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Lord Peston: My Lords, in welcoming the Statements of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister today, is my noble friend as puzzled as I am by the extent to which the Official Opposition are waxing so strongly about the fact that more Labour councillors than Tory councillors were appointed to these bodies? Does she recall that during their 18 years in power, the Conservatives were absolute past masters of the politicisation of all forms of public appointment? Was it not from their side, from a very good friend of mine whom I particularly respect, that we heard the Statement, "We would not knowingly appoint a Labour Party member to any public appointment"? We have nothing to learn from them, as my noble friend agreed.
Further, is my noble friend as puzzled as I am by the question from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats with regard to the three-year delay? Does she agree that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the first Labour Chancellor in history to make absolutely certain that he had the economy on a sound basis and the public finances fully under control before spending the money? I stand second to no one in wishing that it would not take quite so long. But is she aware that at least those of us on our Benches who know a little about economics believe that my right honourable friend was entirely right to ensure that the funds were first in place before committing them, and that what we really ought to be saying is, "Thank goodness that the funds are there now, and we are committing them to this top priority of the NHS"?
With regard to my noble friend's judgment about the overall macro-economic position, he is, of course, right that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was determined, as he very clearly demonstrated in the Budget Statement yesterday, to get the finances of the country in good order to provide a good platform for growth of the public sector, and I am very glad that noble Lords all round the House have now recognised what a generous settlement this is.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thought that it was getting a little party political. Does the Leader of the House agree with me that the Statement was rather disappointing in that it did not mention the consumer, the patient? Does she also agree that the consumer should take part in management? More and more professionals are coming in who have their jobs at stake and their careers at heart.
Does the noble Baroness also agree that it is a little disappointing that no mention was made of infection control? This is becoming a big problem. Patients are becoming frightened of going into hospital, and we now have a report that 5,000 patients per year die from infection. Would she therefore include the question of infection control in the health agenda?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness that patients should be involved in the process of consultation. I suspect that it was only the limitations of time which prevented this matter from being explicitly developed under one of the challenges referred to by my right honourable friend. The noble Baroness will be aware that for the first time the Government have instituted an annual patient survey and a large number of patient representative appointments have been made to individual boards and trusts, particularly in the area of primary care. But the noble Baroness is absolutely right that patients must be involved in consultation and the development of plans.
As to infection control, the noble Baroness will be aware that there is now strong guidance in place to deal with this very serious issue. I agree that this matter must be taken seriously. This is perhaps precisely the kind of detailed issue which the consultation period on the new national strategy will include.
Lord Shaw of Northstead: My Lords, I too welcome the Statement. The Statement says that a modernised National Health Service is the future, with which I also agree, but much reform is needed. In looking ahead, do the Government reject out of hand any method of raising funds other than general taxation to meet the needs of the National Health Service: the private sector, insurance or any other means? Can the alternatives be looked at, or are they forbidden ground?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, in so far as the noble Lord makes a rather universalist challenge by referring to "forbidden ground", the answer is yes. The Government believe that public sector funding of the kind announced yesterday by my right honourable friend, together with the plan developed by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister this afternoon, is the appropriate way to run a universal health service free at the point of need. That is the fundamental principle of the health service from which we have never diverged, and do not intend to diverge at this moment.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall that during the passage through your Lordships' House in 1989 of legislation to reform the National Health Service an amendment was moved and accepted by the then government which led to the appointment of a director of research for the NHS whose primary function was to look at the delivery of services within the NHS? Rather than set up a plethora of new bodies, committees and consultation processes, can the noble Baroness assure the House that the work conducted by the various directors of research over the past 10 years, and/or the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that the King's Fund research facilities should be utilised, will be fully taken into account?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do not recall the particular amendment to which the noble Baroness refers; I was not in your Lordships' House in 1989. I was, however, one of the first lay members of the Central Research and Development Council for the NHS which, presumably, was set up as a result of that amendment. I have been quite closely involved in the work of that body since its inception. My understanding of that body and the Director of Research and Development for the NHS has always been that the determining factor is research into services rather than their delivery. That may be a rather grey area but there is a slight distinction, certainly in terms of the projects in which I was involved when I served on the council. There is to be a new research and development strategy within the NHS which will embrace some of the topics included in the Statement of my right honourable friend about the challenges of modernisation to be published next week. I agree with the noble Baroness that the work of the Research and Development Unit within the DoH, although slightly different from some of the aspects of reform which the Government are anxious to pursue, is very relevant to the general process.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, for too long our debates on Northern Ireland have necessarily concerned the latest phase in the political struggle orchestrated by Sinn Fein/IRA. Martin McGuinness said in 1995 that the IRA's agenda was to end British rule in the North and to secure national self-determination for the people of Northern Ireland. Ever since it has summarily ignored the choice of the majority through the ballot box to remain in the United Kingdom. The British Government, according to him, had been dragged into the peace process initiated by the IRA. The IRA document Tactical Use of Armed Struggle (known as TUAS) had been launched the year before. It made it clear that the peace process had been embarked upon as a tactical expedient because it offered for the time being a better method of achieving the IRA's objective of a 32-county republic.
