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Lord Holme of Cheltenham: I rise briefly to support the amendment. Given the importance of Clause 14 and the fact that the Committee has agreed that victims should be notified unless it creates,

the amendment aligns the preamble with the detail in subsection (3). I believe that this is a sensible amendment and I hope that the Government will accept it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I entirely sympathise with the point made by both noble Lords. The point is already covered. As the noble Lord rightly observed, under subsection (3)(c) of Clause 14, the Secretary of State has a duty to provide a statement giving information about prisoners who have been released. The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, stated that, if someone has been released on licence, that person is no longer serving a sentence. A person who has been released and is on licence is still serving a sentence of imprisonment within the meaning of Clause 14(1)(a). I am happy to give that reassurance, which I recognise that it was entirely proper to seek.

Lord Kilbracken: I must point out to my noble friend that paragraph (c) does not say anything about being released on licence; it merely says,

    "whether he has been released".

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The words "on licence" have been added by my noble friend.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: No, my Lords. A prisoner can only be released on licence. If a prisoner is released on licence under this scheme, he is still serving a sentence of imprisonment.

Lord Kilbracken: I am grateful to my noble friend. In view of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 38.

Page 8, line 1, leave out ("in Northern Ireland").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 38, I shall, with the leave of the Committee, speak also to Amendment No. 39. The purpose of this pair of amendments is simple. Clause 14 already obliges the Secretary of State, subject to one or two safeguards, to give information about early release to victims, or to the families of victims, where the sentence was passed in Northern Ireland. No doubt as a result of an oversight--and I understand that Clause 14 was inserted into the Bill at a fairly late stage--no such provision is made for the victims of terrorist atrocities committed in England, Scotland or Wales or for their families--for example, the families of the two men murdered at Canary Wharf. That is quite illogical and, more importantly, wrong. These amendments attempt to rectify the omission, which, as I said, I am sure was due to an oversight. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I wish to support my noble friend Lord Monson in what he said both in regard to the past tense and in the future though, strictly speaking, that does not apply to the terminology of this Bill. However, offences have been committed in Great Britain and unfortunately others may be at the planning stage. We are therefore all in the front line together.

Viscount Brookeborough: Further to what my noble friend Lord Monson said, offences have also been committed in Northern Ireland where the perpetrators have been caught just across the border in the Republic. They have then been convicted of those offences. It is important therefore that prisoners who are released from the Republic under any early release scheme which may affect victims in the north should come under this provision.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Again, I sympathise entirely with the purpose behind the amendment. My advice is that it is not necessary because it is already dealt with in paragraph 7 of Schedule 3. That paragraph extends to offences committed in Great Britain the duty of the Secretary of State to provide information to victims which is set out under Clause 14. Therefore I recognise that all the concerns raised are legitimate, but my advice is that the matter is already covered in paragraph 7 of Schedule 3.

Lord Monson: I am grateful to both my noble friends who supported me and to the Minister for his

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explanation. I shall study what he said and will not return to the matter if I am satisfied that no further action is required. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 39 not moved.]

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clauses 15 to 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Orders and rules]:

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 9, line 6, leave out ("10(7)") and insert ("10(9)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 41:

Page 9, line 8, leave out ("10(7)") and insert ("10(9)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 42:

Page 9, line 18, leave out ("10(7)") and insert ("10(9)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon moved Amendment No. 43:

After Clause 18, insert the following new clause--


(" . In this Act, except so far as the context otherwise requires--
"terrorism" means the use of violence for political ends and includes any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public or any section of the public in fear, and
"terrorist" means a person who is or has been concerned in the commission or attempted commission of an act of terrorism or in directing, organising or training persons for the purposes of terrorism.").

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendment No. 18 is quite straightforward and seeks to introduce into the Bill definitions of the terms "terrorism" and "terrorist".

As the Minister stressed on more than one occasion this evening, the Bill is concerned with terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland. In two other Acts of Parliament of which mention has been made this evening similar definitions are to be found. In the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, Section 20, "terrorism" is defined in exactly the terms used in the first part of Amendment No. 43. In the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996 both "terrorism" and "terrorist" are defined in the terms used in both parts of the amendment.

It seems to me to be sensible that this Parliament should make clear to those who may have to apply the provisions of the Bill when it becomes law that, in using these terms, they mean what was meant by Parliament in the 1989 and 1996 Acts. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for bringing forward the amendment. I consider that it would be helpful to include within the Bill a definition of "terrorism", which is a term used on a number of occasions. However, the term "terrorist" does

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not appear in the Bill in the form referred to in the definition and so no amendment is required in that regard. For this reason I intend to bring forward a government amendment at Report stage.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon: On the basis of that helpful response, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.

Clause 21 [Commencement]:

Lord Tebbit moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 9, line 32, at end insert ("but no such day may be appointed (other than in respect of this section) until after the release on licence of every member of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown serving a sentence of imprisonment in respect of a conviction for murder committed in the course of their duties in Northern Ireland").

