|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I was not abroad last week, except in the very early days. I came back in the middle of last week. I was not given the advantage of consultation until Monday evening of this week.
First of all, let me make clear the basis of our unhappiness with this component of the Bill. Of course, it is totally idle to pretend that there are not exiled groups in London plotting violent acts of terrorism against foreign governments and foreign parts. Of course, there are. It may well be that carefully considered legislation has become necessary in Britain in this small world where the sort of acts that we saw most recently in Cape Town threaten all of us. It may well be the case that such legislation is necessary. But not like this. The timing is disreputable. It is as if the Home Office thought that it could push through, in populist haste, something which requires careful consideration at leisure; not something that is cast so widely that it could destroy Britain's reputation as a home for liberal groups in exile from authoritarian governments; not something cast so broadly that it goes far wider than terrorism itself--and I hope noble Lords realise this.
The only possible justification for including those clauses in the Bill is that they are terrorism-related. The provisions range widely to cover potentially such issues as paedophilia or computer fraud. Those are bad things, of course, and matters which need action. But is it right to put them opportunistically, in a portmanteau way, in this Bill? It is not good enough. When the Minister replies perhaps he can tell us--this is the nub of the matter--whether Parliament would have been recalled for Clauses 5 to 7 alone. Would Parliament have been recalled? If not, why have they been slipped in now? It is bound to raise the unworthy suspicion that this is a sort of welcome back present for President Clinton on his visit today.
I dare say that it is possible, at the end of the very long day ahead of us, that these clauses will be passed into law along with the rest of the legislation. But does the Minister agree that the intelligence services, on whose verdict we shall depend heavily and maybe almost exclusively in these matters, should be subject to a stronger regime of parliamentary accountability? The record of the intelligence services, particularly regarding evidence leading to the detention of many Arabs during the Gulf War, was sadly off the mark in this respect.
That brings me to the main part of the Bill, the provisions dealing with residual terrorism in Northern Ireland, where I believe, with the Government, that it is important that we should act with full force and expedition. The Bill essentially covers two areas, evidence and the broadening of terms of evidence to make it easier to obtain convictions and confiscation of terrorist property.
There are a number of questions which I have asked myself, as I am sure have other noble Lords. First, is the legislation targeted at the would-be flouters of democracy and destroyers of the peace process? Is it closely targeted in the way the Government represent? I am bound to say that I think it is carefully targeted. But I have a question to ask the Minister: is he satisfied that
There is another question on the issue of targeting. The Minister outlined the four organisations which are both proscribed and specified. How do organisations now cease at some point to be proscribed and/or specified? I am thinking particularly of the LVF and INLA which have declared ceasefires. I accept that some time will be needed to prove their good faith. Is something more needed than time? What basis of review will there be to make sure that this list does not become a permanent one in the future, and that it is possible for those who once, like the Provisional IRA, followed terrorism to redeem themselves and return to peaceful paths?
Another question people are bound to ask is whether this is a proportional response to what we saw in Omagh. In the early days of discussion about the legislation there were worrying signals. At one time it seemed that maybe the mere signature of a senior police officer would do. I know that that would have been unacceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and I am relieved that it is not in the final legislation. Those sort of lettres de cachet would not be possible within the British system of justice, and I am relieved that the Government now require substantial evidence from police officers. In that sense I think it is a proportional response.
Perhaps one of the problems has been the over-heated language of both the Taoiseach and the British Government in their understandable anxiety after Omagh to show that we would not put up with the continuation of terrorism when they used the word "draconian". If one uses the word "draconian" in regard to legislation that is bound to invite suspicion from all those who are vigilant of civil liberties. The truth is that 80 per cent. of the legislation introduced by the Irish Government was merely catching up and coming into line with the legislation already in effect in the United Kingdom. We are now dealing with the extra part of the legislation that brings us into line with the Irish.
Although there are aspects (which I shall come to in a moment) that worry me, I do not think it is possible to say that the legislation is disproportionate either in regard to the confiscation of terrorist property or in regard to evidence needed to bring a conviction against someone who is a member of these organisations. Had it been draconian, I would have had a different view.
One question which we should all be asking ourselves is whether this legislation is in conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights. I am relieved that the Government have dealt with the problem which lawyers in your Lordships' House will know as the Murray problem. I refer to the judgment made against the British in the European Court of Human Rights in the Murray case, which essentially said that we could not continue to maintain a situation whereby a suspect could suffer from remaining silent and yet be debarred
I was glad that the Minister was good enough to give the House an indication of the way in which the evidence would work. That was helpful and I am grateful to the noble Lord for that. It was reassuring to hear the emphasis that he laid on the judicial process and on the fact that it remains intact.
That brings me to my final two questions on this. First, are there enough safeguards for what is undoubtedly a dilution of human rights and civil liberties? I refer first to the issue of audio-taping, which was discussed in another place yesterday and to which the noble Lord referred in his introductory speech. The position is becoming absolutely intolerable. If I recall this correctly, in 1996 this House passed legislation providing that the audio-taping of interviews should be introduced--yet we still do not have it. Why? Because the code of conduct has not been drawn up. It is high time that that code of conduct was drawn up. We do not have it because, "the equipment is not available". Somebody should go out and buy that equipment. There is nothing particularly mysterious about it. We do not have it because, "there are no sound-proofed cubicles available". If we are talking about a handful of suspects--the Government are talking about 10, 20 or 30 people at the most--at whom the legislation is aimed, one sound-proofed cubicle would do. May we have one now so that we can ensure that interviews under this legislation are conducted in such a cubicle? I should welcome an assurance on that.
There is also the question of renewal. I am glad that the Government have included that in the legislation and that, following yesterday's debate in the Commons, in Clause 8 the Government have now included a review of the legislation before renewal. That is extremely well advised. It will allay many doubts. We shall look forward to that review of this legislation.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams, also relied heavily on the larger review of all anti-terrorist and emergency legislation. We look forward to that. I hope that it builds on the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, which I believe paved the way. However, when exactly are we likely to see the beginning and the end of that review? That is germane to the attitude taken to this legislation as a whole by a number of people both inside and outside this House.
My final point on the question of safeguards relates to confiscation. In one of the broadsheet newspapers the other day I read one of those leaders which so obviously infuriated the Government. It said something like, "There is no connection between money and terrorism". That could not be more wrong. There is an umbilical connection between money and terrorism. Indeed, I hope that one of the messages delivered to the President
On the question of safeguards, I come to the issue raised by the Scrutiny Committee, to which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, referred. I too--I believe that my noble friend Lord Thomas has tabled an amendment on this--would wish not to have the Secretary of State able to overrule the Attorney-General in these matters.
The final question on such legislation is, of course: will it work? Here, there is room for honest disagreement. Some would say that any harsher legislation to try to identify terrorists might drive the sympathies of the public, and those with nationalist or republican sympathies, back onto the path of militancy. That is a matter of judgment. I do not believe that that is true of this legislation. It is carefully targeted. Furthermore, that view does not take any account of the fundamental change that has occurred in Northern Ireland in the past few months. It is difficult for us fully to come to terms with how different the situation in Northern Ireland is now as a result of the Good Friday agreement, the strong positive vote in the referendums north and south--and particularly the vote of between 94 and 95 per cent. in the Republic of Ireland, which has now said clearly that the status of Northern Ireland cannot change unless the people of Northern Ireland so wish it, and that that is the will of the people of Ireland and not simply of the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
We have a different situation now. The two tragic events of the deaths at Drumcree and of the massive number of deaths at Omagh have, bitter as they were, borne positive fruit in that it is now clear that there is a great rallying of the whole community around the idea that there is an opportunity to do things differently.
