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Patrick Finucane

Volume 741: debated on Wednesday 12 December 2012


My Lords, I would now like to repeat a Statement that was made by the Prime Minister earlier this afternoon in the House of Commons on the murder of Patrick Finucane.

“The murder of Patrick Finucane in his home in North Belfast on Sunday 12 February 1989 was an appalling crime. He was shot 14 times as he sat down for dinner with his wife and three children. His wife was injured, and Patrick 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 been only 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 Sir Desmond de Silva. 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, our police service and our security forces. I see at close hand the work 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 the 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. It 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. The report 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 quite 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”,

and he cites five specific areas of collusion.


“there were extensive ‘leaks’ of security force information to the UDA and other loyalist paramilitary groups”.

Sir Desmond finds that,

“in 1985 the Security Service assessed that 85% of the UDA’s ‘intelligence’ originated from sources within the security forces”.

He is,

“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 you 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, he 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 … 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, but what is extraordinary is that back in 1991, instead of prosecuting him for murder, as the RUC CID wanted to, 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”.

The RUC Special Branch, too,

“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 … handling of … Nelson”.

On the comments made by Douglas Hogg, Sir Desmond agrees with Lord Stevens that the briefing he received from the RUC meant he was “compromised”. But he 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 from Lord Stevens.

The collusion demonstrated beyond any doubt by Sir Desmond, which included the involvement of state agents 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, these 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 and it commands widespread support across the whole community.

Through all these measures, both this Government and their 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 learnt, and I have asked the Secretaries of State for Defence and Northern Ireland and the Cabinet Secretary to report back to me on all the issues that arise from this report. I will publish their responses. Other organisations that are properly independent of Government—police and prosecuting authorities—will want to read the report 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 who have created the conditions for the progress we have 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 must not and we will not allow Northern Ireland to slip back to its bitter and bloody past.

The Finucane family suffered the most grievous loss and they suffered it in the most appalling way imaginable. I know they oppose this review process and I respect their views. However, I respectfully disagree with them that a public inquiry would produce a fuller picture of what has 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 and there is still more to do to build a genuinely shared future. One of the things 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, and 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”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement on Patrick Finucane given by the Prime Minister earlier in the other place. In addition, from the Opposition Benches in this House, I also thank Sir Desmond de Silva for his work and how he went about his task. He has produced a serious report within the terms of reference that he was set. It will take time to absorb its full details. I welcome the Prime Minister’s apology, which was set out in the Statement repeated by the Leader, to the Finucane family. It is the right thing to do.

We should begin by remembering the unimaginable horror of Pat Finucane’s murder. This was a husband, a father, a brother who was murdered in his own home as he sat with his family on a Sunday evening. Some 23 years after this appalling crime, his family still searches for the truth with courage and dignity.

This report provides disturbing and uncomfortable reading for all of us. It makes clear that there was collusion in the murder and a cover-up. Furthermore, it states that,

“agents of the State were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder”.

Of course, this should not diminish the service of thousands of police officers, soldiers and Security Service personnel who were dedicated to protecting and serving people in Northern Ireland, and who have my admiration and that of all of us in this House today. They will be as appalled as we all are by the findings.

As we examine and assess the findings of this report and whether it is adequate, 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, a process which is held in trust from Government to Government, which began under Sir John Major and has continued since.

In 2001, at Weston Park, 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. This 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 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 previous Government could not reach consensus with the Finucane family on arrangements for 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 had begun to discuss a way forward. We on this side continue to believe that we should abide by our obligations under the Weston Park agreement.

First, do the Government recognise the concern that the failure to hold a public inquiry is in breach of agreements that were an essential part of the peace process? Secondly, Sir Desmond has accepted the assurances of the state that he has been given all relevant material. But this is the same state the agents of which were involved in what the report describes at paragraph 116 as,

“carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder”,

and the same state whose previous criminal investigations into this matter were the subject of “serious obstruction”.

