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Northern Ireland

Volume 210: debated on Thursday 25 June 1992

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Overseas Adoptions


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received from couples wishing to adopt orphans from Romania and other countries overseas; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
(Mr. Jeremy Hanley)

Early in 1990, representations were made to the then Secretary of State, on behalf of two couples, expressing an interest in adopting a child from Romania. No other representations have been received by the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend will be aware of new and improved procedures in train for handling such cases, and Northern Ireland will be keeping in line with national policy and practice.

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the excellent work done by United Kingdom volunteers in the Romanian orphanages? Will he do all that he can to help couples who wish to adopt a child from overseas, especially in view of the recent difficulties with the Romanian adoption committee's agreement, which effectively prevents more than a handful of Romania's 100,000 orphans from being adopted?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his interest in this important matter. I assure him that we also take the keenest interest in this. We are working hard with the Romanian authorities, although I am sure that my hon. Friend will realise that, with adoption from other countries, it is up to the countries concerned to deal with the way in which their nationals leave those countries. The Romanians set high standards of assessment of prospective adopters and the scope for change is somewhat limited. We are doing all that we can to help and I shall be grateful for any assistance that my hon. Friend can give.

While I welcome the raising of standards in Romania and the implications of that for Romania, is not it a fact that, in Northern Ireland, couples have been turned down because they were offered what in my judgment was an improper choice? They had either to opt out of the infertility clinic or go for the adoption of a child from Romania. Is not that an unfair choice, especially for those who have done an excellent job in helping such children?

I understand what the hon. Gentleman says, but I am not aware of such a choice being presented to couples. I shall ask my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State responsible for health and social services to look into that matter.

Bearing in mind the magnificent response of the Ulster people to the tragic plight of the Romanian orphans, will the Minister let the House know whether the Department of Health in Northern Ireland has joined with the overseas adoption help line, which gives advice to those who wish to adopt Romanian children?

Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is an overseas adoption help line, which I believe was launched only last month by the Department of Health in London. I understand that it is becoming a bit of a habit to give out telephone numbers in the Chamber. Will my hon. Friend take on board the number 071 226 7666? If anyone who would like to adopt an inter-country child rings that number, he or she will get the very best advice.

Interrogation Procedures


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will introduce the videoing of interrogation procedures in Northern Ireland holding centres for a trial period.

Will the Minister accept that, in agreeing to appoint an independent commissioner, the Government accept that they have a problem? Will he agree that it can be extremely difficult for an independent commissioner to move round without some security clearance, and that therefore it will still be known when visits will be made to interrogation centres? Would it not be far simpler to have lay visitors and video recording of all interviews?

The position is as it was as a result of the Bennett report, the name of which at least should be familiar to the hon. Gentleman, which recommended that there should be silent video monitoring of all interrogations at the holding centres, which is now in place, and recommended against the video recording of such interviews, for some very good reasons. The hon. Gentleman is right. We are proposing to introduce an independent commissioner for the holding centres and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement about that shortly.

I strongly support my hon. Friend on the undesirability of video recording interrogations, but may I ask him again to take the opportunity to stress what importance he attaches to the need to restore confidence in the process so that confidence in the police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary is high and out-of-court settlements are avoided? Will he assure us that he will make that a major point for his consideration?

I agree with my hon. Friend. The security forces, the Government and I are satisfied that safeguards exist against any form of abuse of the proper process. Everybody is clear that the interrogations must be carried out fully within the law and the regulations. Like my hon. Friend, I hope that there will be no further cases where compensation is paid for anything that has gone wrong, but I would point out that often what has gone wrong is of a minor administrative nature and nothing to do with the sort of ill-treatment that is alleged and for which there is no evidence.

We are all agreed about safeguards for suspects, which have been greatly improved during the past five or six years, but will the Minister remember that we are dealing with totally ruthless terrorists in our holding centres and that we must think about our obligations to our vulnerable police service and the law-abiding community? Will he ensure, on the question of video-taping, that no unnecessary initiative is handed back to the terrorist?

I shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's point. I repeat that the monitoring of all interviews at all time by a uniformed police inspector, who is no part of the interrogation process, is a safeguard against the ill-treatment of any suspect who has been detained for questioning, and the appointment, when it comes, of an independent commissioner to oversee the procedure independently, separate from the Government, will merely confirm that.

Irish Government


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last met members of the Irish Government to discuss matters relating to Northern Ireland.

I met the Irish Foreign and Justice Ministers on 27 April at an intergovernmental conference. I have had several telephone conversations since then with Mr. Andrews, the Irish Foreign Minister, the most recent on 22 June.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his persistence in the talks, in which he has the Opposition's full support. Has he discussed with his counterparts in the Irish Republic the possibility that if, as we all hope, the talks succeed, there could be a referendum in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and that if there is a clear majority in favour of what could well be negotiated it would further undermine the claims of the terrorists on each side of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland that they have any kind of mandate to carry on with their killings?

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman says and I greatly appreciate the interest that he takes and the attitude that he consistently displays towards the problems of countering terrorism in Northern Ireland and also to securing better institutions of government in Northern Ireland. It is extremely important that, whatever structures emerge from the process, which we all hope will succeed, shall have the highest degree of acceptance on both sides of the community. I think that my counterparts in the Irish Government share that view of mine to the full.

Will the Secretary of State inform the House what discussions he has had with his opposite number in Dublin on the calling of a meeting in the formation of strand 3 to have a preliminary discussion with the Northern Ireland parties present on the likely matters that would arise as that strand 3 goes on? Can he tell us why there has been a delay from 12 June until today, with meetings called tentatively and cancelled? Can he further tell us who is putting the barriers in the road and what the objections from Dublin are? When will the meeting take place and will it do so exactly as it was called by the plenary?

The parties to the talks agreed on 12 June, with the consent of both Governments, that a meeting should take place in what is described as strand 3 formation to discuss in a preliminary way the agenda for, and the matters that might arise in, the strand 3 stage of the talks. It is important to maintain the momentum of the talks, which have already achieved much agreement.

I had hoped that the meeting, to which both Governments and all parties remain committed, would take place this week. I am sorry that the Irish Government could not agree to that, but I am hopeful that it will take place in the near future. Our officials are meeting now, and I believe that there is every prospect that the kind of meeting that we have in mind will take place very soon.

Will the discussions with the Irish Government deal with the subject of so-called border checkpoints and, in particular, their intensification since the Secretary of State took office? Will the Secretary of State confirm that nothing is ever found at the checkpoints, that they are merely targets and that the victims are the young soldiers and policemen who man them? The last seven soldiers to die in my constituency were all killed at checkpoints, which have now been extended to include private homes in such places as Culmore and Molenan.

The question of cross-border co-operation and border security is a constantly recurring theme at the intergovernmental conferences. I do not share the hon. Gentleman's view about the usefulness of the checkpoints; more important and more persuasively, it is not shared by those who are responsible for security in the border areas.

Great improvement can be reported in cross-border co-operation between south and north, but more remains to be done. Unfortunately, the border still constitutes a considerable advantage for the terrorist and the checkpoints provide a valuable means of checking that advantage.

My right hon. and learned Friend has just given us the heartening news that there has been some progress in cross-border co-operation. Will he go further and tell us whether, when he last met the Justice Minister of the Republic of Ireland, he gave him a list of wanted IRA terrorist suspects whose extradition to the United Kingdom to face trial is currently required? If so, has there been any progress on that front since the meeting?

There is no need for me to give Mr. Flynn such a list, because the names in question are already well known to the Irish authorities.

It is necessary for each country to have effective extradition machinery. Let me remind the House that the judiciary in the Republic of Ireland is no less independent than the judiciary in this country. Although—from the point of view of a Minister who wants persons against whom a proper case exists to be brought to trial in this country—I share the frustration that is felt in regard to some recent events and decisions, it must be borne in mind that both the prosecuting authorities and the judiciary in the Republic have the same degree of independence as those in this country.

