"At Weston Park in the summer of 2001, the British and Irish Governments announced their intention to appoint a judge of international standing to look at six cases: the murders of Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Bob Buchanan, Pat Finucane, Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright. Both Governments acknowledged that those were the source of grave public concern. The two Governments are determined that where there are allegations of collusion, the truth should emerge. Those murders were horrific events, causing pain to the families which still continues today.
"In May 2002, the two Governments announced the appointment of the honourable Justice Peter Cory, a retired member of the Canadian Supreme Court, to conduct the investigation. Justice Cory presented separate reports to the British and Irish Governments on
"I am grateful to Justice Cory and his team for their hard work and commitment. In undertaking that important task he has laboured long hours at significant personal cost. I am grateful to the families who spoke to him and to all those who made submissions to him.
"In presenting his reports to the Governments, Justice Cory expressed the hope that his investigation would contribute to the very difficult task of achieving peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. I share that wish.
"I want to make clear at the outset the unequivocal view of the Government that, without the professional and steadfast work of the police, Army, Prison Service and many others in the wider public service over many years, we would not have achieved the progress that we have made towards securing a permanent peace and enduring reconciliation. That is, I believe, both a justified and a necessary acknowledgement which I warmly give to the House.
"I am today publishing the four reports which were presented to the British Government: those relating to Pat Finucane, Robert Hamill, Rosemary Nelson and Billy Wright. In line with Justice Cory's terms of reference, the only redactions which have been made are those which were necessary to ensure that the privacy and right to life of individuals is protected, and that the Government's obligations in relation to ensuring justice and protecting national security are maintained. Redactions are clearly shown in the text. As agreed with the judge, redacted text will be placed in secret sealed appendices.
"Justice Cory presented his reports on
"We have considered carefully our obligation to ensure fairness to individuals. At our request, Justice Cory has added a foreword to the reports which makes clear that it was not his task to make final determinations of fact or attributions of responsibility. His findings are necessarily provisional.
"I would, of course, have liked to be able to publish the reports sooner, but the Government have a duty to ensure that they meet all their obligations, including fairness not only to the families but also to those who could be identified in the reports.
"Justice Cory's approach has been to adopt a very wide definition of collusion that covers both inaction as well as actions, and patterns of behaviour as well as individual acts of collusion. On this basis, the judge has decided that there are instances in each case where it could be provisionally found that there was collusion. He recommends in each case that these questions should be examined and tested further in the course of inquiries.
"For that reason the Government have not taken a view on the provisional findings which Justice Cory has reached as a result of his wide definition of collusion. However, his reports raise matters that will cause serious concern. I agree wholeheartedly with Justice Cory's view that the public must have confidence in public institutions.
"The Government stand by the commitment we made at Weston Park. In the Wright case there are no outstanding investigations or prosecutions and the inquiry will start work as soon as possible. It will be established under the Prison Act (Northern Ireland) 1953.
"In the Finucane case an individual is currently being prosecuted for the murder. The police investigation by Sir John Stevens and his team continues. It is not possible to say whether further prosecutions may follow. The conclusion of the criminal justice process in this case is thus some way in the future. For that reason we shall set out the way ahead at the conclusion of prosecutions.
"In the Hamill case there are now no outstanding investigations or prosecutions. The public inquiry will be set up as soon as possible under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998.
"The police investigation in the Nelson case continues but is expected to end in the next few months. The Chief Constable has advised me that the establishment of a public inquiry would not prejudice the investigation. The inquiry will therefore begin work as soon as possible, also under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. It will examine the actions of the police and the Northern Ireland Office.
"I recognise that the requirement in the Finucane case to wait until criminal proceedings are complete will cause disappointment to some. However, public interest demands that prosecutions should be pursued to their conclusion and wrongdoers punished. As Justice Cory says,
'Society must be assured that those who commit a crime will be prosecuted and if found guilty punished'.
