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Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I would be the first to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, if he thinks that I was cross or in a temper. I was not in the slightest. If I gave that impression, it was a wrong impression. I am sorry that the noble Lord thinks I was blustering. I tried to respond to a number of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank. However, he made a number of points over a certain period of time and I apologise if I did not answer them all.
One of the complaints of the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, was that he knew nothing about the procedures until the evening he mentioned. I have replied to that point. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, said that I did not answer the point about the re-introduction of the Bill. As long as we require the Prevention of Terrorism Act, that Act is already subject to annual renewal, and the debates on the renewal are informed by the report of the independent reviewer who scrutinises its operation. Therefore, it will be discussed in the future.
Lord Jenkins of Hillhead: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that there is a difference between annual renewal when there is merely a Motion before the House and what we did following the 1974 Act, which was to re-introduce the Bill as a new Bill in which case it is open to Committee stage, Report stage, Third Reading, and therefore subject to amendment?
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that really is a matter for discussion on the Bill and not for discussion on the Motion that the Bill is passed through all its stages now. Certainly that point will be considered. However, if the noble Lord thinks, when my noble friend Lady Blatch is taking the Bill through, that the Bill ought to be re-considered or another Bill brought in later on, that is a perfectly reasonable debating point. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, it is not relevant to the debate we are now having which concerns whether all stages of the Bill should be taken on one day.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I do not know whether we shall proceed much further with this discussion. The fact is that we are debating whether or not the Bill should go through its paces in one day. It is perfectly
I do not disagree with the noble Lord. A number of points need to be discussed. However, we are debating whether it is right to have the Bill considered in one day. That is the Motion which is before us. I hope your Lordships will agree that it is appropriate that that should be done.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary gave notice of his intention to bring forward this Bill when he made a Statement on Monday in another place. As we have always made clear, this Government have no relish for the use of emergency powers. But such powers are needed to protect the people of this country from the violent actions of the terrorist who seeks to destroy both life and property and to dominate and disrupt our very way of life. The Bill will give the police a number of further practical powers which will strengthen their ability to protect the public against this threat.
The measures now before your Lordships' House were debated last night in another place. Naturally there were concerns about the limited time available to debate the measures, and I am sure that that concern--we have heard it today--will be shared by many noble Lords. But as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made clear, this Bill has been brought before Parliament as expeditiously as possible; and in view of the present security situation, we cannot take the risk of waiting until after the Easter Recess. I am pleased to say that this view was shared by the Opposition Front Bench in another place, and the Government welcome the co-operation shown in securing the swift passage of this Bill.
It is important to set this Bill in the context of recent events. Members on all sides of this House were horrified and appalled by the resumption of violence which occurred on 9th February. The bombing of South Quay, in which two lives were lost and when many others were injured, dealt a cruel blow to the hope of people in this country. Following the end of the IRA ceasefire, my right honourable friend discussed with senior police officers whether any additional powers were necessary to help them safeguard the public.
I recognise and share the concern of this House for the protection of the liberty of the individual. There is, however, no liberty more important than the right of men and women to life. That is a liberty for which the terrorist has no regard. This Bill makes a number of amendments to the PTA which will clarify and strengthen the powers of the police, reinforcing their ability to protect the public against such threats. The Bill will enable the police to stop and search pedestrians for articles which can be used in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist acts; to search non-residential premises for evidence which will be of value to a terrorist investigation; to search unaccompanied freight in ports; to cordon off areas in order to look for a bomb or to collect forensic evidence after a bomb has been found or has exploded; and to impose temporary parking restrictions in response to a general threat to vulnerable sites such as schools, major transport facilities and government buildings.
I believe that each of these new provisions will make a difference. They will better equip the police to protect the public and combat terrorism. Each measure will also be circumscribed by important safeguards.
Before giving notice of his intention to bring forward this Bill, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary discussed these proposals with Opposition spokesmen, and I am glad to remind this House that the Opposition co-operated with the passage of the Bill in another place. As my right honourable friend made clear, the Government very much welcome the recognition of the honourable gentleman, the Member for Blackburn, of the need to act quickly.
I turn now to the detailed content of the Bill. Section 13A of the Prevention of Terrorism Act was added to that Act by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It currently allows a constable to stop and search any vehicle, its driver and any passenger within it. It also allows a constable to stop any pedestrian and search anything he is carrying for articles of a kind which could be used in preparing, commissioning or instigating terrorist acts. But under the current law, a constable may not search the pedestrian himself for anything which he may have concealed about him; for example, in a jacket pocket. This clause fills that gap in the current powers.