A return to violence was never ruled out. We should never forget that peace is not, for the IRA, the object of the peace process, just as solving issues of arms is IRA-speak for British arms, not theirs, and just as the much-vaunted offer in the second de Chastelain report that the IRA would,
The IRA has now secured much: the release of prisoners; a substantial withdrawal of the Army; and a government commitment to legislate for changes in the RUC. Even under the Belfast agreement, that should be implemented only in a normal situation which simply does not obtain. Changes in the counter-terrorism legislation are next on the IRA's agenda, and government consultation on this has begun. Fortunately, Mr Justice Rowe's latest report of February of this year says robustly that there is a continuing need for the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, to which I shall return.
I wanted this House to address the intrinsic issues in Northern Ireland. These are only too often obscured and not debated because we are caught up in the latest phase of the IRA's political agenda rather than that of the people of Northern Ireland. I shall say only one last word on that. We must not forget that the IRA has never committed itself to decommissioning; it has merely used a code which, in IRA-speak, applies solely to the British Army and the RUC but which we, from Senator Mitchell to the British and Irish Governments, have clutched at as referring to the IRA. That has suited the IRA very well and allowed
The IRA representative is said to have told the de Chastelain commission that only all the members of the Army Council could authorise decommissioning and they had not been asked to do so. Not least, the IRA statement of 2nd February this year said categorically, after its representative had met General de Chastelain over a period of some two months, that,
I make that point only because I believe that the Government now need to let the whole question lie fallow and simply forget about both decommissioning and those aspects of the so-called peace process which are still on the agenda of Sinn Fein/IRA (one of whose short-term objectives is undoubtedly to split the Unionists). Let the Secretary of State, with the active support of the two Governments, now concentrate on improving the quality of life of the people of Northern Ireland--the economy, agriculture and education--and specifically the people's right, too long ignored, to live peacefully in the United Kingdom, which by a large majority they chose to do. That means that the Government must concentrate on securing proper policing and doing something about those activities of the IRA and loyalist paramilitaries which are criminal and can in no way be justified or presented as part of a noble political struggle or a defence of "their people" against the enemy: the state.
The IRA likes to compare itself to the ANC in South Africa. I believe that Mandela would have been profoundly shocked to find the brave soldiers of the IRA beating teenagers with iron bars for private grudges, running criminal extortion operations and protection rackets and exiling whole families from their homeland. That was done by the ANC's adversary, the South African state. There is a culture of loyalty which prevents members of the republican or loyalist communities from co-operating with the police when murder has been committed, since fear of "execution" as an informer is a strong element. But, surely, it is indefensible that Martin McGuinness flatly refused to urge those whom both the RUC and the Garda need to testify against the Omagh bombers to come forward. It is a sad fact that the legislation that this House passed after Omagh has proved powerless to deliver known murderers to justice.
I believe that for the present the chief task of the Government should be to do everything possible to support and strengthen the RUC to enable it to act as normal police would act on the mainland to bring criminals (not freedom fighters) to justice. Sinn Fein/IRA, and indeed the Irish Government, should be challenged to say where they stand on each instance of paramilitary violence or criminality and, above all, on the question of the exiling of whole families.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's 1998 report on victims quoted the Cost Of The Troubles study (COTT). This reported in 1997 that 53 per cent of the dead in the Troubles since 1969 were civilians; 87 per cent of the total were killed by paramilitaries (59 per cent by republicans; 28 per cent by loyalists) and 37 per cent were under 24 years old; 89 of these were 14 years old and under, and of the under-18s the IRA killed by far the largest number. But perhaps the most telling statistic is that if the UK with its population of 58 million had experienced the same deaths pro rata compared with Northern Ireland's 1.6 million, the figure would have been over 130,000 people dead.