Do the Government therefore recognise the concern about the limits to what the de Silva inquiry could do? Will the Leader of the House explain why the Prime Minister believes that a public inquiry would not have produced a fuller picture in which the public could have had confidence, as Mr Justice Cory recommended, not least because of the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses? In his Statement repeated by the Leader, the Prime Minister said he disagreed with the Finucane family that,

“a public inquiry would produce a fuller picture of what happened and what went wrong”.

I respectfully disagree with him.

Thirdly, the de Silva report concludes that,

“a series of positive actions by employees of the State actively furthered and facilitated his murder and that, in the aftermath of the murder, there was a relentless attempt to defeat the ends of justice”.

What do the Government propose to do in response to these serious findings?

Fourthly, the British and Irish Governments have been as one on this issue. Will the Leader of the House say what discussions the Government have had with the Irish Government about the de Silva review, and what the position of the latter is today?

That takes me to the final issue: public confidence. That we continue to build trust and confidence among the communities of Northern Ireland remains crucial. The appalling violence we have seen on the streets of Northern Ireland in recent days should remind us of that. Judge Cory said that a public inquiry was needed into the murder of Pat Finucane 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”.

Can the Government really say with confidence that the whole truth has been established in the case of Pat Finucane? How can we say that when the report is dismissed by his family and many others in Northern Ireland?

We, as the United Kingdom, must accept that sometimes our state did not meet the high standards we set ourselves during the Northern Ireland conflict. The past is painful and often difficult. We believe that we must establish the full and tested truth about Pat Finucane’s murder. We therefore continue to believe that a public inquiry is necessary for his family and for Northern Ireland.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition for her response to the Statement. She is right that it is essential that we should remember the background against which we operated at that time and, following on from that, she is right to note the enormous changes that have taken place during the course of the past 25 years, most of all during the peace process in the past 20 years. The noble Baroness asked a number of questions, to which I shall try to reply.

Perhaps I can deal with one question relatively quickly, on the Irish Government and their likely position. I can confirm that the Prime Minister spoke this morning to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny. The position of the Irish Government, that they have been in favour of a public inquiry, has been widely known for a long time. However, they understand why we have taken the decision that we have taken, and they respect that we have been entirely open and frank. I hope that they, like everybody else who has an interest in this issue, will find some comfort in the integrity of the process once they have considered Sir Desmond’s report. The position of the Irish Government is, of course, one for them to determine.

I am well aware that the decision not to hold a public inquiry was controversial. However, our ambition and motivation as a Government was to frame a real question: what is the fastest way to get to the truth and to lay out what happened? We know what has happened in the past with public inquiries; some of them took five or six years, or even longer, cost tens of millions of pounds and perhaps did not even get closer to the truth than de Silva has got in his report today. We therefore very much support our decision to have this inquiry led by Sir Desmond de Silva.

At the time of the general election, this went to the core of the point made by the noble Baroness about confidence in Northern Ireland and in the process that we have conducted. In answer to whether we can say with full confidence that the whole truth has been uncovered, this is a very long report and individual noble Lords will want to review and read with care what has been said. However, it is clear that Sir Desmond de Silva has done the whole nation a tremendous service in trying to get to the heart of the matter and uncover the truth, building on the work that had been done by previous individuals. This was a fast way to find the truth. That is a good thing for Northern Ireland.

With the greatest respect to the noble Baroness, her Government had nine years between Weston Park and the general election to decide to go ahead with a public inquiry. It is not a decision that they took, possibly because they understood as much as we have done the problems of time and expense. The key thing is to get to the truth. I venture to suggest that very few countries would have set it out in so much detail or laid out what went wrong as comprehensively as we have done today. We should all take some pride in a country that is willing to do that. It is an agony in many respects to read what has been said, but it is right to publish and to ensure that people who have been affected can see the work that Desmond de Silva has done. That is very much the basis of the decision that we took and we stand by it.

My Lords, I remind the House of the benefit of short questions for my noble friend the Leader of the House, so that he can answer as many as possible.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement. I thank the Prime Minister for instituting the de Silva inquiry and for his apologetic and sympathetic response to the Finucane family.

