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Page 2, line 11, leave out ("terrorist") and insert ("specified").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 4, 6 and 11. These amendments are all concerned with the same purpose. During the earlier consideration of this Bill both in your Lordships' House and in another place,

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there was some criticism of the use of the phrase "terrorist organisations". It was suggested that the use of the formulation was confusing as there could be organisations that many would consider to be terrorist organisations that would not be identified as such under the terms of the Bill. The point was forcefully put by my noble friend Lord Kilbracken when your Lordships' House considered the Bill in Committee. Noble Lords indicated their agreement with that argument.

The amendments which have been tabled in my name seek to address the problem by replacing each reference to a terrorist organisation by a reference to a specified organisation. A specified organisation would then be an organisation considered by the Secretary of State to be an organisation concerned in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland, which has not established or is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. I hope noble Lords will agree to these amendments, which are designed to remove any confusion over the status of those organisations not specified by the Secretary of State under Clause 3(8). I beg to move.

Lord Kilbracken: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for tabling Amendment No. 3 and in precisely the language which I suggested when I spoke off the cuff at Committee stage, and also Amendments Nos. 4, 6 and 11, which are consequential. I think that they do, as he said, remove confusion, make the Bill more comprehensible; and I welcome them.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, I believe that these are wise amendments. I also welcome them and hope that they will be supported.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 4:


Page 2, line 14, leave out ("terrorist") and insert ("specified").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 2, line 18, at end insert ("anywhere").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, some of your Lordships may remember that at Report stage I moved an amendment to Clause 3(5), the purpose of which was to prevent the release of skilled terrorists--say, bomb-makers or snipers--whom the authorities had reason to believe were on the point of being recruited by terrorist organisations in other parts of the world such as Spain, Corsica, the Middle East or the Indian sub-continent. Despite widespread support from every quarter of the House, the Minister rejected it mainly on the grounds that the danger I highlighted was obviated by the provisions of Clause 3(6).

However, there are two flaws in the Government's argument. The first is that subsection (6) applies only to life prisoners. Therefore, extremely dangerous terrorists who have been awarded determinate sentences of, for example, 20 or 25 years, would not be covered by it. The second flaw is that two eminent and highly experienced legal luminaries--if I may use rather archaic language--namely, the noble Lord,

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Lord Mishcon, from the Government Benches and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, from the Conservative Benches, supported my lay supposition that the word "public" might cover only the United Kingdom public, thus leaving the public elsewhere in the world at risk from exported terrorism.

As Amendment No. 3 is a compromise amendment, there is nothing that we can do about the first flaw. The world will still be at risk from released terrorists who have been awarded determinate sentences however evil their crimes. That would appear to be an unfortunate consequence of the Good Friday agreement. But that agreement does not conflict in any way with this very modest amendment designed to overcome the second flaw, or possible flaw. By simply inserting the single and straightforward word "anywhere" for the avoidance of doubt, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon--I am grateful to him for that suggestion--it will ensure that the subsection now protects the public throughout the world and not merely in the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I undertook at Report to consider further the matter focused on by this amendment. Noble Lords were concerned that should a life sentence prisoner indicate that he would intend to reside outside the United Kingdom following his release, the commissioners would not be required to consider whether he would be a risk to the public. In particular, the concern was that the "public" referred to in Clause 3(6) did not include the public resident in another country.

Perhaps I may assure the noble Lords that the provision as currently drafted does allow for consideration to be given to the safety of members of the public resident in other jurisdictions. The formulation under consideration is already present in other legislation relating to release and is interpreted in a broad way. An example of this is proceedings before the Parole Board in England and Wales. On occasions the Parole Board will consider the release of prisoners who would be liable to be deported immediately following release from prison. In considering these cases the Parole Board does take account of whether the prisoner would be a danger to the public following release even though it is not the public within the United Kingdom who would be at risk. If the prisoner is thought likely to be a danger, he may not be released.

In addition to there being a precedent for interpreting this provision in a broad way, to amend it may lead to uncertainty in other cases where a similar provision already exists. To take my previous example, if your Lordships' House were to make the amendment that has been proposed, it would be open to doubt whether the Parole Board should take account of the risk to the public outside the United Kingdom. That would clearly be unsatisfactory and is not what is required. As such, I would ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as some noble Lords may recall, I have supported similar amendments at earlier stages. I found the Minister's answer reassuring both in the positive sense because he said that

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the provisions, as drafted, apply to the public anywhere, and in the negative sense that this amendment might damage other legislation. Although I think that the point behind the amendment was a good one, perhaps this amendment is not as necessary as it at first seemed.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I am heartened by the Minister's assurance that despite the doubts expressed not only by myself, but also by the noble Lords, Lord Mishcon and Lord Campbell of Alloway, at Report, the word "public" does, indeed, embrace the public in the world at large. That is a very important point. I am glad that it has been made clear and that we can rely on it in the future because this debate will appear in print. With that assurance, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 6:


Page 2, line 27, leave out ("terrorist") and insert ("specified").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 7:


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

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 7 is similar to an amendment spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, during the previous consideration of this Bill. Although it is the Government's view that the amendment makes little difference to the way in which the Bill will operate, the Government are happy to give the further reassurance that is offered by the amendment. Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are consequential on Amendment No. 7. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can explain something to me. Although I agree that the words "may specify" should be changed to "shall specify", I do not quite understand why it follows that the word "organisations" should become single; hence the need for Amendments Nos. 8 and 9. I should prefer the ultimate amendment to be, "shall specify any organisations".

Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, as the Minister said, he resisted amendments to this effect at earlier stages. In view of the high turnout on the Bench of Bishops this afternoon, it seems that repentance is to be valued. At an earlier stage, the Minister said that such an amendment was neither necessary nor appropriate and that nothing would be gained by making such an amendment. I am glad that the noble Lord has changed his mind. I welcome his amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Dubs moved Amendments Nos. 8 and 9:


Page 2, line 30, leave out ("are") and insert ("is").
Page 2, line 32, leave out ("have not established or are") and insert ("has not established or is").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

22 Jul 1998 : Column 913


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