With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on Sir Desmond de Silva’s report on the nature and extent of state collusion in the murder of Patrick Finucane. The murder of Patrick Finucane in his home in North Belfast on Sunday l2 February 1989 was an appalling crime. He was shot 14 times as he sat down for dinner with his wife and three children. He died in front of them. His wife was injured, and Pat Finucane died in front of his family.
In the period since the murder, there have been three full criminal investigations carried out by the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Stevens. Taken together, they amount to the biggest criminal investigation in British history, led by the most senior police officer, and consisting of more than 1 million pages of documents and 12,000 witness statements obtained with full police powers. As a result of the third Stevens investigation, one of those responsible, Ken Barrett, was tried and convicted in 2004 for the murder of Patrick Finucane.
There was a further report by Judge Cory. Both Lord Stevens and Judge Cory made it clear that there was state collusion in the murder. This itself was a shocking conclusion, and I apologised to the family on behalf of the British Government when I met them last year. But despite these reports, some 23 years after the murder, there has still only been limited information put into the public domain. The whole country and beyond is entitled to know the extent and nature of the collusion, and the extent of the failure of our state and Government. That is why, last October, this Government asked Sir Desmond de Silva to conduct an independent review of the evidence to expose the truth as quickly as possible.
Sir Desmond has had full and unrestricted access to the Lord Stevens archive and to all Government papers. These include highly sensitive intelligence files and new and significant information that was not available to either Lord Stevens or Justice Cory, including Cabinet papers, minutes of meetings with Ministers and senior officials, and papers and guidance on agent handling. He has declassified key documents, including original intelligence material, and he has published them in volume 2 of his report today. The decision over what to publish was entirely his own—it was entirely a matter for Desmond de Silva. I believe that Sir Desmond’s report has now given us the fullest possible account of the murder of Patrick Finucane and the truth about state collusion. The extent of disclosure in today’s report is without precedent.
Nobody has more pride than me in the work of our armed forces, police and security services. I see at close hand just what they do to keep us safe. As Sir Desmond makes clear, he is looking at
“an extremely dark and violent time”
in Northern Ireland’s history. I am sure that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the police and security forces that served in Northern Ireland, but we should be in no doubt that this report makes extremely difficult reading. The report sets out the extent of collusion in areas such as identifying, targeting and murdering Mr Finucane; supplying a weapon and facilitating its later disappearance; and deliberately obstructing subsequent investigations. It also answers questions about how high up the collusion went, including the role of Ministers at the time.
Sir Desmond is satisfied that there was not
“an over-arching State conspiracy to murder Patrick Finucane”,
but while he rejects any state conspiracy, he does find frankly shocking levels of state collusion. Most importantly, Sir Desmond says he is
“left in significant doubt as to whether Patrick Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA”—
the Ulster Defence Association—
“in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the State.”
He finds that
“a series of positive actions by employees of the State actively furthered and facilitated his murder”.
Sir Desmond cites five specific areas of collusion. First,
“there were extensive ‘leaks’ of security force information to the UDA and other loyalist paramilitary groups.”
“In 1985 the Security Service assessed that 85% of the UDA’s ‘intelligence’ originated from sources within the security forces.”
“satisfied that this proportion would have remained largely unchanged by…the time of Patrick Finucane’s murder.”
Secondly, there was a failure by the authorities to act on threat intelligence. Sir Desmond describes
“an extraordinary state of affairs…in which both the Army and the RUC SB”—
Royal Ulster Constabulary special branch—
“had prior notice of a series of planned UDA assassinations, yet nothing was done by the RUC to seek to prevent these attacks.”
When we read some of the specific cases in the report—page after page in chapter 7—it is really shocking that this happened in our country. In the case of Patrick Finucane, Sir Desmond says that
“it should have been clear to the RUC SB from the threat intelligence that…the UDA were about to mount an imminent attack”,
“it is clear that they took no action whatsoever to act on the threat intelligence.”
Thirdly, Sir Desmond confirms that employees of the state and state agents played “key roles” in the murder. He finds that
“two agents who were at the time in the pay of agencies of the State were involved”—
Brian Nelson and William Stobie—
“together with another who was to become an agent of the State after his involvement in that murder”.
It cannot be argued that these were rogue agents. Indeed, Sir Desmond concludes that Army informer Brian Nelson should
“properly be considered to be acting in a position equivalent to an employee of the Ministry of Defence.”
Although Nelson is found to have withheld information from his Army handlers,
“the Army must bear a degree of responsibility for Brian Nelson's targeting activity during 1987-89, including that of Patrick Finucane.”
Most shockingly of all, Sir Desmond says that
“on the balance of probabilities…an RUC officer or officers did propose Patrick Finucane…as a UDA target when speaking to a loyalist paramilitary.”
Fourthly, there was a failure to investigate and arrest key members of the West Belfast UDA over a long period of time. As I said earlier, Ken Barrett was eventually convicted of the murder. What is extraordinary is that back in 1991, instead of prosecuting him for murder as the RUC criminal investigation department wanted, the RUC special branch decided instead to recruit him as an agent.
Fifthly, this was all part of what Sir Desmond calls a wider
“relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice”
after the murder had taken place. Sir Desmond finds that
“senior Army officers deliberately lied to criminal investigators”
and that the RUC special branch
“were responsible for seriously obstructing the investigation.”
On the separate question of how certain Ministers were briefed, while Sir Desmond finds no political conspiracy, he is clear that Ministers were misled. He finds that
“the Army and Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials provided the Secretary of State for Defence with highly misleading and, in parts, factually inaccurate advice”
about the force research unit’s “handling of Brian Nelson.” On the comments made by Douglas Hogg, Sir Desmond agrees with Lord Stevens that the briefing he received from the RUC meant that he was “compromised”. However, Sir Desmond goes on to say that there is
“no basis for any claim that he intended his comments to provide a form of political encouragement for an attack on any solicitor.”
More broadly on the role of Ministers, Sir Desmond says that there is
“no evidence whatsoever to suggest that any Government Minister had foreknowledge of Patrick Finucane’s murder, nor that they were subsequently informed of any intelligence that any agency of the State had received about the threat to his life.”
He says that the then Attorney-General, Sir Patrick Mayhew, deserves
“significant credit for withstanding considerable political pressure designed to ensure that Brian Nelson was not prosecuted.”
As a result, of course, Nelson was prosecuted in 1992, following the first investigation by Lord Stevens.
The collusion demonstrated beyond any doubt by Sir Desmond, which included the involvement of state agencies in murder, is totally unacceptable. We do not defend our security forces, or the many who have served in them with great distinction, by trying to claim otherwise. Collusion should never, ever happen. So on behalf of the Government, and the whole country, let me say again to the Finucane family, I am deeply sorry.