That is only the dead. What of those who have been maimed for life in punishment beatings and shootings (quite apart from 45 more murders in the period between the signing of the Belfast agreement and August last year)? In those few months there have been 105 shootings, 135 beatings and, most terrible of all in its lasting effect on whole groups of people, 440 people sent into permanent exile overnight. That figure is now estimated to have risen to nearer 1,000. What happens? Someone offends a paramilitary or is suspected of being dissident in some way, or perhaps a social nuisance to the community. He or she and the whole family are given a few hours' notice to quit their homes, their jobs, possibly elderly relations in hospital, and their friends, and leave Northern Ireland, never to return on pain of death. If they come to England, as most do, they will be jobless, homeless and without friends, especially as they may not be considered persona grata by whatever Irish community there is where they settle. They will, in any case, be still in fear. This traumatic experience has been happening to very many bewildered and terrified families for years now. These are our people, expelled from another part of the UK by the fiat of the paramilitaries, and yet I have heard no word of protest from the many generous and liberal-minded people in this country who care about Rwanda, Burundi and the Roma.
The shocking thing is that those people have no redress and no protection from the state because successive governments have accepted supinely that the paramilitaries must be allowed, in a phrase attributed, I hope wrongly, to the last Secretary of State, to conduct their own internal housekeeping. So no one can go to the police, willing as they would be to help, and no one can claim the protection of the law for themselves and the hapless children and old people who may also be included in their exile.
It was on St Patrick's day this year that the press reported that the IRA, after a lull (for it can turn off the tap whenever it wishes) had resumed the savage punishment attacks, and I have little doubt that the exiles will be stepped up too. The only proper course for a Government who honour human rights is to strengthen the mandate of the RUC in the communities at present dominated by the thugs. We are told that it is part of the strategy of the Belfast agreement to return to normal security arrangements compatible with a normal, peaceful society--just what the people thought they had voted for--and under the
To achieve that, the first task of our Government must surely be to assert and back up the right of the RUC to operate freely, to forbid no-go areas, and to punish wherever they can be identified those paramilitary elements who are running protection and extortion rackets and other criminal profit-making activities, including counterfeiting. Did not the Prime Minister tell the United Nations in September 1998 that terrorists should have no hiding place and no opportunities to raise funds (which hardly squares, incidentally, with recent moves to allow Sinn Fein to raise funds abroad)? After Omagh the Prime Minister said that we must fight terrorism vigorously wherever it appears while holding fast to the rule of law. We can move towards fulfilling the commitment made to the people, both then and in the agreement, by conducting an all-out and serious drive to assert the rule of law through the presence of the RUC and through immediate action to arrest and punish paramilitary violence. (It was good to see, incidentally, that a released prisoner who took part in terrorist activity recently had his licence revoked).
We shall be told that no member of the community will dare to identify those responsible. That may well be true if the crime is murder, but there have been brave men and women--among them Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT); and some months ago a 14 year-old girl who spoke out against the brutal beating of her young brother--who would, if they felt something would be done, take risks to identify the violent men publicly. But they must be sure that something will be done. It is difficult to see how the Dublin Government, Ted Kennedy or even Gerry Adams could attack the enforcement of the protection every citizen is entitled to have from the law--and the police, and no-one else, constitute the proper arm of the law in a normal society.
It is not enough to pay graceful tribute to the RUC, rather like putting flowers on a grave. Let us instead give those brave men and women in the RUC all the real support necessary for them to break the power of the paramilitaries to punish and brutalise their own communities. It will be to our lasting shame if we do not.
The other issue which concerns me is the role and responsibility of the Irish Government who have presumed to try to negotiate with the IRA on the withdrawal of British troops and have attacked the right of those troops to be stationed on British soil. Does it occur to the Dublin Government, who seem to believe the Belfast agreement gives them the right of decision within Northern Ireland but no responsibilities, that they, a so-called friendly government, a partner in the peace process and a fellow member of the European Union, are providing a safe haven for armed and violent men who are flouting the will of the people as shown in the ballot box both North and South, and who are conducting a war using the Republic as a safe base? When the IRA
The IRA is unelected and has no mandate, but it has an agenda which will sooner or later constitute a threat to the Government of Ireland. Today our people are under daily threat and theirs are not, but that will not always be true. When the IRA resumes its war mode, will the Irish Government allow hot pursuit? We are all gratefully aware of the effective and professional co-operation that exists between the Gardai and the RUC, but it is time the Irish Government faced the fact that the British Government's duty is to protect their citizens and that the Irish cannot enjoy power in the partnership without responsibility.