The operation of the existing stop and search powers, have led the police to believe that an additional power to search pedestrians would be of real practical benefit and the Government have accepted that. Bombs and incendiary devices do not need to be very large to kill or destroy. A typical device may be no bigger than an audio cassette and can be carried in a coat pocket without being apparent to the observer.
Clause 1 inserts a new Section 13B into the Prevention of Terrorism Act, giving the police power to stop and search pedestrians within a designated area. Clear safeguards will apply, as in the existing Section 13A. Searches will only be allowed within an area authorised by an Assistant Chief Constable and only for
Once authorisation has been given, a police officer will be able to stop any pedestrian within that area. The search will be a "rub-down" search. The officer may ask the pedestrian to remove his outer coat, jacket, footwear, gloves or head gear in order to facilitate the search.
Such a power requires a means of enforcement. Therefore Clause 1 creates offences of failing to stop when asked to do so, and of wilfully obstructing a constable in the exercise of the new powers. These mirror the offences which exist in Section 13A and will carry the same penalty--on summary conviction, up to six months' imprisonment, or a fine not exceeding Level 5 on the standard scale, or both. Prosecution for either of these offences will proceed only by or with the agreement of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The police are well aware that the new power will need to be exercised with circumspection and sensitivity. My right honourable friend will issue immediate provisional guidance and in the short term, the police have undertaken to apply the relevant PACE code voluntarily. In due course, the PACE code will be formally amended and will govern the exercise of the new stop and search powers just as it does the existing powers under Section 13A. Concern has been expressed that Parliament should receive regular reports on the operation of the new stop and search powers and yesterday my right honourable friend the Home Secretary gave that assurance in another place. Furthermore, as with the existing Section 13A powers, the exercise of this new power will be monitored under the relevant PACE code.
Clause 2 relates to searches of non-residential premises. As the House will be aware, the use of intelligence information is an important part of the response of the police to terrorist activity. The nature of such information--for example, that explosives are concealed in a garage in a particular area of London or that a lorry carrying home made explosives has been left in a lorry park near a particular motorway intersection--is quite often insufficient to identify precisely the garage or lorry park in question. It is currently impossible to obtain a search warrant to enter every relevant premises and examine them.
The search power contained in Clause 2 will enable a magistrate, or a sheriff in Scotland, to issue a warrant for the police to search a list of premises. The police will not be required to say in which of these listed premises they believe they will find the material. Such a warrant may only be issued on the application of an officer of at least superintendent rank and any search of premises named in the warrant must be made within 24 hours of the warrant being issued.
Clause 3 will provide examining officers at ports with the power to search unaccompanied freight. At present the police may stop and examine individuals coming through ports. In the course of examining them, they may search their baggage and their vehicles for anti-terrorist purposes. Customs officers can search goods which have come from outside the United Kingdom, but police officers cannot at present search unaccompanied cargo. Clause 3 will allow them to do so and should help to deter and disrupt terrorist plans and the re-stocking of their armoury.
Clause 4 will enable the police to cordon off an area and restrict access while they look for a bomb or collect forensic evidence following the discovery or the explosion of a bomb. The police already have limited powers under common law to impose cordons, but the extent of their existing powers is uncertain. Clause 4 will provide a firm statutory basis and remove that uncertainty. It will ensure that the police can exclude people from a cordon for their own safety and for that of others and it will, as I have said, assist the police in carrying out forensic work.
The new power will be subject to the authorisation of an officer of at least superintendent rank. However, in an emergency it may be invoked by any constable and then confirmed by a superintendent or officer of more senior rank.
The schedule sets out the powers which may be exercised by the police inside the cordon. These include power to search premises within the cordon for any device or other terrorist material and to collect any forensic evidence found.
This clause will also create offences of failing to leave the cordon when required to do so; and breaking the cordon and obstructing a constable in the exercise of any of his powers within the cordon. Prosecution for any of these offences will proceed only by or with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As an additional safeguard, a defence is provided for those who can prove that they have lawful authority or a reasonable excuse for their actions.
Clause 5 will give the police the power to impose temporary parking restrictions on roads or parts of roads in response to a general threat to vulnerable targets such as government buildings, financial centres and major transport facilities. Powers are currently available to the police under common law but here also there is uncertainty as to their extent and the length of time for which they can be used. In the Government's view the powers of the police in this area require statutory underpinning.