It is vital that we learn the lessons of what went wrong, and for Government in particular to address Sir Desmond’s criticisms of a
“wilful and abject failure by successive Governments to provide the clear policy and legal framework necessary for agent-handling operations to take place effectively and within the law.”
Since 1989, many steps have been taken to improve the rules, procedures and oversight of intelligence work. There is now a proper legal basis for the security services, and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has established a framework for the authorisation of the use and conduct of agents. In addition, the activities of individual agents are now clearly recorded, along with the parameters within which they must work. The Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Office of Surveillance Commissioners now regulate the use of agents and report publicly to this House. Taken together, those changes are designed to ensure that the failures of 1989 could not be made today.
Policing and security in Northern Ireland have been transformed, reflecting the progress that has been made in recent years. The force research unit and the special branch of the RUC have both gone, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland is today one of the most scrutinised police forces anywhere in the world. It is accountable to local Ministers and a local Policing Board. I believe that it commands widespread support across the whole community.
Through all those measures, this Government and our predecessors have shown a determination to do everything possible to ensure that no such collusion ever happens again. We will study Sir Desmond’s report in detail to see what further lessons can be learned. I have asked the Secretaries of State for Defence and for Northern Ireland and the Cabinet Secretary to report back to me on all the issues that arise from the report. I will publish their responses. Other organisations that are properly independent of Government, such as the police and prosecuting authorities, will want to read the report closely and consider their own responses.
Sir Desmond says that his conclusion
“should not be taken to impugn the reputation of the majority of RUC and UDR officers who served with distinction during what was an extraordinarily violent period”.
He goes on to say that
“it would be a serious mistake for this Report to be used to promote or reinforce a particular narrative of any of the groups involved in the Troubles in Northern Ireland.”
I am sure that those statements will have wide support in this House. We should never forget that over 3,500 people lost their lives and there were many terrible atrocities. Sir Desmond reminds us that the Provisional IRA
“was the single greatest source of violence during this period”,
and that a full account of the events of the late 1980s
“would reveal the full calculating brutality of that terrorist group.”
During the troubles over 300 RUC officers and 700 British military personnel were killed, with over 13,000 police and military injured. I pay tribute to them and to all those who defended democracy and the rule of law and created the conditions for the progress we have now seen. We must not take that progress for granted, as we have seen this week, and I pay tribute again to those in the PSNI who are once again in the front line today. We will not allow Northern Ireland to slip back to its bitter and bloody past.
The Finucane family suffered the most grievous lost in the most appalling way imaginable. I know they oppose this review process and I respect their views. However, I do respectfully disagree with them that a public inquiry would produce a fuller picture of what happened and what went wrong. Indeed, the history of public inquiries in Northern Ireland would suggest that had we gone down that route, we would not know now what we know today.
Northern Ireland has been transformed over the past 20 years but there is still more to do to build a genuinely shared future. One thing this Government can do to help is to face up honestly when things have gone wrong in the past. If we as a country want to uphold democracy and the rule of law, we must be prepared to be judged by the highest standards. We must also face up fully when we fall short. In showing once again that we are not afraid to do that, I hope that today’s report can contribute to moving Northern Ireland forward. In that spirit, I commend this statement to the House.
Let me first thank the Prime Minister for his statement and for the tone in which he delivered it. Let me also thank Sir Desmond de Silva for his work and how he went about his task. He has produced a serious and long report within the terms of reference he was set, and it will take time to absorb it. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s apology to the Finucane family; it is the right thing to do, and I am grateful to John Finucane for the conversation that I had with him.
Pat Finucane was a husband, father and brother who was murdered in his own home as he sat with his family on a Sunday evening. What makes it even worse is that 23 years after this appalling crime, his family are still searching for the truth with the utmost courage and dignity.
I agree with the Prime Minister that this report provides disturbing and uncomfortable reading for us all, because it makes it clear that there was collusion in murder and a cover-up, and furthermore that
“Agents of the State were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder.”
Of course, as the Prime Minister said, this should not diminish the service of thousands of police officers, soldiers and security service personnel who are dedicated to protecting and serving people in Northern Ireland. They have my admiration and I am sure that of the whole House. They will be as appalled as we all are by the findings of the report today.
As we examine and assess the findings of this report and whether it is adequate—the Prime Minister thinks that it is—it is essential that we remember the background. An investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane in which the public had confidence was an important part of the peace process that began under Sir John Major and has continued since.
At Weston Park in 2001 both the Irish and British Governments agreed to appoint a judge of international standing to examine six cases in which there were serious allegations of collusion by the security forces. That applied in both jurisdictions—the UK and Ireland. It was agreed that in the event that a public inquiry was recommended in any of the cases, the relevant Government would implement that recommendation.
Judge Peter Cory was appointed and recommended that public inquiries were necessary in five separate cases. Three of those on the UK side have been completed and the one inquiry recommended on the Irish side is expected to report next year. The only outstanding case in which a public inquiry was recommended but has not taken place is that of Pat Finucane. The last Government could not reach consensus with the Finucane family on arrangements for such an inquiry, but towards the end of our time in office the Finucane family indicated that they would support a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, and a way forward had begun to be discussed. As the Prime Minister knows, the Opposition continue to believe that we should abide by the obligations under the Weston Park agreement. In that context, may I ask him four questions?
First, does the Prime Minister recognise the concern that the failure to hold a public inquiry is at odds with agreements that were an essential part of the peace process? Secondly, I believe it is right to say that Sir Desmond could not compel witnesses or cross-examine them in public and had to accept the assurances of state bodies that he had been given all relevant material. Does the Prime Minister therefore recognise the concern about the limits of what the de Silva inquiry could do compared with a full public inquiry?
Thirdly, the British and Irish Governments had been at one on this issue. What discussions has the Prime Minister had with the Irish Government about de Silva’s review and about what their position is likely to be today?
My fourth and final question takes me to the issue of public confidence. Continuing to build trust and confidence among the communities of Northern Ireland remains essential, as the Prime Minister said. The appalling violence that we have seen on the streets of Northern Ireland in recent days reminds us of that. Judge Cory said that a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane was needed because
“without public scrutiny doubts based solely on myth and suspicion will linger long, fester and spread their malignant infection throughout the Northern Ireland community.”
Notwithstanding the good work done by Sir Desmond de Silva, can the Prime Minister really say with confidence that the whole truth has been established in the case of Pat Finucane? How can we say that when it is dismissed by the family and many in Northern Ireland?
We must, as a United Kingdom, accept that our state sometimes did not meet the high standards that we set ourselves during the Northern Ireland conflict. Anyone reading the report will believe that it describes an appalling episode in our history. Those in all parts of the House share a belief that we must establish the full and tested truth about Pat Finucane’s murder, but the Opposition continue to believe that a public inquiry is necessary for his family and for Northern Ireland.
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s response and the way in which he gave it. Let me say first that he is entirely right that we should take time to study and consider the report. There is a huge amount of detail in it, and lots of consequences may flow from it.
