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Baroness Park of Monmouth: Yes, my Lords; I am well aware of that fact. The Protestant paramilitaries have not resumed their operations. They were the first last year to suggest that an international organisation might set up the decommissioning process and look into it. I do not believe that there is any fair comparison between the two.
Even Mitchell McLaughlin, speciously complaining recently of the disenfranchisement (by which he meant the refusal by both Governments to talk to or engage directly with Sinn Fein) only claimed that there were,
Yet on all sides the unionists and the many others who reject Sinn Fein/IRA are likely to be, as my noble friend Lord Brookeborough so justly said, presented as the villains, destroying the peace process and obstructing it; and, indeed, actually presuming to say that they will not sit down to negotiate with those who have not explicitly rejected IRA violence and who bring their guns to the table. That is called the veto and is apparently regarded as a sinister obstructionist tactic. Would noble Lords expect the lamb to come to the wolf for slaughter without protest? Moreover, the political representatives of the majority--I emphasise the word "majority"--have names and faces. Do we know the names and faces of the IRA council who presume to decide the fate of Northern Ireland, and, indeed--let us make no mistake--of the South, too, if they had their way?
I deeply hope that the Government will not risk throwing away the substance for the shadow. The majority of the people of Northern Ireland must not be treated as the guilty parties and the blame laid on them if negotiations fail--for fail they may well do, for the simple reason that Sinn Fein/IRA's demands are not such that they can ever be met. On the other hand, the wholly reasonable pre-condition, much hated by Sinn Fein/IRA, that the majority, and the Governments, and the US Government, wish to make is
If the IRA gave up all its Semtex--something that the loyalist paramilitaries have never had--that would be a significant start. Such a precondition is surely essential to normal political negotiation. But the talks will fail, right as I suppose both Governments are to press ahead and hope for a miracle, because Sinn Fein/IRA's declared political agenda is one which neither Northern Ireland nor the Dublin Government could accept.
Let us hear what the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams--that man who says he has no control over the IRA but still demands to be heard, and is heard only because he is the IRA--had to say in an interview just a week ago. He speaks of:
I have inflicted those long quotations on your Lordships because we hear all too seldom what the beast itself is saying. The apologists for Sinn Fein/IRA present the case rather differently, and certainly more opaquely. But that is why the majority parties in Northern Ireland are unhappy that Strand 1, Northern Ireland's own business, is being remorselessly entangled by the Irish Government and the SDLP with Strand 2 (all Ireland) and Strand 3 (the two Governments). That is probably why the Irish Government have said nothing for many months about their own commitment to take Articles 2 and 3 out of their constitution and give up their so-called constitutional claim to the Six Counties. I respect the position taken up by the Taoiseach, but the Irish Government, I fear, represent an Achilles' heel in our struggle with the IRA.
And since it must follow as the night follows day, that should we reach the stage of joint party talks with Sinn Fein at the table (which, as we have heard, can happen only if the IRA resumes its ceasefire for good and does something about decommissioning) even then, it seems in the highest degree unlikely that the IRA will achieve its political aim of a united Ireland by democratic means through the ballot box. So, finally, that is why we must keep our guard up and why the Irish Government have probably never relinquished their own emergency powers, including their own version of the Diplock courts.
Let me end by saying that, though the talks may be destroyed by Sinn Fein/IRA, I believe, along with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that the grass-roots in Northern Ireland have been growing fast and growing together. They may yet succeed in finding a settlement; but it will be in spite of, not because of, the IRA.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I should like, first, to welcome my noble friend Lord Glentoran and congratulate him on a really excellent maiden speech. I look forward to hearing him speak often, especially on business topics. It is very good to have another Northern Ireland voice in your Lordships' House, even if it means that, for once, the Scots will have to wait, until we have finished, to discuss their wildlife.
In support of the Bill, I do not intend to go through in detail what has happened during the past year, and more particularly since Christmas. Suffice to say that we now have all the proof that we needed, but did not actually want, that Sinn Fein/IRA will switch on and off their ceasefires to suit themselves when they please. To those who say that, given a ceasefire, we would no longer need such legislation, I would point out that during the 18 months of the ceasefire the security forces have shown how quickly they can adapt their operations to a period of reduced violence. They were commendable and professional in their performance. That showed that this legislation is only an infringement on people's freedom during periods of terrorist activity. The people of Northern Ireland require that protection; and they will require that protection regardless of whether we gain a so-called prolonged ceasefire. There is a big difference between a ceasefire and peace.