I do not take the view that any longer we have nationalists shading into republicans, shading into militant republicans, shading into gunmen, ready to turn back to the path of terrorism simply because they do not like this Bill. I do not take that view. Indeed, I think it significant that in its statement the day before yesterday, Sinn Fein--and Mr. McGuinness in his announcement that he will be part of the disarmament commission--did not spend most of that statement attacking the legislation, as certainly would have happened six months ago. That is because they too know that we are now talking about only a handful of dissentients.
One of the most preposterous of all press reports was made in an editorial in the Guardian which said that this legislation was wrong because Mr. Blair and Mr. Ahern, the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, were too close to each other; they were buddies; that that meant that this was "buddy legislation" and that it was therefore wrong. I have never heard anything so preposterous. In the whole of the time that I have had the privilege of dealing with Northern Ireland matters in this House--that is, for the past eight years--and, I am sure, in the memory of this House, the great prize in Northern Ireland has been to get the British and the Irish Governments together, and acting together with a consistency of view on such matters. We have now achieved that--and that is worth a great deal of support.
Lord Molyneaux of Killead: My Lords, contrary to many views expressed in the other place, which have just been repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, I welcome Clauses 5, 6 and 7, dealing with conspiracy to commit offences outside the United Kingdom. It may be that the methods suggested and employed in the Bill are not perfect, but perhaps we shall return to that point on another day. The late Enoch Powell, serving on a committee on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, some two decades ago, persuaded the government of the day to extend the scope of what became an Act well beyond what was seen at that time and referred to always as "Irish terrorism" within the United Kingdom; and Clauses 5 to 7 constitute a logical extension of that good work.
I welcome the assurance given by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that the Government will press on with the review currently under way so that at least, when we come to the promised review of that legislation, we shall have a clearer view on that particular issue.
The fact that terrorism had become an international affliction was clear to me some 10 years ago when checking in on an internal Australian flight at Perth airport bound for Melbourne. I had complimented the chief security officer on the rigorous scrutiny of passengers and baggage. I asked if that was in response to any specific recent information or alert. I remember the officer's words because they struck me as very worrying. He said, "Oh no, this is going to be a permanent feature of air travel because we have to recognise that the jumbo jet is the most vulnerable target in modern society". That was many years before Lockerbie.
I turn briefly to Clauses 1 to 4. I am impressed by assurances that these measures should not be regarded as breaching the Good Friday agreement. We have thus moved on from the debates in your Lordships' House in which many of us participated in the months of June and July when we were warned repeatedly that, for example, a tiny amendment designed to change "may" to "shall" would seriously damage the Good Friday agreement and--I use the phrase employed more often than not--would send out the wrong signals. It was not very clear to whom the signal was being sent but I presume that it was the wrong signal sent to all those who voted for the agreement. Perhaps the parliamentary draftsmen of this legislation were not really aware of the enormity of the dangers inherent in changes such as those in the "may" to "shall" category.
Clauses 1 to 4 deal almost exclusively with the published list of proscribed organisations. I presume that if the main terrorist contractor--namely, the Provisional IRA--now decides to follow Sinn Fein in taking preliminary steps in the direction of decommissioning, and given the joint membership of the Army Council of Sinn Fein/IRA, surely an order from that body--consisting of both elements--would be obeyed and all remaining terrorist capacity would be dismantled without anyone daring to question their authority as they still have the means of enforcing that authority.
However, in addition to the so-called dissident bodies on the proscribed list, it will remain operational and will retain its capability to extract continuous concessions, as it has done in the past two years. I caution against referring to, for example, the Real IRA as a dissident rump of about 90 members and not worth worrying about. I remember very well the insistence of General Grivas of Cypriot fame that an effective terrorist movement should never exceed 200 people because, if that were to happen, the movement was more easily penetrated by opposition and intelligence, and there were problems of internal security, administration and logistics. Therefore, let us take no comfort from the fact that the Real IRA may number only a tiny rump of 90 because that organisation can be every bit as deadly as the body to which it formerly belonged and to which it may still have certain affiliations.
With regard to the proscribed list, the membership consists of terrorist groups who have identified themselves by claiming what they regard as achievements; namely, a murderous campaign. That is indiscriminate slaughter which puts the public in fear--and I come back to that phrase.
I mention fear. I am in fear because I am concerned by the existence of an unknown body to which almost 70 per cent. of the Provisional IRA's mechanisms and munitions have been quietly transferred since 24th July of this year. Those transfers continue as we deliberate here today. Despite all the efforts of the intelligence
Soberly, with that knowledge, I cannot regard the Bill before us as totally adequate to contain or resist such a threat. I trust that the two Governments will act on the best advice available and act appropriately and as quickly as possible in the new Session. I trust that Her Majesty's Government, who after all have the main responsibility, will now give careful consideration to permanent and effective means of eliminating all those who specialise in putting the public in fear by all manner of horrifying methods.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, before I make my own brief remarks, I have been asked to pass on to your Lordships the apology of the Archbishop of Armagh, the noble Lord, Lord Eames. He is extremely sorry that he cannot be with us this afternoon. I know that we should have greatly valued his presence and contribution to the debate. However, as your Lordships will know, he has to receive President Clinton in Armagh today. He hopes that your Lordships will understand the importance of that event.
I rise to speak in this debate with the utmost diffidence, conscious of the vast range of experience in your Lordships' Chamber in working to bring about peace in Northern Ireland and the enormous amount of legal wisdom present, none of which I share. But I am extremely glad to have the opportunity to express from these Benches our sense of horror and outrage at the wicked act of terrorism committed in Omagh; our deep sorrow for the victims, the dead, the injured and bereaved; and to praise the way in which the community responded. The peace process has, thank God, been strengthened rather than weakened by that dreadful act. I rejoice that the Churches have worked together in unity across denominational differences and I am indeed grateful that some good at least has come out of that great evil. I want to express my immense gratitude to all those who have worked faithfully and courageously and with such perseverance for the cause of peace in Ireland for so many years.
On these Benches, we understand the Government's desire to take all possible steps to identify and arrest those who belong to the small terrorist groups who still seem to be wedded to the way of violence. We welcome the seriousness and the urgency with which the Government have reacted to the tragedy in Omagh. We recognise the rightness of recalling Parliament. We welcome the assurances that have already been given that the judicial process will remain paramount.
However, there are still important questions to ask. Some have already been asked and no doubt others will be asked several times in the course of the debate. There are legal, political and ethical questions. Are the
If these proposals, particularly those in Clauses 5 to 7, reflect "long-held plans", in the words of the Prime Minister, why have they been rushed through Parliament at this particular moment with so little time for consultation? Does not the provision that the Home Secretary can set aside the need for the consent of the Attorney-General open up the possibility of dangerously unpredictable and potentially unwise political interference in judicial processes? If these provisions had been on the statute book in the 1930s, say, how many refugees from fascism might have been their unintended victims if such people had been working to subvert or overthrow the evil regimes from which they had fled, not all of which were unelected?