The right hon. Gentleman focused on the important question of whether there should be a public inquiry. I made the decision that it would not be right to have one for a number of reasons. First, if we look at the other inquiries that were started after the Weston Park agreement was reached—it is worth noting that that is now more than 10 years ago—we see that some of them took five or six years or longer and cost tens of millions of pounds, and I do not believe that they got closer to the truth than de Silva has in his excellent and full report. In fact, in the case of one of those inquiries, after six years and £30 million, the reaction of the family, which I can understand in some ways, was to ask for a further inquiry. To me, the real question is: what is the fastest way to get to the truth and the best way to lay out what happened and provide the security that that brings? I believe that the process we have been through is right.
On the Irish Government, I spoke this morning to Enda Kenny. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that the position of the Taoiseach and the Irish Government has been in favour of a public inquiry, but I think they understand why we took our decision and respect the fact that we have been incredibly open and frank about what happened.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s question about the limits of this process compared with the public inquiry process, we have held nothing back. De Silva says in his report that he had full access to all the documents and everything he wanted, and that the decision to redact any names or information was taken by him. Of course, there is always the question of the public inquiry. We took our decision, and I said at the time of the last election that I did not think it was right to have further open-ended public inquiries following the enormous time and expense of the Saville inquiry, and I think that that remains the right position. We need to look at ways in which we can get to the truth and help people to move ahead in Northern Ireland, and this has been a good exercise in doing just that.
Obviously the last Government considered this matter, I am sure very carefully, but I would make the point that they had all the time between 2001 and 2010 to start the work of an inquiry and did not take that decision. I think that was partly because they understood, as we did, the problems, dangers and expense of open-ended inquiries.
In the end, what matters is getting to the truth, and I cannot think of many other countries anywhere in the world that would set out in so much detail and with so much clarity what went wrong. It pains me to read the report, because I am so proud of our country, our institutions such as the police and our security services and what they do to keep us safe. It is agony to read in the report what happened, but it is right that we publish it. We do not need a public inquiry with cross-examination to do that, we just need a Government who are bold enough to say, “Let’s unveil what happened, let’s publish it and then let’s see the consequences.”
I join the Prime Minister in condemning the collusion of some state agents in the murder of Mr Finucane. I, too, extend my sympathies to Mr Finucane’s family.
Does the Prime Minister agree that it is important to see this action in the context of the 1980s, which he has rightly described as a very dangerous time in Northern Ireland? Was it not extremely important, as it is now, that intelligence gathering took place, and that in general terms it saved many lives? Does he further agree that any leaks from the RUC that Sir Desmond has identified ought also to be seen in the right context, because the RUC at that time, like the PSNI this week, stood between Northern Ireland and the abyss?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to refer us back to what was happening in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and the atmosphere and pressures of that time, and to talk about the important work that agents do in countering terrorism. Of course, we should continue that work, properly regulated and dealt with, as I argued earlier. We have to be careful, though, because if we are proud of the health of our democracy, the rule of law and our system, we have to expect the highest standards when we look back. We cannot just say, “Well, bad things happened. Other people did bad things, we did bad things”. We have to be better than that, and that is what the report and our response should be about.
May I ask the Prime Minister which Ministers he intends to consult on the matter? He was right to point out the destruction that the Provisional IRA wreaked upon people’s lives in Northern Ireland, but there is no equivalence between what a terrorist organisation does and what a state does. It is important that the Attorney-General should be involved in looking carefully at the report, because there might well have to be prosecutions arising from it.
The right hon. Gentleman makes exactly the point that I was trying to make a moment ago. We cannot try to draw an equivalence between a state and a terrorist organisation. We have to have the highest standards, and it is right to ask that we live up to them.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s specific point about what others should do, it is important in our country that the prosecuting authorities and the police are independent and go where the evidence takes them. I am sure they will want to study the report carefully, because it has new information and new facts and makes some uncomfortable points about what parts of the RUC and other organisations did.
May I support the observation that the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Paul Murphy) made about the need to consider whether prosecution is justified, which is a matter not for the Prime Minister but for the Attorney-General? In dealing with that, I have no doubt that the Attorney-General will show the same independence of mind and integrity that Sir Patrick Mayhew demonstrated in this case.
In the more than 25 years for which I have been a Member of this House, I cannot remember a statement from the Dispatch Box that has filled me with more revulsion and horror than the Prime Minister’s outlining of the events that happened. The violation of the Finucane family and the horror of the assassination were compounded by what we now know where deliberate attempts at obfuscation. If the report does anything, it surely points out the crucial fact that when dealing with terrorism, we must not descend to the terrorists’ level, because by doing so we lose the argument.
My right hon. and learned Friend puts the point incredibly clearly. There are some very shocking things in this report. What perhaps shocked me the most are some of the things that happened after the murder took place. The fact that someone who was effectively one of those responsible for the murder was then hired as an agent is truly shocking. The fact that the Army—it says here—did not co-operate properly with the Stevens inquiry, and effectively lied to it, is shocking. That is why it is so important that we lay this bare. The point my right hon. and learned Friend makes about never descending to that level is that whatever battle we are fighting against terror—and we are fighting battles against terror all the time—we have to maintain that we are at all times obeying the rule of law.
I thank the Prime Minister for his efforts and his statement, which is indeed very welcome. I welcome the report, given its limitations, in so far as it takes us a little further down the road towards truth. It provides some further chilling detail for this House about what many of us already know, but in my opinion it falls far short and does not go far enough. It helps that some of the frightening details have emerged in the report, and I welcome the Prime Minister’s comments about what happened after the murder. For me, that is significant, because it is only a continuation of some things that were done before the murder, which Sir Desmond was not able to confirm, and there was a deep conspiracy running through the elements that were involved.
There was failure, obstruction and general neglect of duty—the fact that the Army was not able to co-operate with Stevens; the fact that a Minister of this House was misled and misinformed prior to the murder, and made statements to this House. Indeed, my colleague Seamus Mallon, a former Member of this House, made reference to the very point, on the day that statement was made, that this would cost lives.
The report confirms that the UDA was steered and prompted to murder Pat Finucane by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary special branch, which should have been performing the role of questioning and putting people in prison. The UDA gunman was coached as to who might be targeted for murder—two other lawyers were targeted as well. Police files were handed to the UDA for further murder operations, involving not just those three lawyers but further people.
I was very proud to stand with the Finucane family in those desperate times at Pat’s funeral, as they buried him. The Social Democratic and Labour party and I will stand with them today—and indeed into the future—because we support their demand for a full public inquiry. We feel that we have still got only half the truth out. This report confirms why Judge Cory was right, as the family were right, to demand an open, international, independent inquiry. There are people out there who should be held to account, even though it is 23 years too late. In the light of this report, I ask the Prime Minister to reconsider and agree to the family’s request for a full inquiry and prosecutions.
