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Lord Cope of Berkeley: I strongly support the points made by my noble friend Lady Park. The security issues remain extremely important in Northern Ireland. Of course, we all hope that the war is over, that peace will follow. But it has not happened yet. We all know of the punishment beatings, shootings and so on that go on. We all know that all the semtex and guns remain in terrorist hands and that the main Provisional IRA is capable of returning to violence at short notice. A day or two ago in our deliberations I was accused of being pessimistic about the outlook, but we must be realistic, in my view, and realise that that is a possibility.
However, what is much nearer to a certainty--though nothing is certain--is that small groups from within the terrorist organisations on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland are entirely likely to indulge in violence once again, because they dislike some parts of the settlement which the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland as well as all of us in this House support. That is why I believe that provisions such as are being made here are necessary. However, they should have running through them the importance of the preservation of security in the interests of the vast majority of the population of Northern Ireland from all sides.
I also believe it wise to insert the provision in subsections (7) and (8) under which the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland is able to appoint a person to represent the interests of a party to proceedings before the tribunal. Although I believe that to be novel in the context of Northern Ireland, it is a wise provision. One of the difficulties faced occasionally by lawyers who look after terrorists from both sides of the divide is that they have not been trusted by the security authorities. Sometimes there is very good reason for it, although it cannot be said that that happens necessarily in all cases. In these circumstances if the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland can appoint the legal representative of an individual who makes representations to a tribunal of this kind it may permit arguments to be advanced in private to which a reasonable degree of security can be applied. The lawyer who does this job will have a very difficult duty to perform. He will need to maintain the trust of the individual whom he represents while being unable to tell that person the basis of the supporting arguments on which the judgment is being made. Nevertheless, it is wise to insert these two subsections into the provision.
The new clause inserted by Amendment No. 192X makes provision for appeal from the tribunal to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland on a question of law. That is less likely to require proceedings to be held in secret, but presumably that is also a possibility that must be considered by the Court of Appeal when the particular matter comes before it. As it would be an appeal on a matter of law, that is perhaps less likely to occur. However, in general I support the insertion of these clauses into the Bill.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn said, there is a balance to be struck between human rights and liberty of the subject and the demands of national security which we all understand in Northern Ireland. As the noble Lord said, the European Convention on Human Rights, to be incorporated into our law, provides an exception on the ground of national security. I look forward to seeing the later amendments proposed by the Government to make sure that the security situation is well covered. Can the noble Lord assure the Committee--he may already have dealt with this and, if so, I apologise for missing the point--that the amendments that we are presently considering are in conformity with the European convention?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: It is unusual and deliberately so for the reasons indicated by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, and the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. Both stressed--I absolutely agree--that very careful regard should be had to state security. I was careful to say that not only individual rights but state security were a legitimate concern. In fact I believe that to be a legitimate obligation. I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that it is not unprecedented. I shall develop that point in a moment.
However, perhaps I may respond to the general themes. First, I believe that we shall have a scheme which is ECHR compliant. That is the whole purpose. This scheme is modelled on the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal which itself arose out of the exclusion on national security grounds, as Members of the Committee will know, of someone called Chahal. All I say about Mr. Chahal is that the assertion--I put it neutrally--was that his presence in the jurisdiction was not conducive to the public interest on security grounds.
I turn from his case to put the net a little wider. We know perfectly well that some international terrorists, who may now be significantly more dangerous than the IRA, need to be excluded from our jurisdiction. The ruling of the ECHR in the case of Chahal was that a right of appeal needed to be provided.
Accordingly, I introduced the Bill in your Lordships' House in June last year to deal with that lacuna. But no one is going to throw away responsibilities lightly. We therefore drafted a scheme which met with general approval. I mentioned earlier the noble Lord, Lord Lester. It is right, if at all possible, that an appellant should be legally represented. It is the normal duty of counsel--as I and the noble Lord know--to take instructions from his client to whom he has responsibilities about the detail of what is disclosed. That simply cannot be done in these circumstances and we would set our face firmly against it. Therefore what we did in the case of Chahal, and what is mirrored here, is to offer fully qualified legal "representation" for a person who is excluded. So the appellant will not be able to be present on all occasions. The in camera point is made. He will not have access to the information, deliberately, because he cannot. And the person is there to "represent" his interests without having the professional responsibility that a member of the Bar normally has towards his client. He is there not as a
I think that we have got this about right. I think that we did in Chahal. I think that we have here. It is important to reassure the Committee that I fully understand the question of public interest. Indeed, if one considers Amendment No. 192W the point is made plain.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I fully accept and believe in the intention of the Government. However, I cannot see how it will be possible for the Secretary of State to give the tribunal the background, the reasons for the certificate, without having to disclose. It is the same problem as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, raised, as I said in my remarks. But it is not possible to justify a decision with evidence in the normal way if one does not give chapter and verse. I cannot see how one can. It seems a complete circle.