The ill-fated and disgraceful treaty with the IRA over the return, with full amnesty, of the bodies of those it murdered secured much favourable publicity for the caring IRA, but only three bodies for the grieving families. It demonstrated, however, that only the Gardai were to be allowed by the IRA to take part in the operation. If the Irish Government wish to be seen as a serious and responsible partner in the peace process, why, instead of acting as the IRA's spokesman on too many occasions, do they not bring pressure to bear on the IRA so that the perpetrators of the Omagh bombing may be brought to trial and witness borne against them? The bombers are, after all, supposed not to be from the Provisional IRA but from one of those famous breakaway groups. If the Irish Government would exert their influence responsibly in these issues the power of both governments to enforce the Belfast agreement would surely be enhanced and the political process justified.
Lord Desai: My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, for introducing this subject today. We share at least one characteristic in both debates today: we deserve a medal for our hard work, if nothing else.
As regards description, I agree with much that the noble Baroness said. However, I shall disagree on interpretation. I speak only for myself, and no one else. However, I recall about 30 years ago I was offered a chair in economics in the new University of Ulster. I asked the vice-chancellor whether I should have difficulty not only as an Asian but as a man given to some rebellious tendencies. He said, "Oh no, there is no problem living here". He was an Australian actually. He then said, "Whenever I give a party, I invite equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants. Of course, with Protestants, you have to be careful to invite equal numbers of Anglicans and Presbyterians". I decided that I could not live there.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but is not a united kingdom. It is John Bull's other island. I have said in many debates in your Lordships' House that the dilemma we face is that, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom
In the early 1960s, when I was in the United States, the IRA was a joke. No one took the IRA seriously. It had almost dissolved itself. How did the IRA revive itself? How did the Provisional IRA come about? The Provisional IRA did not come about from a vacuum. It came about from the realities of the way in which power was handled by the majority community in Northern Ireland. That history--all of Ireland is about history--did not do justice to the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland did not behave like a part of the United Kingdom through those 50 years. Therefore, as the noble Baroness knows better than I do, there was a civil rights movement, there was a revival of the IRA and we have had nothing but trouble for the past 32 years.
We cannot forget this simple fact. It is a divided community; it is a community in which the majority in the North is a minority in the island and the minority in the North is a majority in the island. That is where the whole majority-minority question becomes rather peculiar. I was brought up in India on the nationalist version of Irish history. I was brought up to believe that the partition was wrong and that the six counties should never have been given away. I have learnt better since. I have learnt the subtleties of history. But a generation of people not only in Northern Ireland but in the Republic and in the United States believes that version of Irish history. Half of Boston believes that version.
The tricky problem is that the intrinsic issue of Northern Ireland is the very peculiar constitutional status of Northern Ireland, Successive governments, of both parties, have failed to see--no, that is too arrogant--have somehow not been able to appreciate the peculiar quasi-constitutional character of Northern Ireland. Decommissioning is just the latest part of the problem. As I have said before in your Lordships' House, the IRA is not a thing; it is an idea. When one goes away, another will be born. There will be the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA and so on. It is hard to know how one can convince the minority community in Northern Ireland, especially the totality of minorities in Northern Ireland, that it is in their interest to stay on the peaceful side of the constitutional arrangements rather than not. While there is even a minority of a minority still convinced--and there is--that there is an El Dorado somewhere else of a 32-county government, there will be Continuity IRA, Real IRA and so on.
The question is very much a political question: what can we do? The Good Friday agreement came the nearest that anything has come so far. In a previous debate on Northern Ireland I asked the Minister whether he was aware of an interpretation of the Good Friday agreement--that it was a treaty, an international treaty. Very often, in many post-colonial situations, a former terrorist body becomes part of the constitutional process. In this case, it is Sinn Fein,
I know that that is not a comfortable thing to say. I certainly do not know where we go from here. I believe that the intrinsic issue in Northern Ireland will stay historical and political and that it will take a great deal of tolerance and many negotiations before a settlement is reached.
Lord Cooke of Islandreagh: My Lords, I wish to declare an interest in Northern Ireland. I was born and brought up on the shores of Belfast Lough and, apart from some years at school over here and also when in the Navy during the war, I have lived my whole working life in Northern Ireland. With family and grandchildren in Northern Ireland, I am very, very interested in its future.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, on initiating this debate. We have had many debates on Northern Ireland but I do not think that we have had one on the matters of intrinsic importance. There are many of course--the economy, industry, agriculture, health and others--but I wish to speak only about one. I call it "Terrorism Stage 2". But, first, I must say a little about what I call "Stage 1" to show how different it is from Stage 2.