Beyond that, the Finucane report confirms the case for a comprehensive truth process, which we all need. The need for such a process grows more urgent by the day. I echo the words of other colleagues. We should not set our standards by the standards of the Provisional IRA or any loyalist group, so will the Prime Minister please reconsider and allow a full inquiry?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I know that he speaks with real knowledge, passion and interest on this issue. First, on how we have a process in Northern Ireland of getting to the truth in more of these cases, I commend the work of the Historical Enquiries Team. It has done good work, it can continue to do good work and we should continue to fund it so that it can do so.
On whether an inquiry would find out more, I would make two points. First, if we have an inquiry process, the whole process, as we saw with Saville, would start with an enormous discussion about who had anonymity and how the case would proceed. In the case of Saville, that went on for many years before the investigation started. If we look at other public inquiries, I would argue that some of them have got less close to the truth than this report.
I would make one further point, which is that the Stevens process was an investigation with the full powers of a criminal investigation. Now it is open to the authorities, if they want, to repeat that process. That combination of having had a criminal investigation—which made some progress and led to a prosecution—having had the fullest possible disclosure of all the documents and all the evidence, and then saying to the prosecuting and other authorities that it is up to them, if they believe there is further work that can be done, is the right approach. It is faster and more effective than either starting with a public inquiry process now or, had we or a previous Government done so a few years ago, having one that would only just be getting into gear now.
Speaking as someone who has been involved in both intelligence work and counter-intelligence work at this most difficult period, may I say that I was proud to stand alongside police officers and Army officers who did their work gallantly, properly and within the law? Will the Prime Minister please ensure that if there are cases for prosecutions of those who broke the law, they will be pursued unflinchingly?
I think the whole House and, indeed, the country—and many people in Northern Ireland—will have listened to someone who served in our forces, reached a senior rank in our forces, served in Northern Ireland and served in intelligence matters saying that as clearly as he has. That is extremely important. It is so important for our military, our Security Service and our police that serving and previous members say that what they did was done with honour, gallantry and in a way that was right. Their good name is besmirched by the terrible things we read in this report, so my hon. Friend is absolutely right that where there should be criminal investigations, there should be such investigations.
May I join the Prime Minister in extending an apology to the Finucane family, but may I also respectfully disagree with the conclusion he reaches from this report? My right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) is entirely right to conclude that we should uphold the call for a full independent inquiry. I say respectfully to the Prime Minister that it might be difficult to establish the terms of reference for such a judicial inquiry, but that should never be confused with the need for such an inquiry to take place. It might be difficult, but that does not mean that we should not pursue justice.
This report is indeed shocking. If I may, I want to ask the Prime Minister about one of its findings. I share his full admiration for the security services and the forces that have undoubtedly saved many lives in Northern Ireland, but this report finds, in just one conclusion, that Ministers were misled about the flow of information from the security forces to loyalist paramilitaries. Far from, as Ministers were told at the time, there being just a few rogue individuals—a phrase known to this House on other matters—it turns out that Desmond de Silva finds that between 1987 and 1989 there were 287 instances of that flow of information, some of which compromised the most top-secret security information.
I am afraid that this report is just the beginning of a set of questions. It is not a set of answers. The Prime Minister’s statement was indeed grave. For the good reputation of the security forces, he would be wise to reconsider. They have been very badly damaged by the conclusions of this report. For their good reputation and for the Finucane family, will he reconsider having an inquiry?
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s question and the way he puts it. Let me be clear: the reason for not having a full public inquiry is not that it would not be possible to establish the terms of reference. My view is that it is not the right approach, because I do not think it would achieve what we need to achieve. I do not necessarily think that a long, open-ended, very expensive inquiry would actually get further than what we have in this report, which has been an exercise in opening up government, the security services and the police to the maximum extent possible. Nothing has been held back, so I do not think we will get further. Of course, a public inquiry would put a stay on any potential prosecution while it was under way. We are not having a public inquiry because I do not believe it is the right approach; I think this report is the right approach—and as I say, I cannot think of any other country in the world that would open itself up in the way that we have quite rightly done so.
The point that the right hon. Gentleman makes about Ministers being misled is absolutely right. That is why I said in my statement that the Cabinet Secretary is one of the people who will report back to me about lessons that need to be learned or problems that still need to be uncovered or dealt with. That is important. The only point I would make to the right hon. Gentleman about the role of the security services is that things have changed fundamentally since 1989. In 1987 and ’88, it was still a time when Ministers at this Dispatch Box did not even admit that we had a Security Service. It is now on a statutory basis—it is properly regulated and under the law—there are information commissioners who have to examine what is done and ministerial permission is properly sought in all the proper ways. The situation is totally transformed. That does not mean that there are not lessons to be learned, however, which is why the Defence Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary will all be reading this report carefully and reporting back to me, and I will make those reports public.
I, like my good friend the hon. and gallant Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), was an intelligence officer in Northern Ireland. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the identities of those people from all sides who gave information to the security forces—I had well over 100 people giving information to me, albeit sometimes indirectly—will be kept secret, because it would be devastating if such information were ever to get out?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. In the process of writing these reports, the author has to consider carefully article 2—the right to life of all those people contained in the report. It was Sir Desmond de Silva’s decision about who to identify and who not to identify. It is important to bear it in mind that although there are occasions where someone is not identified in the report because of that article 2 consideration, there are also occasions where someone cannot be identified because the report cannot be sure about who was responsible for such and such an action. It needs to be read in that way.
When this review was announced to this House in October last year, I said that the murder of Pat Finucane was
“an atrocious, terrible, despicable crime.”—[Official Report, 12 October 2011; Vol. 533, c. 343.]
We repeat that today. Anyone guilty in any way of involvement in his murder needs to face justice. There should be no covering up or resiling from that. With reference to the fact that some 3,500 people were murdered in the course of the troubles, with over 1,000 of them being in the security forces, as the Prime Minister referenced, does he accept that he owes it and this House owes it to all the victims on all sides to ensure that all murders are fully investigated and that there is a sense of justice for all families, no matter on what side, who find themselves victims of terrorism?
Given the problems with public inquiries, not least the expense, does the Prime Minister accept that it is now clear that such inquiries do not provide closure—despite what has been said? We have seen that in Northern Ireland with the Bloody Sunday inquiry and other inquiries. The evidence is clear that they have had the effect in the minds of many of elevating certain crimes above other crimes where there have also been failings and which are equally heinous.