The power in Clause 5 will be subject to the authorisation of an assistant chief constable or equivalent ranking officer. It will be exercisable only for a stipulated period of up to 28 days. Offences will be created of failure to remove a vehicle when asked to do so and of parking in breach of a prohibition or
Clause 6 provides that the Director of Public Prosecutions must consent to any prosecution made for the offences created to enforce the powers given in Clauses 1, 4 and 5. Clause 7 deals with the territorial extent of the new provisions. Clause 3 extends to the whole of the United Kingdom. All the other provisions in the Bill apply only to Great Britain, since these powers are already available to the police and the security forces in Northern Ireland.
I made reference a moment ago to what I know will be your Lordships' concern for the liberty of the individual. The measures in this Bill are sensible and practical and I can confirm that they are subject to clear and careful safeguards.
I have also made reference to the assurance which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has given that Parliament will receive regular reports on the operation of the new power to stop and search pedestrians. I am pleased to have this opportunity to re-state that commitment in this House. I can also confirm that there will be monitoring of the exercise. PACE Code A will apply to new Section 13B of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, as it does to existing Section 13A. Guidance will ensure the considerate and sensitive exercise of the new powers. For this reason, the Government have taken the view that it is not necessary to put this safeguard on the face of the Bill.
The Government believe that the measures will be of real practical assistance to the police in their work. The police bear an enormous responsibility; it is to them that we look to protect the public against the evil of terrorism. The police deserve the support of this House in their fight against terrorism and I hope that your Lordships will give them that support. I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I made it clear in my brief intervention on the Business Motion that Her Majesty's Opposition not only do not object to the manner of the introduction of the Bill but also we do not propose to oppose it. It will be no surprise to the Minister that we have thought it appropriate to put down a number of amendments to the Bill, mostly for the purpose of clarification and partly to secure assurances from the Minister about the introduction of the Bill.
When speaking on the Business Motion, I did not think it appropriate to talk about the content of the Bill or its origin. However, now that we are dealing with the substance, it is surprising that a Bill of this complexity should be produced in such a short time-scale and a short time after the debate in this House on the continuance order which was only two weeks ago. If the Government--as would have been entirely proper--had been giving consideration to the need for the police to have extra powers for the prevention of terrorism, they
I also remind the Minister that the Government have asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, to inquire into the matter. I am glad to see him in his place this afternoon. I do not have with me the exact text of his terms of reference, but they are to inquire in general into the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and what should succeed it in the event of a more permanent ceasefire. I should have thought that it would be proper for the Minister and the Home Secretary to include reference to the noble and learned Lord's inquiry in talking about the justification for the Bill and its extent and continuance, as it is to be part of the temporary provisions Act 1989, as amended by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.
The Minister introduced the Bill as being largely technical and not involving a great extension to police powers in threat of civil liberty. I think it would be fair to say that she did not claim that there were great intrusions on civil liberties which were justified. She said rather that the intrusions on civil liberty were not as great as might be feared. I am paraphrasing her words. If that is the case--and having read the Bill, I accept that it is the case; I do not believe that there are great intrusions here on civil liberty--surely the opportunity for mature consideration which has been available over the past eight weeks could have been taken and consultation could have taken place over a period longer then the six days since the matter first arose in discussions between the Government and the Opposition.
That said, when I examine the Bill in detail I do not find very great positive threats. I do find a number of inconsistencies with which it will be very difficult to deal; and it may be my inadequate reading, but I also find a number of points that are not clear.
Let me deal mainly with Clause 1, which is the most important clause. It gives a power to a constable in uniform to stop any pedestrian and search him, and goes on in subsection (4) to refer to the removal of outer clothing:
Therefore we believe that amendments are necessary to Clause 1 of the Bill. We have tabled a number of amendments to ensure the possibility of greater clarity. We hope that can be achieved, not by amending the Bill itself, but by ensuring as in our Amendment No. 1 that the Secretary of State should give adequate guidance; and as in our Amendment No. 5 that there should be consultation with the Association of Chief Police Officers about the operation of these powers and the sensitivity with which they are to be operated.
I said earlier that Clause 1 was the only clause considered in detail in another place. Perhaps that is appropriate since it is by far the most important. However, consideration was not completed when the Guillotine fell and it is important that we should be as clear as possible about the powers.
Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 5 refer respectively to non-residential premises, ports, temporary cordons and parking restrictions. It has been made clear that most of those powers are already exercised, normally under common law powers rather than legislative powers. It is entirely appropriate that, wherever possible, there should be statutory authority for the kind of controls that are necessary. Therefore, in general, we shall not oppose or even comment on Clauses 2, 3, 4 and 5, except to say, as we do in Amendment No. 7, that there should be a test of reasonableness before Clause 4 and indeed Clause 1 are triggered.
