New Clause 1 — Independent Members: Declaration Against Terrorism

Part of Police (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 26th March 2003.

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Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party 3:45 pm, 26th March 2003

My opening comment about the debate is that it should not be taking place. It is quite unnecessary and that was best summed up by Mr. Carmichael when he said that we are effectively sending a signal to the republican movement that the Government consider it to have passed the test before it has sat it. That phrase sums up how wrong it is for the Government to introduce the new clauses at this time. I shall not repeat my intervention on the Secretary of State when I pointed out that it is not necessary to rush forward on this time scale now because we will have years to introduce the measures. If the republican movement were to pass the test that it has been set in the next few weeks and months, I am sure that it would be content to rest on the Government's assurance that the measures would be introduced at an appropriate stage. However, it is wrong to introduce them now.

I add, parenthetically, that the language used by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was noteworthy. I gently point out to the Secretary of State that when the hon. Gentleman says that a point might be reached at which there would be disruption between him and the Government, he should be aware of the great weight that lies behind the word "disruption". However, that is another matter entirely.

There has been reference to the origin of the provisions at Weston Park. It is important that we reiterate for those who misunderstand the situation, or do not understand it correctly, that at Weston Park the Government conducted a series of parallel negotiations with various parties, and may well have reached agreement with the republican movement. Indeed, it reached an agreement with the Social Democratic and Labour party—Mr. Mallon has declared it a final agreement—on certain policing matters, but they were not discussed or negotiated with us, and were not agreed by us. We do not regard ourselves as bound in any way by those discussions.