Finally, does the Prime Minister agree with me about the sight of Sinn Fein leaders hypocritically lecturing people today about human rights—leaders of Sinn Fein who have been deeply and intensely involved personally in murder and terrible terrorist crimes? People need to hear a clear message from the Prime Minister that wrongdoing on all sides will be punished, but that we will never succumb to the propaganda of elevating terrorists and equating them—no matter who they are—with the tens of thousands of decent ordinary people in the security forces who have protected life and limb during 30 to 40 years of terrible violence in Northern Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Making sure that others in Northern Ireland can find justice is, I think, the work of the Historical Enquiries Team. As I said, it should continue with its work. As to what the right hon. Gentleman says specifically about wrongdoing by the IRA, the report could not be clearer that it bears an enormous responsibility, as I read out in my statement, for an extremely bloodthirsty campaign and for a huge amount of the suffering caused. Sir Desmond de Silva could not be more frank about that, but that does not mean that we should not do what a proper democratic state under the rule of law does, which is to explain what went wrong and how we learn lessons from it.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Sir Desmond in his report finds that successive Governments failed to put in place proper guidelines for agents and their handlers, which resulted in agents participating in serious crime without adequate control by their handlers? Will he reassure the House that there are now proper guidelines and adequate controls?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. This is one of the report’s key findings for government: successive Governments, one after another, did not crack the problem of putting in place a legal basis for the security services and agent handling, or indeed provide guidance and processes. In my experience as Prime Minister for the last two and a half years, I believe that does now exist. We have the regulation of investigatory powers; we have intelligence commissioners and intercept commissioners; we have annual reports by the heads of the services; we have the Intelligence and Security Committee, which has given an enormous amount of access and information; and we have ministerial oversight by the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary of the two principal services. I think the situation is transformed. Even since I have been Prime Minister we have issued quite a lot of guidance—at the time of the Guantanamo detainees issue—to try to make sure that we deal with this problem properly. I am always open to further suggestions, but the situation has been transformed over the past 20 years.
Notwithstanding the disagreement over an inquiry, may I commend the Prime Minister for the searing honesty of his statement, which allows the whole House to express solidarity with the Finucane family who are with us today? What this report and the Prime Minister have revealed is even worse than I thought and was informed about as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The fact that special branch agents and members of the Army’s force research unit were involved and up to their necks in this murder is horrendous. Does the right hon. Gentleman think it right therefore that Colonel Gordon Kerr, commanding officer of the force research unit at the time, should have been promoted subsequently to brigadier?
First, let me echo what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Finucane family. They have carried out a very respectful, very legitimate and perfectly fair campaign, because they want justice for the appalling wrong done to Pat and the appalling way in which he was murdered. I had a meeting with them last year, and while, obviously, we did not agree about the outcome, I hope they can see that I was sincere in saying that I would open every door, I would open every part of Whitehall and do everything I could to try to get the fullest, truest picture of what happened as quickly as possible. I profoundly believe that that is the right approach, rather than a costly, lengthy public inquiry, which might not—may well not—get as far as this report.
On what the right hon. Gentleman says about the specific individual, much information about what individual people did is in that report. As I have said, it is now open for different authorities to take the steps that they find appropriate. I have specifically asked the Defence Secretary, the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Cabinet Secretary to examine what is in the report and to give any lessons back directly to me, which I will then publish.
The Prime Minister has just made a brief reference to the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee. Does he agree with me that the proposal to give that Committee enhanced investigative powers under the forthcoming Justice and Security Bill ought to add further reassurance for the future of the power and ability of democratic bodies to investigate alleged past abuses?
The Intelligence and Security Committee does an important job. I found particularly our recent meeting extremely helpful and informative. The Committee is like a second set of eyes on the judgments of Ministers and others, and it has the access in order to question and call them to account. That is an important part of the picture; as important are the guidance and rules that we set for our security and intelligence services. Those were clearly wanting—they did not exist in this case—but they are now in place.
I acknowledge the sincerity of the Prime Minister’s statement and of the apology he gave, but does he accept that if Widgery had been followed by a review rather than by the Saville inquiry—for all the time and money it cost—the apology he gave in this House in June 2010 would not have carried the force that it did. Does he not accept that, if the family continue to believe that there are questions that remain unanswered, their campaign for a public inquiry will continue and one day will have to be met?
I listened carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said, because I know that he was a dedicated Northern Ireland Minister. What I would say is that there is a difference between the two cases. This review followed the three Stevens investigations, which were extensive police investigations with full police powers. It seems to me that after those, what was lacking—as Stevens had talked about collusion and pointed to collusion—was a full revelation of the extent of that collusion, and I think that that is what this report provides.
If there is a need for follow-up, in terms of, for instance, a policing or a prosecution, it is now open to those agencies to arrange that. If we went into a long inquiry process, it would all have to be put off until the future, with no guarantee that we would get any further than the massive amount of detail and disclosure that is included in this report.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the public inquiry into the murder of Billy Wright took some six years and cost £30 million to administer, and that in the end the family and everyone else were extremely dissatisfied with the outcome? Does he not agree that it is far better to take action now on this report, to bring those responsible to justice, and to achieve closure for the family and all who mourn Pat Finucane’s loss?
Let me say first that no one would want to compare Pat Finucane to Billy Wright. The report states very clearly that there was no evidence that he was a member of the IRA. However, my hon. Friend has made an important point about what happened at the end of some of those other inquiries—and the Wright inquiry is an example—after six or seven years, and after tens of millions of pounds had been spent. The Wright inquiry did not actually find the answer to the question of how the murder had taken place, and at the end of it the family said that they wanted another inquiry. My point is that the fact that an inquiry is public does not mean that we get any further than we have in the full opening process that we have now undergone, and that is why I think that this is the right answer.
Today will be a very emotional and distressing day for the Finucane family. I know that they were viciously robbed of a father, a husband, a brother and a son, and my thoughts and prayers are very much with them at this very difficult time. They are also with those who serve Northern Ireland with integrity, and who will find the report painful reading.
The Prime Minister has outlined the changes in the security services and policing arrangements in Northern Ireland. However, Sir Desmond said in his report that there was a
“seriously disproportionate focus by the RUC on acting upon… intelligence that related to individuals… being targeted by republican paramilitary groups”,
as opposed to loyalist groups. Can the Prime Minister assure us categorically that such a disparity will never be permitted again, and that all terrorism will be treated with equal seriousness and diligence?
The Prime Minister also acknowledged that there were many other families who had lost their relatives at the hands of republican and loyalist terrorists, and to whom no inquiries had been granted. Those families are no nearer to knowing the truth about the death of their loved ones, despite the diligent work of the Historical Enquiries Team. Will the Prime Minister now commit himself to delivering a comprehensive process to address the past and its legacy—a process that can focus on truth, on justice and, crucially, on reconciliation?
The hon. Lady made an important point about the disparity between investigations of loyalist terrorism and investigations of republican terrorism. She should read the report carefully, because it contains some quite interesting figures relating to the number of loyalist murderers who have been brought to justice—and to some extent it is encouraging that that did happen—but I entirely agree with the thrust of her question, and that is why I think that the establishment of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been so important.
