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Viscount Tonypandy: My Lords, I shall be brief. I have been most disappointed with some of the things that I have heard, not least from the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The question has been asked as to why this legislation is being introduced. I would have thought that an infant would understand. Obviously, the Government have good reason to do so. If the liberties and rights of our people outside the House are at risk, I should point out that there are times in the history of Parliament when it is necessary to put trust on both sides. We have all done so when we were Ministers. Indeed, every Minister talks to his opposite number and takes him into his confidence if there is a special difficulty.
We are not taking anything away from the authority of this House if we realise that, on a special occasion when the life and liberty of our own people are matters that have obviously been brought to the attention of Her Majesty's Government, the least we can do is to try to see that they have the weapons that they require at their disposal.
Perhaps I may deal first with the noble Earl, Lord Russell. He asked whether the other place would be sitting when we disposed of the Bill. I thought that that was an extraordinary question. The noble Earl knows perfectly well what are the rules of the House. The fact is that Royal Assent cannot take place without both Houses sitting. Therefore, the other place will be sitting in order to pass the Bill into Royal Assent. The noble Earl then made what I thought was an astonishing and remarkable suggestion--and I measure my words in this respect. He pointed out that such incidents had been known about for 20 years, and asked why on earth it had taken the Home Secretary 20 years to get used to them. I found that to be a most infantile comment.
That speech was followed by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. The fact is that we are dealing with terrorism. Terrorism is wicked, it is subversive, it is dangerous and it is unpredictable. All those factors must be taken into account. The police sought powers after South Quay which were based on their experience of using the existing Section 13A powers, which have only ever been applied after that incident. It is quite clear that there is a real and continuing terrorist threat. That is the reason why the Bill has been brought forward today.
I can understand anyone who feels that this is a petty exercise because it is not possible to make amendments to the legislation. Well, there are occasions when parliamentary processes have to be fairly swift. But if one has to have such swift processes in order to protect the public, I believe that the House would agree that your Lordships' personal interventions might possibly take second place to the protection of society. I was, frankly, horrified by the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that the introduction of the legislation might have something to do with a by-election. I believe that that suggestion must have made his own Front Bench cringe as much as it made all of us cringe on this side of the House.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, said that it was bad to have such a process on the eve of the Easter Recess. Of course, this is not necessarily a time of one's choice. However, one does not have choices when dealing with terrorism. The fact is that the legislation is both necessary and required now. That is why it is being put through Parliament at speed.
The noble Lord was also concerned because he did not know anything about the legislation until Monday afternoon. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary had discussions with Mr. Straw, the Opposition Shadow Home Secretary, last Thursday on the matter. He also had discussions with the Metropolitan Police, and I understand that Mr. Beith was also consulted. That was the Government dealing
My noble friend the Chief Whip offered to make a Statement to the House on Monday afternoon, but that was declined by the Opposition for reasons which are understandable to them. Therefore, he made a Business Statement. In the circumstances, I do not believe that we can be accused of not having taken into account those people who should have been consulted. If there have been breakdowns in communication between people within their own parties, that is a matter for them. Governments do not push such measures through Parliament without having first secured the agreement and approval of Opposition parties. Indeed, the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, pointed out that that has often been done.
The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, together with the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell--and that is a curious combination--and I believe one other speaker, complained that they had wanted to put down their names to speak on Second Reading but found that they could not do so because the list was closed at six o'clock. Of course that is perfectly true. That is part of the procedures of the House. When a debate takes place at 11 o'clock the next morning the list closes at six o'clock but, as both noble Lords will have observed, they can speak in the gap. I remind them that they would be restricted to four minutes.
Lord Stallard: My Lords, the noble Earl says that this is part of the procedure of the House. However, we are not dealing with procedures in a normal way. This is not a normal procedure. There is something abnormal about the whole set-up. Why, then, should we be told that it is part of the normal procedure when we are dealing with an abnormal suggestion for carrying the Bill through in a rush? There should have been more leeway given in view of the emergency situation and the need that the Government feel for the Bill to go through in a few hours. I repeat that this is not a normal procedure.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, makes an astonishing intervention. Of course, the procedure for this Bill going through the House is different from the normal procedure; that is why we are having the debate. But to say that all the procedures of the House should therefore not take place is quite erroneous. The noble Lord, Lord Stallard, has known since Monday--as has everyone else--that this debate was to take place. If he does not acquit himself of knowing what the procedures are and attempts at seven o'clock on the evening before the debate to add his name to the list of speakers when the rules of the House state that his name must be put down by six o'clock, that is the responsibility of the noble Lord. However, we shall have the pleasure of listening to him. I am sure that if he speaks for four minutes his speech will be concise and worth listening to, as are all his speeches.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, says that his right honourable friend the shadow Home Secretary had the privilege of a briefing which his own Front Bench had not had the privilege of receiving, and that Mr. Straw could therefore advise his people in another place which way to vote, or what to do with the measure, but the Leader of the Opposition here was denied that privilege. I would not wish to intervene in anything that the party opposite does. But both Houses--and the Front Benches of both Houses--know what the position is. I can only suggest to your Lordships that while we all recognise that this is a difficult and an unusual situation, terrorism has to be dealt with and we have to take such action as is required. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, say that if Parliament has to act, it has to act. I was a little disappointed when he said that he was wasting his time this afternoon. He has been a distinguished Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and he knows that these things have to be dealt with quickly. I hope that now that your Lordships have expressed your concern, which I understand, your Lordships will agree that the Motion should be approved.
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, I intervene briefly, partly because as the author of the 1974 Act I have been referred to several times, but I have even more of a reason for intervening. The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, did not, in my view, reply to any of the serious points which were put to him, particularly by my noble friend Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. The noble Earl seems to be in a bad temper today. He has found every other intervention astonishing. I must tell him that I found his reply astonishing because of his refusal to apply himself closely to any issue, his attempt to bluster every point, and his self-righteous unwillingness to believe that anyone else's view is worth considering. On a day when he is seeking all-party agreement, I would say with respect to the noble Earl--of whom I am most fond--that that is foolish conduct. I think that when noble Lords read his speech they will reflect upon that.
The principal point which my noble friend Lord Rodgers put concerned why the Bill cannot be brought back for reconsideration--it can be in operation in the meantime--at some date in the future. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. However, it was not mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. At the time of the 1974 Act when we were operating under a much more dreadful immediate tragedy--the worst of all things, the Birmingham bombings--we did not have a guillotine, as the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, pointed out. The Bill was debated--this was a telescoped period--for over 18 hours in the other place. Moreover, we brought the Bill back to be considered, not under a renewal order, but so that it could be debated in an open-ended way as a new piece of legislation in February 1976. A serious point put to the Government by my noble friend Lord Rodgers--which the noble Earl did not even mention--concerned whether the Government would give serious consideration to following that procedure. It is by far the best guarantee against the evils of hasty legislation.
The dilemma was well described by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. We all appreciate the dilemma; namely, to respond quickly to terrorism on the one hand, given the knowledge, on the other hand, that hasty legislation tends to have faults. One cannot go fully one way or the other but surely the best balance is achieved by giving serious consideration to the proposition which was put forward clearly by my noble friend Lord Rodgers and echoed to some substantial extent by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. It is totally unsatisfactory to let the matter go without having some response from the Government to that serious, major and obvious problem.
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