people in Irish society, including those who support Sinn Fein/IRA? Would the Minister have in mind that Mr Flynn was,
10 Oct 2005 : Column 11
at that stage, the chairman of the Bank of Scotland and a senior adviser to Sinn Fein/IRA and in an extremely good position to know and gather such information?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on that question.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that normal policing and prosecutions against illegal vigilantes of whatever colour will continue in this interim period?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, absolutely and without qualification. In recent months—these figures change daily—following the activities and violence in the summer, there were 136 searches; 52 arrests were made and 16 people were charged, three of them with attempted murder. In the aftermath of the Whiterock riots, the police made 82 arrests. A lot of violence took place at that time. Some 115 shots were fired at the police and 81 police were injured. More than 100 vehicles were hijacked.

The police responded in a proportionate way. They fired only six live rounds, but 216 baton rounds were used because they are less damaging.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page