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Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, the noble Lord referred kindly to our previous association. The distinction that I want to make is that, under PACE, it is seldom that the matter turns upon sensitive intelligence, whereas in the matters with which he and I dealt over so many years, it was very rare for them not to.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I accept that. But I was making the general point that it is desirable that we should bring this legislation as close to PACE as possible, where that is consistent with the need to deal with terrorism. It is better for the law of this country that, to the greatest extent possible, such matters should be determined under the provisions of PACE. I welcome the fact that in this Bill, there is progress in that direction.
Above all, the Bill seeks--and, by and large, goes a long way towards achieving--to strike the right balance between the position of individuals and their rights in our society and the need to protect society overall against those who choose violence against innocent individuals rather than democratic methods to achieve their ends.
I believe firmly that the terrorists whom we face wish to undermine our society. Therefore, if we have legislation which is not democratic and not in keeping with the rule of law, that, in a way, helps the terrorists because they then have another grievance which they seek to exploit against us, as I believe happened with internment.
I have received, as have no doubt most Members of the House, letters from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. Indeed, along with other colleagues, I had an extremely helpful discussion with the chairman, Professor Brice Dickson. The commission has sent in a submission with its comments on that discussion. It places much weight on its concern about definition and I have a question for the Minister about that. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission believes that Clause 1 should contain within it the concept of a criminal act as one of the qualifying conditions. I believe that that criterion is largely met in Clause 1(1)(a), (b) and (c). But perhaps my noble friend will comment on whether the suggestion of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has any merit or whether that is already covered in the legislation.
The commission is concerned also that we may find ourselves in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and that, when the Human Rights Act becomes effective on 2nd October of this year, we may find difficulties with that. I read carefully the speech made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in the other place and I agree that the Human Rights Act will itself prove to be an important safeguard as to the way that this Bill will operate. But I hope that we shall not find ourselves in breach of the European convention. Again, it would be useful if my noble friend could refer to that.
Before closing, perhaps I may refer to the wider issues of terrorism relating to countries outside the United Kingdom. I remember some years ago, when I had the honour of representing the constituency of Battersea in the other place, an anti-apartheid march came through the constituency. I joined that march happily because I detested apartheid--always did. I was then accused by the Conservative Party in a newsletter of supporting terrorism because I had joined that march. I am bound to say that after a little recourse to the lawyers, it published a handsome apology--with no money changing hands, I might add--it was one I worded, so I suppose it was bound to be a handsome apology. It made me realise that there are difficulties in terms of whether the Bill can distinguish between legitimate political activity and protest concerning other countries and those people who wish to use the United Kingdom as a base for
I was inclined to favour the idea of the Attorney-General, rather than the DPP, being responsible for prosecutions in such matters, although I suppose there is a counter-argument that the Attorney-General might be more susceptible--not the present Attorney-General--or rather, the Government might be under more pressure from foreign governments than would the DPP. Nevertheless, I am inclined to believe that the Attorney-General would be the right person to have that responsibility rather than the DPP.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, over the years I have had some encounters with terrorism. As far back as 1982, an amendment of mine to a Northern Ireland Bill was blown away by bombs in the London parks. I later heard the Downing Street mortar bombs exploding. I have had the opportunity to visit men and women convicted of terrorist offences in various prisons; some, I should think, completely guilty; some guilty but repentant; some wrongly convicted and since rehabilitated. I have seen also some excellent work by ex-terrorists, sometimes working across the normal sectarian divides. With that background, I welcome the remarks of the noble Lords, Lord Ahmed, Lord Desai and Lord Dubs, speaking from the Government Benches. I thoroughly agree with what they said about opposition to tyrannical and oppressive regimes in other parts of the world. I can think of one or two other noble Lords who might conceivably fall foul of the new Bill. They do not happen to have spoken today. There just might be an outside chance of myself falling into the same category.
Rather reluctantly, I accept the need for permanent legislation on this subject in this country. For that reason, the Bill is an important one, whatever particular lesser objections we may have to certain parts of it. I greatly follow what was said by my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd of Berwick about the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996, and the 1998 Act coming together in the new measure.
My first question is to ask the Government why they did not bring in a much more modest measure which would enable this country to ratify two recent international conventions; namely, those for the suppression of terrorist bombings and for the suppression of the financing of terrorism. I believe that those were the conventions to which the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, referred earlier.