The inquiries that I am announcing will have the full powers of the High Court to compel witnesses and papers. These are the same powers as inquiries set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, under which the Bloody Sunday inquiry is operating. In addition, the police and prison Acts enable me as Secretary of State to make provision for certain matters, for example about costs and expenses.
"I know that concern has been expressed in this House and elsewhere about the length and cost of some public inquiries. In particular, there are concerns about the cost of the Bloody Sunday inquiry—£129.9 million to date, with a predicted final cost of £155 million.
"Of course, I understand this unhappiness. But setting up that inquiry was the right thing to do. I commend the work of Lord Saville and his team. Having established the inquiry, it must run its course if it is to be fair to individuals and the truth is to emerge.
"We shall, of course, take all reasonable steps to control costs in the inquiries I have announced today, including capping legal costs as appropriate. We shall ensure that the inquiries have the maximum powers, as well as aiming for better, quicker inquiries.
"Even so, these inquiries will inevitably mean the commitment of significant resources. The Government recognise the desire of people to see public funds spent on delivering better public services and effective policing. I recognise public concern about further expenditure on inquiries into the past.
"This Government have shown repeatedly that the state is open to scrutiny for its actions. We established the Bloody Sunday inquiry. The investigation by Sir John Stevens continues and has yielded prosecutions. We appointed Justice Cory, with the Irish Government. Wrongdoers will be brought to justice.
"I firmly believe that the only way we can put the past behind us in Northern Ireland is by seeking to establish the truth, but that must be the truth about the actions of all those who have been involved in the tragedy of the past 30 years.
"I started this Statement with a warm tribute to the police, Army, Prison Service and public service in general. I underline that again. Too many of them have lost their lives to terrorism. Their sacrifice is not forgotten.
"However, Justice Cory's reports raise serious questions that it is right to address further. I am under no illusions that confronting the past is a difficult and painful process. The Government and their agencies are ready to play their part. We need to find a way of remembering the past while at the same time not allowing it to hinder progress in the future. Northern Ireland needs greater reconciliation between the communities. That is where all our attention needs to be directed. We should ensure that we do not concentrate on divisive issues from the past at the expense of securing this".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness the Lord President of the Council for repeating the Statement made by the Secretary of State in the other place. I also wish to thank the Secretary of State and his officials for making the Statement available early and for making himself available this morning to brief my honourable friend David Lidington and myself.
For 30 years or thereabouts consecutive governments have attempted to maintain law and order and to protect the people in Northern Ireland against loyalist and republican terrorists, in particular, the IRA—the founders of modern terrorism and one of the most ruthless of terror organisations in modern times.
Throughout that time the terrorists operated wholly outside the law. British Ministers, and their security forces—many brave men and women have lost their lives serving—were fastidious in their efforts to operate at all times within the law. With the best will in the world and in the finest organisations things sometimes go wrong. When they go wrong they should be properly investigated and, if appropriate, prosecutions should follow. We in the Conservative Party would never at any time or under any circumstances condone members of the security forces acting outside the law. However, investigations and prosecutions in all cases must be allowed to take the course of natural justice. The Cory report was a politically motivated report and demonstrates more clearly than anything so far the dreadful mistake which was the Weston Park commitments. Furthermore, Cory has gone far beyond his brief in one aspect and not conformed to it in another.
Paragraph 19, line 3 of the Weston Park proposals states that,
"the appointed judge will be asked to review all the papers, interview anyone who can help establish the facts and report with recommendations for any further action".
These reports direct criticism at both soldiers and police officers who are clearly identifiable.
Will the Minister confirm that none of those people were interviewed and none were given any chance to explain themselves, despite the clear instruction to the judge to interview anyone who can help establish the facts and report with recommendations for any further action? Now, of course, they will be tried by media, but because they are still under the Official Secrets Act, they cannot reasonably defend themselves. I suggest that the whole procedure is devoid of fairness, unjust to the people concerned and shows a complete neglect of the Government's duty of care.