I welcome the Secretary of State's confirmation that his announcement on Friday 12 June that a meeting in strand 3 formation and inter-party talks would take place this week was made after consultation with the Irish Government. Does he appreciate our disappointment that the meeting failed to take place, especially as this is the first week since the talks began in which no progress has been made? Will he devote the maximum effort to ensuring that that meeting, and those that would follow from it, take place as soon as possible?

Naturally, I share the hon. Gentleman's disappointment, as I think I have made clear. The lesson of Irish affairs is that one looks not backwards to the last bridge under which the water has flowed but forwards to the future. I have every hope that we shall have a meeting very soon.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that, no matter how much foot dragging and time wasting there may be from the Government of the Irish Republic, Her Majesty's Government will not welsh on the agreement of 12 June, but will comply with it in every part—in particular that there will be a meeting between two Governments and not between civil servants? Will he assure the House that the purpose of the meeting in strand 3 formation will be to give preliminary consideration to the issues that may arise in strand 3 and not, as he said earlier, to set an agenda?

The language of the agreement is perfectly clear and is set out in the third paragraph. I do not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman said. It is not, if I recall, specified whether the meeting will be at ministerial or official level. What is specified is that matters that are likely to arise in strand 3 discussions can be the subject of preliminary discussion or examination at that time. I think that there is every prospect that the meeting will take place in a manner that is satisfactory to all concerned.

Is the Secretary of State aware that Labour would like to see greater use made of the Criminal Justice Jurisdiction Act to avoid many of the problems that have arisen with extradition in the past? We share the Secretary of State's disappointment that a meeting was not held this week and hope that one will be held shortly, but will he confirm that the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach may talk about some of these matters at the margins of the Lisbon summit? Will he further confirm that for the strand 2 talks there was again a formation period or the preparation of an agenda, as we are having on strand 3, and that we are not having specific negotiations and agreements as we go along?

Taking the last point first, it is not a question of getting into the substance of the matters that can be expected to arise. These are preliminary meetings, and the one that took place last Friday under the chairmanship of Sir Ninian Stephen was generally regarded as having been very workmanlike, successful and helpful. It is not appropriate for me to anticipate what, if anything, may take place between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach in Lisbon. The use that is sought to be made of the Criminal Justice Jurisdiction Act is a matter for the Attorney-General or the Minister of Justice in the Republic. I recall from my previous occupation that there is no reluctance here to use the Criminal Justice Jurisdiction Act, if it is appropriate, having regard to the nature of the offence, that a case should be tried in the Republic of Ireland rather than here. It saves a lot of difficulty if that course is taken, but not every offence makes that appropriate.

Inter-Party Talks


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the progress of the inter-party talks.

There have been substantive constructive exchanges in strand 1 of the talks under my chairmanship. Sir Ninian Stephen last week chaired a meeting between representatives of the Government, the Irish Government and the four parties. It completed consideration of a possible agenda for strand 2 of the talks. I hope for an early meeting in strand 3 formation to give preliminary consideration to the issues that are likely to arise in that strand.

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend and all those concerned on proceeding so successfully through strand 1 to strand 2 of the talks. However, I recall that in 1976 there were signboards all over Northern Ireland saying that seven years was too much, yet here we are 16 years further down the road with the same problems. In the light of that, will he inform the House, clearly, who is responsible for the delay in proceeding to strand 3 and assure us that we will get to the pre-strand 3 talks very soon?

I am grateful for the good wishes with which my hon. Friend began his question, but we are not yet into strand 2. We have had a preliminary meeting to discuss an agenda, but the moment has not arisen when I think it right to propose the transition to strand 2 proper.