When I visited one of the PSNI’s training colleges some years ago, I was struck by the fact that the ethos of the organisation was all about trying to bring the community together and trying to police the community together, and by the fact that it focused on recruiting from right across the community. I think I can give an assurance that the danger of there being different levels of investigation of different parts of the community will not arise again.
I thank the Prime Minister for his robust, honest and heartfelt statement and apology. I also thank Sir Desmond for his report and the Police Service of Northern Ireland for their continuing excellent work, and associate myself and my colleagues with, in particular, the comments of the hon. Member for Belfast East (Naomi Long) in expressing sympathy for and solidarity with the Finucane family.
Given that something deeply wrong was done on a regular basis by the state and agents of the state but there are now proper legal structures in which agents can work, will the Prime Minister assure us that in future no agents of the state or members of state institutions will work with the paramilitaries under cover, other than those whose actions have been authorised and have been reported to the authorities, and who are accountable to the relevant Committee of Parliament and to him?
I think that what my right hon. Friend is asking is that there should be no circumstances in which there are rogue agents. These things must be done within the law, within proper guidance and within proper procedures, as is entirely right. I can therefore give him the assurance for which he has asked.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and his apology, and I welcome the tone of his statement. Like him, I do not think that a full new independent public inquiry into this very tragic matter would serve any purpose for anyone, but does he agree that the way in which the Government and the country can accept its failings should serve as a lesson to other countries? Does he not think that the Irish Government might consider looking into some of the rumours, and actual evidence, of collusion between the Irish police over such terrible atrocities as the Kingsmill bombing?
I thank the hon. Lady for her support. I hope that others can see that we are holding back nothing, but opening up and showing what happened in all its unbelievable ghastliness. I hope that the Irish Government will appreciate that, while perhaps still believing that a different path should be taken.
The House may be interested to hear the figures relating to other inquiries. The Robert Hamill inquiry began in 2004 and was completed in April 2011, but its findings have not yet been published because of live criminal proceedings. The Rosemary Nelson inquiry report was published in May 2011. The Billy Wright inquiry cost £30.5 million, the Hamill inquiry £32.6 million, and the Nelson inquiry £46.5 million. Each of those inquiries overran significantly in terms of both time and money. The Wright and Hamill inquiries were both established under the Inquiries Act 2005, so the argument that somehow all this was sorted because of a new Inquiries Act does not really hold water.
Does the Prime Minister agree that facing up to the past in this way and looking at these awful events is a crucial part of the healing process that Northern Ireland so desperately needs?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is immensely painful to do, but I think the Government have shown that they are prepared to do it, and others must do the same in all parts. That, I think, is how we can come to terms with the past. I hear very clearly the remarks of Opposition Members about trying to create a single process, and obviously I listen to that, but in the end the best way of coming to terms with the past is to be open, frank, clear and transparent about what happened, and to apologise when that is appropriate.
I join others who have expressed condemnation of the murder of Pat Finucane. He was killed brutally in front of a devoted family, and I am deeply, deeply sorry about that. However, I must refute the widespread and unfair criticism of the RUC that I have heard in the House today.
The Prime Minister quoted Sir Desmond’s observation that nothing that he said should
“be taken to impugn the reputation of the majority of RUC…who served with distinction during what was an extraordinarily violent period”.
In the light of what Sir Desmond said, I ask the Prime Minister to take this opportunity to put on record his personal, sincere admiration for the extraordinary work done by RUC officers—men and women—of whom my late husband was enormously proud. He was Chief Constable at the time, and I am very sorry indeed that Pat Finucane died in such a brutal manner, but I should like the Prime Minister to pay warm tribute to the RUC, of whom my husband was so very proud.
I am happy to pay warm tribute to the RUC and the people who served in it, because they faced the most unbelievable pressure. They were dealing with the most unbelievably difficult set of circumstances. I know that the overwhelming majority of people in the Royal Ulster Constabulary served with bravery, with dedication, and with regard to the law and to truth; I know that the hon. Lady’s husband was one of those; and I know that in his report Desmond de Silva was very clear about the good work that the RUC did. That is why it is so painful to read about the bad things that happened in parts of the RUC. It is particularly striking that the RUC CID wanted to prosecute Barratt, who should originally have been prosecuted for the murder, but the Special Branch decided to recruit him. It is clear there were some very bad apples doing the wrong thing, but that does not impugn the reputation of the whole of the RUC that served our country with great dedication.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the statesman-like way he has presented this case. It cannot have been easy; indeed, I suspect it was incredibly difficult. I also pay tribute to the family, who must have gone through a very difficult time over the past 23 years, and I pay tribute, too, to the servicemen and women who did their job in a legal manner, especially the Royal Marines, as I know they lost a number of lives in Northern Ireland. If there were a review, how long does my right hon. Friend think it would take?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks about those who served and those who continue to serve, including the Royal Marines. One cannot say exactly how long a public inquiry would take, but as we have learnt from experience, an enormous amount of ground clearing work would need to be done before it could even get going—the process of everyone hiring lawyers and trying to work out who is going to have anonymity and so forth. I came to office having made a promise that we were not going to have further costly open-ended inquiries. I have looked at the evidence in this case, and I have met the family, and I have seen that there is nothing the Government are holding back. I could see a stronger case for an inquiry if there was an open question about whether we were prepared to admit there was a problem with the MOD; we are. Was there a problem with parts of the RUC? There was. Were Ministers misled? I can say yes, they were. There is no argument that we are holding back on, so what matters is getting to the truth with the greatest disclosure, and I do not think that that requires an inquiry.
The Prime Minister must realise that many of us find it hard to leave these matters simply to the interpretations and inferences Desmond de Silva has drawn from the dreadful evidence his inquiry has produced. We are dealing with a situation where terrorism took on the form of paramilitarism and military intelligence took on the form of para-terrorism. That is what was happening. In Special Branch, the force research unit and the secret services, there was a culture of anything goes but nobody knows—and following Desmond de Silva’s report we are still being asked to accept that nobody knows. Our predecessor Social Democratic and Labour party MPs told the Ministers of the time that that was what was going on. That is why we said we needed a new beginning to policing and we needed Special Branch to go, yet in all that time we were denounced, denigrated and dismissed. The one good thing about the Prime Minister’s statement today is that others in this House can no longer be in denial about what was happening.
There were so many levels and layers of collusion—all the deadly dereliction and the deviance and the dark deployment—but we are being asked to agree that it all adds up to there being no co-ordination. The Prime Minister must know that if we are to get to the bottom of this, we have to get to the top of it, but Desmond de Silva is trying to tell us, “No, there was no top.”
I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, the campaign he has fought and the points he has made. He and his predecessors in the SDLP were right about what went wrong, and this report shows that they were right. It shows the extent to which we are prepared to open up and be clear about what happened. As for the organisations he mentions, the FRU has gone, and the RUC Special Branch has gone, so the question now is whether there is anything else to discover that this report has not discovered but a public inquiry would, and I do not believe there is.