In relation to Clause 7, concerned with interpretation and extent, we raise wider issues, some of which were raised in the debate on the business Motion. We welcome the Minister's remark that there have already been undertakings that there will be reports to Parliament--I do not know whether she said at "regular" intervals, but certainly at sufficient intervals. I am sure that we can rely on her word in that respect. We are also conscious that when she referred to monitoring, Code A under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act is itself subject to a measure of parliamentary scrutiny. We welcome the assurance that new Section 13B, to be inserted in the 1989 Act and in Clause 1 of this Bill, is to be covered by Code A of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
We are also conscious that the device that has been adopted of making this Act entirely in the form of amendments to the 1989 temporary provisions Act means that there will be parliamentary scrutiny of a sort under the affirmative procedures resolution at 12-month intervals. To that extent we welcome the opportunity that will exist in March next year to consider the implementation of this Bill as well as of the original 1989 Act as amended.
I have had no discussion with my honourable friends on this matter. However, I am bound to say that I am personally attracted by the idea put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. The example of a Labour Government introducing emergency legislation in November 1974 and, just over a year later, re-enacting that legislation without any of the constraints of unusual procedures or the Guillotine was a good example. The fact that it was enacted by a Labour Government and is now repeated by a Liberal Democrat Peer does not seem to me to cause any political difficulty. I certainly urge on my right honourable and honourable friends that they should seek suitable opportunities to see to it that some such procedure is adopted in regard to this Bill. I take this opportunity to ask the Minister whether she will be able, in her response to the Second Reading debate, to give assurances that at least this issue will be considered; and possibly even to go further and say that the example of 1974 and 1976 was a good example. That might help there to be cross-party agreement on these measures, and they might recommend themselves to the Home Secretary and her other colleagues in government.
It is of the utmost importance that there should be cross-party agreement on all legislation that relates to terrorism. It is important in the message that it sends not only to the IRA and all other terrorists, that we in this country are united in our condemnation of terrorism and our determination to take such proper steps as are available to us to counter terrorism, both to prevent and diminish its effect; but also to our people, who suffer when there is terrorism, not only directly but indirectly from the restrictions imposed by anti-terrorist legislation. I put it to the Minister that she would be well advised to seek the agreement of her right honourable friend to a measure which I believe would increase the effectiveness of this legislation by ensuring that we can all support it wholeheartedly without any hesitations or reservations about the way in which it was necessary to introduce it.
As Mr. Jack Straw said in another place yesterday, we agree that on this occasion the measures proposed are proportionate to the threat that we face. However, that is not the end of the matter. There could be, and should be, further opportunities for Parliament to see to it that we have the best possible anti-terrorist legislation.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, in the course of our discussion on the business Motion, the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, asked the question: what is the point of staying? He did so in relation to the procedure and the fact that we are taking the Second Reading and all subsequent stages in one day. I certainly would not go so far as that. However, rightly or wrongly, the Bill having got this far, it being before the House and there being no prospect of amendment in Committee, I certainly have no reason to wish to see it delayed. For that reason I intend to speak very briefly at Second Reading.
In the debate on the Business Motion, I made what I thought were two positive and helpful suggestions. They are relevant to the Bill itself and not only to the procedure that we were then discussing. The first suggestion, which was entirely ignored by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in his reply and his subsequent and additional reply, was whether the procedure should not be considered by the Procedure Committee. We might have got off to a better start today had we felt that the procedure being followed by the Government had been endorsed by the House itself. I hope that that point will not be overlooked, although I do not ask the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to do more than acknowledge that it has been made. I do not expect her to give a substantive reply.
My second proposal, for which I am delighted to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, is to adopt the procedure of 1974-1976. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred to regular reports in reference to Clause 1 of the Bill. No doubt this House and another place will wish to have them. But that does not take away from the need to look at the Bill when there is more time at our disposal and, I suggest, with the experience of the Bill before us. There is no doubt at all that, even if the subsequent clauses do not create difficulties, Clause 1 might create real difficulties for the police and the community.
I shall make one further important point about our earlier discussion. I do not believe that what the noble Earl said represented the view of any party in this House. He argued that because consultation took place with opposition parties in another place, there was no need for it here. That is a very dangerous principle. I was very surprised to hear it from a Conservative Minister in particular. It is a principle which puts party above Parliament and assumes that relationships and communications between parties are more important than communications within a House between parties in the spirit of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, about co-operation on issues of terrorism. I do not want to labour the point or ask for a lesson to be learnt. But I would not want it to stand on record--I do not believe that the noble Baroness would want it, either--that consultation between parties is at any time in any circumstances a substitute for consultation and communication between parties in this House or another place.
