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Issue of sum out of the Consolidated Fund for the year ending 31 March 2019 and appropriation of that sum

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:15 pm on 9th July 2018.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 9:15 pm, 9th July 2018

The hon. Lady alludes to one of the points that I am going to make later on my concerns about the amendment, but I am very happy to put that on record. I have met members of the judiciary in Northern Ireland, and it is an extraordinary experience to visit the law courts in Belfast and to compare the protection around those courts with what we have in Great Britain, where people can enter the courts freely, attend the public galleries and be part of the judicial process. I have seen the levels of security that apply in Northern Ireland precisely because of the level of threat to members of the judiciary that she has mentioned.

I shall continue with my point about the so-called on-the-runs. I want to be clear that, whatever its shortcomings, the scheme never amounted to an amnesty or to immunity to prosecution. All that the letters issued at the time stated was whether an individual was still wanted by the police on the basis of the evidence available at the time. This was confirmed by the independent inquiry into the scheme carried out by Lady Justice Hallett in 2014. In the case of the alleged Hyde Park bomber, the problem was that he was given a letter in error stating that he was no longer wanted, when in fact he was wanted by the Metropolitan police. That enabled his defence to argue an abuse of process, which was upheld by the judge and caused the prosecution to be stayed. However, in responding to Lady Justice Hallett’s review, the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers, could not have been clearer when she said:

“If there is considered to be evidence or intelligence of their involvement in crime, they will be investigated by the police, and if the evidence is sufficient to warrant prosecution they will be prosecuted.”—[Official Report, 9 September 2014;
Vol. 585, c. 779.]

My right hon. Friend also made it very clear in 2014 that the scheme was now at an end.

The current imbalances are of course taking place under the current mechanisms for addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past, over none of which the UK Government have any direct control. Indeed, there is widespread consensus that the current mechanisms in Northern Ireland are not working effectively for anyone— for veterans or for the victims of terrorism. That is why in 2014, after 11 weeks of discussions with the main Northern Ireland parties and, as appropriate, with the Irish Government, we brought forward proposals for new bodies, designed as set out in the Stormont House agreement. Significantly, during those talks there was no support for simply drawing a line under the past or for the introduction of amnesties for troubles-era offences, which, to comply with international law, would have had to apply to all sides.