If the Government's answer is that in a modern society we are particularly vulnerable to disruption--for example, of computer systems, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, mentioned, or of water or
With regard to Northern Ireland and Part VII, I see that the EPA has been given a new life of five years. That is hardly an encouragement to the large majority in Northern Ireland which approved the Belfast agreement by referendum, nor to those still actively seeking positive outcomes to the peace process. I greatly regret that the Bill continues non- jury trials for scheduled offences for another five years. It appears also to do nothing to improve the situation about uncorroborated confession evidence which has, in the past, led to some unsafe convictions, or about the inferences which may be drawn from silence.
I believe that this is a Home Office Bill. I should like to know whether the Northern Ireland Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office were fully consulted on all its details. As regards Parts III, IV and VI, I regret that the burden of proof in showing reasonable excuse is placed so firmly on the shoulders of the defendant. In Part IV, the general power to set up cordons seems far too sweeping. The police services already have considerable powers for protecting diplomats in London and for dealing with armed criminals, wherever they may be. Why cannot those be used for protecting us from potentially armed terrorists?
I question also the need to set up a special appeal commission to look into the appropriateness of actions by the Secretary of State in proscribing or deproscribing organisations. Since the proceedings before the commission will be similar to judicial review, why cannot they be subject to that process with any necessary safeguards that may be needed to protect secret intelligence information? Why do we need the elaborate commission in Schedule 3? Is that perhaps the Home Office simply trying to look liberal?
As for so-called "domestic" terrorism, I am totally opposed to those who burn out or intimidate their neighbours, to those who release dangerous species from laboratories, or who sabotage hunts or destroy legally grown crops. We live in a democracy and those who feel aggrieved on those subjects should use the huge variety of peaceful remedies available to them. But if they take the law into their own hands, why should they be branded as terrorists? Are they any worse than murderers, rapists or torturers?
The criminal law exists to deal with such offenders. It is therefore up to the Government to show beyond any reasonable doubt that the criminal law, plus civil injunctions, are insufficient to deal with wrongdoers, who may happen to be motivated by an ideology or even possibly a religion. I doubt whether that has been shown, and I believe that we deserve a much more modest and less sweeping Bill.
I urge the Government as strongly as I can to take seriously the views of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has already mentioned. The Belfast agreement created that body, which builds on work carried out since the 1970s by the Standing Advisory Commission
Lord Fitt: My Lords, I apologise for entering into this debate at this time. I shall speak for only a few minutes. I intervene because of remarks made by my noble friends Lord Hardy and Lord Dubs. My noble friend Lord Hardy illustrated feelings in relation to young soldiers who, while serving in Northern Ireland, lost their lives. My noble friend Lord Dubs said that during his tenure in Northern Ireland he met hardly a single individual who had not in some way been affected either by the death or the beating up of relatives.
Most noble Lords will have heard of a book recently published, called Lost Lives, which illustrates in graphic terms the date and the circumstances of every death in Northern Ireland. One has only to read that book to understand that the people of Northern Ireland are far more affected by a debate such as this than those who perhaps have never been to Northern Ireland. My closest friend, Senator Paddy Wilson of the SDLP, was brutally murdered by a loyalist murder gang. Almost every day we read of people who have been knee-capped and brutalised by one or other of the paramilitary organisations.
Over many years, I have sat in this building when similar legislation has been put on the statute book. Today, we have the incongruous situation of this House talking about bringing forward further legislation to deal with terrorists while at the other end of the building a debate is taking place on a report which, if carried into full implementation, would totally decimate the RUC which has been so responsible for bringing terrorists to court. That organisation has lost over 300 men. The lives of the members of that organisation have been dedicated to trying to end terrorism in Northern Ireland, sometimes with little help from the Government of the Republic.
By intimidation and brutal murder the terrorist can succeed in his endeavours. This House knows that a brave and courageous priest, Father Dennis Faul, has spoken out many times in support of the RUC. What has happened to his voice over the past month? It has been absolutely silent because of intimidation by the IRA. The man is frightened because he was a parish priest in Carrickmore, a good republican area, where the people did not like what he was doing in support of the RUC. The IRA has succeeded in silencing his voice.
Today I read a paper saying that in a poll carried out in Northern Ireland, 61 per cent of the Catholic population, the nationalist people, support the RUC. Yet at the other end of this building ways and means of doing away with that force are being debated. It is the only force we have had that has tried to bring terrorism to an end in Northern Ireland. If the Patten proposals are carried into effect, terrorism in Northern Ireland will be greatly helped.
In effect, the Patten report is a result of pushing from the IRA. The terrorists--IRA and loyalist--have gained everything they wanted. One can understand why they did not like the RUC, why they were opposed to the forces of law and order, and why they killed them. They did not like the RUC because it took terrorists to court.