Again, I do not want to pursue that philosophical point but it is an important basis for the consideration of all legislation of this kind. How far can we reasonably go against terrorism in defence of our freedom in restricting the freedom that we take for granted?
On this occasion as on others when we have discussed, for example, the Renewal of Terrorism Order, I have returned, and do so again briefly today, to the original debate of 1974. In that debate two speeches struck me in particular. One was the speech of my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich when he introduced the legislation. He said:
The other speech to which I need draw your Lordships' attention was that of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder. At that time he did not speak from the same Bench as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. The noble Lord said:
We all greatly regret the resumption of terrorism. We all entirely support the need to fight it in every reasonable way. But we must make sure that when that terrorism is over, as we must all hope it will be, we do not leave for all time on the statute book legislation which would be inappropriate in very different circumstances.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, concluded by saying that the fight against terrorism--I should like to say the defence of our liberties in the face of it--is a cross-party matter. He spoke the truth and that is my view as well.
Lord McConnell: My Lords, I rise to express my support and that of the Ulster Unionist Party for this piece of legislation. It applies not only to Northern Ireland but mostly to Great Britain. It deals not only with terrorism which originates in our part of the world but also with international terrorism. Therefore it is to be welcomed. We are, as some noble Lords have said, reaching the stage when our legislation is becoming more and more piecemeal. Therefore, I look forward with anticipation to the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on permanent and comprehensive legislation covering the whole subject and the whole kingdom.
Clause 3 extends to Northern Ireland--it is the only one that specifically does--where there is power to search any goods that arrive in or are about to leave Great Britain or Northern Ireland on any ship, aircraft or vehicle. That is particularly welcome. It has been suggested--I do not know whether truthfully or not--that before the Canary Wharf explosion the bomb was mounted on a vehicle, driven through Northern Ireland, taken across the sea to Scotland and driven through England to London. It is essential, particularly when it is more easily done at a port, that there be the power to examine vehicles of that kind so that bombs can be discovered.
My views on this subject are well known--I have expressed them several times before--and therefore I do not intend to weary the House beyond saying that I welcome that in Great Britain many of the powers we already have in Northern Ireland will be available to the security forces in the future. There has been mention both here and in another place of civil liberties and personal freedom. I would join those who have said that the greatest civil liberty is the right to live and the right not to be maimed by a terrorist bomb. That freedom is much greater than being able to walk down the street without being searched.
I conclude by offering an apology to the noble Baroness the Minister and to the House if I leave before the conclusion of the Second Reading debate. The reason for that is transport to get me home, possibly
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Tonypandy, said what needed to be said and said it all, but I, too, should like to say a little. Gerry Adams was perfectly open in the Sinn Fein Congress of 1995 when he said that Sinn Fein/IRA had entered,
In those 15 months the IRA became a quasi-respectable political force. Noraid was succeeded by the Friends of Ireland in the United States. Gerry Adams' visits raised more than £1.5 million in a year, half of which went to Dublin. Gerry Adams has claimed that the money has gone to the Northern Ireland economy. The question is: which economy is that--the IRA drug rings, the supply of new sophisticated arms or money to pay the devoted IRA members who recently drove metal spikes through the elbows and legs of an 18 year-old boy?
The issue before us today and the measure recognises that for the foreseeable future Sinn Fein/IRA believe they have extracted the maximum advantage from the political phase of the struggle and are back to what they know best--violence; and violence on the mainland to avoid any Loyalist reaction in Northern Ireland. Gerry Adams recently quoted the IRA's spokesman who met him and John Hume as saying that if the British wanted war the IRA would give them another 25 years of war. He also said that there would be no surrender of IRA weapons under any circumstances and to anyone. And it is perhaps relevant to our debate today that the Sinn Fein/IRA paper--the discussion document on policing--published recently calls for the disbandment of the RUC and the Special Branch, the immediate withdrawal of the force from nationalist areas and the immediate repeal of all emergency legislation.
It has been asked why we should pass these extensions of that legislation now, and why so fast. We should perhaps remember that the IRA spent the whole time of the ceasefire collecting money for more arms and tried several raids on cash shipments in the Republic in recent months. They collected information on more possible targets and did their dummy run for Canary Wharf in December, well before the Mitchell Report put them in a corner and also provided their excuse for ending the ceasefire. From their point of view they were simply switching back to another military phase of the struggle after extracting the maximum benefit from a political phase.
