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Security Situation

Volume 628: debated on Wednesday 13 September 2017

The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism continues to be severe in Northern Ireland, meaning that an attack is highly likely. Our response to terrorism and paramilitary activity is co-ordinated, effective and fully resourced. This Government remain fully committed to keeping people safe and secure and ensuring that terrorism never succeeds.

As part of the security review, will the Minister look at the case of Dennis Hutchings and other veterans, who have been hounded and charged in respect of alleged shootings nearly 50 years ago? There is no new evidence, so surely the time has come to restore humanity and natural justice, and bring in some form of time limitation.

The Government will always give their fullest possible backing to those brave men and women who have done, and continue to do, an outstanding job serving the community. As part of our work to implement the Stormont House agreement, the legacy institutions will be under a duty to behave in a manner that is balanced, proportionate and fair. We also have the aim of taking cases in chronological order. [Interruption.]

I understand the sense of anticipation, but I remind the House that we are discussing the security situation in Northern Ireland. Out of respect for the people of Northern Ireland it would be good if there were some attention to the questions and answers.

Will my hon. Friend join me in sending a message of support and thanks to the brave men and women of the Police Service of Northern Ireland who keep us safe in the light of the severe terrorist threat at present?

Yes, I certainly do. I send the Government’s thanks and support to every member of the security services and the police force who keeps people safe in Northern Ireland and here.

Will my hon. Friend update the House on efforts made through the “Fresh Start” programme to tackle the scourge of paramilitaries, who continue to exert control through fear and criminal behaviour?

This Government have committed £25 million of funding to support the Northern Ireland Executive’s tackling paramilitarism programme. However, I return to the point that this reminds us why we need an Executive back up and running to keep people safe, on this most acute of issues.

The Minister must be absolutely appalled by the report from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the response by the Government to Libyan Semtex being used to murder people in Northern Ireland and here in GB. Will she commit to meet my colleagues and me to discuss this report and get a fresh start on dealing with this crucial issue?

More broadly, this is a matter being taken forward by the Foreign Office, but I would be happy to meet, or indeed to arrange a meeting, with members of the Government to discuss the issues in more detail.

Can the Minister tell us what steps the Government are taking to try to reassure communities that it is safe for them to come forward and work with the police? Surely working with communities is one of the best ways to improve the security situation in the whole of Northern Ireland.

Yes, is the principal answer. It is crucial that people have the confidence to come forward to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, to ensure a safe and prosperous future for all parts of the community.