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My second point relates to the amendment to Clause 3. I think that we need some information on the contents of the Criminal Justice (Release of Prisoners) Bill which is now being considered in Dublin. Would it be possible for the Minister to make such information available for Report stage? It would be extremely unfortunate if the drafting and the application of the Bill in the South could be used by paramilitaries in the North to exert pressure on Her Majesty's Government to be, as it will be said, as generous and as ready to take risks for peace as Dublin is. I submit that the threats to peace are not the same in both parts of Ireland.
Lord Monson: I, too, support the amendment for the reasons powerfully spelt out from various quarters of the Committee. As my noble friend Lord Molyneaux said, it is difficult to see how anyone could possibly oppose it.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: When the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, spoke, he said, perhaps inadvertently, that there was no discussion of victims at Second Reading. He may not recall it, but from these Benches I made a point of speaking about victims and referred to Clause 14--
Lord Tebbit: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I said, or at least I intended to say--perhaps I did not say it or perhaps the noble Lord missed it--that there had been no discussion of victims in the Minister's speech advocating the Bill. If the noble Lord reads the speech, I think that he will find that there is precious little about victims in it.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I spoke about victims at some length. I shall not waste the Committee's time by pursuing the point, but I did so particularly in the context of Clause 14 which deals with the notification of victims and which was inserted into the Bill not least because of pressure from the Alliance Party.
I agree entirely with the sentiment of this amendment. However, as worded, I believe that it presents considerable difficulties for any Secretary of State in identifying a representative from the wide variety of victims of terrorist crime. There are so many sorts of victims with so many different frames of mind. I should very much like to see on the commission someone who has been affected directly or indirectly by terrorist crime. The suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Park, is very interesting. She said that an organisation such as Families Against Intimidation and Terror might be involved. There are considerable problems in nominating one person who is representative of that whole wide body of horrible experience. I shall be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government propose to handle this thought, which is a very good one.
Viscount Brookeborough: I support the amendment primarily because of the victims and their relatives. Secondly, I believe that all too often the Northern Ireland Office loses sight of the fact that it requires support from the population of Northern Ireland generally. A vast number of the people of Northern Ireland, going far beyond the families of the victims, would see acceptance of this amendment as an extremely sympathetic move in relation to the victims and their feelings. The Government are at present coming under quite a lot of fire for not having a truly representative Parades Commission. The same is said of various other organisations. It would help their case, perhaps more than any other, if they were to include on the commission a representative of the victims from within Northern Ireland.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I hope that the Government will accept the amendment. My noble friend Lord Dubs indicated earlier that he would accept some amendments; I hope that this will be one. As far as I can see, there can be no objection at all to the amendment. Indeed, there is very much to be said in its favour. As I understand it, one of the great problems in Northern Ireland with regard to this Bill is the outrage that so many victims and their families feel because although their loved ones are no longer here--or, if they are here, they are in dire circumstances and they cannot be released from the effects of the bombings--the perpetrators of the crimes who have not paid the full price of those crimes are set to be released from prison prematurely. Frankly, I can understand why they feel that way. I would feel exactly the same myself.
If a representative of the victims were to serve on the commission--in any event I disagree with the establishment of the commission--they would at least have some assurance that their points of view would be put forward and, posthumously, the points of view of those who have been destroyed by the vicious activities of the terrorist organisations. I hope that my noble friend will accept the amendment.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: I support the amendment. I cannot find anything against it in the agreement. Obviously, as has been said, it is a healing and a humanitarian measure. I respectfully suggest that it would only help the implementation of the agreement which will be difficult in any circumstances.
Lord Dunleath: I, too, from Northern Ireland support the amendment proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Tebbit and Lord Molyneaux. To support what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has just said, I have with me a copy of the agreement which, in Strand 3, under the heading "Reconciliation and Victims of Violence" states in paragraph 12:
Lord Cope of Berkeley: I too support this amendment. All noble Lords had victims very much in mind during Second Reading. Many of the speeches reflected that. We have had them particularly in mind since the publication of the excellent report by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield. In one sense everyone in Northern Ireland is a victim. The whole Province has been the victim of terrorism for a long period, but there are some who are victims because of what has happened to them or to those close to them. Obviously, that is what one has in mind in considering this amendment.
I hope that at all times the commissioners, in making their decisions, will act with the victims in mind, both victims in general and the victims in each particular case that they consider. The crimes that the commissioners consider will be a guide as to whether or not those who committed them are likely to revert to terrorism. In paragraph 3 of the agreement the section on prisoners states that account will be taken of the seriousness of the offences for which the person was convicted. That is in the agreement. The agreement takes account of the crimes committed and hence the victims of those crimes committed by the prisoners in question.
I hope that the Government will agree to this amendment. If the Minister is unable to agree to it straight away, perhaps he will think about it most carefully between now and Report stage.
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