No Member of this House could listen to the Leader of the House reading out the Statement without being deeply shocked and dismayed at its horrifying content. This cannot be other than a source of national shame. One of our citizens was murdered in his own home with the collusion of state agents, and subsequently, for 23 years, there has been obstruction of the proper authorities in the investigation of these matters, including by senior officials in the Ministry of Defence, the police and security services, to the point, according to this report, that Ministers were lied to and misled, and they then misled Parliament. How is it possible to hold our own authorities to account if they are being so grossly misled in this way? This is a time for deep national shame and self reflection because it begs real questions.

It does no credit to our House to refuse to accept the clear reality of what went on. Authorities here must learn that you do not defend democracy by undermining the very principles of democracy, decency, honesty and of abiding by the proper law. I trust, although I frankly do not believe it, that some elements of government in Northern Ireland understand that playing footsie with paramilitaries and colluding with them, including in threats to some of my own friends recently, is no way to promote democracy. It is a travesty of democracy. How can we assure ourselves that these things will not happen in the future? We will not do so merely by responding to this Statement; I trust that there will be a full debate in your Lordships’ House and that we will properly learn the lessons, not by more inquiries but by more decisions as to how we hold these matters to account in the future.

My Lords, I understand exactly what my noble friend is saying and the force with which he says it, with all the experience and knowledge that he has in his personal background and the part that he has played in Northern Ireland. He is right in saying that none of us could hear the Statement made by the Prime Minister without being deeply shocked and dismayed by what has happened—the level of collusion and the cover up that took place thereafter.

He said that it was a national shame and he is right, but part of dealing with that is to confront it by having the review that we have taken, publicising it and apologising for what happened. There is also the second point, which I think my noble friend was referring to, about what has changed and how to ensure that these things do not happen again. The background within which the security services operate is so entirely different from that existing in the late 1980s when there was no legal framework against which they operated.

RIPA 2000 created a proper legal and policy framework within which to gather intelligence. There is now therefore an unambiguous framework which puts all work relating to agents on a statutory footing and is designed to prevent the same mistakes and abuses being made today. RIPA is also underpinned by a range of non-statutory frameworks and codes of practice which set out clear processes for the day-to-day management of agents by relevant agencies. Managers, the PSNI and the security services are required to ensure that staff comply with this legislation. The Statement referred to the PSNI now being the police force with more scrutiny that any other in the world. I think that that is right.

My Lords, as somebody who has been fortunate to survive 10 murder attempts by the Provisional IRA, I find this isolated apology quite ridiculous. The reality is that the Finucane family were an IRA family. I illustrate this by saying that when I made that allegation publicly and was being sued for libel, the family retracted and paid my legal expenses. Let us not therefore fool ourselves about the “Godfather” Finucane who was killed. If there was connivance, let me say that all of us who served through the heart of the Troubles in Northern Ireland served in such a way that it was impossible to have a secret. Why were there 10 attempts on my life? Why was the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, shot? It was because there was conspiracy.

I point out that less than 1% of all terrorist suspects involved in proactive security force operations were killed by the security forces, and that 99% of cases ended in arrest. There were no incidents of unlawful killing in a Special Branch-led operation in Northern Ireland, and the security-force response was totally human-rights compliant. Let us not forget all those years of terrorism and become compelled by a single incident which may in fact—and I will not deny it—have involved conspiracy. If one sought justification—and I do not justify it—it was not without a godfather. Godfathers were responsible for so many murders in Northern Ireland, it should not be forgotten.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, brings his own particular view of these issues. Indeed, Sir Desmond looked at the accusation that Patrick Finucane was a member of PIRA, and on the basis of the evidence that he saw he concluded that he was not. I know that that was not the entire point that the noble Lord was making, but the Government have nothing to add to Sir Desmond’s conclusions on this point.

I am bound to say that the question of PIRA membership is not in this case particularly relevant. The point that was made in the Statement and as a result of the review is that the state should not have been involved in Patrick Finucane’s murder. It is on that basis that the state has made the apology.