Noble Lords should be aware of the feelings of horror and revulsion, and the sympathy for the victims felt by everyone outside Sinn Fein/IRA in Northern Ireland when they heard of the first bomb at Canary Wharf and the subsequent ones. I have never seen so many ordinary people so stunned in Northern Ireland. For days they were simply horrified. Not only did they feel sympathy for the people of Canary Wharf and others, but, although everyone said that such an event might occur, they honestly did not believe that it could. Ordinary families are yet again worried about the bomb and the bullet.
Perhaps I may address two of the changes in the Bill: first, the video recording of interviews; and, secondly, the removal of provisions for countering terrorist finance. There are strong arguments against video recording; and we have heard some strong arguments for it. Those arguments have been well adduced in previous debates both in your Lordships' House and in another place. I shall not insult your Lordships' ability to read by taking half an hour to wade through them as did another place. However, I hope that this change in the legislation will not be detrimental to intelligence gathering. Let us remember that 80 per cent., or four out of five, of all planned terrorist operations did not take place because of intelligence and/or security force activity.
Who will have access to the video recordings? What happens when the defence calls for them? To whom will they be shown? What happens when evidence from an interview is used not against the person giving the evidence in the interview but against another defendant? What happens--I can assure noble Lords that it has occurred--if a person wishes to give information and does so by causing himself to be lifted so that he can be interviewed in order to supply that information? I do not suggest that the arguments against video recording should mean that recording does not take place. However, some measures have to be laid down in law, or at least in strong guidelines, as to the use of these videos because their use could become dangerous.
The second item I wish to mention is the removal of provisions for countering terrorist finance from the EPA and transferring those powers to the Proceeds of Crime Order (Northern Ireland) which we have learnt will be brought forward after Easter. The important aspect is
In respect of these provisions, we should all understand what the IRA has been doing during the ceasefire apart from reorganising, beating people up, developing new weapons--some quite sophisticated; I refer to mortars and such like--and intimidation. In addition, they have been running the largest organised crime syndicate outside Europe, perhaps outside the mafia. These terrorist finance provisions are vital in their entirety.
During the period between the Downing Street declaration and the ceasefire, the IRA reorganised their methods so that their terrorist financing of criminal activities could continue without the back-up of guns for intimidation. We all know that they then moved onto baseball bats and various other weapons.
Since then their criminal activities in this direction have, if anything, increased. The Minister brought that out at the beginning of the debate. While members of the IRA no longer met each other to plan shooting and bombing incidents, they continued to meet to organise their everyday criminal activities and to discuss other things. If, however, they had ceased to operate in that way of their own accord, or if the security forces had managed to stop them, I believe that through lack of reasons to meet at a low level in their structure their cohesiveness might not have survived. It might have become all too pointless to have frequent meetings about very little. Had that occurred, a restart of terrorist operations after calling off the ceasefire would have been much more difficult and there would have been a severe lack of funds--as indeed there was at the time that the ceasefire was called.
For that reason, we must not forget these terrorist financial provisions. We must insist that the Government carry them in totality into the new order. If anything, the Government should consider strengthening them. I know that the RUC and the security forces have been doing everything they can to wipe out terrorist-related crime. Sadly, even with all their efforts, they have not succeeded. If they had, it would have had a large bearing on the possible restart of terrorist violence.
Lastly, perhaps I may make one comment on the review of the PTA and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. I look forward and earnestly hope that sooner rather than later there will be a single Act for the United Kingdom as a whole to cover the fight against terrorism from wherever it may come. The
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I support the Government as regards the Bill. I do so with a certain diffidence because I am an outsider. My only connection with the issue was in 1973 when, as a civil servant, I was not too far away from the bomb in Whitehall, and rather close to the later one in Brighton when I was a journalist.
However, I believe that it is necessary for ordinary people in this country who are not directly connected--I see myself in that context--to support what I believe are the tremendous efforts of by our Prime Minister, John Major, the Taoiseach, Mr. Bruton, and President Clinton to deal with the problem. It is interesting to note that the Second Reading of the Bill in another place was on 9th January, a month before the breaking of the ceasefire. I read that debate carefully and it is interesting that the reasons given even then, when outsiders did not realise that the ceasefire was likely to be broken, were compelling. The situation has now greatly changed.