Does the Minister agree that had the judge fulfilled his remit to interview all those who he thought could help him establish the facts as he saw them, without inferring guilt regarding certain people, and reported a recommendation that a public inquiry was advisable, he would have fulfilled his remit?
I wholeheartedly concur with the Secretary of State's tribute to our police, prison officers and Armed Forces for the brave and steadfast way in which they have upheld the rule of law and defended our citizens. However, I do not believe that these reports will help one jot to bring peace and reconciliation any closer to Northern Ireland; in fact, quite probably the opposite.
I have noted what the Secretary of State said in relation to his interpretation of the word "collusion". I have also noted that the Secretary of State asked for the foreword in order to clarify the status of the opinions of the report. I further note the ongoing police investigations and prosecutions under way relating to the cases that are the subject of these reports.
Does the noble Baroness really believe that after these reports and the public inquiries that are to follow, a fair trial would be possible for anyone concerned with these affairs? Does she think that, in the case of Finucane, a public inquiry is appropriate after a judicial court has reached a guilty or a not guilty verdict on the person currently accused, especially as there have already been three investigations into this murder? Is the noble Baroness aware that there are 1,800 unsolved murders resulting from terrorism in Northern Ireland? What of the families of all those victims? What is so special about the four murders that are the subject of these reports?
The Government have now been forced to set up further inquiries. Does the noble Baroness agree that in this context Her Majesty's Government find themselves between the devil and the deep blue sea, in a no-win situation, with all parties wanting something different and the costs for the inquiries spiralling out of control as they inevitably will, similar to the Bloody Sunday inquiry?
Finally, does the noble Baroness agree that these affairs must not be allowed to tarnish the fine reputation of the police or the Army in Northern Ireland, which have served and continue to serve our country with the greatest courage, skill and professionalism?
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness the Lord President of the Council for repeating the Statement. Many of us are very grateful for Justice Cory's painstaking investigation. I agree with the sequence of events outlined in the Statement. Can the Minister give clearer details of how the costs of the inquiries will be contained? Clearly, we cannot have a repetition of the Bloody Sunday inquiry costs. Will lawyers be offered a set-price deal or what? The Statement is tantalisingly scarce on how the Government will deal with that issue.
As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, there are many more unsolved murders in Northern Ireland. When will the Government come forward with a peace and reconciliation forum on the South African model, which could deal with this large and outstanding residue of unsolved murders once and for all? That would enable Northern Ireland to get on wrestling with its future, which will be difficult enough without being dogged and impeded continually by this particular, and ghastly, element of its past.
The Statement is rather minimalist and deliberately short on details. Is there likely to be a future opportunity for this House to discuss the precise working of the inquiries, how the costs will be controlled and provision for a peace and reconciliation forum?
In conclusion, the appointment of Justice Cory and the Government's response in readiness to proceed with the inquiries, whose subject matter is delicate, painful and complex, is a feature of a free and open society. It is an answer to those who practice or give comfort to terrorism, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton, for their remarks. I shall try to address the specific questions that have been asked. I do not accept the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, about Weston Park. The Government absolutely stand by their Weston Park commitments. As regards the publication of the reports and individuals within the reports, Justice Cory conducted an independent inquiry. The process that he followed was a matter for him.
I have made clear that the Government have considered very carefully their obligation to ensure fairness for individuals. That is specifically why we asked Justice Cory to add a foreword to the reports, making it very clear that it was not his task to make final determinations of fact or attributions of responsibility. The forewords of the reports are all very clear on that point. His findings are provisional. It is for that reason that we do not consider that publication is contrary to natural justice. The reports pose questions that Justice Cory believes need to be explored further.
We gave individuals notice of our intention to publish the reports. We offered them the opportunity to receive the relevant report in advance in confidence. A number have taken the opportunity to make representations, to which we have responded. Clearly, this is a very complex issue. The Government have had to balance a range of different factors in reaching their conclusion to publish the reports. Noble Lords will know that there was some pressure to publish the reports earlier. We have had to take account of the interests of the families and the commitment made at Weston Park to publish the report.
