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Mr. Hain: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening comments, especially those about Mo Mowlam, and for his support for the police, as I was to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington).
I agree that the IRA statement was momentous; that is the correct word to describe it. I also agree that the IMC report is vital to demonstrating that the age of bombs and bullets from the IRA is overas well as the punishment beatings, the exiling and all that dreadful local activity, including the criminality. That is why the activities of the Assets Recovery Agency are important in tracking down those who we know have been involved in criminality. Exiles should be free to return. If we are to have a normal society, with Ministers exercising devolved powers in that normal society, the horrendous process of exiling must end.
There are many grievances in loyalist communities. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time, with the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon.
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Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson), visiting loyalist communities, in some cases under the guidance of members of the Democratic Unionist party, for which I am grateful, trying to understand exactly how we can develop a future agenda. One of the problems is that there are many grievances about the past but the future agenda is not clear. That is where we need to get people, so I accept the points that the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) makes.
I shall be making an announcement about the victims commissioner when I am in a position to do so. The time is long overdue for the victims of the troubles of the past 35 years or so to be properly acknowledged and their grievances recognised. They are the ones who have suffered most.
In relation to on-the-runs legislation, the victims must constantly be in our minds and should always come first. There will be a fully judicial process, which is why there is no question of an amnesty. I want to underline the following point: if as part of the judicial process concerning on-the-run suspects someone is found guilty and granted a licence and the conditions of the licence are broken, it is important that they will be rearrested and incarcerated. There is thus no question of an amnesty; it will be a proper judicial process and I look forward to explaining the situation to the hon. Gentleman nearer the time.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): I welcome the announcements during the recess from Sinn Fein and General de Chastelain. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that, to secure trust and confidence in normality in Northern Ireland, the republican side must recognise the PSNI, and the loyalist side must stop bombing and shooting the PSNI? What progress has he made in securing political leadership on both sides of the divide to obtain that? Will he also give assurances that he will push for extra resources for the ARA, to ensure that former paramilitaries who are turning to criminal and violent activity that undermines normality in the Province will not be allowed to make crime pay?
I agree very much with my hon. Friend that political leadership is needed both from Unionist communities and leaders and nationalist leaders in support of the police. There has been a degree of ambivalenceto put it charitablyabout that from the republican side, not only in recent weeks but over the years. I do not want that bad practice to spread to the loyalist side, or indeed to some on the Unionist side. Support for the police must be consistent across the board.
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Mo Mowlam earned the medal for having me wrongly arrested the night that the agreement was signed, but a certain chief police officer had a word in her ear and she allowed me to go without charge. I had many interesting times with her, with her shoes off, her feet on the table, demanding that I should be a serf to do her bidding, which I never did.
Gerry Fitt lived in Dock ward, and so did I. I fought him and kept him out of the council during his campaign. Then I left the area and, unfortunately from the Unionist point of view, he was elected. But he was a unique character. He had a good way of looking after people in need and never got beyond himselfwho he was and what he intended to do. When the House lost him, it lost some of the humour of debates. I remember when one of my colleaguesthe late Johnny McQuadehad a row with him. Johnny McQuade, who was a champion boxer of the British Army, said, "Gerry, come outside and I will deal with you." The Speaker quickly said, "Before you do that, I'll buy you both a cup of tea." That, of course, defused the situation.
I should like to tell the Secretary of State that some matters concern us all about his statement. I also want to tell him that, although I condemn utterly any attack on the police no matter from where it comesas he knowsit should also be kept in mind that the people who sought to kill the police in Northern Ireland were not loyalists; they were republicans. I have in my study the photographs of some 300 police officers who were murdered by the IRA. So we need to keep that in mind, although of course nobody in their senses in Northern Ireland wants anything that has occurred during the past weeks to occur again.
I am glad that the Secretary of State came to the North Antrim constituency, and I am sure that he would join me in condemning the attack that took place yesterday, when more pipe bombs were left, this time at the state primary school in Harryville. I am sure that he would want to join me in condemning that outrage.
With regard to the Policing Board, perhaps the Secretary of State could help me. I understand that a number of the appointments are politicalthey involve people from political parties. Will that change, or will we retain the current number of political representatives on the board? Those in the IRA have made it clear that they will not join the board, so they will be left out, as they were left out before. Will their places remain vacant or be filled, as they were for the previous board? We need to know about that.
The House should congratulate the board on what it has done. It has got through a lot of thorny, difficult problems, and every member has made a valuable contribution. Although the old board is going, it needs to be put on record that the people of Northern Ireland are grateful to the Policing Board, although I trust that the Secretary of State will not reduce the number of appointees to it.
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On-the-runs legislation is not acceptable to the Unionist majority, and it is not acceptable to many Roman Catholics who have suffered so seriously at the hands of these people that they still cannot get back the bodies of their loved ones for a decent Christian burial. That needs to be carefully looked at. If there is to be no jurisdiction of the court in the matter, the Secretary of State's argument that there is to be no amnesty is weakened. We must be sure that these people are brought to a place where they realise that the court that sentenced them has the right to do such things, that they are bound by all the court rules and that, if they offend again, they will be lifted and brought in. I was tempted to say, "And not let out", but the Secretary of State will know what I am getting at, and I do not need to interpret that. I am sure that my hon. Friends will want to say something, representing their constituents, so I think that I have said enough.
Mr. Hain: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the points that he made and for his very engaging comments on both Mo Mowlam and Gerry Fitt. I promise never to have him wrongly arrested and never to take off my shoes while I am in discussion with him, or even to try to offer him a glass of whisky, which I think happened on one occasion. I join him in criticising and condemning the extraordinary and very disturbing attack on Harryville school.
As the hon. Gentleman asked of me, I have applied the composition of political appointees to the Policing Board in accordance with the outcome of the 2003 elections. I accepted his arguments that the DUP was in an unfair situation and that the present composition of the board and its political section did not reflect the last Assembly election. He and his colleagues made a very strong argument, and I have accepted it. If the d'Hondt formula is applied to that election, the outcome is an increase to four members for the DUP, two members for the UUP, two for the SDLP and two for Sinn Fein.
There are some months to go until 1 April, when the board will be reconstituted, and it is vital that community balance is retained. I do not know whether those in Sinn Fein will come on to the boardthey have expressed no intention of doing sobut if they want to get involved in devolved government, they must, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will accept, take their responsibilities to policing seriously, including going on to the board.
I agree that the board has played an extremely valuable role, and I endorse the hon. Gentleman's congratulations of the role of all its members, including members of his party. I know that, particularly given what he has said, he will want to condemn with me the barbarous attack, probably by members of the Real IRA, on the vice-chairman of the board, Denis Bradley, who in an attempt to maim him if not to kill him suffered enormous damage to his face and head.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about the on-the-runs legislation. I accept absolutely that it is not acceptable to the Unionist communityI fully understand thatand especially to the many victims of the IRA over the years, including police officers, but I assure him that the matter will be subject to a proper judicial process, as he will see when the Bill is published.
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If people reoffend, absolutely, they will indeedto use his languagebe lifted. The legislation will provide for that.
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