New Clause 1 — Independent Members: Declaration Against Terrorism

Part of Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 26th March 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party, Newry and Armagh 3:15 pm, 26th March 2003

First, I want to make one or two points about matters that were raised earlier in the debate. I want to put on record my personal appreciation for the way in which the Secretary of State has very courageously shown transparency in relation to this part of the Bill. It would have been so easy for him to bury it, then to pull it out of the hat at a later stage, rather than to include it for consideration by the Standing Committee. That was the right thing for him to do. It is a great pleasure for me to able to state that the Secretary of State has behaved with great honesty and transparency in relation to policing legislation. As regards the Minister of State, reference was made to the non-consideration of these matters in Standing Committee. In fairness, it was very much the expressed wish of the Chairman that we should proceed in the way that the Secretary of State indicated.

Having got that off my chest, I want briefly to make a few points. I shall not go into the detail of the Bill, because either one accepts the need for it, or one has to face a situation whereby no matter what type of safeguards are put in place, they may ultimately all be ineffective unless the central philosophy is correct. The central thesis of the Bill is the same as that on which the peace process itself was founded. The Secretary of State is right that it is necessary for people to make a declaration against terrorism, as do councillors in local government. Some may say, "So what?" and it is hard to blame them for that, but I know about the abuse that was hurled at my party colleagues on a district council when they appointed members of my party to a district policing partnership; I know about the threats that were made against those people, against their wives and families and against their homes. I want to be able to have a good, strong look straight into the eyes of some of the people who made those threats when they walk on to a district policing partnership themselves.

We should not forget that if we let people off the hook on this or any other issue, we are doing them a service. I know, because of where I live and work, that there is nothing that many would like better than the removal of the chalice of having to make a decision about DPPs and sitting on the Policing Board. I sincerely hope and trust that we as legislators will not facilitate such people. If we are to move forward, it is essential that that nettle be grasped. That will not be easy for those in Sinn Fein who want to move forward, who seriously want an end to violence and who seriously want peace, any more than it was easy for us when we had to make fundamental decisions.