Of course, I am aware of the number of unsolved murders in Northern Ireland. In response to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, about a peace and reconciliation forum, we have made two things clear. First, it is very important that in Northern Ireland we try to move beyond the past. I recognise that that will be very hard. Perhaps I may repeat what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said today at his monthly press conference in relation to the truth and reconciliation process:
"I do not know whether necessarily a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is the right way to do it but I think there needs to be some way of trying to both allow people to express their grief, their pain and their anger in respect of what has happened in Northern Ireland without the past continually dominating the present and the future and that is what we will try to do".
Currently, how we do that is not clear, but there is a clear commitment that we have to work with all the parties in Northern Ireland to try to get to that point.
The noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Smith of Clifton, raised the issue of costs. One of the reasons that the inquiries will be carried out under the police and prison Acts is to ensure that the Secretary of State has control over the costs. Of course, we will look at capping legal costs as an element of that.
Finally, as regards the reputation of the police, the Army and others in Northern Ireland, I underline again the warm tribute paid by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the police, the Army, the Prison Service and the public services in general. That is something with which we all agree. At the same time, we have to recognise that Justice Cory's report raises some very serious questions. It is right that we should address them further.
My Lords, in thanking the noble Baroness the Lord President for bringing the Statement to the House, perhaps I may express my disappointment that this far-reaching but sadly inaccurate and inadequate report is being debated so briefly at this stage. In the light of its possible consequences, I ask that we should have a proper debate at a later stage.
By way of justification of my use of the words "inadequate" and "inaccurate", I refer to paragraph 1.304, which states that the Good Friday accord and the Weston Park agreement would set out the selected cases as an integral part of the accord. I was one of the negotiators of the Belfast agreement and at no stage was there any reference to any of these cases. Nor, indeed, as was confirmed by the late and greatly missed Lord Williams of Mostyn in response to a question in the House from me, was there any agreement at Weston Park. I notice that even the Secretary of State in his Statement suggests that somehow this was announced at Weston Park. It was not. It was a subsequent announcement as a consequence of that meeting.
In paragraph 1.304 it is indicated that Justice Cory could get it wrong. One has to ask: what else has he got wrong? I do not have time to go through the report in detail, but is it not a good argument that we should not engage retired justices who are chronologically, geographically, socially and politically detached from Northern Ireland on future inquiries? Will the Minister give me that assurance?
I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, is intimating that my two minutes are up. I am sorry—I apologise to the House—but this issue is too serious for me to be curtailed to that extent. I know she will try, but if she will let me proceed I shall endeavour to be quick.
My Lords, there is not an allocation of two minutes. I am seeking to ensure that all noble Lords who wish to speak will be able to do so within the 20 minutes allocated.
My Lords, I shall certainly endeavour to ensure that I do not take more than an adequate time. I find it tiresome that on an important issue such as this, which deals directly with Northern Ireland, I am the first to have a finger pointed at the clock.
I return to the foreword, which is supposed to ameliorate some of the difficulties presented by Justice Cory's report. In the second paragraph he states that he had the preliminary role of looking to see whether there is a case to be answered as to possible collusion "in a wide sense". As someone who soldiered in Northern Ireland for 12 years, I simply say that if there had been collusion in a wide sense the Gerry Adams's and the Martin McGuinness's would not be alive today. More importantly, the innocent Roman Catholics who were killed by loyalists would not be dead today. I do not believe that there was collusion in a wide sense.
Finally, perhaps I may inquire about the apparent confusion over the issue of the cost of subsequent inquiries. How will that be met? I heard the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in another place state that it would not come out of departmental budgets but out of the Northern Ireland budget. I take that to mean that it will come out of the block grant. If it does, the knock-on effect will be that, ultimately, it will come out of the departmental budgets.