Further, are these proposals politically wise? Granted the track record of mistakes and miscarriages of justice in the wake of previous hasty legislation, are we as certain as we can be that there is no avoidable risk of innocent people being wrongly accused and convicted, of more martyrs being created in Ireland and new divisions opening up just as the communities have begun to come together tentatively but with hope in the way that we have longed for, prayed for and worked for over decades? Steady peacemaking and careful confidence-building is the most certain way of isolating violent extremists. I question whether this legislation may unintentionally disrupt that process. I hope and pray that it will not but that is a real risk.
There are also ethical questions about human rights and civil liberties. I have no quarrel with the sensible proposal that the assets of convicted terrorists should be seized. I entirely agree that for too long criminals have endured a period of punishment and then enjoyed their ill-gotten gains. It may be right in the case of terrorist suspects to draw certain inferences from their silence, but I want to be assured beyond all reasonable doubt that the new proposals are compatible with our existing care for human rights and civil liberties and with those shortly to be enacted by the incorporation into United Kingdom law of the European Convention on Human Rights. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that that was so. Human rights legislation is immensely complex. I would be grateful to receive further elucidation in this difficult area.
I make two final points. First, should not these provisions have a fixed time limit? I am grateful for Clause 8. The Irish Government have suggested that they should be of limited duration. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has also said that the Government will review the provisions. However, like other noble Lords, I wonder whether we need something that is
We are dealing with proposals and practices which may be necessary. Like most noble Lords who have spoken already, I believe that they are necessary. I am sure that these proposals will win the support of most Members of your Lordships' House, but they are fraught with danger. I hope that the few questions that I have posed and the many others that I am sure will be asked in the course of this debate will be answered convincingly by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.
Lord Mishcon: My Lords, one of the advantages of listening carefully to previous speakers in debates in your Lordships' House is that one can avoid boring noble Lords by repeating questions and points already made. As a result, I can inform my noble friend the Government Chief Whip that I shall not bore your Lordships for anything like eight minutes.
I believe that I am the first lawyer to address your Lordships in this debate. Perhaps I should say that I am the first inferior lawyer to speak in this debate. Your Lordships will agree that no lawyer is worthy of his profession unless he is a fierce defender of civil liberties and human rights. But occasions arise in the history of any nation when emergencies require one to make the normal the abnormal in regard to principles that are otherwise very sacred. I believe that we are in that position today, as was the other place yesterday.
In Omagh, rightly mentioned so often by previous speakers, there was a declaration of war against human decency, the democratic process and the achievement of peace. In a state of war one must do the abnormal in the administration of justice and the making of legislation. For that reason, looking at Clauses 1 to 4 of the Bill, I wholly support the Government. For another minute or so I shall concentrate only on what I readily admit are minor matters. However, I believe that they should be looked at so that we are sure we are giving every opportunity for justice to be properly administered in spite of the legislation we are about to pass.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, referred to a particular decision in which we had been found wanting; namely an accused had not been given the proper opportunity to consult a solicitor. The necessary provision has been made in this Bill. I am talking only about a minor matter but a major consideration in the administration of justice. My colleagues tell me that all too often in
I shall not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Holme, said having already promised not to do so. The noble Lord emphasised one point in regard to audio recording. As my noble friend said in his opening remarks, it is a protection for the honest police officer as well as for the accused. With great respect, I, too, see no reason why, if we are dealing with an emergency, we do not use emergency powers and duties in seeing to it that, before the Bill becomes effective by any arrests or prosecutions, we have an assurance from the Minister that there will be no conduct of proceedings by way of questioning and interviews unless and until audio equipment is available and in use.
Finally, I know that noble Lords will pass this legislation in the hope that it will work justly and will be effective but just wondering whether human administrators will carry out the provisions of the Bill as they should. I am therefore slightly puzzled--I am sure it is my fault--as to when a report will come before Parliament on the workings of Clauses 1 to 4. I was confused--I repeat, I am sure it is my fault--by the reference to a review of anti-terrorist legislation as a whole.
I believe that today this House has a specific duty to ask the Government--and it needs no amendment of the Bill--to undertake to provide a report at the end of six months so that Parliament may know exactly how the Bill is working, what prosecutions have been brought and what has happened in regard to the evidence of police officers under the provisions of Clauses 1 to 4. That would mean that we should go to bed in the early hours of the morning (it will not be earlier than that) with a clear conscience.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, so many noble Lords wish to speak in this important debate that I shall confine my remarks to a single but most important point. It concerns the matter alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Mischon, in his concluding remarks. The noble Lord always speaks with such authority and humanity that it is a great privilege to follow him. I refer to prosecutions for membership of a specified proscribed organisation and the changes to the law of evidence contained in Clauses 1 and 2.
By way of preface, I acknowledge that the Government came under overwhelming pressure as a result of the disgusting atrocity in Omagh to come forward with legislation. They were right to do so and they have my support. I also wish to acknowledge with gratitude that, throughout the years when we tried to
It is good that the Bill contains a power for the court to draw inferences from silence in the circumstances set out. The provisions for arrest and extending to Northern Ireland the powers of arrest available to police in England and Wales are right. The provisions for forfeiture are good. The provisions for planning overseas offences, although they need to be carefully examined, are also good. I agree also with the remarks about the importance of audio recordings.
I believe--and I recognise that in this I am likely to go against the tide of opinion in this House--that in respect of Clauses 1 and 2 we are invited to make law which may turn out to be dangerous and therefore bad law, and for a purpose which will probably not be achieved in practice. I also believe that the Bill denies us the opportunity to make good law; that is to say, to reverse the decision taken by the Government, unwisely, earlier this year to remove the power of executive detention or internment from the statute book.
The provisions in question permit a court to hear evidence and admit it as evidence of the matter stated in the form of an opinion by a senior police officer given orally on oath that the accused is a member of a specified organisation or was so at a material time and to rely on that evidence, although not solely, so as to convict the accused. What additional evidence must be given or would be sufficient is not specified in the Bill. I do not believe that judges--at any rate in Northern Ireland, where they sit alone as judges of fact as well as law--ought to be put in that position. It is a dangerous position. It comes close to inviting them to approach the issue of guilt or innocence in a way that is not wholly judicial. They will be required to decide judicially on the basis of a senior police officer's opinion the issue of guilt or innocence when they will often not have had the basis for that opinion spelt out in cross-examination. In some of the instances given by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, that will not be the case. But one can easily envisage cases in which a senior police officer will say, "I am not at liberty to disclose my sources, but what I have learnt from my sources shows me that this is a member of a specified organisation." That may very well be the case when the accused will have denied the accusation against him from the outset, so the important new power to draw an inference from silence will not be available; it will not arise.