Certain points need constantly to be emphasised which many people in this country do not understand. I am sure that your Lordships do, but I hope that I shall be forgiven for mentioning them. The first is the fact that Sinn Fein and the IRA are one and the same organisation. That can never be said too often. I recommend to noble Lords who have not read it a good analysis in the Sunday Times on 18th February in which some of the personalities are exposed. The article showed that the main negotiator for Sinn Fein, Mr. Martin McGuinness, was until 1991 the so-called chief of staff of the IRA army council. Another leading member of the Sinn Fein negotiating team, Gerry Kelly, is not a member of Sinn Fein but a so-called observer. He was given two life sentences for his part in the Old Bailey bombing of 1973. He escaped and was re-arrested in Holland and extradited, but the authorities were not allowed to return him to life imprisonment. He was given a five-year sentence and released. Those are the kinds of people who are playing Sinn Fein/IRA musical chairs.
One must bear in mind that there are different components of Sinn Fein/IRA. There are some genuine nationalists and we can all salute and respect them. Then there are the old hat, highly political Marxists from the days when the group saw it as possible that one day there would be a united socialist Ireland. Gerry Adams was very much part of that tradition. I well remember as a journalist covering Labour Party conferences, going
Then there is the most unpleasant lot, dangerous in a direct sense, the psychopaths who enjoy the process of killing and maiming. Every country has a few and if an organisation like Sinn Fein/IRA can recruit them they go to it like bees to honey. As my noble friend Lord Brookeborough said, the main group is the Mafia, the criminal element. It is interesting that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland referred to them in his Second Reading speech on the Bill and to the robbery and extortion for the purpose of acquiring funds. He denounced the so-called Direct Action Against Drugs Group as a flag of convenience for the IRA. I suspect that it is probably closer to merely one Mafia gang battling with another for drug territory. I hope that it is understood in the United States that it is a quasi-Mafia organisation. We should underline our tribute to President Clinton who has been cruelly betrayed by the breaking of the ceasefire.
I wish to raise some specific points. First, I ask my noble friend what arrangements were made when prisoners were prematurely released during the ceasefire, in terms of the possibility of recalling them? I see that my right honourable friend referred to changes to remission rates in prisons. That was before the ceasefire was broken. Can such people be recalled? Recently I asked a parliamentary Question for Written Answer about how many such prisoners there had been. I received a curious letter from the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Prison Service who said:
In another context, I have been trying to obtain information on the extent to which computerisation of the administration of Her Majesty's prisons in the United Kingdom has progressed. It has made some progress in Britain, but it was remarkable to learn from that Written Answer that there is apparently no central record of who is in prison in Northern Ireland. That should be put right quickly. I should have expected something better than the statement that 2,000 prisoners had been released in answer to my Question. I cannot believe that they were all terrorists.
I wish to say a word about the elections. My noble friend will be more aware than I that traditionally in areas where Sinn Fein/IRA exert control there has been much abuse in the past of the electoral system, with widespread multiple voting. I was recently told by someone involved in the 1980s that there were records of people voting 15 or 16 times. One cannot blame the people inside the polling station because they would have been too intimidated to challenge it. It is a similar situation to the Diplock courts which have been referred to. Perhaps we should consider, in the light of the election coming shortly, special measures to prevent that happening. For a long while I have thought that for many reasons we should have a proper system of national identity numbers, with or without identity cards. I am glad that the noble and learned Lord,
There are two other points which may be regarded as presumptuous, but if I were living in Northern Ireland, I wonder what I would feel about it. Is there any reason why, for the crucial election, we could not introduce a simple system of the dye-marking of hands so that people could not indulge in multiple voting? Alternatively, would it be worth considering having neutral observers at the elections? I would favour them to be Americans because they have a crucial role to play in the peace process. Some people in Northern Ireland might say that that would be outrageous, but all I am concerned with is to try to find methods of, step by step, getting the peace process to work as effectively as possible.
I believe that the people of Britain will welcome the Bill but they would complain if there were loopholes which could not be stopped up. They have been angered by the acts of terrorism and deeply saddened by the brutal results. They have no sympathy for Sinn Fein/IRA, but they would no more be intimidated by such actions than they would expect their government to be intimidated. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Cranborne made it clear that there is to be no compromise on the crucial matter of signing up to the Mitchell agreement and having a ceasefire before there is any question of Sinn Fein taking part in any talks.
I believe that the legitimate nationalist aspirations of the population of Northern Ireland are already well represented in another place by the duly elected people from the various parties who really represent the population. We must strip away the idea that Sinn Fein is a political organisation. In particular, we must strip away any moral justification put forward from time to time. When the Pope visited Ireland some years ago, he encapsulated the deep truth in three words: "Murder is murder".