It is worth pointing out that all involved in the talks have shown real determination to make a success of them and have applied themselves to a very difficult task with, in my respectful opinion, great imagination and determination. I hope that we can now look forward to the pre-meeting for strand 3 and not dwell on the disappointment of not being able to achieve that meeting this week. I have said what I wanted to say about that, and I believe that there are now good prospects for having the type of preliminary meeting that we all want.

Will the Secretary of State inform the House why he has not yet called a substantive meeting of strand 2, as he is required to do by the statement made in the House on 26 March? Will he also inform the House whether he or any of his colleagues gave a written commitment to the Democratic Unionist party that a strand 3 formation meeting would take place this week? If he did, will he confirm that he gave such a written commitment to all the other party leaders involved in the talks? If he did not, will he surmise where such a written commitment may have come from?

The answer to the second part of the question is no, I did not. In answer to the first, I have a rather better recollection of what my right hon. Friend said on 26 March 1991 about the foundation for the whole process of the talks. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is required, when he thinks the moment is right, to propose the transition to strand 2 after consulting the parties. I do not yet think that that moment has arrived. I look forward to it arriving and I wish it to arrive as soon as possible, but I shall not—[Interruption.] Rather than being shouted at by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), I should like to finish the answer. I do not wish to prejudice the outcome of strand 2 by proposing it prematurely.

If the Anglo-Irish Agreement is such a wonderful instrument for consultation, does the Secretary of State have any idea why it has already taken two weeks to establish a mere preliminary strand 3 meeting which, after all, was foreshadowed as much as 15 months ago?

All institutions are mortal and, therefore, fallible—and it seems to me that some are more mortal than others. Those of us who consider the issues of the government of Northern Ireland from any standpoint do not have an easy task, and we must make the best use that we can of the structures already in existence in our task of getting agreement for better and more effective structures. That is what all of us are about.

Secondary Schools


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the structure of the secondary school system in Northern Ireland.

The secondary system of education in most areas of Northern Ireland operates on the basis of selection at 11-plus. It is very popular, and there are no plans to change it at the moment.

Does my hon. Friend agree that among the many excellent aspects of life in Northern Ireland is the quality of its secondary education? Is not it a fact that Northern Ireland has the lowest level of illiteracy, the highest number of A-level results and one of the lowest level of truancy in the United Kingdom? Does not that show that if some form of selection were returned to the rest of the United Kingdom—as might well happen under the Government's new proposals—it would be very good for children in the rest of Britain?

I shall restrict my comments to Northern Ireland and confirm many of the statistics that my hon. Friend mentioned: 30 per cent. of Northern Ireland school leavers achieve at least one A-level, compared to 24 per cent. in England; 75 per cent. of those leaving the grammar schools do so with at least one A-level; 41 per cent. of all Northern Ireland school leavers achieve at least five good GCSE grades, compared to 37 per cent. in England, and finally, 52 per cent. of all school leavers in Northern Ireland go on to further or higher education, compared to 37 per cent. in England.

However, I warn my hon. Friend that the selection system is not all rosy, for the simple reason that in Northern Ireland, 15 per cent. of children leave school without any qualifications, compared to 8 per cent. in England—although that 15 per cent. is well below the 27 per cent. of only 10 years ago. That is the issue on which we must concentrate.

The Minister will be aware that parents make comparisons between grammar schools and secondary schools in Northern Ireland. Will he continue to seek adequate funding for secondary schools and ensure that their accommodation and equipment are sufficient to deliver the national curriculum? Will he also seek the support of other departments in the Northern Ireland Office and enlist their help so that they can deal sensitively with areas such as Rathcoole in my constituency, where secondary schools are being rationalised?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that under the education reform capital programme substantial moneys are already being spent exactly as he requests. In the three years to March 1992, more than £45 million has been spent to deliver the common curriculum requirements, and a further £57 million is to be spent over the next three years.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's worries about Rathcoole. I have received representations from him, for which I am grateful. I can assure him that there will be great sensitivity. My Department has already had preliminary discussions with the North Eastern education and library board about the rationalisation of secondary school provision in the area. The final proposals will, of course, be subject to the normal provisions.

