Murders (Northern Ireland)

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 22nd March 1988.

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Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , East Londonderry 3:31 pm, 22nd March 1988

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the refusal of the British Broadcasting Corporation to make available to the Royal Ulster Constabulary its film of the assault and murder of two members of Her Majesty's forces in Belfast on Saturday 19 March". The horrific events in Belfast last Saturday were, in some measure, transmitted by major television networks and came into the living rooms of many millions of people, so that many millions of people saw for the first time the ugly reality of IRA murder.

We who live closer to those events in Northern Ireland know that for nearly 20 years that terrorist organisation has imposed its rule by kidnap, murder, torture and kangaroo courts. We believe that what people saw happening on Saturday simply happened in broad daylight, when it normally takes place in darkened alleys and on country roads. Those many people whose fate preceded that of the two unfortunate soldiers at the hands of the IRA have normally had a much longer drawn-out period of terror and agony before a bullet through the skull brought them merciful release.

Common decency, and, I believe, Members of this House, demand that citizens help the police to stop such crimes and to identify the murderers. The BBC transmits the "Crimewatch" programme and shows reconstruction of many crimes. No reconstruction is necessary for these events. All that we want, and all that the country wants, is the record of the vile and ugly murders that we saw in full on television.

The matter is urgent and specific, because I believe that many of those people who know that they are on the film will flee jurisdiction, and flee it soon. Yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House for a debate, but the matter has moved on from then. It has now become specific and is, if possible, even more urgent. I do not believe that we in this House can be fobbed off with a few minutes' discussion during the Easter Adjournment debate on Friday. We must have a full debate, and we want it soon.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I ask you for justice for those who died, and for the feelings of the people in this House and across the whole nation, and to rule that this debate should be granted soon.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the refusal of the British Broadcasting Corporation to make available to the Royal Ulster Constabulary its film of the assault and murder of two members of Her Majesty's Forces in Belfast on Saturday 19 March. I have listened with great concern to what the hon. Member has said, as indeed I listened with distress to what was said in the House yesterday. As the hon. Member well knows, the granting of a debate under Standing Order No. 20 and whether it should take precedence over the Orders of the Day set down for today or tomorrow has to meet the criteria. I have to rule that is not so in this case, and I regret that I therefore cannot submit the hon. Member's application to the House.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? As you will know, Select Committees of the House have the power to send for persona and papers. Some years ago, there was a celebrated incident when the British Steel Corporation was obliged to divulge certain information. If the appropriate Select Committee of the House sent for these films, would that be a legitimate request?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

It would be up to the Select Committee concerned to decide who it wished to send for.

Later—

Photo of Mr Barry Porter Mr Barry Porter , Wirral South

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a little concerned. I seek your guidance about what makes a matter specific and important under Standing Order No. 20. Whatever view one takes of it, citizens of the United Kingdom have been foully murdered in a part of the United Kingdom, yet apparently their deaths are not regarded as specific or important enough to take precedence over legislation which the House is about to consider. I do not understand. Perhaps it would be helpful to hon. Members if we knew what was specific and important. If that matter is not specific and important, I do not know what is.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman in the generality of what he has said. If he would like to come to see me privately, I will gladly explain to him the criteria as to what is urgent, what is specific and what is important in the context of Standing Order No. 20 applications.