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Volume 210: debated on Thursday 25 June 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received about publishing the official guidelines for the handling of agents in Northern Ireland.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the guidelines are being reviewed? Will he undertake to report to the House on the outcome of the review? Will he also take this opportunity to apologise to the relatives of the victims of the activities of Mr. Nelson and his colleagues because murder is murder, whoever is responsible?

The question relates to the Home Office guidelines, and reviewing them is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, not for me. On the Nelson case—[Interruption.] If the hon. Lady's attention could be directed to the answer—[Interruption.]

First, Nelson is serving 10 years imprisonment, imposed in a number of sentences, for very serious offences. Secondly, it is implicit in that sentence that all members of the security forces—those who work with them and for them—are subject to the unbending discipline of the rule of law. They understand that. They understand why it is the case, and they recognise that it is and must remain the case. It follows that if any criminal offence is committed by anyone acting with or on behalf of the security forces, those who suffer in consequence have suffered a wrong, and that is regrettable. There is no getting round that; nor does anyone wish to do so. That said, the security forces face an immensely difficult and dangerous task in combating terrorism—a task that they approach with great dedication and success.