In the context of his supplementary answer, will my hon. Friend confirm that the proportion of those leaving school without any qualifications in Northern Ireland has been falling more rapidly in recent years than in Great Britain?

I can confirm that, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I said that 27 per cent. of children leaving school in Northern Ireland in 1979–80 left with no qualifications. We can imagine what idle hands can be turned to. The figure now is 15 per cent., which represents rapid progress—and that progress was especially marked in Northern Ireland under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke).

The Minister will be aware that the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 introduced open enrolment provisions which made it illegal for an integrated school to use criteria which allowed it to maintain a balance. If that is not changed, and integrated schools are forced to accept whatever enrolments are made, regardless of the religious balance which would result, they will not be able to be what is generally described as genuinely integrated. I understand that the Windmill integrated school in Dungannon has been placed in that position, with the education board forcing it to accept children so that the balance would be upset. The school has refused, which has led to legal action being taken against it. Is the Minister aware of that position? If so, how does he intend to ensure that the integrated schools ideal in Northern Ireland is maintained?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I am indeed aware of the problem, but it is a problem which was established within the legislation in the first place. The subject must be reconsidered. I cannot say exactly how, so I cannot answer the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, but the matter is being actively considered at this moment. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's interest, and I look forward to any further advice that he may offer.

Business Start-Ups


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many inquiries the local enterprise development unit had in 1991 regarding business start-up and related matters.

A total of 6,833.

Does not that demonstrate clearly and without a shadow of doubt that Government support for small businesses in the Province remains strong?

Of course—the Government in Northern Ireland is no different from the Government in any other part of the United Kingdom in terms of their commitment to small businesses, and I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the position will remain the same so long as I am doing this job.

Is the Minister aware that most people in Northern Ireland want encouragement to be given to small and medium-sized companies, but that what is important is not just the number of applications but the number which are efficiently dealt with by the Local Enterprise Development Unit? Is he aware that there is increasing concern about LEDU's delays in processing applications and that small businesses are deciding not to bother to make submissions to LEDU but to go ahead without support?

With a new chairman and a new Minister, it is the intention that any problems that have arisen will be dealt with. That is not to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) was anything other than extremely successful in his tenure of office. If the right hon. Gentleman has particular points in mind that he wishes me to address, I should be grateful if he would write to me.

My hon. Friend the Minister will be aware that there are still fewer people employed in the small firms sector of the Province than is the case in other parts of the Kingdom. Does he agree that one of the best ways to break down sectarian barriers is to encourage enterprise, initiative and entrepreneurs? What steps will he take to reduce dependency on the public sector in Ulster?

My hon. Friend makes an entirely fair point. Clearly there is always a need to consider how we reduce support from Government. That can come about only if there are more and more successful companies and, of course, successful companies have small beginnings. I want to take away the drip feed system to which my hon. Friend refers as soon as is realistically possible. That would represent an amazing success story for Northern Ireland, but I suspect that it will be some time before that can happen. However, I am conscious of my hon. Friend's interest and of the pressure that he will bring to bear in that regard.

Electoral Office


To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in defining terms and conditions of staff in the Northern Ireland electoral office.

The terms and conditions of service of staff employed to assist the chief electoral officer are explained in letters of appointment and for the most part are linked to those of the Northern Ireland civil service. Those terms and conditions of service are now being codified by the chief electoral officer.

Can the Minister explain why no grievance procedure is available for staff who wish to appeal and why certain electoral matters that require clarification appear to be decided arbitrarily, in a way which shows little regard for existing legislation?

The chief electoral officer is an independent officer and it would be difficult to provide for any external channel of appeal other than the courts, but I am willing to consider any proposals on how that might be achieved. I invite the hon. Gentleman to talk to me about any particular problem in that regard. These are important issues and I would welcome his advice and consultation.

Hospital Trusts

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will ensure that each hospital application for trust status is evaluated in a way which safeguards the relevant health board's obligation to deliver acute hospital services efficiently and effectively within its area of responsibility.