The noble Lord said: This amendment, although it is carefully drafted, and I hope sufficiently carefully drafted, to avoid the hazard of turning the Bill into a hybrid Bill, is about Guardsmen Fisher and Wright and the injustice which would be perpetrated were they to be left in prison when terrorists are let out.

There is no doubt at all in my mind about this issue. I accept, of course, that it is well within the bounds of possibility that the conviction of these men was unsafe and that through the efforts of, most notably, my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway there may be what one would call a judicial route towards their release and therefore an end to this injustice. But we cannot assume that the conviction was unsafe and we cannot assume that any judicial process will result in their release. However, what is clear is that, whatever the circumstances of their conviction, it would be profoundly unjust were they to be left in prison when serial killers, who in the judgment of many of us, even if not in the judgment of the commissioners, may well be a danger to the public, were to be released.

These young men are extremely unlikely to be a danger to the public. They were not members of a terrorist organisation, whatever may be the view of members of Sinn Fein about the role of the Army in Northern Ireland. They were seeking to do their duty. They may have made a tragic mistake--that is possible--but what is certain is that they did not set out that day to commit murder.

The circumstances of this case are clear enough. The view up until now, perhaps even up until today--perhaps that view is changing today in view of what I understand was said while I was out of the Chamber--which was expressed in the other place on 11th February by Mr. Adam Ingram, the Minister of State, is perfectly clear. It is that the review board had duly considered the case at its meeting on 14th and 15th October 1997 at the five-year stage of the sentence. The confidential recommendation of the board was then referred to the Secretary of State for her personal consideration. Mr. Ingram went on to assure the House that the cases had been the subject of very detailed and thorough consideration by all those involved at the various stages of the review process. No extraneous considerations, political or otherwise, had been permitted to influence

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the decisions taken. I can give that absolute assurance. That was in the context of the reply which had been given on 3rd November 1997 to my noble friend Lord Westbury by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who stated that,

    "The review board's advice to the Secretary of State in these particular cases is strictly confidential and will not be disclosed. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has decided that the cases of Guardsmen Wright and Fisher should be referred back to the review board in one year's time, i.e. October 1998, when they will have served six years in custody. No date for release has therefore yet been fixed".--[Official Report, 3/11/97; col. WA276.]

On various occasions, Ministers have made it perfectly plain that they believed that it would not be proper if these young men served less than six years for the crime of which they had been convicted.

The Government have made it plain that no political or extraneous circumstances will be taken into account in determining their sentences. Therefore, unless the judicial route uncovers circumstances which make it clear that the conviction was unsafe, there can be no possibility of their release in less than six years, for to release these young men earlier in the lack of such considerations would be to bring into play political or extraneous circumstances. The Government have said that they are not willing to do that.

More recently, in exchanges in the other place with the Prime Minister when my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition raised this matter, the Prime Minister himself made plain that the ground was shifting a little underneath his feet. In fact, he suggested that the reason that there had not been another review of their case was that there had been further judicial proceedings. At that stage, he said that now those proceedings were out of the way their case could be reconsidered and that he would ask his right honourable friend the Secretary of State to so reconsider.

But on what basis? On the basis of a consideration whether the conviction was safe or unsafe or on some political consideration? Indeed, it was not correct to say that consideration of their cases had been delayed by the application for judicial review which their own lawyers had made. It was quite obvious that if the Secretary of State had considered that five years was a sufficient sentence for these young men they could have been released last October. They were not. She took the view that they should serve at least six years, although she also takes the view that serial killers could be released in two years. This whole matter typifies the injustices which will be perpetrated by this Bill.

My amendment would get the Government off the hook on which they have impaled themselves because if the Committee sees fit to enact it then quite clearly it would--shall I say?--cause some difficulty for the Government, which I understand, in taking the matter back to the other place and asking Scottish Members of Parliament who are Government supporters to vote to keep Fisher and Wright in gaol. It would therefore give the Government the perfect and plausible reason, without any consideration of whether or not the conviction was unsafe and without moving from their position that political considerations should not be taken into account, to say, "We were overwhelmed by the

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consideration of Parliament and in order that this agreement shall come into effect"--we know of the importance that the Government attach to the belief that this Bill is part of the agreement and that it must be fully brought into effect--"we have to release these two young men". It would be a case of force majeure.

I do not worry in what way they are released. I do not worry if they are released next week on bail, awaiting some other process, judicial or legal, which would release them more permanently on licence in the manner that terrorists have been released. I do not like that. I do not think that they should be released on licence because I do not think that there is any fear that they will reoffend. I think that they should be released clearly, absolutely and without condition. But my purpose is to get them out of prison because nothing less would serve the cause of justice. I hope that this amendment may offer the Government a way out of their difficulties which have perhaps been compounded by the Prime Minister's words more recently in the other place.