If Sinn Fein/IRA fail, as I suspect they will, to meet the conditions necessary for them to take a further direct part in a democratic peace process, they will find themselves relegated to the status of a gang of organised crime and will be so treated by people in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, the United Kingdom as a whole and the United States. I strongly support the Government in bringing forward this legislation.
Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, the ending of the IRA ceasefire and subsequent atrocities carried out in London have rightly cast their shadow over this debate. The people in Northern Ireland know only too well of the blight, suffering and pain caused by terrorism. This Bill, which is designed to re-enact the provisions of the current Act, will permit the RUC and the Army to hinder and frustrate the work of all those whose aim is to kill because they cannot get what they want through the ballot box. I thank the House for its support for that aim.
I also support my noble friend's comments on the cross-Border activity that is happening, day in, day out, in business and education. I am sure that he will share my personal aim that the deficit in trade between north and south can be turned into a plus, and we are determined to do that. Although it may sound strange that I should want to talk myself out of a job, I also support wholeheartedly the delegation of powers. There is a democratic deficit in Northern Ireland. We all acknowledge it and wish that it were not so. I am pleased to say that, with the development of local economic development councils and associations, there is real evidence of the role that they can play, and do play, very constructively. I also praise the consultation in which they are involved. It goes deeper than anything that is possible from the centre. The House gives a very warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Glentoran.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for adding to my list of items considered better done in Northern Ireland. It gets longer, and I am delighted about that. I am always conscious that, were I to ask the noble Lord to dance, it would not be on legal territory. However, I will deal with his question. As he said, I have been given fair warning, over many months and now indeed years. I repeat: the Government believe that the innocent victims of violence in Northern Ireland are entitled to fair compensation paid within a reasonable time. That remains our policy. There are currently no firm plans to change the scheme in Northern Ireland. Given the noble Lord's interest, I assure him that he will probably be the first to know were they mooted.
I fear that on the issues of audio-recording, the noble Lord and I must continue to disagree. The decision is based on advice taken from those with great knowledge of security matters in Northern Ireland. Given that advice, the Government have sought to achieve a balance which will provide additional protection for individuals and for the police, assist the efficiency of the courts, while at the same time not undermining the vital work of the police in obtaining information from interviews.
Given the key role that the holding centres play in the fight against terrorism and the vital information which interviews there provide--not only in terms of bringing guilty people to justice, but in gaining information to forestall or disrupt terrorist operations and save lives--we have obviously to listen very seriously to the advice of the chief constable on the potential impact of audio-recording on police operations.
Those interviewed in the holding centres know that the terrorist gangs outside will attempt to discover what has happened at the interview and will not hesitate to use any means in their power to obtain the recording of what was said. The effect on persons being interviewed would be to create fear, irrespective of the safeguards in place, that such tapes might fall into the wrong hands.
The different circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland--the small size of the population; the extent of terrorist influence, which, as we heard too often this afternoon, has not gone away; and the vulnerability of individuals and their families in certain areas to attacks and intimidation--mean that the particular arrangements are required in the circumstances. I assure the noble Lord that we have given very careful consideration to the proposal by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, very rightly praised the work of the committee in another place. The extensive scrutiny that it gave to the Bill has benefited it considerably. The noble Lord also praised the success of the loyalist paramilitaries in holding their ceasefire. I found it interesting that, during a recent visit to the United States, every Irish American was keen to tell me how well he or she knew the loyalist groups now. It is good that another voice is being heard.
The noble Lord was concerned that SACHR was not consulted. I assure him that there has been no intention to deny the commission sufficient opportunity to present its views or to make sufficient representation on the emergency legislation. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who of course meets the chairman and members of the commission frequently, has written to them about their concerns. The Government value the views of the commission and the contribution it makes. I know that it will make considered representations to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, in the course of his review. In Northern Ireland, we look forward to the commission's review of the fair employment legislation, which is a very heavy task for it to take on.
On the issue of the availability of legal advice in holding centres, I hear the noble Lord's comment that he may bring an amendment forward in Committee. The Government are committed to examining the judgments, and we shall ourselves be bringing forward views, though not in the course of this Bill.
The noble Lord also raised the question of remand delays and time limits for persons in custody under the Bill. We envisage in the longer term statutory time limits, applying both to scheduled cases as provided for in this Bill and non-scheduled cases, for which further provision will be required in other legislation. But we do not believe that such limits can properly be introduced immediately. The criminal justice system must first deliver a more consistent performance. Otherwise, we should either set limits very high, or risk the release of potentially dangerous people. The problems are complex, and I shall be happy to set out more fully our approach to the question when the House considers Clauses 8 and 9 in Committee.