The anti-terrorist unit in this country found plenty of evidence when it searched the house and garden of the bomber in the bus of planned operations on the mainland, and that cannot be ignored. We are in for a long haul. But perhaps one of the strongest reasons for the need to be able, if necessary, to search an apparently innocent, ordinary man or woman in the street, apart from the fact that the IRA have long had access to very sophisticated weapons as well as the home made variety, is that the IRA Council has shifted from using experienced and therefore probably known operators to the use of sleepers to carry out operations. These are young people with no previous record, sometimes known too, it seems, as lily-whites, who come over to the mainland, some probably as unskilled labourers, with orders to establish themselves and be ready to do the work for which they were trained when the order comes. Edward O'Brien, the bomber who died in the bus, was evidently one. Even his family knew nothing of his sentiments. The anti-terrorist squad must clearly expect others, and it must be given the powers to act.
In Vietnam it was a practice of the Vietcong to smuggle bombs past a checkpoint by concealing them in a baby's clothes. The young sleeper is the IRA version of the same technique. Would a fresh-faced young man or woman about his or her normal concerns on the street be a natural suspect? Unfortunately, the IRA cynically counts on that and the undoubted idealism of these young people in many cases. I urge that we do not tie the hands of the police behind their backs. The victims of IRA bombs are innocent too. They have a right to protection. I share the hope of many noble Lords that there should be some review of this measure in due course--I welcome the promise of regular reports though I do not regard them as a substitute--and I believe very strongly that proper scrutiny is our right and our duty, but the IRA do not play by our rules. They know nothing about our procedures and care less. It would be irresponsible not to listen and to act in time when they make their own murderous intentions so clear.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I decided to speak today not because I am necessarily opposed to the provisions of the Bill but because I am very concerned at the way in which it has been handled. Noble Lords should recall the experiences we have had with Bills which have been rushed through Parliament. We have learnt and lived to regret such Bills as time has gone on. Our experience of rushed Bills has not been a happy one.
The Minister will know that I cannot be accused of being a softie on crime or terrorism. I am, if anything, a hardliner. I am anti-criminal--very anti-criminal; I am victim friendly; I detest the terrorist murderers of the IRA and regret that, instead of being defeated and routed before the peace process, they were let off the hook and allowed to re-arm and regroup. So, basically, I am in favour of any measures to deal with the terrorists and to protect our own people from their activities. But, if we do bring in measures without proper democratic
I believe that this point was raised by my noble friend earlier; namely, that there is a suspicion that the police asked for these powers some weeks ago in anticipation of problems arising around the 80th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. If that is true, and perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us whether it is, why on earth was no legislation brought forward earlier so that we could indeed have had a proper discussion? But, even if the police did not ask for powers, the Government themselves should have shown intelligent anticipation, after the ceasefire was so brutally ended, and asked Parliament to consider new measures, but again with adequate time for proper scrutiny of those measures. As it is, we have a raft of significant measures of which the House of Commons was given only one day's notice. The measures were railroaded through on a guillotine, allowing only six hours for all stages of the Bill. That is hardly time to put forward any amendments in Committee, let alone at Report stage, and no time for consultation with, or representations from, individuals and organisations. Democracy means that people have the right of representation in Parliament and that their views can be considered and taken into account.
It is simply not good enough to say that the Official Opposition Front Bench is content to allow the Bill to be forced through Parliament without proper discussion. It really is intolerable that the Front Benches should behave in this way, particularly the Labour Front Bench in the House of Commons. As I said earlier, I have some sympathy with my noble friend Lord McIntosh, since he really has not had time to consider the matter properly. Nevertheless, I shall listen to his advice. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, once referred to the House of Commons as an "elected dictatorship". I rather fear that things have moved on since then and that we now have a one-party state, certainly in respect of this Bill.
I now turn to the Bill itself. As has already been mentioned, Clause 1 is the most onerous. Stop and search powers may very well be necessary, but Parliament is entitled to consider the implications and to consider them properly. The powers are bound to cause resentment. The Irish community and other minority communities, may very well fear that they will be unduly targeted. There is a risk that people will remonstrate with the police. If one is stopped in the street and asked to take off one's clothes, one's coat, gloves and hat, people may very well get angry and remonstrate with the police. The people will be very severely punished. We should understand that the penalties for obstructing the police are very severe. They are six months in prison or a fine of £5,000 or both. We are considering heavy penalties. We also have to have regard to the shame that people will feel on being stopped and body-searched in the street.
