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?
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.
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.
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?
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.