Clause 1

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down 5:15 pm, 16th January 2007

Again, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. He is in sparkling form this afternoon. He is absolutely right. He sits on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, which I do not, so he has access to information that I do not see. His intervention was spot on.

We have evidence, documented by the IMC, that there are international links with sophisticated criminal gangs in Northern Ireland. It beggars belief that the Minister is asking the hon. Member for North Down to identify and to give evidence of intimidation. I take my hat off to the people who very courageously come to my constituency surgery on a Friday evening—they  want to sit in the back office and do not want their names mentioned anywhere at all—to give information about neighbours who will slit the throat of their own dog to make sure that they are not awakened and that nobody’s attention is drawn to the fact that they are shifting drugs late at night. We are talking about utterly ruthless people. Those who come to me to say that they are prepared to allow their homes to be used for police surveillance are enormously courageous. I do not in any way diminish the threat.

In fairness to the people of Northern Ireland, we should be much more realistic about the future dangers to the whole of the United Kingdom. That includes Northern Ireland, which, as I pointed out this morning, can be accessed through many ports in the Republic of Ireland, through Shannon and through Dublin. There are no manned borders—we no longer have checkpoints.

I want to get this legislation right. The Minister has argued that there should be a discretion for the DPP. I disagreed, but we all want to get the legislation right now, so that we do not have to come back later and amend it to take account of changing circumstances. For goodness sake, let us allow for flexibility instead of tying the hands of the DPP. The Minister has managed to argue against himself in the last 15 minutes. He wants us to give the DPP discretion in circumstances that he cannot identify, but would also tie the hands of the DPP. Let us not give al-Qaeda or any other hideous proscribed terrorist organisation a fair wind through Northern Ireland to wreak havoc, and then stand back wringing our hands in regret when somebody is dead. Let us accept the amendment today and not argue about it. Accept the amendment and give flexibility to the DPP. I rest my case.