So what is the judge to do? What is he to make of the circumstance in which the senior police officer says, "This is my opinion", and the accused, of whose background under our system the judge knows nothing, says, "I deny it." It is very difficult to see what a judge can do. It is said that in justification of this process there must be some additional evidence. That would be better than its working solely on the say-so of a senior police officer. I thought that the illustrations of evidence given earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn,
One can visualise other scenarios; they are less compelling, but no guide is given as to what shall be sufficient. It might be said that if the accused were seen attending a paramilitary funeral, which might be one of hundreds, that would be sufficient. Yet one has only to pose that possibility in the circumstances of Northern Ireland to see how it could create injustice. It is my belief that people ought not to be able to be convicted on hearsay evidence backed by straws in the wind. A judge could prefer the evidence of a senior police officer simply because he was a senior police officer. That would be human, but not exactly judicial. On the other hand, if a judge declines to convict, he may foreseeably come under strong, vociferous criticism for not, as it would be said, having done his duty and followed the opinion of a senior police officer.
I have my eye on the clock and therefore wish to say no more about this matter except that I take comfort from the review proceedings to which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, alluded in his closing remarks. Before very long--I am not sure how long--there will be an opportunity to review how these clauses have worked. That is important for the reasons I have tried to give. I do not mind saying that throughout the years when I had responsibility for Northern Ireland and also had the honour to be Attorney-General before that, we considered time and time again introducing a provision of this kind. We always declined to do so for the reasons I have tried to explain.
Lastly, I warmly agree with the criticism already brought forward about the provision for the Home Secretary to be able to overrule the refusal of the Attorney-General to certify that it is a proper case for a prosecution to be brought on the second limb of the Act; namely, the conspiracy to commit an offence overseas. I find that quite extraordinary because the Attorney's fiat is introduced only in order to secure that the public interest be safeguarded. The Attorney-General is constitutionally the guardian of the public interest. If, having declined to do so, the Attorney may be overruled effectively by the Home Secretary, we have come to a pretty pass.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I shall not deal with Clauses 1 to 4. I wish to focus primarily on Clauses 5 to 7 and in particular Clause 5, on which there was the deepest discontent in the other place. My party wished to divide the House against its inclusion but was prevented by the lateness of the hour after six o'clock in the morning. Here, unlike in Clauses 1 to 4, there is a remarkable looseness of language and a lack of focus and much less justification for urgency. This set of clauses, as the Prime Minister argued in another place, had been on the stocks for some time. It was found convenient to rush them through the House without appropriate scrutiny.
But there are delicate issues of foreign policy involved here. The majority of states in the world are not democratic. Many are authoritarian, some are worse than authoritarian. Necessarily, in this imperfect world, Her Majesty's Government maintain friendly relations with many states at whose internal regimes we hold our nose. Sometimes those regimes change or collapse. It is in the interests of Her Majesty's Government to maintain contact with opposition groups. It helps sometimes if those exiles have been in western countries rather than in other less sensible countries where influences would be of a different kind. I am reminded of the example of the Iranian revolution where the British Government, along with the Americans and others, had put all their confidence in the Shah's regime and were thereupon faced with a change of government to a revolutionary organisation with few previous contacts with the west.
I am worried about the loose definition of international terrorism which the Prime Minister and others have adopted; looser talk about world terrorism, as if it were a single transnational movement or, as the Prime Minister remarked,
There is a discourse within the United States which implies that international terrorism is a single movement. It corresponds with the concept of rogue states, of Moslem fundamentalism and of state sponsorship of terrorism. That is caught up with the problems of America's Middle East policy. One has to recollect that the grievances which provoke Moslem terrorism are fuelled by the collapse of the peace process between Israel and Palestine, by the stationing of US forces on the ground in Saudi Arabia--a matter of much offence to many people in Saudi Arabia--and other matters. The lesson of Northern Ireland, after all, is that the answer to terrorism cannot be purely repression; one has also to deal with the causes.
However, there are many other aspects of transnational opposition, violent or non-violent, to other repressive governments not involved with the Middle East issue. In some instances, the British Government have in the past supported exiled groups which have been involved in violent resistance to their home governments.
I worry in particular about the statement in new Section 1A(12) in Clause 5 concerning the immateriality of whether or not people involved in these offences are British citizens. In this country we pride ourselves on our multi-ethnic society. There are many children of Nigerian parentage in the school which my children have been attending. Nigeria is not one of the world's most democracy friendly regimes at present. There are also substantial Ghanaian, Somali and Sudanese communities. We, of course, have had problems with the involvement of members of the Sikh community in Britain who are British citizens in plotting against the Indian Government. We also have a Sri Lankan community, and Kashmiris, Pakistanis, Yemenis,
Therefore, it seems to me that we must ask ourselves seriously whether Clause 5 should be struck from the Bill. If that is not to be the case, I reiterate what my noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham said in his opening speech. We wish to ensure that the evidence from our intelligence services on which the Government will have to depend is subject to much stronger parliamentary scrutiny so that we are not bounced by unaccountable services and pressure from other governments into actions which we may well regret in the future.
I hope, therefore, that we shall not reach the amendment of my noble friend Lord Avebury to Clause 5 too late in the morning. I encourage as many noble Lords as possible to stick it out until that hour.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for what he so kindly said about my report. He will not need me to remind him that it was the party of which he is a member that over many years pressed patiently for a review of counter-terrorism legislation of the kind which I tried to carry out. I remember well the occasion when he came to a meeting, accompanied by the present Home Secretary and the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I hope he will confirm that it was a most amicable meeting, which may perhaps explain the kind words that he used. I agreed in advance with everything he wished me to put in the report and everything he wished me to keep out of it.
I start at the end of the Bill and work towards the beginning because it seems to me that it is Clauses 1 and 2 which may give rise to concern. Clause 5 creates a new offence of conspiracy to commit a criminal offence overseas. I welcome that clause. I could hardly do otherwise because it was a provision which I strongly recommended in my report. However, I was careful to confine my recommendation to terrorist offences committed abroad. International terrorism is an international scourge and deserves to be met with an international response, which has been my purpose. I am not so sure whether the clause should be extended, as in the Bill, to offences of other kinds. I need not take up time with that now. The clause has nothing to do with recent events in Northern Ireland and it is surprising to find it in the Bill at all. It is much more to do with the bombing of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. We are given to understand that
It is right that the clause is not retrospective. It is the only part of the clause which I can understand. The clause is extraordinarily obscurely drafted. For those who take a pleasure in these things, I recommend that at some other time they look at subsection (6), which is a gem of its kind.
Clause 4 is a good clause as far as it goes but it only touches on the problem of terrorist finance. A power exists to confiscate, but it is limited to a very narrow range of offences. It is sensible to extend that power to include those convicted of belonging to a proscribed or specified organisation. I would extend the power much further to include all terrorist offences, not just this one.
I am not so happy about Clause 4(3)(b). Let me take a concrete case, which always helps. Let us suppose that after conviction a defendant is found to have £1,000 in his bank account at the time of his conviction. Suppose he then says, as he no doubt would, that he always intended to spend that money on his mother-in-law or to save it up for his old age or whatever. How is the judge to decide that sort of question, even on a civil burden of proof? I may have misheard the Minister but it is not the case in every provision that the burden of proof under this Bill is beyond reasonable doubt. The burden here is only a civil burden of proof. Judges in Northern Ireland will have great difficulty dealing with that provision because of the way in which it is drafted--it is very, very vague.
I would have preferred the provision to have been the other way round and to have concentrated on the origin of the money in question and not on the purposes for which it may or may not be used. That is what I had in mind when I wrote my report. That would be much more likely to result in sums being confiscated. This way round, we will get very little indeed. Let me put it this way: all sums found in the possession of a convicted defendant at the date of his arrest should be subject to confiscation unless he can prove that the origin of the money is innocent. That would be a much more effective provision than the one proposed.
