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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I of all people fully recognise that there must be a great deal of intelligence that cannot be revealed. But we are talking about what everyone sees happening. It does not require any intelligence to inform people that citizens are being murdered. That is the point I was making. I entirely accept that there may be a great deal of other knowledge which it would be quite improper for us to expect to know. But it is what the public sees.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I understand that. The murders that have taken place are to be utterly condemned, whoever committed them. I understand that there is and has been for a long time an utter disgust in people in Northern Ireland and all parts of the United Kingdom at some of the dreadful murders and other acts of violence--punishment shootings and beatings--that have taken place.
However, the Secretary of State will still have more information. It is not sufficient to say that there has been a murder because it must also be a murder in relation to political purposes. That is not in the legislation, but I think it is the way one may describe it colloquially. Indeed, there was the expression of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, when he talked about punishment beatings for political purposes. Again, the Secretary of State has to depend upon advice that she is given, not just as to the facts of the punishment beating or punishment shooting but as to who did it and perhaps even the motive behind it. I suggest those are difficult decisions to make.
Perhaps I may try to deal with the specific points but not necessarily in the order in which they were made during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, said that the legislation was being rushed through. We are not rushing it through for the sake of public opinion, as he believes, but simply because as part of the Good Friday Agreement certain undertakings were made as to getting the legislation through quickly. The date has gone, it was supposed to be done by June. We did our best to do it as quickly as we could and it was to meet our obligations under the agreement, not because we are trying to do something as regards public opinion.
I turn to the opening speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe. I now refer to satisfying some of the factors, the tests, which I believe she commented on. She suggested that some of the organisations might remain off the list even if they failed to satisfy some of the factors indicated. The test is the test in the agreement. That is: whether an organisation has established and is maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. The factors are relevant to that assessment but do not determine the assessment. It is taking all of them together that is the basis of the decision the Secretary of State makes.
Perhaps I may deal with the IRA, the UDA and the UVF, to which reference was made. Those organisations are not named in the order. In each case, my right honourable friend considered whether the organisation should be specified on the basis of the test in the legislation. She considered the information available in relation to the four factors which she was required to take into account. In each case noble Lords have said that there are failings. For example, although there have been discussions with the Decommissioning Commission, there has been much less progress than is desirable. As everyone has acknowledged, the punishment attacks have regrettably continued. But viewing the matter in the round, as the Secretary of State is required to do by the Act, she has concluded that all three of the organisations are maintaining complete and unequivocal ceasefires. It is on the basis of that judgment that she has decided that those organisations should not be specified in the order.
I turn to the appalling murder of Andrew Kearney. The RUC has said that it is pursuing a line of inquiry which assumes that the recent brutal murder of Andrew Kearney was committed by the Provisional IRA. As is widely acknowledged, that murder was an utterly barbaric act which has no place in civilised society. I join all noble Lords in utterly condemning it.
The Secretary of State has had to take into account the information she has available about the murder in deciding whether to specify the Provisional IRA. However, as I indicated, on the basis of all the information available to her--"all the information"--she decided not to specify PIRA. That is a decision which must be made in the round. The Secretary of State is required to take account of such punishment attacks in keeping under review the list of organisations that are specified. As noble Lords will know and as I indicated, her criteria and her judgments will become more rigorous as time goes on. It is an ongoing process, not a one-off decision.
Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, perhaps the Minister can help me. If one person or more than one person who is a member of PIRA is charged with the murder of Andrew Kearney, will that mean that PIRA will be placed on the schedule?
Lord Dubs: My Lords, it is not appropriate for me to answer that question. The Secretary of State is required to take all the factors into account. The noble Baroness indicated one specific factor; there may be others. It would not be proper for her to say that if one thing happened, that will determine whether or not an organisation appears on the list. The Secretary of State has a wider responsibility, under the legislation. It is a difficult responsibility but it would not work in precisely the way indicated by the question of the noble Baroness. That is not the way the Secretary of State would make such a decision. Of course that factor would be taken into account, but other factors also would have to be taken into account.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, made another point in relation to the murder of Mr. Kearney. He was correct to draw attention to the fact that that murder may not have been sanctioned by the leadership of the IRA. However, such organisations cannot divest themselves of responsibility for acts carried out in their name. That would not be an excuse--if one can use the word "excuse"--for such a brutal act. There is a responsibility of the kind I have described. Organisations cannot divest themselves of responsibility for acts carried out in their name.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I am trying to reconcile what he said and the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, a moment ago. If the test is a complete and unequivocal cease-fire, and it is proved that there was not a complete and unequivocal cease-fire because members of the Provisional IRA were convicted of murder (if that proved to be the case), in taking factors in the round, as the Minister said, the Secretary of State would not be able to say that this was a breakaway faction--I hope I am following the Minister's logic--but would be absolutely and unequivocally a breach of the cease-fire and therefore it would be difficult to sustain the exclusion of PIRA from the list.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, as I said in answer to the earlier question, the Secretary of State would take that fact and all other facts and information into account in making a decision. It is not appropriate for me to say that the Secretary of State would make her decision in a specific way based upon, for example, the instance given by the noble Lord. I cannot suggest that that is the way the Secretary of State will decide. She will decide it on the basis of all the information available to her and of course she will take specific instances into account. I do not want to leave noble Lords with the impression that a specific event or incident in itself could determine the Secretary of State's decision. It would not be proper to leave the House with that impression.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, paid tribute to the chief constable, which I totally endorse. The chief constable has done an amazing job in Northern Ireland. He is widely respected for his conduct in a very exacting post. The noble Lord asked whether the Secretary of State will follow the judgment of the chief constable. The Secretary of State will consult the chief constable, but the decisions under the Act are for the Secretary of State alone to make.
The noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, talked of specified sub-contractors but not the main contractors in terms of the organisations. The Secretary of State has considered which organisations to specify and, in doing so, had to consider whether organisations are separate organisations or part of the larger whole. She has done so and made her judgment on the order on that basis.
The noble Lord asked also about a selective amnesty. This is not an amnesty. The legislation sets out tests which must be applied by the commission before a declaration is made. We do not see that as an amnesty.
The noble Baroness, Lady Park, asked about the 32 County Sovereignty Committee. That is a political manifestation of the Real IRA. They are both covered by the order. The noble Baroness asked also about Direct Action Against Drugs and why it is not on the list. The Government have said that they consider Direct Action Against Drugs to be part of the IRA.
The noble Baroness asked also why the Secretary of State had been to see the McBride family. The Secretary of State saw the McBride family following the announcement of a further review of the cases of the two guardsmen, Fisher and Wright. She has made it quite clear that meeting them will not in any way affect her judgment as to how she will proceed. It was only after she decided that she would embark on a further review immediately that she felt it appropriate to see the family. But that will not make a difference to the way in which she arrives at her decision.
I understand the difficulties felt by many Members of the House about both the wider legislation and this order specifically. Of course it is difficult. But I repeat: the Secretary of State has had to make difficult judgments based on information which is not in the public domain. The order is required to ensure that prisoners who support organisations that are not established or are not maintaining a complete or unequivocal cease-fire are not released under the sentences Act. It is an important part of the operation of that Act and one of the many safeguards.
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