Ed Miliband's response to the House of Commons on the Finucane report

12 December 2012

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Ed Miliband's response to the House on the Finucane report

Let me firstly thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. Let me 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 he was set.   

It will take time to absorb its full details.   

Can I welcome the Prime Minister’s apology 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 murdered in his own home as he sat with his family on a Sunday evening.   

And 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 murder and a cover-up.   

And further “...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 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 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, and which began under Sir John Major and has continued since.   

It was at Weston Park in 2001 that 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.   

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 last 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 they would support a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 and had begun to discuss a way forward.   

As the Prime Minister knows, we on this side continue to believe that we should abide by our obligations under the Weston Park agreement.   

So first, does the Prime Minister 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?   

Second, Sir Desmond has accepted the assurances of the state that he has been given all relevant material.     

But this is the same state whose agents were involved in what the report describes as “carrying out serious violations of human rights, up to and including murder” (para 116), and the same state whose previous criminal investigations into this matter were the subject of “serious obstruction”.     

Does the Prime Minister therefore recognise the concern about the limits to what the De Silva inquiry could do?     

And can the Prime Minister explain why he 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 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.     

Third, de Silva 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 does the Prime Minister propose to do in response to these serious findings?   

Fourth, the British and Irish governments had been at one on this issue.     

Can he tell the House what discussions he has had with the Irish government about de Silva’s review, and what their position is today?   

That takes me to the final issue of public confidence.   

Continuing 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 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 the United Kingdom, 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.   

All sides of the House share a belief that we must establish the full and tested truth about Pat Finucane’s murder is important.   

But we continue to believe a public inquiry is necessary for his family and for Northern Ireland.