The health and social services boards are responsible for securing services that meet the needs of their populations and they will contract with a range of providers, including trusts, to obtain those services. In that context, trusts will be no different from other providers.

Does the Minister understand my fear that the Western and Southern health boards will find strategic planning for the delivery of acute hospital services virtually impossible if they lose direct influence over Altnagelvin and Craigavon hospitals, respectively? Will he bear in mind that it is crucial not to allow essential services to be endangered by sanctioning a go-it-alone approach by those two main hospitals?

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that in establishing trusts there is no opting out of the national health service. Health and social services boards in Northern Ireland will provide the full range of services that they provide at present, so any unit that is to be a provider of health care must provide for the people of the area. No board would want to contract with a provider of services unless a good range of services was provided. There would be a far better delivery of health care, especially in the Western board area, than there is at present. As the hon. Gentleman knows, no units in the Western board are currently planning to ask for trust status.

Bearing in mind the future of trust hospitals, will the Minister assure my constituents, who are deeply worried, that no decision has been taken by his noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State regarding the Omagh maternity unit? Will he assure me that the Minister will give most earnest consideration to the united appeal from every section of our community in Mid-Ulster on this vital matter?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State who is responsible for health and social services in Northern Ireland is considering carefully the issue to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The hon. Gentleman will know that my noble Friend has visited both Omagh and Fermanagh in recent weeks and hopes to reach a decision within the next two or three weeks.

Is the Minister aware that the Downe hospital in Downpatrick has applied for trust status? How does he explain that application in the context of the findings of the Down and Lisburn unit of management document that a new hospital should be built? Will he consider that in the context of the directive that the Eastern health board has received from the Department which would close three hospitals in the constituency of South Down? Is the Minister aware of the tremendous distress and worry that that is causing to the people of Northern Ireland, especially as the consultation period is a sham and the Minister at the Northern Ireland Office will not be able to answer to the House for that consultation?

While I answer for health in Northern Ireland in this House, my noble Friend will consider the application for trust status made by the unit to which the hon. Gentleman referred and those made by other units, but I know that he will do so only after full consultation. I know that my noble Friend will consider the application carefully and that consultation with the hon. Gentleman and all others in the community will be most welcome.



To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many units of housing are now administered (a) by local councils, (b) housing associations and (c) other bodies; and if he will make a statement.

At 31 March 1992, 11,543 units were administered by registered housing associations and 162,371 were administered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which is the sole public housing authority in the province. Local councils and other public bodies administer a few houses for their own employees, but the figures are not available.

Are those units of housing sufficient to meet the housing needs of the people of Northern Ireland? Will my hon. Friend comment on the outstanding achievements of the Housing Executive, which has worked to the satisfaction of all sections of the community? Should not those efforts be warmly supported and encouraged?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's interest in the matter. The Housing Executive in Northern Ireland is probably the most effective of its type anywhere in this country and probably in Europe. It is certainly true to say that the reduction in recent years of the waiting list for urgent housing illustrates the important achievement that the Housing Executive has made. I am particularly grateful to the distinguished chairman and members of the Housing Executive for the work that they do.

Given that one of the greatest strengths of housing associations in Northern Ireland is the local people involved in them, will the Minister give an undertaking to the House and the people of Northern Ireland that he will maintain the distinct identities of each such housing association and steadfastly resist any efforts to amalgamate them into a private version of the Housing Executive?

The hon. Gentleman may be aware that I was present at a recent function that all the housing associations attended. As one who was formerly actively involved in housing matters on a local authority, I know only too well the importance of small local housing associations. They fulfil a particular need in a particular area. At this stage I am not prepared to give an unequivocal assurance to the hon. Gentleman along the lines that he requested. However, I understand the sentiments that he expresses and I am, as they say, minded to agree with him. [Interruption.]

Order. The House is very restless. I hope that it will settle down. It is disconcerting for hon. Members who have the Floor.



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.