NORTHERN IRELAND – PRISONER RELEASES – 1 June 1998

Dr Julian Lewis: May I add to the congratulations to politicians on both sides of the House my congratulations to the armed forces and to the police? If those people had not put their lives at risk – and, in many cases, lost their lives – in manning the front line for so many years, the men of violence would not have recognised the importance of making peace.

I re-emphasise a point on prisoner releases that I made during one of the Secretary of State's previous statements and that she seemed partly to acknowledge. Does she agree that one of the reasons why men of violence from both sides of the divide have been keen for the agreement is to secure the release from gaol of convicted murderers? Does she accept the importance of retaining the incentive to prevent such people from returning to violence? If it is proposed that convicted killers should be let out en bloc on licence, will she confirm that, if the peace agreement breaks down, they will be put back in gaol en bloc, and not only if they, as individuals, are caught committing another crime?