My Lords, I declare an interest. I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when Patrick Finucane was murdered and I was Secretary of State for Defence when the possible prosecution of Brian Nelson arose. I join my noble friend in recognising —as he did in repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement, and as we all must—that this was an appalling crime of which we should all be ashamed. It should not have happened and it is particularly appalling because there is clear evidence of significant collusion. It was an appalling crime at what the Statement calls a dark and violent time in Northern Ireland. I was not surprised at the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Maginnis and Lord Alderdice. The House has had the opportunity to sense some of the tensions that so rapidly rise to the surface, and which one can now see on the streets of Belfast.

That is in no sense an excuse for what happened. One of the things that I most resent about this is that the appalling things that happened in this case sully the reputation of very brave security forces who, over all those years and with huge personal suffering to them and their families, stood to protect the Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland, against the risk of total disaster. We should recognise that.

I take exception to one element of the Statement repeated by my noble friend: namely, the phrase “state involvement”, which is now current. I understand why it has arisen. It gives the impression that somehow the Government planned the murder of Patrick Finucane. It is an appalling concept that I as Secretary of State somehow authorised it. Of course, that is totally untrue. In my time I committed myself to trying to save every life that I possibly could on both sides of the community, however people were involved.

What is also clear is that there were incidents in which people were in clear breach of their orders or instructions. The Statement claims that there was no co-ordinated legal basis for the employment of agents. I draw the attention of the House to something in Sir Desmond de Silva’s report which states that agents were being handled at that time under the strict instruction of the Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland, Tony Jeapes, that it was unlawful for any person to authorise any illegal act, and that if there was any possibility of an agent becoming involved in criminality, the assistant chief of staff was to be informed through the commanding officer of the FRU so that preventive measures could be taken. Mr Nelson’s handler was acting in total breach of that instruction at the time. I should say that some of the agents, informers or touts—they go under different names in Northern Ireland—were incredibly brave people who saved an enormous number of lives. The difficulty of handling them should not be underestimated.

This is an impressive report. One or two people have already passed judgment on it. Nobody can have read it yet except the Prime Minister, who obviously was briefed on it. I have only managed to read the executive summary. There is an enormous amount in the report. It needs further study and I will not pay great attention to any comments until people have had a chance to read the report through and then address the issue of whether there should be a further public inquiry. I have great respect for the noble Baroness and understand why she said that a public inquiry might ensure that we would get to the truth. There are no grounds for saying that until we have seen how close we think Sir Desmond de Silva has got to the total truth of the matter, and considered what could be achieved by going for a further public inquiry. This is what challenged the previous Government and why, nine years on, there has been no progress. This is what they were wrestling with. It is difficult to see what the benefit of a public inquiry would be, and I can see some real disadvantages, not least because there should be prosecutions arising from some of the things in the report. If we go for public inquiry, it would probably prevent that being possible.

My Lords, I very much agree with what my noble friend said about the public inquiry. He has heard what the Prime Minister and I said on that question. My noble friend started by saying that this was an appalling crime. He is right. The key thing for us to remember—this is another thing he said—is that the accusation of state collusion sullies the memory of all those individuals who fought to defend democracy without having to go down this route. That is what makes this so appalling.

Of course I entirely agree with my noble friend that this is a lengthy report that has taken many months to compile. It builds on the work of previous investigations, including that of a distinguished Member of this House. There were a million pages of documents. This is the most comprehensive of comprehensive reports and it requires time to look at it.

On the question of Ministers’ knowledge, de Silva is very clear. He says 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”.

There is no evidence at all that any Ministers had any knowledge at the time of Nelson’s targeting activity, or that they were encouraged or directed in any collusive activity with the UDA. That is a very strong statement.

My Lords, the de Silva report is profoundly disturbing with its statement that Sir Desmond is satisfied that Patrick Finucane was identified by a police officer for targeting, that he was targeted, that he was not warned of the risks to him—risks which existed in 1981, 1985 and 1989—despite the extent of the knowledge of the activities of these UDA men, and that the investigation into his murder was repeatedly obstructed—all examples of state collusion. The Prime Minister has rightly apologised yet again to his family for what the Prime Minister described as,

“shocking levels of state collusion”.