I ask the noble Baroness this question: what is the position of women in particular? Women do engage in terrorism and they are just as suspect as anyone else. Can I have an assurance from the Minister that those searches will be conducted by female officers? What
As regards Clause 2, are we all satisfied that warrants to search premises are to be issued by magistrates? Some of us might feel that such warrants should be signed more appropriately by a circuit judge. What is the position if some minor fine or misdeed is discovered as a result of a warrant issued under this Bill? Such questions need consideration and that is being denied. Again under this clause, penalties of three months' imprisonment and/or a fine of £2,500 are involved. In Clause 5, which deals with prohibitions and restrictions and the removal of vehicles, there is a stipulation that disabled persons are not exempt from its provisions. In a panic situation, disabled people may feel very flustered. They may do all kinds of things: they are in a particularly vulnerable position. At least the disabled and their representatives are entitled to be consulted and make representation to Parliament, but that is being denied to them.
Finally, although I have expressed my opposition to the handling of this Bill by the Government and Her Majesty's Opposition, I nevertheless understand and accept the urgency of the measure and will certainly not seek to divide the House on Second Reading, even if that were to do any good anyway. I shall not seek to do it. I understand the need and the Government's position. However, to meet the points which I have raised, I have tabled an amendment by which the Government can redeem themselves and give Parliament the opportunity to give proper consideration to a replacement Bill after the Easter Recess. It is an amendment to allow the legislation to run for three months.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, supported by my noble friend on the Front Bench, put forward an alternative solution which I found very attractive indeed. I believe it to be very relevant, and, if the Government accepted it, they will do a great deal to assuage the fears that many of us have about parliamentary democracy and the need to scrutinise this sort of legislation. I hope that the noble Baroness will give very serious consideration to what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. If that measure were accepted, I should then feel able to withdraw my amendment. I cannot wish the Bill well, although I understand its provisions and support them. I wish that we had had proper time to discuss them.
I am well aware that there is a real and a continuing threat from terrorism. My wife's best friend was two cars behind the bus that blew up in the Aldwych. Her passenger, who was much less shaken than she was, was able to assist with pulling the victims out of the bus. I do not think there is any dispute about the reality or the evil of the threat from terrorism. There is only one thing for which I feel more contempt than I do for the IRA's principles--and that is its intelligence. The IRA's weakness is that it is unable to obtain the majority of the votes or indeed, I believe, even of the guns of Northern Ireland. Anything that it may do on the British mainland will not get it one inch nearer to overcoming that obstacle.
The noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, was pleased to describe my remarks as "infantile". The noble Earl, like Augustus in Ruthless Rhymes, enjoys his little bit of fun, but he might perhaps reflect that there is authority for the view that wisdom can come out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. I do not think that anything we say about terrorism absolves us of the need, first, to consider whether the Bill will actually do anything to help to prevent terrorism, which is a question that the House has not yet addressed, and, secondly, to consider whether it has got right the balance between civil liberties and fighting terrorism. In both cases I find that I am handicapped in reaching a balanced opinion because I do not have the time to do it. So when I ask whether the Bill achieves those objectives, I can only reply in the words of Marcel Proust who, when asked whether he believed in ghosts, replied:
I understand the view of the police. I understand that every Home Secretary, of whatever party, has to listen with great care to the police. However, the police are an expert witness. They are to be treated with the respect due to an expert witness and not with the respect due to an executive authority. When one listens to an expert witness, unless another is saying the opposite, one has to take what that expert witness says within the area of his expertise. However, when making a political judgment, one has to take it in a rather wider context.
I consider this matter as a resident of Kilburn, which is perhaps the most Irish area in the whole of London, more Irish even than the former constituency of the noble Lord, Lord Stallard. It is very rarely indeed that my Irish neighbours talk to me about their views of the IRA. Indeed, I am flattered that they have occasionally done so. What I hear from them when they do is a hatred of the IRA such as to make the Home Secretary appear moderate. They feel that the IRA is prostituting an ideal
It is absolutely vital for the detection of terrorism that people should be prepared to come forward to give evidence. Since 1974 there has been a very great improvement in that respect. So much so that I believe that the area of which I speak, which used to be near the IRA's London headquarters, is now very far from safe for them. Members of the public tend to resent being stopped and searched, especially if they see it as being done for no particular reason. It is possible--I put it no higher--that that resentment may make them less eager to come forward with evidence which the security forces would be extremely glad to know. There is a balancing act to be struck here. I do not know the right way to strike it, but I should like to see the question considered at rather more leisure than has so far been the case.
With the leave of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, I wish to correct something he said. He said that my right honourable friend Mr. Beith had been consulted about the Bill. My right honourable friend assures me that he was informed, but he was not consulted. There is quite a significant distinction. I should be grateful if that correction could go on the record.
