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Baroness Blatch: I am doubly ashamed, first, for not giving an answer at Second Reading and, secondly, for not answering when attending to a point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. So I may ask my noble friend to come back on that.

We all look forward to the day when we will have seen the last of Irish terrorism. That is why the Government have asked the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, to review the continuing need for counter-terrorist legislation once the peace process has achieved its object. We are contributing to some of the information that the noble and learned Lord will be taking into account--not just through this debate today but also through the debate we had recently.

I can assure the House that in those circumstances the police will rarely want to invoke these powers unless, of course, there was justification; for example, in relation to cases involving international terrorism. However, there may be other Prevention of Terrorism Act powers that we shall want to withdraw at such a time. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, would include not just the measures in the Bill that we are passing today but those in the Prevention of Terrorism Act itself. That is why the existing Section 27 of the Act gives the Secretary of State the right to revoke any or all of the powers in the Act at any time. That means that this amendment is otiose.

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Lord Skelmersdale: My noble friend is very percipient. Even without listening she has answered my point at last. I am grateful to her.

Baroness Blatch: Thank you.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: This is not an amendment that I wish to press for all the reasons that I have given. My noble friend the Chief Whip is inciting me to divide the Committee.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: It will wake us up!

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I do not believe that he can be serious, even if he is determined to wake up those Members of the Committee who have not even had time for lunch.

Lord Graham of Edmonton: Speak for yourself.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is always difficult to say under precisely what circumstances these powers should not be used. The Minister said that if there were a ceasefire the measures would rarely be used and I accept that. I still believe that my first argument stands about protection for the police and the public. I do not retract the arguments that I used in favour of these amendments, but for the reasons I have already given, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon moved Amendment No. 9:


Page 9, line 15, at end insert--
("( ) This Act shall cease to have effect three months after the day on which it receives Royal Assent.").

The noble Lord said: The object of this amendment is to give Parliament an opportunity to discuss this measure at greater length. During the intervening period after the Recess the Government will bring forward a replacement Bill to take the place of the present one. It will then go through the normal parliamentary procedures. I wish that my honourable friend the shadow Home Secretary had in fact made his support for this measure conditional on the same or a similar procedure, as suggested in my amendment. That would have had the beauty of accepting that there was an emergency situation that had to be dealt with immediately, but also that Parliament would at greater leisure be able to consider through a similar Bill the very serious issues involved. That would have recognised the emergency situation and also the fears that people properly have and ensured that the proper parliamentary procedure came afterwards. I believe that then we would have the best of both worlds and we probably would not be having this debate this afternoon.

That course of action would in any event ensure proper parliamentary debate. It would also ensure that individuals and organisations could make representations to the Government and to their Members of Parliament. In a parliamentary democracy they must have that right and it is essential that we should ensure that they continue to have that right. My amendment would do exactly that while realising and recognising the emergency situation which undoubtedly exists.

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It would ensure that problems would be confronted, opinions aired and difficulties, I hope, overcome. It would then be a properly considered measure in which Parliament, not the Government or the Opposition, would take full responsibility for the consequences, good or bad. In the light of the reply given by the noble Baroness to the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins and Lord Rodgers, to their similar suggestion of perhaps a more leisurely approach--but nevertheless an excellent suggestion--that does not give me any hope that the Government will accept my amendment. But I believe that the Government would be wrong not to accept it. In fact, if they accepted it it would do their reputation a devil of a lot of good at the present time--and it needs helping! They would realise that there is good will from this side of the House over what they are trying to do. But it would nevertheless tell us that they recognise that there are serious problems of democratic accountability, consultation and consideration to be addressed. This amendment is one way in which they can do that. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell: I support my noble friend Lord Stoddart in this amendment. I also recognise that in reality, even if it were pressed to a Division, it would not get through. On that basis I hope that the Government will say that they will listen sympathetically and in due course come back to the House with their considered view as to how they might take this matter forward, not committing themselves at this stage to doing what the amendment asks to be done. I hope that they will think about the matter, come back after the Recess and give the House some advice as to their thinking on these issues.

One of the things I have learnt this afternoon is that this kind of procedure, or one similar to that being suggested by my noble friend Lord Stoddart, was undergone with the original Prevention of Terrorism Act. Prior to this afternoon, my understanding was that that Act was installed within 48 hours in 1974 and thereafter it was renewed annually, initially for the first 10 to 15 years, without amendment. The information that we have been given this afternoon that that Act went through a much longer period of parliamentary scrutiny some time after it came into being was new to me. I hope that, in the interests of parliamentary democracy and the need for the citizens of this country to know that Parliament is there looking after their interests and considering things sensibly, the Government will take on board my noble friend's suggestion.

Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: I express some sympathy for the amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. As he made clear, it represents an alternative approach to that put forward at Second Reading for getting a proper scrutiny of the Bill. I rise only to deal with the point made by the noble Baroness in reply to the Second Reading debate, when she gave a very much more convincing reason for rejecting the formula put forward by my noble friend Lord Jenkins and myself, but the reason was not quite convincing enough. I wish her to say why that is so.

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The noble Baroness said in an ingenious reply--these are not her exact words--that it was only an amending Bill and that it did not carry the same weight and did not have the same status as the legislation of 1974. Indeed, if this were not an important Bill, amending or not, we would not be taking it today. I suggest that the real reason for considering bringing back the Bill in one form or another is not related to whether it is or is not an amending Bill; it is that the substance of it is sufficient to deserve further scrutiny in your Lordships' House. That has been plain even from the restrained way in which noble Lords have dealt with this Committee stage, anxious as we all are that the Bill should make progress.

If I felt that there was no prospect whatever for the proposal made earlier and if the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, were to press his amendment to a Division with any prospect of winning, I would find myself supporting him. However, as there is no prospect of so winning and as I have more faith in the Minister than is perhaps entirely justified, I hope that the noble Baroness will revert to the proposal made earlier and, if she does not favour the amendment, that she will be able to offer something so much better.

4 p.m.

The Earl of Longford: I should like to express some sympathy with the amendment, although three months is perhaps too short a period for any essential changes to be brought about. I should like to raise with the noble Baroness a point which may or may not have been raised up to now; I have not been present throughout these debates. I am entirely in sympathy in general terms with the police in their attempts to prosecute criminals, although not with our sentencing policy. In my discussions with the police, their essential point has always been that there should be an increase in the number of police. Last year at the Conservative Party Conference it was promised that 5,000 more police would be introduced. Perhaps I may suggest to the Minister that the situation would look very different today if steps had been taken to fulfil that pledge. What is being done about the pledge to increase the police force by 5,000?


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