Mr Finucane was not involved in IRA activity. He was a lawyer carrying out his professional duties in profoundly difficult and dangerous circumstances. I am sure that Members of this House will again wish to express their sympathy to the Finucane family, just as I am sure that all those upright officers with integrity in the army, the police and the security services will wish to share their sympathy at the pain that the Finucane family must be experiencing again today.

But this was not an isolated situation. Investigation has shown that this pattern of activity was not unique to the UDA in west Belfast. The Prime Minister has stated, and the noble Lord has repeated, that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act has established a framework for the authorisation and conduct of agents. However, as Police Ombudsman I found as recently as 2003 that the Surveillance Commissioner was not being properly informed about UVF agents who were engaged in murders, attempted murders and other very serious crimes. Given the very small office of the Surveillance Commissioner, the pattern and nature of the investigations and inspections which are carried out by the Surveillance Commissioner, and particularly the resources available to the Surveillance Commissioner, is the Minister satisfied that there is adequate funding to enable the identification of any police failures in the handling and management of state agents?

This remains a profoundly important question. We have in Northern Ireland ongoing activities of republican paramilitaries, including the recent bomb in Derry. We have ongoing loyalist paramilitary activity. We have the current loyalist disturbances, which have caused huge distress and damage in Northern Ireland. And most recently we have had threats, not least death threats to a Member of the other place, Naomi Long, who serves constituents in East Belfast. This is a profoundly important matter for the future security of the United Kingdom. I thank the Government for what has been achieved thus far. Having read some of the report this morning, I will consider it further.

I am very grateful for what the noble Baroness has said. Again it demonstrates what my noble friend Lord King said about the very real tensions that brought about what happened during that dark and miserable period in Ulster. We are all part of a process of moving on from that. Let me deal with the nub of what the noble Baroness said about other cases. If there was collusion here, what else was going on? The Government will carefully consider the conclusions of the report to assess whether it impacts on any other cases. There have been public inquiries, as the noble Baroness knows, into a number of other cases where collusion was alleged. What we have tried to do here is demonstrate that we are prepared to leave no stone unturned in examining these cases and that, where there has been wrongdoing, the Government are prepared to apologise.

My Lords, the Leader of the House was slightly unclear when talking about the attitude of the Irish Government. Given that there was a firm agreement between the British and Irish Governments at Weston Park, what is the attitude of the Irish Government to this issue?

I think what I said was that the position of the Irish Government has been well understood, and that they were in favour of a public inquiry. My right honourable friend spoke to the Taoiseach this morning. They will want to read the report as well and come to their own conclusions, but those conclusions are a matter for the Irish Government.

My Lords, I have been reading the report since 8.30 am. I do not understand how the Official Opposition can come to the conclusion that another inquiry is needed when there are over 500 pages to be gone through. The inquiries into the six cases that flowed from Weston Park have required very substantial amounts of expenditure and effort put into finding the truth. Is the Leader of the House aware that if there is to be another inquiry into this case—and I am seeking his assurance now that that will not happen—I have a list of at least 13 other cases involving multiple deaths over a very long time that have just been completely airbrushed out of history? Can the Minister give an assurance that we are going to stop this process of ongoing and never-ending inquiries and concentrate on building a genuinely shared future, where we move forward instead of raking over the coals of the past for ever?

My Lords, the noble Lord is entirely correct in what he says. I understand the way that he says it and the reasons for it. We can spend a great deal of time, energy and money raking over the coals of the past. What we sought to do in setting up this review was to find a distinguished individual with the greatest possible reputation to conduct it. Sir Desmond’s report has now given us the fullest possible account of the murder of Patrick Finucane and the truth about state collusion.

I confirm to the noble Lord that we would not expect any further report to yield more information—it is fully in the public domain. Of course, I recognise that, on all sides, dealing with the past is still a live issue in Northern Ireland. However, there are other opportunities for families who lost loved ones to find out more, beyond inquiries, such as through the work of the historical inquiries team and the coronial inquests. I repeat again what I said a few moments ago: there is a time for us to deal with the past but it is even more important for us to deal with the problems of the future and to engage more and more in maintaining a level of peace for the people for Northern Ireland—all the people of Northern Ireland—so that they can prosper.