In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s specific question about how high this went, Sir Desmond de Silva is absolutely clear that Ministers were misled and briefings were given that should not have been given, but he does not find that there was a ministerial conspiracy or ministerial order for the murder of Pat Finucane. That is very important. We now have a true picture and it is for others, including the police and the prosecuting authorities, to work out whether there is anything more that can be done.
My right hon. Friend’s statement was full of shocking and shameful revelations. Notwithstanding the dignity and good work of the vast majority of our security services in the past, can he confirm that the oversight, scrutiny and accountability of our intelligence services today is completely different?
I am happy to give that assurance. I would not stand here and say it is perfect in every way. There are always improvements that we can make to the arrangements, which is why we have an Intelligence and Security Committee that scrutinises what is done and an Intelligence Services Commissioner who looks into the work that is done, but the situation has been transformed. When we read this report and think about what happened and what these agents were doing, it appears that that was a completely different world, where there does not seem to have been rules, processes, the rule of law, consideration of human rights or ministerial oversight. There were not those things that there are now.
The Prime Minister has told us that the report makes it clear that Ministers were misled during this process. What does the report say about when Ministers were first made aware in briefings that this collusion was taking place?
I have not got that information to hand, but the advice to Ministers is covered in the report. I think one of the report’s key findings on ministerial action is to do with whether Nelson should have been prosecuted. It is argued that the advice to Ministers was misleading, and as a result a decision was made to hold a Shawcross process, which is when the Attorney-General asks Ministers for advice on whether a prosecution should go ahead. The key point is that, as de Silva says, Paddy Mayhew as Attorney-General demonstrated his independence—and, indeed, good judgment—and said a prosecution should go ahead.
Can the Prime Minister confirm that this report has provided us with the fullest possible account of what happened in this tragic case?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I think the report has done that. As Desmond de Silva makes clear in the introduction to the report, he was given access to all the papers he wanted to see in every part of Government, including Cabinet papers and intelligence papers. I must not put words in his mouth, but he was not left saying that a further inquiry was necessary. He was left saying, “I got all the information I needed to set out the fullest possible picture I could.”
Coming from a family that knows the pain caused by the murder of loved ones, I understand the pain experienced by the Finucane family, but in the light of the demands by Enda Kenny for a public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane, has the Prime Minister made representations to the Irish Government to hold a public inquiry into collusion between previous Governments of the Irish Republic and the IRA, including the arming of the Provisional IRA and inflicting 30 years of murder and mayhem on the people of Northern Ireland? Should an apology not be forthcoming from the Irish Republic, and should all those guilty of murder not face the full rigours of the law, irrespective of who they are and what position they hold, whether in the Dail or Stormont?
Every organisation—every Government—has to face up to its own history and explain what it did and why. The British Government get all sorts of criticism, but I do not think anyone can criticise us for not being incredibly open about what happened. I would also say that British-Irish relations are better today than probably at any time in the last 25 years. Getting to the truth about the past really matters, of course, but so, too, does trying to secure a peaceful future for Northern Ireland, and those relations are very important for that, and I want to build on them.
I have met the family of Pat Finucane here in Parliament and I pay tribute to them for the dignity with which they have conducted themselves in their quest for justice. Public inquiries do not have to be over-long and over-expensive, as the Baha Mousa inquiry shows. If after reading the de Silva report the family of Pat Finucane still request a public inquiry, will the Prime Minister listen to their request?
I myself met the Finucane family and I will always listen to what they say, but I have to say that I think that what we have done—we have taken a very open approach, putting all the information out there in public—is the right approach and is the best way to get to the truth of what happened.
The hon. Gentleman says that public inquiries do not necessarily take a long time. I refer him to the fact that the other inquiries set up after 2004 ended up costing tens of millions of pounds. The Baha Mousa inquiry was about one individual and a number of hours spent in custody, whereas this is about an issue that has had the biggest police investigation in British history—involving three separate sets of investigations and millions of documents. There would be no concept of a short inquiry for this; it would be multi-year, multi-million pound, with absolutely no guarantee that it would get closer to the truth than this extremely open and truthful document we have in front of us.
The review has now been completed, the Prime Minister has, again, come to the Dispatch Box and apologised, and, yes, the murder has to be condemned. However, may I remind the Prime Minister that there are those of us on these Benches, including my own family, who have lost loved ones to the provos over the past 25 years? My family lost four of its members, but no review and no public inquiry was offered to them. When are we going to see equality for all families?
Many people in this House have suffered loss because of terrorists. I remember the first Member of Parliament who ever represented me, Airey Neave, and I think of Ian Gow, for whom I once had the huge privilege of writing a speech when I was a junior researcher. I remember going to have a drink with him in this House and getting to know him a little, and then reading one day that he had been murdered by the IRA. We cannot have an inquiry into every one of those murders; we have to find a way of trying to come to terms with the past. People have suffered dreadfully, but we have to find a way of moving ahead in Northern Ireland, which the people of Northern Ireland have done, and I believe it is our job to encourage that.
I thank the Prime Minister for coming to the House with this statement. Nevertheless, this remains a paper review. He has asked a number of his Departments to look at various issues and open up Whitehall to questions, so may I ask him to think again about a public inquiry? There is a Treasury Solicitor’s Department—a Government Department—which can co-ordinate a public inquiry very simply and cheaply, along the lines of the Baha Mousa inquiry. May I also ask the Prime Minister to meet the family today to ask them whether they think this paper review seeks the truth about the death of Pat Finucane?
I would not describe this simply as a “paper review”; Desmond de Silva did meet some people and conducted interviews. The hon. Lady should also remember that it was a review based on the fact that there had been the largest criminal investigation in British history, which had interviewed everybody and had the documentation. Alongside that—all the access to the Stevens material—Desmond de Silva also had access to all the intelligence and other material in Whitehall. On that basis, I think it is a very complete piece of work.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I stand solidly and squarely with Geraldine Finucane, her two sons and daughter, and the wider Finucane family. I recognise that many people and many families, not least Members of this House, from Northern Ireland have also suffered as a result of more than 30 years of the troubles. Does the Prime Minister not now consider, in view of de Silva’s report, which indicated very high levels of state collusion, that there is a need for an international public inquiry that will address issues of collusion and complicity? We in the Social Democratic and Labour party—our current three Members and our predecessors—always recognised and acknowledged the deep levels of collusion in Northern Ireland that resulted in murders right across the community, whether on the loyalist or on the republican side. For that reason, we now need an international public inquiry, to investigate not only Pat Finucane’s murder but all the other murders that were a result of state collusion and state complicity.