More importantly, what will happen to the retired police officers and retired military personnel who are required to give evidence? Where will the funding come from for them? Or will they, after all their service in Northern Ireland—to which the Government and everyone else pays tribute—have to look to their own resources and fund themselves?
My Lords, I shall address the questions as quickly as I can. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, who also asked about a future opportunity to discuss the inquiry. Obviously that issue needs to be discussed through the usual channels. This is a matter of considerable interest, I know, and I and others will consider what possibilities there may be for taking it further forward.
As regards Weston Park, let me quote the commitment made by the Government. We stated:
"If the appointed judge considers that in any case this has not provided a sufficient basis on which to establish the facts, he or she can report to this effect with recommendations as to what further action should be taken. In the event that a Public Inquiry is recommended in any case, the relevant Government will implement that recommendation".
That is the commitment that the Government stand by.
As to the issue of judges, of course we are very grateful to Justice Cory for the work he has done. In the Bloody Sunday inquiry the tribunal members combined both international and UK perspectives and expertise. We would aim to do the same for these inquiries. Costs will be met from the Northern Ireland budget.
My Lords, the report into the Finucane investigation seriously impugns the conduct of four soldiers and other servants of the state. Is it not very unfair on these people that the report has not been much more extensively redacted than it has been?
If it is going to be published now—the noble Baroness was asked this question but I did not hear her reply to it—is it not the case that the judge never interviewed or consulted any of these soldiers, nor gave any of them any opportunity to deal with any ground for criticism which the judge was minded to identify? And yet had not the judge been expressly instructed by the Government in June 2002 that,
"Your task will be . . . to interview anyone you think can assist your examination"?
In the view of the noble Baroness, will it not be only a matter of days before the media uncover, if they do not know them already, the identities of all these individuals referred to by cipher initials in the report? Will not the media immediately go to town on them? Will not the individuals be precluded under the Official Secrets Act, to say nothing of the threat held over them of further prosecutions, from defending themselves? Will not they be foreseeably exposed to the risk of physical danger? How can this possibly be a fair procedure and how can the publication of this unredacted report in that regard possibly be said to fulfil the duty of care that all governments owe to those who serve or have served the state?
My Lords, I repeat what I said before. We considered very carefully our obligation to ensure fairness to individuals. There are parts of the report which are redacted, as the noble and learned Lord knows, but we had to make a balanced judgment. As I said, we gave individuals notice of our intention to publish the report and offered them the opportunity to receive the relevant report in advance in confidence.
As to the point about individuals being interviewed, Justice Cory has made it absolutely clear in his foreword the procedure that was followed. He states:
"Given the preliminary and provisional nature of the task assigned to me, and the desirability of arriving at recommendations expeditiously, it was not necessary or appropriate for me to hear any oral evidence from the individuals referred to in my reports. Obviously, before any final findings of fact or determinations of responsibility could be made, it would be necessary for individuals to have an opportunity of answering any potential criticisms which may be made of them".
On that basis, the Government have agreed that there should be inquiries into the three cases.
My Lords, I hope that the House will understand if I quote a sentence from a speech of the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor in winding up the debate on the Hutton report. The noble and learned Lord said:
"The Government fully accept, and must learn from the fact, that much more care could have been taken in relation to Dr Kelly and we apologise unreservedly for that".—[Official Report, 4/2/04; col. 788.]
In the context of those cases, how have the Government demonstrated that they have learnt from their confessed omissions in the case of Dr Kelly, for which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, apologised unreservedly in the debate?
My Lords, the Northern Ireland Office, the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Ministry of Defence and the Police Service of Northern Ireland have taken a number of steps to ensure that staff are properly supported. Letters were sent to individuals in recent weeks to alert them to the publication of the report and to offer them the opportunity to receive it in confidence the day before publication. Individuals have been reminded by their organisations of the support that is available; for example, through trade unions, the welfare services and personnel departments. At publication, letters were sent to individuals to inform them of the Secretary of State's decisions and to seek to answer any questions that they might have.