We have to admit that the task of striking a balance is difficult. I have respect for anyone who strikes it either way so long as they understand that it is difficult. I have less respect for anyone who does not agree that it is difficult. One could go to almost absurd lengths in the course of collecting information to prevent crime. One could technologically now have a situation in which it was literally always true that Big Brother was watching one. It would mean that the security forces had a vast amount of information about all our physical infirmities and that crime was almost impossible. I do not think that anyone would be better off. Somewhere, somehow, a balance has to be struck. That question will have to be addressed in any new Bill.
Speaking to the Business Motion, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned trust. I remember the 1974 Bill. I was then a private citizen, getting information from the newspapers. I weighed the arguments on both sides carefully and the scale appeared to be heavy. When I finally decided that it was a good thing that that measure was going forward, it was in large part because my noble friend, as he has since become, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, was putting it forward. The present Home Secretary does not enjoy--I do not think he would want to enjoy--as strong a reputation as a champion of civil liberties as my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. That is a matter of political judgment, but it must affect the political judgment of those who reply.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that the Government have no relish for taking these powers. To an extent that argument is devalued by repeated use. I note that these powers are extremely similar to those contained in Clause 7 of the Asylum and Immigration Bill which we shall be discussing shortly. I cannot help
There are other problems about the use of such powers. We are told in Clause 1 that the police may search whether or not they have grounds to suspect a particular person. Terrorism is not confined to IRA terrorism. We should never forget that when considering the Bill. I have read reports of Sir Paul Condon's speech yesterday. It was a brave speech and I congratulate him on it. He admitted that there are racists within the police. I take his point: the police are a cross-section of the population, so one would expect cross-sections of opinion. However, that means, especially in any terrorism that comes from people with a black skin, that there is a possibility that the powers may be disproportionately used to stop black rather than white people. That could lead to resentment which might be very harmful.
Other parts of Clause 1 concern me. I am not clear--I have read the wording several times--whether the powers extend only to seizing matters which have a security implication; whether the police will be entitled to bring charges about matters with no security implication which they find during the course of searches; and whether they may give rise to what in the 17th century was called a springing offence arising from the search rather than any previous suspicion. I am also concerned about what may happen to information discovered in the course of searches. I recall the noble Lord, Lord Denham, who was here earlier today--I gave him notice that I would mention the point--putting down a Question about occasions when information which came into the possession of the police and was not used to prefer a charge nevertheless ended up in headlines in the tabloid press. The noble Baroness may remind me that last time I wrote to her about a case which appeared to be of that kind it turned out that the police were not responsible for passing on the evidence. I was very glad to discover it. But there is a risk. I have not put down an amendment because in the time available I have not had access to proper legal drafting. I would like the Bill to make it an offence to publish in the press any information obtained by searches which does not give rise to a charge. There could be security reasons, as well as ones of liberty and common decency, for such a restriction. It is perfectly possible that security may find information on which it does not want to base a charge but which it nevertheless wants to keep quiet and use for future reference.
I reserve a number of other points for the Committee stage. It remains my dominant feeling that, whether or not there is a good case for the Bill--at present I simply do not know--I deeply regret that something of this importance is passed through in an extremely hasty manner. It does not make us look good.
Lord Stallard: My Lords, I have four minutes. I could take the rest of the afternoon in dealing with some of these measures. First, I completely disagree with the introduction of the speech of my noble friend Lord Stoddart, although I agree with most of his remarks
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, mentioned the ceasefire. In my view, the United Kingdom Government completely failed to make full use of the prevailing ceasefire; instead, they erected one obstacle after another to avoid setting up all-party talks. The genuine and constructive Mitchell Report was ignored and its recommendations rubbished by the government spokesman. The Government gave the impression, rightly or wrongly, that they were more concerned with retaining the Ulster Unionist vote on a range of measures and prevaricating on the need for all-party talks.
This Bill, which is being rushed through without due consideration, will not help the peace process. The peace process is nothing to do with the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Act did not influence the peace process. The peace process came about as a result of dialogue between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, together with the then Taoiseach in the south of Ireland. Under the 1974 Act some 27,000 people were detained, the vast majority of whom were innocent people who were put to a great deal of bother and suffering. Most of them were Irish people. I believe that the Act will threaten the peace process. I suggest that if we are talking about referenda, it may be a good idea to have a referendum involving the entire population to see whether or not plans should be drawn up for the eventual relinquishment of control of that part of Ireland and so save billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.
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