This report is about state collusion and state complicity. I cannot think of a country anywhere else in the world that would have revealed in more detail, with no holds barred and no documents held back, the full extent of that collusion, and stood up, put its hand up and said, “This is what went wrong. This is what we apologise for. This is how we will make sure it never takes place again.” I recommend that the hon. Lady look at paragraph 113, where de Silva talks about his “Lessons for the future” and states:
“It is essential that the involvement of agents in serious criminal offences can always be reviewed and investigated and that allegations of collusion with terrorist groups are rigorously pursued. Perhaps the most obvious and significant lesson of all, however, is that it should not take over 23 years to properly examine, unravel and publish a full account of collusion in the murder of a solicitor that took place in the United Kingdom.”
I believe that Desmond de Silva is saying that that is what has been done; that is what has been laid bare. It has not taken a public inquiry; it has taken a Government to open up everything and say, “Let’s get the truth out. And here it is.”
If the Lawrence and Hillsborough families have taught us anything, it is that the families will not go away until they see justice in their terms. In an Adjournment debate I sought in 1999, I read into the record statements made in 1989 by an Under-Secretary at the Home Office. He had said that “a number of solicitors” were “unduly sympathetic” to the cause of the IRA, adding that these statements were made on the basis of “advice” and “guidance” from people “dealing with the matters”. Pat Finucane was murdered three and a half weeks later. The inquiry has said that there is no basis for any claim that the then Under-Secretary intended his comments to provide a form of political encouragement for any attack on any solicitor, but these words were certainly unwise and they contributed to a climate in which solicitors were made vulnerable—not only Pat Finucane, but Rosemary Nelson. Because these were statements by a Government Minister, does the Prime Minister’s apology extend to an apology for those expressions by the then Under-Secretary?
Let me first respond to the hon. Gentleman’s point about Hillsborough. There was a public inquiry and an inquest, but they were, in effect, faulty. It took an act by Government, with the Bishop of Liverpool, to lay open all the information. The families have thus been able to see the truth and, hopefully, they will be able to get that new inquest. I would argue that in this case that is what has happened: there was this full police investigation, but instead of having a public inquiry we have opened up and given all the information that is necessary.
On Douglas Hogg, I ask the hon. Gentleman to read the report carefully. It finds that Douglas Hogg was briefed in a way that he should not have been briefed, that that compromised him and that therefore what he said was unfortunate. But the report does not find that he in any way encouraged the action that took place or in any way knew about it. I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to read the report very carefully in that regard.
There has of course been widespread condemnation of the murder of Pat Finucane and of all the others in Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister alluded to trying to get at the truth of this issue. Does he accept that after a series of inquiries, reviews and reports that have cost tens of millions of pounds, if not hundreds of millions, into a small number of totally and utterly regrettable and unacceptable incidents, the problem that we have in this House is the credibility gap, because others out there caused the violence in the first instance and have never apologised, have never reviewed and have never reported? They have never said sorry for the activities that they carried out, which ensured that others responded to their activities. Will the Prime Minister indicate that they should open up and say sorry for what they have done—for 30 years of murder?
Everyone has to face up to what they did and what they got wrong. It is up to those people responsible for violence, for terror, for murder to do that; they should apologise for what they did. But let me repeat: we should not put ourselves in this House, in government and in a state that believes in the rule of law, democracy and human rights, on a level with those organisations. We expect higher standards and when we get it wrong, we need to explain and completely open up in the way that we have done today.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement, and I agree with his decision not to have a public inquiry. The Prime Minister is aware of the hurt that runs very deep among the whole of Northern Ireland—among people on both sides. Hurt is not just on one side of the community; it is universal and we all have it. I am thinking of the Darkley gospel hall massacre, when people worshipping God on a Sunday night were killed by republicans; the people killed—burnt to a cinder—and injured by republicans at the La Mon restaurant; the people who were killed and injured by republicans at the Abercorn restaurant as they were enjoying a meal; the Ballydugan killing by republicans of four Ulster Defence Regiment men, three of whom I knew personally. Some £191 million has been set aside for the Bloody Sunday inquiry into the deaths of 13 people. The Prime Minister has mentioned the Historical Enquiries Team, whose budget is £38 million to carry out 3,487 inquiries into murders. What steps has he taken to help the HET do more and get answers for people who have lost loved ones?
We continue to fund the Historical Enquiries team. I think it does good work and it should continue to do that. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point that whatever terrible event we are discussing, people will always bring up other terrible events and quite rightly say, “Well, what about an inquiry into that? What information can we find out about it?” What is different in this case is that it highlights the appalling level of collusion there was and brings to the surface, effectively, not just one appalling murder but a series of appalling steps that were being taken and that need to be addressed.
As we kick over the charred embers of Ulster’s past, an appalling and awful picture emerges, but today we are seeing only one tiny part of that. The Prime Minister is utterly correct to make it clear that there should not be a public inquiry into this matter, first because it would be wasteful, and secondly because if he grants a public inquiry in this case he knows that a chorus of hundreds of people from before Patrick Finucane was murdered and hundreds of people from after Patrick Finucane was murdered will ask, “Why not my relative? Why not me?” The Prime Minister is right to hold fast to that view and should not be swayed.
I also agree with the points made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (Dr McCrea) and ask the Prime Minister to respond to them directly. They made it clear that there is more than a shred of evidence that the Republic of Ireland’s Government armed the Provisional IRA and that there should be an investigation into that and honesty about it so that we can see the whole picture.
My constituents are sick and tired of a one-sided narrative of revisionism that says that the Provisional IRA were actually quite good and the troops and police were quite bad. That, in the current circumstances in Northern Ireland, is bloody stupid—and I mean literally bloody. It will send a signal to my constituents that people have to push, kick, throw and petrol bomb to get what they want, and not abide by the law. We are trying to tell them all to abide by the law.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he said about my decision not to hold a further public inquiry. Let me be clear again that that is not because the Government want somehow to hide or run away from the truth. We could not have marched further, faster or more clearly towards the truth than we have by publishing this document today. As for his point about republican terrorism, let me read to him from paragraph 117 of the report’s executive summary, where de Silva states:
“I have no doubt, however, that PIRA was the single greatest source of violence during this period and that a holistic account of events of the late 1980s in Northern Ireland would reveal the full calculating brutality of that terrorist group.”
That is the point that he makes and he is right to make it.
I thank the Prime Minister and colleagues.
Multinational Motor Manufacturing Companies (Duty of Care to Former Employees) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Geraint Davies, supported by Stephen Metcalfe, Mrs Siân C. James, Martin Caton, Mike Freer, Nia Griffiths, Jonathan Edwards, Dr Hywel Francis and Mr John Whittingdale presented a Bill to require multinational motor manufacturing companies to provide a duty of care to former employees in respect of pension provision.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 1 February 2013, and to be printed (Bill 107).
Lords Spiritual Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Mr Frank Field presented a Bill to make provision for filling vacancies among Lords Spiritual sitting and voting as Lords of Parliament.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 January 2013, and to be printed (Bill 108).