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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, perhaps I may seek clarification. Surely, we are concerned to ensure that such criminals should not benefit from the particular dispensation conferred by this Bill. Presumably, this would not normally arise in terrorist cases. That is why we are concerned.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I understand that. I am dealing simply with terrorist offences that are committed outside Northern Ireland in the context of the Bill. The Bill covers a number of matters but not the matter to which the noble Baroness or the noble Lord has referred.

Clause 3(6) provides:

I am advised that the definition of "public" is not confined to the public in Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. The definition goes wider than that. If that

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advice is accepted by noble Lords this amendment is not necessary. Furthermore, if prisoners are considered to pose a risk of that kind they can be refused release. I believe that the Bill in any event has some safeguards. The real difficulty is that we are dealing with a Bill that is framed to deal with a particular situation that stems from the agreement.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I am very much obliged to the Minister for giving way. I am surprised by the legal advice that the Minister has received. Certainly, anyone will argue in court that "public" means what people usually understand that term to mean--our public. On any showing this requires clarification. Will the noble Lord take on board that point? I do not believe that it is by any means certain that "public" can be construed as widely as he suggests without any further limitation.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point and certainly I shall give thought to it.

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, in helping my noble friend to think about it, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has intimated, we must remove any doubt whatever about what "public" means. I agree with the noble Lord that there may well be an argument that this Bill is intended to deal with a domestic matter of the United Kingdom and "public" means the public of the United Kingdom. Will my noble friend consider tabling his own amendment to make this clear by inserting either "to the public anywhere" or "to the public in any part of the world"?

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his suggestion. I should like to think about the points that have been raised, the more so as my noble friend has added to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the Minister again. In the course of thinking about this matter, will he also bear in mind that the condition,

    "if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public",

applies only to lifers and not to the very large number of prisoners due to be released under this legislation who have fixed term sentences? Therefore, in any case it is limited in application. Whatever "public" means it is limited to the release of only some prisoners.

Perhaps I may trespass on the Minister's time by putting another question. Does he suggest it is remotely possible that the review of international terrorism that is being conducted in the Home Office may lead to proposals to alter this legislation when it becomes an Act? I believe it is extremely unlikely that that will happen.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I did not suggest that. I said in reply to a number of comments, including the suggestion that the United Kingdom was soft on terrorism, that we condemned terrorism absolutely from

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wherever it came; that we were reviewing all of our legislation to do with terrorism; and that the results of that review would be available shortly. I did not suggest that there was a direct link between the release provisions in this Bill and the wider review, but that the latter would bring up to date existing legislation dealing with terrorism; it would not be confined to Northern Ireland but would deal with the United Kingdom as a whole.

I understand the strength of feeling on this matter. The main argument is that this is a Bill about terrorism connected with Northern Ireland and it is difficult to attach to legislation of this kind wider considerations such as terrorism in Spain or any other country. I shall reflect on the point that has been made and return to it at the next stage of the Bill.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I may warmly thank noble Lords from every quarter of the House, Front Benches and Back Benches alike, for their powerful and thoughtful support for this amendment. The only opposing voice was that of the Minister--perhaps "dissenting voice" might be a better description.

The first question is: is this amendment contrary to the terms of the Good Friday agreement? From the fact that the Minister said nothing about it, I suspect that it is not. The second question is; can it be denied that this amendment, if accepted, would be a good thing from the point of view of the entire international community? I do not think that that can be denied.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, perhaps I may clarify whether the fact that I did not say that the amendment took the Bill outside the agreement meant that I thought it was within the agreement. I have doubts about whether the Bill, with this amendment, would be within the scope of the agreement because the amendment imposes a new and different condition and one which was obviously not part of the agreement as decided. I am not happy that the noble Lord should draw the conclusion that he did from my silence on that point.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I thank the Minister. Everything would appear to hinge on two things. First, would the Bill, with this amendment, conflict with the Good Friday agreement? Obviously that will require some research on the part of the Minister and his department. The second point on which everything hinges is the precise definition of "public". There are totally opposing views on this. I think that the valuable suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that the Bill might be widened at the next stage to include "the public in the world at large" is excellent. Perhaps the Government will see fit to adopt that suggestion.

It seems to me, despite the large support that I have enjoyed, that it might be better to await a little more research on the precise question of whether this amendment conflicts in any way with the Good Friday agreement. Whether it is merely outside it is neither here nor there.

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Lord Tebbit: My Lords, perhaps a little research might go into contemplating exactly which organisations which were parties to the Good Friday agreement might feel that it was damaging to the Good Friday agreement for Her Majesty's Government to have the power to keep in gaol people who might commit acts of terrorism outside Northern Ireland. It would tell us quite a lot about any organisation which took that view.

Lord Monson: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, makes an excellent point. That, too, must be considered. Tempted though I am to press this, in view of the support I have received, I think it would be better for more research to be done into whether "public" really does embrace "the public throughout the entire world" which, of course, would solve our problems, and whether the amendment conflicts with the Good Friday agreement. We may come back to this at the next stage, depending on how far we get on with that. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 28, leave out ("may specify only") and insert ("shall specify").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 brings us on to those provisions in the Bill under which the Secretary of State may specify as "terrorist organisations" those organisations which are believed to be,

    "concerned in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland"

or not, as the case may be, depending on the outcome of the consideration of the previous amendment, or those concerned in promoting or encouraging terrorism and which have not established a ceasefire.

It seemed extraordinary to us in Committee that the Secretary of State might be thoroughly convinced that a particular organisation was concerned with terrorism and had not established a ceasefire and yet that she should have the ability under the Bill not to specify that organisation as a "terrorist organisation".

I find it difficult to envisage the circumstances in which the Secretary of State should want discretion in this matter. Why should the Secretary of State not specify as a "terrorist organisation" an organisation of the character described? Giving the Secretary of State that discretion only means that the Secretary of State will be pressed to use that discretion for reasons at which we can only guess and about which we can only speculate.

It would be much better if the Secretary of State did not have the discretion once she had come to the conclusion in accordance with Clause 3(8) that the organisation in question was concerned in terrorism and had not established a ceasefire. It seems to me that it would be incredible that she should not do so. That being the case, it is highly desirable that the Bill should say that she should specify such an organisation rather than have discretion as to whether or not to do so. No guidance is given as to how she is to use that discretion.

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As the indications given in Committee were that she never would use that discretion, she would be better not to be given it by the Bill. I beg to move.

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