I cannot express myself any more clearly than that. I can only hope that the Government will be able to respond. I do not think that any of us believe that these young men should be retained in gaol. I just hope that the Government will indicate tonight that they share that view and that they are looking for a way out of this problem. I offer them one way out. If they have a better way out, I would be very happy indeed to accept it. I beg to move.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My noble friend Lord Tebbit and I share the same aspiration, but we differ fundamentally as to the means by which it should be achieved. It is with the utmost regret that I have to oppose the amendment. My noble friend Lord Tebbit is an old friend for whom I have the greatest respect. He is a man of total integrity whose motives are never to be called in question. However, this amendment proposes to delay release under the Bill (for which eligibility is provided by Clause 3) until all members of our Armed Forces serving a mandatory life sentence for murder of a civilian in the course of duty in Northern Ireland have been released outside and otherwise than the Bill as it stands. Under what mechanism for release? That is not stated in the amendment.

On Second Reading and today, my noble friend Lord Tebbit named Guardsmen Fisher and Wright. No other member of the Armed Forces yet falls within the ambit of the amendment. Release (as proposed by this amendment) is without paragraphs 1 to 3 of page 25 of the Stormont agreement, which is not subject to renegotiation. There is no concept of priority of eligibility for release either under the agreement or the paper used in negotiations to which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, referred this afternoon in the context of Clause 3. I refer to paragraphs 5 and 7 of that paper.

In this and in other contexts the agreement was the linkage of irreconcilable differences placed in juxtaposition to achieve a common purpose and endorsed by the vast majority of the electorate in

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Northern Ireland, albeit in somewhat unusual circumstances, as my noble friend Lord Tebbit said. The linkage reflected by Clause 3 refers, on the one hand, to the armed soldier on duty on the streets of Northern Ireland who kills a civilian without legal justification--murder--and who must then serve a mandatory life sentence, subject to release by the Secretary of State. The Committee will be aware that in Northern Ireland exceptionally the lesser charge of manslaughter is not available. I know not for what reason. On the other hand, there are those who have killed and maimed on many occasions for diverse sectarian and politically motivated purposes and have either been sentenced to life imprisonment or a term of at least five years based on the gravity of their offences.

There is no doubt that that is unacceptable to the Committee. It is unacceptable to me. But that is not the point. There is an obvious discriminatory disparity in this agreement against our armed soldiers. But that is not to the point. If the Government tamper with Clause 3, which this amendment inevitably involves, their moral authority to foster the peace process will be dissipated. To what constructive end should the Committee protest, object or support this amendment? Is not the only wise, realistic course to support the common purpose of the agreement in the hope of peace in the Province?

As to the guardsmen, it is not in their interests that they should be taken hostage and used as pawns to claim priority as to eligibility for release as proposed by the amendment. On 23rd June your Lordships concluded that their conviction had been a grave miscarriage of justice and that they should be released at once by the Secretary of State on licence, subject to recall under the delegated remit of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy pending judicial resolution of the rectitude of their conviction. Therefore, those guardsmen are in a wholly distinct category from all others to whom Clause 3 applies, many of whom, as I have said, have killed or maimed for diverse politically motivated purposes, none of whom claims any challenge to the rectitude of their convictions.

In the wake of 23rd June, General Sir David Scott-Barrett and General Naylor, on behalf of the release group, made arrangements for those men to be visited so that all appropriate steps may be taken, with their formal authority, to set aside their convictions. In that context I must again thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for his good offices. He sent all my papers to the commission so as to achieve priority--a truly noble gesture across the Floor of this Chamber.

As regards release, as they remain in custody, a Motion has been tabled to resolve that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, who retains overall dispensation of the prerogative, to seek immediate release, having regard to the exceptional circumstances of the miscarriage of justice and the want of any other mechanism to afford immediate release. With respect to my noble friend, it is wholly inappropriate that those guardsmen should in any way

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be associated with this amendment or with any kind of political activity which seeks to exert any pressure on the Government.

On the basis of reasoned persuasion, it is the hope that Members of this place may support this Motion for an humble Address, soon, I am informed by the Government Chief Whip, to be debated, although a date has not been fixed. If carried it can but advance the prospect for immediate release.

I was not present in the Chamber, but my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew has told me about the present position, and indeed I am grateful. But a decision in three to four weeks--a decision taken on these flawed findings of fact that supported conviction, the miscarriage of justice, the zenith of culpability, which have thwarted release up to now by my noble and learned friend, and by all Secretaries of State, and will continue no doubt to thwart release. I am grateful for what I am given, but it affords me no comfort.

Beyond that there is again the expectation of relief in some four months' time, again on those flawed findings of fact which bedevil the prospect of release. Under this Bill, there is the mechanism for release--the commissioners and this and that, and one thing and another--but does one really imagine that these men could ever be released under about nine or 12 months?

What I seek, by respectful request, is a resolution of Members of this place to seek to present an humble Address to Her Majesty to exercise the prerogative for immediate release, and in no circumstances should that be in any way affected or tainted by politics or by association with this amendment. Such is not the intention of my noble friend, whose intentions and motives are never to be criticised, but that I fear is the result, and it is a result which I oppose on behalf of the guardsmen.

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