I would couple that power with a restraint order. The moment any terrorist is interviewed, the money will obviously go straight out of his account. A restraint order could be obtained ex parte in advance, so that if a defendant is convicted, the money would be there and could be confiscated. Clause 4 only touches on the point once he has been convicted of being a member of a proscribed organisation.
Clauses 1 and 2 are obviously intended as a response to the tragedy in Omagh. As we all know, that is why we have been brought back. There was much talk at that time about tough new measures which would be introduced to catch the bombers. That was natural enough. If the Bill had contained the provisions that we were led to believe it might, whether rightly or
I go further than that. Even if this Bill had been in force before the Omagh bombing, I very much doubt whether it would have added anything to the chances of convicting those who were responsible for that outrage. The fundamental problem for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland--which is all I am entitled to speak about--has been the same since the troubles started in 1972. It has often been said that the police know very well who the terrorists are. I believe that that is true. It is truer now than it was in 1972. The police have a multitude of different sources from which they can draw; they have informers, undercover agents, and so on. It is always asked: why, if they know who the terrorists are, do they not arrest them? The answer is that of course from time to time they do arrest them. The police are quite entitled to arrest them if they have a proper suspicion that they are members of a criminal organisation. They are right to arrest them and to interview them at length in the hope of obtaining a confession.
If, at the end of the day--having arrested them and having not obtained a confession--the police do not have the evidence on which they can be charged and convicted, the only thing that the police can do is release them. That is the difficulty. The leaders of these terrorist gangs could only be convicted on evidence of a kind which ought to be given but cannot be given because those who would give that evidence would be putting their lives in danger. That is the difficulty. You simply cannot get the evidence to convict these people in the ordinary way in the course of an ordinary trial. That is the dilemma. It has been the same for the past 25 years.
I appreciate the pressure of time but I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I just read one sentence from the report of Lord Diplock, which led to the Diplock Court being instituted 25 years ago. Lord Diplock considered all kinds of ways in which one might get out of this dilemma. He considered changing the rules of evidence. He considered changing the rules of procedure. He considered the very same proposal as we are considering today of admitting opinion evidence from a police officer. But he said that it would not work. In paragraph 27 of his report he stated:
Clauses 1 and 2 contain two elements. The first is that the opinion of a police officer that a defendant has committed a crime will be admissible in evidence. On its face, that in itself is a very, very odd provision. In a normal criminal trial a policeman is called to give evidence of fact and not opinion. A police officer is called to say, "I heard a bang. I saw the defendant with a gun in his hand". That is fact. He would never be allowed to go on to say, "and in my opinion, he is guilty of murder". One can almost imagine the scene in court. It would be worthy of an H. M. Bateman cartoon if that is what he said. That is why this is a very odd provision. It is not for a policeman to express an opinion. It is for the jury to say on the facts which the policeman has put before them whether, in the jury's opinion, the defendant is guilty or not.
However, I will put that oddity on one side because these are not normal trials. I will ask instead the simple question: will it work? Here I found myself very much in agreement with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, said a few moments ago. I just do not see how it could work. A police officer's opinion of anything is worth only what his sources will support. If he simply says, "This is my opinion", that is worth nothing in a court of law. It is worth something only if he can support his opinion. But that of course is exactly what he cannot do. His opinion is based on sources--informers and so on--of a kind which he simply cannot disclose in open court. All he can say, which is what police officers always do say, is, "We have the information from a trustworthy and reliable source". Obviously, he cannot reveal those sources. Where does that get the trial? I go further than my noble and learned friend. No judge in Northern Ireland--no judge anywhere in the world--will be convinced beyond reasonable doubt on the say-so of a policeman. How could a judge be convinced by such evidence unless he can get at the basis on which the opinion is expressed? That, of course, is exactly what he cannot do.
We can make the evidence admissible by a stroke of the legislative pen--that is what we are doing--but what matters is whether that evidence will carry any weight on the ground in actual trials in Northern Ireland. I can tell the right reverend Prelate who spoke earlier that it will carry no weight whatever. It seems to me that with this last-minute amendment the Government have perhaps begun to realise that that is so. New Section 2A(3)(b) now says--it came in only at the very last moment--that the accused shall not be committed for trial on the basis of an opinion expressed by a policeman. If he cannot be committed solely on that, how can he possibly be convicted? That is why I say that there will not be any convictions as a result of new Section 2A.
However, let us suppose that there could be convictions. Let us suppose I am wrong. Let us suppose that there is some other evidence. To take the example given by the Minister, let us suppose that a judge was persuaded beyond reasonable doubt to convict on the basis partly of an opinion expressed by a police officer.
The Minister said that the defendant's counsel could cross-examine the policeman who expressed his opinion. But where will that get him? He can cross-examine the policeman up hill and down dale but he will not get any further. The man he wants to cross-examine is the man who informed the policeman that he was a member of the organisation. That is the person he will not be able to cross-examine and that is why no conviction based even in part on the opinion of a police officer which has not been tested in cross-examination stands a chance of being upheld.
I can say exactly the same about the other element that is introduced; the element of relying on an inference to be drawn from some fact which has not been stated. Where does that get anyone? I take again a concrete case. I take the case of a police officer who believes someone to be a member of the Real IRA and believes that he attended a meeting of the high command of the Real IRA on the night in question. He examines the man and he asks him questions. The man, having had advice from his solicitor, will say, "No, I am not a member of the IRA and I did not attend that meeting". Let us suppose that the case then goes to trial. The terrorist says, "I am not a member of the IRA and I did not attend a meeting. In fact, I was somewhere else that night". He goes on to say that he went to a pub, he went to the cinema, or he stayed with his aunt. From that, an inference could be drawn. But who believes for one moment that that is what the terrorist will say? Of course he will not. He will go into the box and when cross-examined he will say, "I am not a member of the Real IRA and I did not attend the meeting that night"; and the trial will collapse there and then. So, again, one gets no further.
The matter goes further than that. I have grave doubts whether the case will even get to trial because, as I understand the Bill, the inference can be drawn only by the court or the jury: it cannot be drawn by the police officer before the case comes to trial. In those circumstances all one will have before trial is the opinion of the police officer. The Bill now expressly states that that will not be enough to commit the suspect to trial. So whichever way one looks at the matter, one has nothing. One has nothing from the police officer's evidence and nothing from the so-called inference because it cannot be drawn until the trial. In any event, it is very unlikely to be able to be drawn. So we have nothing added to nothing and that will not add up to a conviction.
I have taken much time in explaining why the only answer to this conundrum and dilemma, which we have been in for 25 years, is to get the terrorists convicted out of their own mouths. That we can do by allowing
I have been trying for many years now to get Section 9 of the Interception of Communications Act repealed, but I have not yet succeeded. When the Secretary of State said in October last year that he was going to produce his proposals in early January or early in the new year, I had hopes that we might be getting somewhere. We have not yet had an opportunity to debate Chapter 7 of my report in which I explain why it is so important to repeal Section 9 of IoCA. Unfortunately, the matter was put off in January until April and then it was put off from April until July. The latest I have heard is that we shall have the Minister's views in the "not too far distant future". That was the phrase used yesterday.