I have a very early memory concerning the IRA. I must have been four or five and we were motoring home on a Sunday afternoon through York Street in Belfast when my father ordered me to lie on the floor of the car because there were snipers about. Fortunately, they took Sunday afternoon off. There has been no difficulty in keeping in touch with the IRA in later years as there have been several occasions on which they became active and had to be interned by the North or South or both. Throughout the years, and now, the IRA believes itself to be the only legitimate army in Ireland, with a duty to break the British connection with the North and unite the island of Ireland.
During the 1970s the IRA made very determined attempts to terrorise the people of Northern Ireland and to destroy the economy. It bombed power generating stations and power lines, it murdered people in hotels, restaurants or public houses. It seemed to enjoy murdering members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security forces. It particularly targeted any member of the police whom it knew to be a Roman Catholic. The outstanding memory of those years was the determination of everyone, other than terrorists, to defeat the IRA and to remain part of the United Kingdom. No one was
None of us will ever forget the bravery and, after a difficult start, the efficiency of the RUC, supported by the Army. But for them, many, many more would have died. In those years, my office was in Belfast and it was astonishing the confidence that we all had in the RUC almost to smell out bombs and to clear the area at risk. I saw them at work almost daily and it was remarkable the speed with which they diverted traffic and cleared everyone out of the relevant shops or offices, after which the bomb disposal experts got to work. These brave men appeared to find their work so fascinating that they ignored the risks, sometimes, tragically, to their disadvantage.
What infuriated people most during those years was that we all knew that the IRA could be shut down in a period of weeks if the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, had been a friendly neighbour. The Republic defended its borders almost aggressively and if a policeman or soldier stepped across it, even by accident, it became an international incident. But the IRA, provided that they did not shoot members of the Garda Siochana and had safe houses and bomb and ammunition dumps, were not disturbed. The garda were not permitted to harass them or report what they knew. However, to do them justice, they passed useful information to the RUC.
The IRA were permitted to train in well known areas and terrorists were able to cross the border to murder farmers in Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone who were known to be Protestant. No wonder the security forces closed all minor roads and set up watch towers. Sir Norman Stronge, Speaker of the House of Commons at Stormont, and his son were murdered in their home at Tynan, County Armagh, and their house was burnt down. At their funeral, the rector of that small parish told us that he had buried 20 of his parishioners who had been murdered by the IRA.
The IRA developed skills and resourcefulness. When a particular attack was rebuffed it would try something else. It had plenty of time; it was not being stopped. In the 1980s, the IRA learnt that one bomb in London was worth 100 in Northern Ireland and it worked to develop the capability to plant such bombs.
Then followed the Anglo/Irish agreement and other agreements and declarations. The peace process began to develop and that culminated in the Good Friday agreement, which granted Sinn Fein/IRA almost everything it wanted. In exchange, the Republic has withdrawn Articles 2 and 3 from its constitution. Sinn Fein/IRA for its part has given nothing. It has said that it has no intention of decommissioning and that its objective remains unchanged.
In pursuance of that, Sinn Fein/IRA has recently increased its areas of control in many towns and cities. Other areas are being controlled by so-called Protestant paramilitaries. And each one is as evil as the other. Threats, beatings, banishment, torture and murders are their tools and their use remains
The bosses in these areas are running Mafia-like operations; racketeering of all kinds and drug running is increasing. The effect on young people is frightening. In some places, drugged sweets are being offered to school children. I learnt that in the town of Ballymena, a town of perhaps 60,000, 1,500 citizens are drug addicts.
If action is not taken quickly, these young people will grow up without any moral standards and will drift into violence of one kind or another. The police are almost powerless. If they attempt to tackle the problem inside these areas, they are accused of harassment. When listening to the radio yesterday, I heard a very articulate man, who was obviously dedicated to helping young people, pleading for help. Frustration at the inability to do anything to prevent horrific social problems for tomorrow is leading to widespread worry and almost despair.
What I hope is that we shall not delay acting. By now, we should know the consequences of delaying at Stage 1, the open bombing and shooting. We have something much more sinister to deal with. It is different from that of past years when the community was openly attacked. In the eyes of many, many people, the peace process in its present form has failed and it makes no attempt to deal with the sinister and, I believe in the long term, more dangerous problem. Despair is not good for morale.
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