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First, I wish to be clear on the direction, which does indeed remove Sinn Fein's entitlement to funding under the financial assistance for political parties scheme. That is the funding that is available to parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the purpose of the direction is to reflect the removal of the funds available in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Despite many of the comments made by hon. Members, there is a general welcome for the direction. I welcome the support of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), who I know has had to leaveI understand the reasons why that is the caseand of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), as well as from other hon. Members. It is clear that the IMC has reached a measured conclusion about the level of Provisional IRA activity, which has led to the issue of the direction and to its being recommended to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State has accepted that recommendation and accepted the IMC's report in its entirety, which is why the motion is before us.
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Much of what hon. Members have said obviously expresses the wish to go further than the direction, but we are implementing the wishes of the IMC in its recommendations to the Secretary of State. There is also clear agreement in all parts of the House with regard to the need for an end to paramilitary and criminal activity. I emphasise that the objective of the Government in taking forward the peace processindeed, it is a precondition for continuing the peace processis that that paramilitary and criminal activity ceases. The Government and all hon. Members await any statement from the Provisional IRA to assist in that process, if and when it comes, and I know that all hon. Members agree on that objective.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Aylesbury for his support on the objectives in the IMC report and on ending criminal and paramilitary activity. He has indicated that he wants to examine the question of the proscription of the IRA, which we must take one step at a time. We have examined paramilitary and criminal activity, and we have set out Government policy on those issues.
The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik), who spoke for the Liberals, mentioned David Ford's 10-point plan. I intend to meet Mr. Ford very shortly, and I have no doubt that we will discuss the 10 points in detail.
In addition to his remarks about paramilitary and criminal activity, which I fully understand, I share the view of the hon. Member for North Antrim about the bravery of the McCartney sisters, who have had the courage to stand up for their beliefs in difficult circumstances over the past few months. As I have said, all hon. Members await with interest an IRA statement on those matters.
The hon. Members for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and for Belfast, North (Mr. Dodds) have indicated their concern about the penalty for the Provisional IRA. Hon. Members know that a £120,000 penalty will be imposed in this financial year as a result of the IMC report should this House approve the motion tonight. Under current legislation, 12 months is the maximum period for which the Government can impose the directive, but we will examine that issue, and if criminal and paramilitary activity continues further orders cannot be ruled out, if the IMC recommends them. A penalty of £120,000 is severe and it will hinder Sinn Fein's operations in the Assembly.
The hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Donaldson) said that he is pleased to be back in the House. May I say that we are all pleased to be back in the House? I also welcome the hon. Members for Upper Bann (David Simpson) and for South Antrim (Dr. McCrea) to the HouseI know that the hon. Member for South Antrim has returned to the House after an absence of some years, and I know what a pleasure it is.
We hope to make progress on some of the issues mentioned by the hon. Member for Lagan Valley. I cannot comment on the cases that he has mentioned this evening involving Sean Kelly and Ken Barrett, but I recognise the points that he has made. However, it is not for me to comment on those cases this evening because they fall outside the scope of the directive.
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I want to emphasise to hon. Members on both sides of the House that the Government are committed to taking the peace process forward, and we are committed to ending paramilitary and criminal activity in Northern Ireland. That is the basis under which this House is considering the order this evening, and that is the reason why we have accepted the IMC recommendation. The Provisional IRA has been identified as having a responsibility and an involvement in serious incidents of a criminal and paramilitary nature in Northern Ireland, which I say more in sorrow than in anger.
That is acceptable to neither hon. Members on both sides of the House or the Government, which is why we have introduced the order tonight. I want to see the order passed this evening as it has been in another place. We want to see a complete end to paramilitary and criminal activity in order to achieve the objective of the hon. Members for Belfast, North, for Lagan Valley and for Belfast, Eastthe restoration of the Assembly so that people in Northern Ireland can make decisions in their own communities on behalf of their own communities. As a direct rule Minister, dealing with two Departments in Northern Ireland, I am acutely aware of that need.
I give hon. Members the assurance that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister, the Government team and I are committed to trying to restore the Assembly at an early date, subject to a peaceful conclusion and an end to paramilitary and criminal activities in Northern Ireland. We all share that objective and that is the reason for tabling the motion today.The IMC has recognised that paramilitary and criminal activity continues and we cannot therefore support Sinn Fein in the Assembly.
I hope that I have answered some of points that were made in the short time that I had. Time is pressing. I commend the motion and I hope that we can agree to it this evening to achieve the objectives that we all share.
That the direction given by the Secretary of State under section 51B(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 on 1st April 2005, a copy of which was laid before this House on 4th April, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.
(a) the Committee shall take questions under Standing Order No. 110 (Northern Ireland Grand Committee (questions for oral answer)), and shall then consider the instrument referred to it under paragraph (1) above; and
(b) at the conclusion of those proceedings, a motion for the adjournment of the Committee may be made by a Minister of the Crown, pursuant to paragraph (5) of Standing Order No. 116 (Northern Ireland Grand Committee(sittings)).[Mr. Coaker.]
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): I am extremely grateful to Mr. Speaker for granting me this Adjournment debate, in which I want to tell the story to date of my constituent, Helen Wilkinson, and her medical records.
The story raises profound issues in relation to civil liberties, especially privacy and confidentiality. Before I tell it, I want to set out for hon. Members' benefit only one of the possibilities that it raises. I want hon. Members or anyone who reads the debate to imagine that they have a medical problem, such as a sexual dysfunction problem. The person concerned goes to see a doctor, who enters notes about the problem on his or her computer. The problem is successfully treated. Years later, a senior receptionist at another practice meets the recovered patient socially. The receptionist thinks, "I wouldn't mind finding out a bit more about this person." The next day, the receptionistunethically and illegallyaccesses the recovered patient's doctor's notes, which are held on a national NHS computer database and ferrets out private and confidential details, to whatever end, without, of course, the recovered patient knowing anything about the breach of privacy.
I could suggest myriad other disturbing possibilities that the story of Helen Wilkinson raises. I sketched out one simply to give a flavour of them. Without further ado, I shall tell Helen's story so far.
Helen works as a national health service practice manager. Indeed, she has worked in the NHS for some 20 years. So when it comes to the NHS, NHS offices, staff, patients and records, it can fairly be said that she knows what she is talking about.
Some time ago, Helen discovered that the University College London Hospitals trust had sent computer records of every hospital medical treatment that she had ever received to a private company, McKesson, which holds a mass of NHS records. Those records are then passed on, as Helen's were, to computer systems used by the NHS. Helen's records thus became available to several NHS bodies, such as the Thames Valley strategic health authority, Wycombe primary care trust and so on.
Helen asked to see her records under the Data Protection Act 1998, as she is fully entitled to do, and she discovered when she examined them that there was a serious mistake in them. She was effectively and, I repeat, mistakenly, registered as an alcoholic. Helen resolved, given her anger about the mistake, her concern about the many people who have access to even the correct parts of her record, and her anxiety about the even larger number who might well have access to it as the NHS computerisation programme proceeds, that she wanted her records removed from NHS systems altogether.
It is important to explain that, as matters stand, NHS patients have the right to object to data about them being held in a form that identifies them, but only when that causes or is likely to cause substantial or unwarranted damage or distress. It is not clear, if those
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data are held by a number of NHS bodies, as Helen's are, who decides whether damage or distress is caused or is likely to be caused.
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