It is an awful thought that during all these years people might have been convicted as a result of introducing intercept evidence. I gave four recent examples among 20 others, where it would have been of value to the prosecution and one where it would have been absolutely crucial. It would be quite wrong to say whether it would have made any difference in the Omagh case. That would be speculation which none of us is entitled to make. If we are to fight terrorism, as we must, we should use every weapon we have, including intercept evidence.
So how should one vote? If the Bill had been as we originally thought, as we were wrongly informed, I would probably have voted against it. But this Bill is not like that. It contains no tough new measures. Compared to what we were expecting, it is a mere mouse of a Bill. In some respects it is a dangerous mouse--if one can envisage a dangerous mouse--because of the infringement of the right to silence, which I value. Nevertheless, it is a mouse. But that is not a reason for not accepting the Bill. For my part I shall support the Government, not for any intrinsic merit in the Bill, because it seems to me to have little merit, but because of what the passing of this Bill stands for in these circumstances.
We live in a democracy and it is necessary for our political leaders to respond to events. That is what the Prime Minister did after Omagh, and he had to do so. What is quite properly happening now is that the Government are redeeming the pledge which the Prime Minister then gave. He is doing so in a way which is obviously intended to be symbolic of the new working relationship with the Government of the Republic. As the noble Lord, Lord Holme, said, that is a prize infinitely worth winning and retaining. That is the substantial reason for voting in favour of this Bill. It may be that it is nothing more than a gesture, to use a phrase which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead,
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, should have no reservations about having spoken at length because what he had to say was superb, very telling and, frankly, a good deal more relevant to the problems of Northern Ireland than many aspects of the Bill which we are discussing this afternoon.
I had the enormous privilege 25 years ago of serving under my noble friend Lord Whitelaw during one of the bloodiest periods in the history of Northern Ireland--at least until the latest events. For that reason, and since then, I have always tried to keep rather quiet and say very little on Northern Ireland affairs because one is aware of the appalling burdens and complexities facing Northern Ireland Ministers and their officials and also there is always the danger, to which we are all prone, of not keeping up to date. Nevertheless, I now feel compelled to make one broad Second Reading point about the Northern Ireland aspects of the Bill and not about the legal expertise, of which we have had a superb example. I am not qualified to speak about that. I wish to say one thing about the policy behind it and whether we are going the right way.
I heard the Prime Minister say yesterday that the reason why this legislation is being brought forward is that the people of Northern Ireland expect us to take action. But they have expected action to be taken for years and years. This is not a new development, although it may be a new level of horror. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, indicated, even 25 years ago the police were well aware of--and the intelligence services had all the information required to identify--the professional killers and atrocity lovers. We knew about the men of Dundalk strutting in the street and the gangsters in county Monaghan hiding behind the Border and using it as murderous cover. We knew about that then. The question was why we did not pick them up. If such legislation will do it, why was it not brought forward then to end the terror? How many more lives would have been saved?
The answer is that the political will was not there and neither was there cross-Border co-operation. There was a broad feeling, which is still around today and is fundamentally wrong, that if only we could isolate the men of terror they would somehow fade away. Political solutions would do it. We had a very good try. The power-sharing agreement took things an immensely long way, just as the peace process has--which I completely support and which is full of amazing achievements. It has taken things a long way. But it was a fallacy then and it is a fallacy now to believe that that is a complete policy. It is not. The rest of the policy requires that the remaining terrorist element should be stamped out and that anti-terrorist methods should be used equivalent to those which have stamped out quite successfully other terrorist movements in neighbouring countries.
I have always regarded the peace process as half a policy or not really a policy at all. The other half needs to be, not the winding down of security provisions or the relaxing of anti-terrorist moves, but the redoubling of anti-terrorist effort. Anyone who now expresses surprise that another breakaway group has murdered eight children and 22 adults has never read any Irish history. It is all about breakaway groups, again and again and again. The fracture occurs and the new group carries on totally disinterested in negotiation or coming into the democratic forum. That was the position, is the position and will continue to be the position. The defeat of terrorism requires not just laws--I hope there is some good in these laws, but we have had some revealing speeches this afternoon--but the political will to organise effective anti-terrorist measures against the small remaining groups. Small they may be, but the tragedy of one's child being slaughtered is not a small matter at all.
Over the years some of us have urged quietly that the cross-Border co-operation which did not exist at the time of the Whitelaw administration--we had many almost comical examples of non-cooperation from the Garda and the Irish military--should exist and that we wanted new rules of evidence and effective modern technology to protect witnesses and judges. We said that if people could not be picked up, charged and convicted, they should be interned. We are told all that is impossible and that internment did not work.
All I can say is that when I worked under my noble friend Lord Whitelaw we operated the internment policy in the early days. It operated on the say-so of senior police officers. I believe that it worked. I agree that later it became rather out of control, but in the early days the ambition of the IRA was to turn Belfast to rubble, to destroy the fabric of Northern Ireland and to create civic chaos. However, it failed to do so because we had picked up and interned member after member of the violent wing of the Provisional IRA on the say-so of senior police officers. I believe we have to realise--as the Dublin Government now appear to realise--that detention, or internment as we call it, may be part of the necessary remaining procedures which amount to the well targeted, anti-terrorist efforts that are still required, even after Omagh, and were required long before, if we are to see the rest of the peace policy work.
If we have not been able to put those measures in place in the past--this is not a party point as it concerns all governments--we should at least have the humility to recognise that we have been found wanting, as many innocent people have died. To say that the peace process somehow prevents all this and that we cannot put the proper security measures in place because that would undermine the peace process is to distort words. As I say, the peace process always had to have the other half, which is the effective defeat of terrorism.
I have spoken for too long but, like everyone else, I hope that, in Gerry Adams' words, violence is over and done with. I hope that is the case, but all the lessons are that there is much more to do. With this legislation I hear the sound of a huge stable door clanging after the death of many people. Now the policy-makers may just be doing something right, although my mind is filled
Earl Russell: My Lords, when the Good Friday agreement was announced to this Chamber, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said that there would be more outrages in Northern Ireland and we would all need a very steady nerve. I am grateful to him for saying that.
On his way back from holiday my eldest son passed through the centre of Omagh two weeks before the bombing. Last week he told me he was glad he did not take his holiday in August like everyone else. That gratitude does not exempt me from fellow feeling for those who did take their holidays in August and were there. I hope that we shall never make this debate into a competition of outrage against terrorism. If we do that, the only rule that can apply is Alice's; namely,
In his report the noble and learned Lord described terrorism as the weapon of the weak. In the case of the pipsqueak outfit which calls itself the Real IRA, it is a weapon of the very weak indeed. I wonder whether the panoply of this reaction that we are producing here confers on it a spurious appearance of importance which, however much it may enjoy it, I do not think it deserves. I listened with great care to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, on the likely effect of this Bill. I agree with him. Last night I read in his report on the terrorism law his views on how one should fight terrorism. He states in Chapter 2.2,
I agree with my noble friend Lord Holme that this Bill is undoubtedly a dilution of civil rights and civil liberties. Other things being equal, that is to be regretted. I suspect that most noble Lords are weighing this Bill in terms of the balance between civil liberties and the need to fight terrorism. That is a desperately difficult balance and I shall not enter into it because I do not believe that is the question at issue. For reasons which the noble and learned Lord set out in the passage from his report I have just quoted, I believe that measures
If I were convinced that this Bill would have a serious effect in the fight against terrorism, I should swallow a good deal of distaste at things I should not otherwise have agreed to. However, I should like to be persuaded first that it will have some effect. I heard what the noble and learned Lord said about conviction by opinion, and I agree with it. Therefore I shall not say what I was going to say; I shall leave him to say it all.
