Decommissioning

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 23rd February 2005.

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Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow Anniesland 11:30 am, 23rd February 2005

What recent discussions he has had with the Irish Government in connection with IRA decommissioning.

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, we continue to discuss with the Irish Government ways of moving the peace process forward. Decommissioning was, and is, an issue that has to be resolved.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow Anniesland

Does my hon. Friend agree that for too long, IRA-Sinn Fein have seen token decommissioning as their way on to the Executive while still continuing with their criminality? Will my hon. Friend stand firm with the Irish Government and get a message across to Sinn Fein-IRA that only total decommissioning will do, and that it has to take place with the agreement of both Governments?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that we want total decommissioning. The British and Irish Governments are at one on that. We want to see not only decommissioning, but an end to paramilitary and criminal activities on the part of the Provisional IRA.

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

Since the de Chastelain commission has already cost nearly £4 million and achieved scarcely anything, can the Minister honestly stand at the Dispatch Box and tell the House that it has been money well spent?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

As a Government, we need a decommissioning commission and we are absolutely clear about that. The cost of the de Chastelain commission has been some £3.8 million over eight years, which I do not believe is excessive. As a Government, we continually look to ensure that we keep costs to a reasonable minimum and I can tell the hon. Lady that, since 2000–01, there has been a 60 per cent. reduction in the annual cost of operating the decommissioning commission. If we are to take the gun out of politics, we need such a commission.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes Labour, North East Derbyshire

Do we know what the IRA is doing with its money? Are there any signs that it is recommissioning rather than decommissioning, or is it just acting like a mafia?

Photo of Ian Pearson Ian Pearson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

I do not know personally what the IRA is doing with the proceeds of the Northern bank raid, but 45 detectives are working on the case with their counterparts in the Garda Siochana, trying to track down those responsible. It is clear from the last Independent Monitoring Commission report that the Provisional IRA continues to maintain a capability, and that so-called punishment beatings are still being carried out by both the IRA and loyalist organisations. All of that is unacceptable to the Government, and we are making every effort to deal with those problems effectively.