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William McCrea: Will the Minister tell the House what he believes has been the effectiveness of individual and continuous registration in Northern Ireland? Does he accept the importance and value of continuing the annual household canvass to achieve robust electoral registration?
William McCrea: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that in Northern Ireland the construction industry is still having difficulties? Many of our major construction companies and the people working for them are having to come to the mainland to get contracts rather than staying in Northern Ireland. We need to encourage that industry.
William McCrea: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
William McCrea: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. He has been emphasising all the pluses and why we should be acting to reduce VAT, but has he made an assessment of the likely effects on the economy from failing to act on reducing the rate of VAT to accommodation, restaurants and visitor attractions?
William McCrea: The Secretary of State must acknowledge that many victims of crime feel that the criminals have more rights and protection than they do. For many that is not only a perception, but a reality. Therefore, we urgently need not only a strategy to support victims through the very difficult circumstances of their trauma, but to prove through the sentencing process that crime does not pay.
William McCrea: Does the hon. Lady accept that there is another difficulty? In the instance I mentioned, laptops and documents were destroyed or burned before HMRC arrived at the scene. The concern was that there had been a tip-off.
William McCrea: Is my hon. Friend talking about the same Slab Murphy whom Gerry Adams described as a decent businessman?
William McCrea: This might be a laughing stock, but it is certainly no joke. This is a very serious matter. Did my hon. Friend hear the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) say that the British-Irish grouping went out on a fact-finding mission and saw 12 of these facilities in operation? If they could see 12 of them operating on that one day, where was HMRC and where were the authorities at...
William McCrea: If we are introducing something, surely it must work—millions of pounds will otherwise be lost to the Exchequer. If those millions of pounds are not needed here, I assure hon. Members that they would be very welcome in the coffers of the Northern Ireland Executive, given the deficit we face. Surely this has to work and we have to be sure that it works. We are not doing this on a...
William McCrea: Does the Minister not realise that the community finds it absolutely abhorrent that filling stations that sell illegal fuel are not only not prosecuted but open the following week to sell fuel again? In many cases, the community has seen such filling stations closed down on a number of occasions without any court case following.
William McCrea: I beg to move, That this House notes with concern the continued prevalence of serious organised criminal activity in Northern Ireland on a cross-border basis in relation to fuel smuggling, fuel laundering and the counterfeiting of consumer goods; recognises that this has had a significant and detrimental impact on HM Treasury; regrets the lack of prosecutions in relation to this activity; and...
William McCrea: I thank the hon. Lady for that helpful comment. I trust that that will be a warning to those participating in that illegal activity.
William McCrea: I concur. This is not an issue for just one community. However, there is an area of the Province along the border that lends itself greatly to cross-border crime, and republicans are up to their neck in that. There is a query about whether fuel launderers are tipped off ahead of raids. After the 2013 major cross-border police raid on Thomas “Slab” Murphy as part of Operation Loft, the...
William McCrea: Concern for the environment was also mentioned by a Minister of the Irish Republic recently. The House should be taking this matter very seriously, because damage is being done and we cannot turn a blind eye. The concern that many of us have is that the Government could do more. I cannot understand why those involved in this activity have not been brought before the courts. That is totally...
William McCrea: I believe there are many agencies—when I am winding up I shall draw attention to this—that could work together to resolve this situation. I also accept what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson) said. We must turn our attention to the cross-border drugs and alcohol problem. I turn now to another serious organised criminal cross-border activity: the...
William McCrea: Does my right hon. Friend accept that it would be wrong for elected representatives in this House to fail to speak up for Northern Ireland, bearing in mind that they ought to be heard across the United Kingdom if the Democratic Unionist party were indeed able to assist any Government in governing the United Kingdom in future?
William McCrea: Bearing in mind the shambolic nature of the proposals from the BBC, does the hon. Gentleman acknowledge that there are Members in this House who have no confidence whatever in the BBC or in the other broadcasters that are arranging the debates?
William McCrea: To assist in this matter, could a Speaker’s conference be brought into existence immediately after the election to ensure we have a way forward for the following election?
William McCrea: Lord Grade is reported as having accused channel bosses of breaking their legal duty of impartiality in threatening to stage the debates without the Prime Minister, but does that duty not also extend to the DUP, which is well represented in this House, given the inclusion of Plaid Cymru and the SNP?
William McCrea: Lord Grade, whom I mentioned earlier, writes that the BBC and the broadcasters “are not the guardians of democracy.” He also writes that they are “unequivocally playing politics.” Surely those are not characteristics of an independent BBC, and surely that means that an independent body to arrange the debates is required.