The noble Lord also raised the matter of changing the authority from chief inspector to inspector. I assure him that this is simply a practical issue. There appear to be benefits in promotion in that chief inspectors do not have a continuous presence at police stations; whereas inspector grades work a 24-hour shift system. Mr. Rowe spelt out the disadvantages that can result, and the amendment will ensure that there will be no inadvertent delay preventing the RUC carrying out their duties. That is why the Government accepted Mr. Rowe's recommendations.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, showed yet again how much experience and background he has of these situations in Northern Ireland. He well understands the implications of the matters we are bringing forward, and I am extremely grateful to him for identifying them to your Lordships' House.
My noble friend Baroness Park of Monmouth again showed a great knowledge of the issues and rightly drew attention to the horrific total lack of knowledge which would lead to a comparison between Mr. Adams and Mr. Mandela. I am sure my noble friend would be delighted to know that there is much distancing going on in the United States from Mr. Adams, and certainly an increasingly critical media coverage of some of the statements, which in the past, outrageous though they were, had not been challenged.
I am sure my noble friend will also be pleased to know that the Taoiseach identified very clearly that there is no diminishing of responsibility for the Canary Wharf bomb by discussion. The only people responsible were the members of the IRA council, and that was said loud and clear. Of course, the issues of the renunciations to constitutional claims made in the framework document continue to hold.
My noble friend Lord Brookeborough raised the disbelief of people in Northern Ireland at the breakdown in the ceasefire. There was almost silence in the Province after that, as people failed to understand that the new and treasured peace had been broken. I would like to assure my noble friend that the concerns he raised on the protection of the silent video recordings are very much in the Government's mind. The precise arrangements for making tapes available will be set out in the codes of practice which will be published for consultation. We envisage that they will be made available to the court on request as needed, but, I can assure you, not without that protection.
I would also offer assurance that measures to transfer the provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Order, which will be available to deal with terrorist finance, will be broadly similar to the provisions in the current Act. They will provide additional powers of investigation, capable of being used in all circumstances in which authorised investigator provisions can be used. In some respects the new provisions will be stronger. Financial investigators appointed under the Proceeds of Crime Order will be empowered to obtain information from banks, whereas an authorised investigator under the current EPA cannot. There are minor differences. Investigators will be appointed by the courts, not by the
My noble friend Lord Marlesford apologised for speaking as an outsider. I think that needs no apology whatsoever because, regrettably, people are at risk in Great Britain as they are in Northern Ireland. It would seem that innocence and total non-involvement in these matters are no protection. My noble friend was right to praise our three leaders. No Prime Minister has taken more risks for Northern Ireland than John Major.
The bipartisan approach to the policy is also much welcomed in allowing us to go forward as hard as we can, and the Taoiseach and President Clinton made their absolute abhorrence of violence very clear in the recent Saint Patrick's Day celebrations. I say "day" with some hesitation because in America it seems to be Saint Patrick's week celebrations. They certainly lost no opportunity to make it absolutely certain where they, and I suspect the whole of America, stand.
My noble friend raised the question of prisoners. Can I assure him that the Act gives the Secretary of State the power to suspend this scheme should circumstances require it. The matter remains under review and the legislation to suspend can quickly be brought before the House. The Act also gives the Secretary of State the power to recall any prisoners on licence who present a risk to the safety of the public or are likely to commit further serious offences.
I will take up the question of his Written Answer and endeavour to make it more comprehensive. I share his view that the light-hearted comment that is sometimes made in Ireland, that one should vote early and vote often, is not a joke which can be admired, and I can assure him that much caution will be taken to ensure that there will be no duplication of votes.
There are few things in politics which unite all politicians, but there is one subject in your Lordships' House on which I am absolutely certain we are all of one mind. It is that the terrorist will not win. If he renounces the gun and turns to the democratic path, with all that that entails, he may take his place at the negotiating table. That, I may suggest, would take more courage than some of the activities in which terrorists now indulge.
We, as a government, and I am certain, as a House, will never permit the bomb and the bullet to take the place of the ballot box. This Bill gives the necessary powers to the police and the security forces for as long as they are needed to protect the public, while at the same time preserving people's individual rights. It is one that has served the people of Northern Ireland well through the darkest days and I thank your Lordships for your support this afternoon. I ask that this Bill be given a Second Reading.