My Lords, since there is a little time left, perhaps I may draw a further point to the attention of the noble Baroness in the light of her assertion, in justification of the Government's action, that individuals had been sent in confidence copies of the report. The point is that they had no opportunity to comment on any ground of criticism discerned by the judge before the report was finalised. That is an absolutely essential element of fairness in any procedure of this character.
My Lords, that is precisely why the foreword of the report makes it absolutely clear that its determinations are not final, nor are they attributions of responsibility. That is why a decision has been taken to have inquiries into those cases.
My Lords, since we are allowed a little further time, in the light of the answer that the Leader of the House has just given, it should be stated that issues about the identity of the people becoming known are absolutely on a par with the case of Dr Kelly, where the problems of care emerged. On the basis of both the answers of the noble Baroness, I cannot agree that proper care has been provided.
My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. We have taken care. We made a balanced judgment. We looked at the support that is available to those individuals. We did that very carefully indeed.
My Lords, I have three points. First, are we to see the reports sent to the Irish Government as well, since they address cases that are of great interest to them? Secondly, at Weston Park, the OTR promise was made. Will that be stuck to? At that time, the on-the-runs were told that there would be a minimal judicial inquiry and process. I hope that the Government will now apply the same rules as they appear to be applying in the report. Thirdly, the two governments signed an agreement on "the disappeared", which accepted the IRA condition that there should be no serious inquest that could reveal, through DNA or otherwise, the identities of the murderers of the people who disappeared. Two bodies were returned after that. Does the Minister expect that a number of families, like the McConville family, may now come forward with an equal right to demand the kind of inquiry that is now been considered?
My Lords, in answer to the first question of the noble Baroness, yes, the reports have been published. I am afraid that I did not hear the second point of the noble Baroness. She spoke about promises, but promises to whom?
My Lords, a commitment was given to Sinn Fein/IRA that the on-the-runs who were responsible for the Enniskillen outrage would be offered the opportunity to return home, to give themselves up, to go through a minimal judicial process and then to rejoin their families in a happy way. That was my second point. I hope that the noble Baroness understood my third, which concerned the commitments given to the IRA about "the disappeared".
My Lords, I am still not entirely sure about the point that the noble Baroness is trying to make. I shall write to her and I shall put a copy of my letter in the Library of the House. I shall look at Hansard carefully.
My Lords, in failing to rise to my feet I should not be construed as in any way disagreeing with my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew and my noble friend Lord Brooke. A number of the murders to which the reports refer occurred during my time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—the tragic killing of Patrick Finucane and the brutal murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan.
The argument that the Minister adduced—that the findings are only provisional—seems only to underline the point that has been made; namely, that Justice Cory himself is accepting that his is not the final determination. Other facts may come to light and, in the mean time, a number of people will be represented in an unfavourable light—maybe an unfair one.
I entirely understand the difficult position that the Government are in. They insist that wrongdoing cannot be tolerated. It is a pride of our country that we have sought to fight terrorism at all times under the law, and a number of brave people have lost their lives in seeking to preserve that principle at all times. However, the last paragraph of the Secretary of State's Statement that the Minister has repeated says:
"Northern Ireland needs greater reconciliation between the communities. That is where all our attention needs to be directed".
Events will now proceed and claims will undoubtedly follow from many other people who have a genuine grievance that they think is equally worthy of attention. The hope that all our attention will be devoted to reconciliation is a pretty vain one.
My Lords, I entirely accept the point of the noble Lord, Lord King. There is no hierarchy of victimhood. I totally understood that some families will be concerned that attention has been given to particular cases and not to their own. In the context of questions about a possible truth and reconciliation forum, we must try to work with all the key players in the Northern Ireland community. Neither the British Government, the Irish Government nor the key players in Northern Ireland can solve the problem alone. We need to work together for the good of the people of Northern Ireland while recognising the deep historical sensitivities that will dog us along the way.