As regards the overseas clauses, I agree entirely with what has been said by my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire. We have here a balance which I thought the Minister set out fairly between what we want and what we do not want. We all want measures which will deal with those who perpetrated something like the Nairobi outrage if they planned it from this kingdom. Equally none of us wants measures which would have inhibited bodies such as the ANC or, if they had been in force earlier, the International Brigade in Spain.
How do we make such a distinction? That is the real practical problem of legislation against overseas terrorists. It has been approached in this Bill through the power of the Attorney-General to decide whether a prosecution should be brought. I think that will put the Attorney-General in the position of Paris with the apple. We should remember that in the use of the apple, Paris made two enemies for one friend. The Attorney-General might well find that he is in the same position and because the Attorney-General's is both a political and a legal office, he may find that the decisions he has to take become more than necessarily complicated. We may also find, as my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire suggested, that in 30 years time we have many fewer friendly governments in the world than we should have had otherwise.
I appreciate the difficulties of the timetable. I hope the Minister and other Ministers who have been opposite me will confirm that I have never whinged about my own inconvenience with a rushed timetable. One gets one's head down and copes. But the complaint about the timing of the publication of this Bill is that the Government did not cope. Most of us, when discussing amendments, like to take advice, especially on legal and drafting matters. If I have amendments down later tonight which may turn out to be unnecessary or misdrafted, it is a consequence of the haste. I shall regret it deeply but I shall not feel the need to apologise for it. It was forced upon us. Finally, I hope that the Minister recognises that we are a revising Chamber and that this Bill is, in principle, amendable.
Nevertheless, as a result of prison visiting, I have had far too much experience of major miscarriages of justice. To name only a few and the better known ones, I have been involved with the Birmingham Six the Guildford Four and the Armagh or Ulster Defence Regiment Four. I therefore urge the Government to ensure that this Bill does not lead to further miscarriages which only go to strengthen the terrorist cause.
I can understand the Government's reasons for wishing to see this Bill on the statute book. These include the need for action against the splinter groups, the need to have broadly similar legislation on both sides of the border in Ireland and perhaps also, it has been suggested, the need to have a present to offer to President Clinton when he arrives in Belfast.
These are reputable reasons but I do not think they justify the way in which Parliament has been treated. The matter was urgent, I think we all agree; sufficiently urgent to recall Parliament in the middle of the Summer Recess. Time should therefore have been found for proper consideration. One day in each House of Parliament is simply not sufficient. This is, I fear, the rubber stamp approach, more suitable to a dictatorship than to a democracy.
The difficulties facing Back Benchers have been massive. The text of the Bill only became available, and then in draft form, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. I had to complain to the noble Lord, the Chief Whip in person on Wednesday morning before the Public Bill Office was able to consider amendments. Today's Marshalled List and grouping may, though I am not quite sure, still not yet be available. Such conditions are to my mind not acceptable. They are quite inappropriate to major legislation.
In view of all these considerations, will the Government agree that the Bill shall have a life of only one year? If this cannot appear on the face of the Bill, and it does not at the moment, will they undertake to review both the wording and the working of the Bill within six to nine months of its enactment and guarantee to introduce new legislation which can be fully and properly considered? Such a review should ensure that the Act complies fully with our obligations under the European and other world-wide conventions on human rights.
I would go further and ask the Government whether they are likely to accept the amendments which I intend to move when we come to Committee. I gave notice of these yesterday. They have been printed, I am glad to
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken speaks with a great deal of expert knowledge of these problems but I am afraid I shall not follow him in servile fashion this afternoon. I shall speak more crudely.
I come forward as a strong supporter of the Government, almost a blind supporter on this one occasion. I have criticised this Government in the last year quite often, as some Members of the House will be aware, but today I am an unequivocal supporter. I feel that the peace settlement reached not so long ago has given Northern Ireland a better prospect than at any time in my lifetime and I would not do anything to interfere with those who are trying to give effect to it.
I pay tribute to all concerned: the Irish Prime Minister; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam; David Trimble, who has shown extraordinary courage; John Hume, who has fought so long for this kind of result; and Gerry Adams. I give credit to all those but most of all to our own Prime Minister. I shall always say that without him it would never have happened. I do not believe there is any man in the world who could have pulled that off except the Prime Minister. That is just a personal opinion and I give it to you for what it is worth. I am an unequivocal supporter of the agreement and those who are trying to give effect to it.
There are those with very high credentials who speak in this matter--namely, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who has made such an impressive speech and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, to give only two examples. I have my own credentials, less exciting perhaps but less common in this House. My family home is still in County West Meath, now in the possession of my son, and I am wearing, as I habitually wear, an Irish Rugby Union tie given to me by an Ulster Protestant farmer. I have been involved with these problems second hand or from afar all my life, so I speak with that kind of authority. I come from a Protestant family and became a Catholic. My brother remained a member of the Protestant Church of Ireland Synod to the day of his death. So I look at these matters from all angles.
I respectfully agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, in laying tremendous stress on the new co-operation between our Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. It has now become a more intimate relationship. I think that that is ground for tremendous hope. I am much encouraged by the prospect.
It is now nearly 30 years since the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, returned from visiting Northern Ireland as Home Secretary saying that there were too many guns. People might now say that there are too many bombs. But those bombs are not distributed by only one element in the community. In England it is tempting to think of the IRA as the main threat. If one were serving in Northern Ireland, those are the people who, after all, are a danger to our forces. But it was not the IRA which brought the guns to Northern Ireland; it was the Ulster Unionists. The cry was, "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right". That is where the guns started in Northern Ireland. As I have told the House previously, I once spent a night with the leader of one of the Protestant paramilitary groups. He was sad that I had not known his hero Carson. Carson is still the hero of many people, so let us not think that all the guns are produced by one side or the other.
The awful fact about Northern Ireland is that a number of Protestant and Catholic paramilitary bodies are criminal organisations. They had been allowed to continue unchallenged for years. That is the problem. It would not be tolerated in England. And now it cannot be dealt with overnight. However, a start has been made on dealing with the paramilitary criminal organisations. I have the utmost confidence in the Prime Minister and the Government, who receive, on the whole, solid support from all parties; and in the Irish Prime Minister. I wish them well and I hope and believe that they will succeed.
Lord Patten: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, spoke in high praise of his right honourable friend the Prime Minister. He is given sometimes to being very kind to people. Once when I was in the Home Office--I think undertaking the job that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is doing so well--the noble Earl, Lord Longford, broke into praise in the media about something I had done. It caused immense damage to my political reputation! The Government Chief Whip called me in. The chairman of the 1922 Committee in another place had me in for a glass of whisky in the smoking room. It was an unexpected compliment.
