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Lord Holme of Cheltenham: There must be something about the clear mountain air at the summit of the Labour Back Benches which encourages clarity of thinking. I think that what the noble Lords, Lord Kilbracken and Lord Desai, have said is absolutely right. When the Minister ponders the conundrum raised by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I commend to him the solution arrived at by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, which seems extremely elegant and straightforward.

Lord Monson: Is not another possibility the insertion of the words,

at the beginning of subsection (8)?

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I point out to the Committee that the Secretary of State will, after this Bill is passed, maintain two lists, one of terrorist organisations and one of proscribed organisations. I accept that any organisation may move from being a terrorist organisation to being an ex-terrorist organisation. It can declare a ceasefire and stop being a terrorist organisation. I do not see how it can stop being a terrorist organisation without, in fairness, being "deproscribed". It seems to me that if it is no longer a terrorist organisation, it should no longer be proscribed. The two ought to move in parallel.

It does not seem to me logical that a prisoner--if this Bill is passed in its present form--will have to say, "I am a member of PIRA", for example, in order to be released. In doing so he will admit to a criminal offence of belonging to a proscribed organisation. He should rightly be charged with saying he belongs to a criminal organisation. Everyone will know he has said that because he has been released. In fact I do not believe he will be charged because a later clause in the Bill will prevent any statement he makes to the commission from being used in evidence. Nevertheless, in logic, he certainly ought to be charged. It is odd for him to have to swear that he belongs to the PIRA in order to be released, and to commit a criminal offence in another context when he does so.

Viscount Brookeborough: Is it not quite simple; namely, that once a terrorist stops being a terrorist--he has to say he is not a terrorist, regardless of the organisation he was a member of--irrespective of which organisation he belonged to, he becomes an official member of the political wing of a party through joining that party? On the loyalist side there is the PUP and others, and on the republican side there is Sinn Fein. At present no one is saying that there is anything wrong with being a member of one or the other of those. By declaring you are no longer a terrorist, you are no longer a member of the kind of organisation, either on the loyalist or the republican side, that we are discussing.

Lord Dunleath: My noble kinsman Lord Brookeborough has summed up the matter admirably.

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This is really a matter of individuals, not organisations. With the greatest of respect to the noble Lords, Lord Kilbracken and Lord Desai, to try to differentiate between organisations as if they are brands of washing powder or butter or margarine, is not the most helpful thing to do. As someone who comes from Northern Ireland, I do not think it will help us in Northern Ireland at this present and difficult time to refer to 1922 or to talk about us as if we were in some way a colonial problem.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Dubs: This seems to have been a somewhat confusing debate. To my mind my noble friend Lord Desai got rid of some of the confusion by explaining the key issues. I shall return to those in a moment. The noble Lord, Lord Cope, quoted what I said in the Second Reading debate. I do not wish to quote those words again, but I agree with what he said. He quoted me accurately and if he presses me on the matter I shall read out those words again. However, I know he will not press me on that.

I shall deal with some of the points that have been raised and then I shall try to clarify any outstanding issues that may be somewhat confusing. The effect of these amendments to Clause 3 and Clause 9 would be to make it a condition of release and a licence condition that a prisoner was not a supporter of an organisation proscribed under the PTA.

At Second Reading I explained the difference between the identification of an organisation by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State as a terrorist organisation, and the proscription of an organisation. That distinction followed directly from the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which stated that prisoners who supported organisations that had not established and were not maintaining complete and unequivocal ceasefires would not get early release. The Good Friday Agreement did not make the test whether a prisoner supported a proscribed organisation. We should not rewrite the agreement now by adding such a condition.

However, although it is not a licence condition that a prisoner should not be a supporter of a proscribed organisation, it remains the case that to be a member of such an organisation, or to collect funds, or to provide other forms of assistance, are criminal offences. Should a prisoner engage in such activities, he may be prosecuted and imprisoned.

I think it is reasonable to say that we have a distinction which I believe is understood, except that there may be some semantic difficulty in the fact that in this Bill we use the term "terrorist organisation". I believe that the point is more a semantic one than one of substance. What we are doing in this Bill is defining organisations for a particular purpose in order that a prisoner who is a supporter of an organisation that is on ceasefire can be considered for release. However, if he is a supporter of an organisation that is not on ceasefire he may not be considered for early release. That is the nub of the point at issue here.

Furthermore, it seems to me that it is possible that a paramilitary organisation--I use the term in a more general sense--might declare a ceasefire. That would be

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an important but not a sufficient condition for someone to say that that paramilitary organisation had ceased to be a terrorist organisation. It seems to me that in order to be clear that an organisation, has ceased to be a paramilitary organisation, it would have to do more than have a ceasefire, but a ceasefire is an essential part of it. For the purposes of the release of prisoners, we have said that that is one of the important conditions; namely, that the organisation is linked to a ceasefire. I think that deals with most of the points that were raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked what was meant by a "complete and unequivocal ceasefire". It is essentially one that is not tactical or sham. Perhaps I may quote from the Prime Minister's Balmoral speech in which he identified the four factors in the Bill. He said that, as the agreement expressly states,

    "the ceasefires are indeed complete and unequivocal: an end to bombings, killings and beatings, claimed or unclaimed; an end to targeting and procurement of weapons; progressive abandonment and dismantling of paramilitary structures actively directing and promoting violence".
The Prime Minister's definition is very clear. It deals with all possible aspects of what ought to be a complete and unequivocal ceasefire.

Finally, even if we were to change the words--and, as I have said, there may be a semantic difficulty more than one of substance--an organisation could still be proscribed but meet the test in Clause 3(8). The Bill is about realities, not words.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: Words and their meaning have very important effects in Northern Ireland on many occasions. Indeed, sometimes meanings become very elaborate and apparent only to those who are, as it were, in the swim of Northern Ireland affairs.

To summarise the Minister's remarks, I hope not unfairly, a ceasefire, even defined as widely as the Prime Minister defined it at Balmoral--and I am grateful to the Minister for reinforcing that definition by using it today--is not enough to satisfy the Government as to whether an organisation should be proscribed but is enough to satisfy in relation to the release of prisoners. I am not at all happy about that. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 2, line 16, leave out ("connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland").

The noble Lord said: We now move on to international terrorism. It is well-known that there have been links of various sorts between terrorist organisations in different states. Arms have been acquired, training has been given and so forth. Yet the Government propose to release prisoners without regard to whether they might revert to terrorism for any purpose other than Northern Ireland terrorism.

Some of these prisoners would in other circumstances, as was made clear by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, at Second Reading, be regarded as war criminals. They have links with other organisations which are well-known to the authorities and might well

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be prepared to co-operate with them. I am not sure how releasing terrorists on this kind of basis when they can continue with international terrorism squares with the need to protect the community as expressed in the agreement. I beg to move.

Lord Monson: I am happy to support the amendment. It is surely a matter of pure common sense. Apart from being immoral, it would surely be the height of folly for any government to tie their hands in advance by pronouncing in effect that some terrorism is less heinous and less unacceptable than other terrorism of equal magnitude merely because it relates to a different part of the world.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned terrorists having links with other terrorist organisations. But it can go further than that. Take the case of a skilled bomb maker who is prepared to sell his skills to the highest bidder--in other words, he is a mercenary. The Provisional IRA may not need his services for the time being. But should he be released if it looks as though he will immediately be recruited by some latter-day equivalent of Black September or the Red Army Faction? Surely not.

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