Stevens Inquiry

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 21st May 2003.

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Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West 11:30 am, 21st May 2003

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the Stevens inquiry.

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

Sir John Stevens's report is to the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Sir John has indicated that specific criminal investigations continue and that files will continue to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. It is important that the criminal justice process takes its course.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Labour, Cardiff West

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. What will the Government do to get to the bottom of allegations of collusion and murder by members of the security forces? What assurances can my hon. Friend give the House that the Government are pressing for total co-operation in the supply of information by members of the security forces? Will she confirm that it will never be this Government's policy that murder can be justified, even to protect valuable intelligence sources?

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

The Government take allegations of collusion very seriously. We will study the recommendations that Sir John Stevens makes in his report. The recommendations are a matter for the Chief Constable to take forward, but it is precisely because we take allegations of collusion so seriously that the British and Irish Governments appointed the Canadian judge, Peter Cory, in May 2002 to examine allegations in relation to six high profile cases, with a view to advising what further action, if any, is needed.

We have always required public authorities to act within established guidelines when using covert human intelligence sources. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has improved structures for the management of informants and ensured greater accountability.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

I am sure that the Minister will join me in admiring the work of the policemen, policewomen, soldiers and women soldiers who have worked in the various intelligence agencies in Northern Ireland. Will she confirm that the allegations about the identity of the so-called agent Stakeknife will not imperil continuing intelligence operations in the Province?

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

In their fight against terrorism, the security forces use a variety of techniques, including covert human intelligence sources. It is difficult and dangerous work, and we owe a great debt to those who engage in it. However, it is important that wrongdoers be brought to justice. As I said in my earlier answer, the Government are open to scrutiny. It is important that we take seriously allegations such as those investigated by Sir John Stevens.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

Have the Government yet identified where, and at what level, the obstructions encountered by Sir John Stevens during his inquiries originate?

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

We will study the findings of Sir John's report carefully. His recommendations, particularly those to which the hon. Gentleman refers, are for the Chief Constable, and there are issues for us to study closely and take forward. It is important that Sir John Stevens receives the fullest co-operation that it is possible to give, and that is our aim.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Given that the credibility of the Stevens inquiry continues to be seriously undermined by the non-co-operation of the family of the late Pat Finucane, what steps have been taken to encourage the family to co-operate with the ongoing Stevens inquiry?

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

That is a police investigation, and the investigations continue. It is important that the criminal justice process is upheld. It is, however, a matter for the Finucane family. In the normal course of events, I would encourage the fullest possible co-operation with the police.

Photo of Mr John Taylor Mr John Taylor Conservative, Solihull

Does the Minister agree that it would be repugnant to prosecute members of the police and armed forces when more than 440 convicted terrorists have been released early from prison?

Photo of Jane Kennedy Jane Kennedy Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office

No. There is no moral equivalence with terrorists. Wrongdoers in any of the security forces—the armed forces or the police—ought to be brought to justice. That is the Government's objective.