That experience, and other experiences in the Home Office and Northern Ireland Office, taught me that it is always best to plan for the unexpected; and to plan for the unexpected to be awful. The expected at present, the conventional wisdom--I hope that it turns out to be true--is that little by little those people who remain outside the pale of constitutional priority in the Province will be slowly wheeled within the pale and will become more and more constitutional.
A little earlier one noble Lord--I suspect he may have cause to regret it one day--said that probably just 10, 20 or 30 men of violence remained to be dealt with. I hope that that is true, but we have to plan for the unexpected and the awful happening. Outside the constitutional agreement, a number of people--greater than that 10, 20 or 30--may not agree with what is going on. It would be rather odd if that were not the case. After all, the Northern Irish problem has taken
The pattern of incremental terrorism may not yet be dead. By "incremental terrorism" I mean a period of anarchy and terrorism followed by a purported return to civility and constitutional propriety; then, after a while, bombs, then back to the conference table, and then more bombs. I think that incremental terrorism still stalks the province. That is why I believe the Government should do all they possibly can in co-operation with the Government of the Republic of Ireland comprehensively to review measures which may seem today unnecessary but which in future may prevent further outrages, further recalls of Parliament, and further hasty legislation in due course.
We have already rightly heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, of the pressing need to enable telephone tapping to be taken as evidence. Every other jurisdiction in the civilised world seems to use it. I am sure that on his visit today President Clinton would welcome the introduction of a measure which is perfectly common in the United States of America.
However, there are other measures which should be contemplated not in haste but in a determined way over the next few months, and certainly within the next year. I wish to press the Minister to carry them back to his right honourable friend the Home Secretary, for whom I have great personal respect--and I do not seek to damage him in any way by saying that!
I suggest that the two Governments should consider seriously the possibility of a zone of hot pursuit of, say, five miles on either side of the border between the north and south which would allow the police forces of the two jurisdictions and the Armed Forces to follow in hot pursuit if necessary. That may now seem totally unnecessary in the apparent new world of constitutionalism, with those 10, 20 or 30 men of violence left out there. However, it could seem necessary in two or three years time if the unexpectedly awful happens. My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford pointed that out in his powerful speech. He said that he had not spoken on Northern Ireland issues for a quarter of a century. I hope that he does not leave it another quarter of a century before speaking again on those issues.
There is a list of further measures. I ask this rhetorically. I do not seek an answer tonight. However, I should like the Minister to consider the matter and to carry the message back. Why is it not possible for the Special Branches of the Republic of Ireland and United Kingdom to undertake joint training? Lastly, and equally rhetorically, tonight, why is it not possible for, let us say, the chief of police in the city of Cork to get in touch directly with the chief of police in Merseyside in order to deal with a possible terrorist measure?
Finally, we are in a period which I did not expect to see--a period of strong, sustained co-operation between the Prime Minister and the Northern Ireland Secretary, and the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste and the Irish Government. We are in a period of high politics at present. Co-operation is going extremely well. The two Governments having put through this legislation--it may or may not be effective; it may or may not be necessary because of the politics of gesture--they should now continue the process at a slightly slower pace. Between them they should consider a range of measures to ensure that the peace that the Minister saw on the horizon--and noble Lords will find those words in tomorrow's Hansard; I noted them carefully--can come about. There may well be peace on the horizon, but it is only a small blip in reality yet. We need constantly to review and refine our measures to deal with terrorism north and south of the border. In this period of high politics between the two Governments, now is the time to strike.
Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I welcome the measures in this Bill which pertain to Northern Ireland and I thank the noble Lord, the Minister, for his presentation and the explanations which he gave, especially those on the new powers of arrest or, at least, the use of evidence and the word of a senior police officer.
However, I share the reservations expressed by many noble Lords about the lack of time for scrutiny of this Bill. Perhaps I am the only person speaking who comes from an area of Northern Ireland known as West of the Bann. I live 10 miles from Enniskillen and 17 miles from Omagh. They are two local market towns, both sites of mass murders by Republicans, and that is why I rise to speak. Your Lordships will have read the details of what happened in Omagh many times in the press. Although I was not at the scene, the details were, and still are for the injured, even more horrifying than anything imaginable.
I should like to mention, firstly, the subject of prisoner releases in the future. Many to whom I speak, although 100 per cent. behind the peace process, are worried by the mentality of the remaining proscribed groups. It seems to many of us that it is a mentality of "one last atrocity and then we can declare a ceasefire and almost have our members released before they have been arrested". I hope that the Minister can reassure the people as to what will happen to these groups if they declare a ceasefire and when they might be allowed within the process of prisoner release. I hope never.
Since Christmas we have had several town centres blown apart by this group and this level of atrocity was, sadly, waiting to happen. It was the first time that masses of people have been tragically evacuated to a place where the bomb had been placed. The police could only act on the information in the warning. Sadly, it was intentionally misleading. Apparently, the security forces and many people in Northern Ireland on both sides of the border have known the identities of many of this group, the Real IRA, for some time. Had we had the legislation required in place--for example, if we had left
I should like to remind your Lordships of what my noble friend Lord Molyneaux said. The weapons and explosives have been handed over by the IRA/Sinn Fein grouping. They may not have the power to deliver decommissioning. I ask the Government to keep their eye on the ball and not to go soft on these proscribed units.
The peace process is stronger than ever, but let us not have to learn this lesson a second time. Our sympathies go to the bereaved and the injured and also to all those emergency service personnel, many of whose members are severely traumatised by what they experienced. Every day I meet more people who were at the scene. It affected so many. Yesterday two delivery men who came to my house told me that they were there. One was in a shop owned by a great friend of mine, Roy Kells. The bomb was placed outside his shop, S. D. Kells, and nine customers were killed. The delivery man was upstairs working and had a miraculous escape with few injuries. His colleague, who was in his uncle's pub across the road, was slightly injured. These are the ordinary people who helped the injured and who will be so traumatised. What they saw and dealt with was horrific. If it had not been for the courage of so many like them, the death toll would have been far worse.
I have spent several afternoons in Erne hospital talking to victims and their families. To a person, I can reassure you, they want the peace process to succeed. One Spanish supervisor from the joint Spanish-Irish group of school children was killed. The other, lying in hospital, said, that she would come back to Buncrana with more children and she would come back to Omagh in time of peace. The family of Emmett McLoughlin, one of the Buncrana children who was severely burnt, and whose nephew was killed, was like-minded. I have never been so humbled as I was by the courage and Christian thoughts which they showed and their hopes for the future.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I have heard it said that you can tell the state of health of a lawyer by the condition of his mouth. When it is closed he is usually dead. Despite the grain of truth in that aphorism, I shall detain your Lordships only a few minutes without, I hope, a fatal consequence.
I put my name down on the speakers' list, like many others, before I had had the chance to read the Bill. I did so because of the word "draconian" which has been used so frequently in the last few days. If it was going to be "draconian" I had the suspicion that it would be inconsistent with the human rights legislation. It is quite
The Ministers, both here and in another place, have been at pains to stress that all they are doing is to make available for consideration evidence which might otherwise be inadmissible, and that the evaluation, the weighing up of that material is and remains entirely a matter for the judges or the judge and jury if there is such a trial.
I met and discussed yesterday with my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd the strength or absence of strength to be found in the Bill as it now stands. I think he would confirm that the reference to the "mouse" came from me and I am glad that he has adopted it.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page