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Lord Bach: I do not want disappoint the noble Lord, but I have really little to say about this. The definition of terrorism in Clause 1 of course does not create an offence in itself. The Bill creates offences further on, and we will come to those in due course. At the moment I certainly do not want to talk about the situation in Sierra Leone: that is not what I am briefed to do and I think it would be unfortunate if I were to do so. Obviously any person, whoever it may be, has to commit an offence under this Bill to be caught.
The Bill has tidied up the previous position under the two Acts, so that the definition of terrorism applies to acts that take place anywhere in the world. However, it is of course vital that if we are to prosecute anyone it would have to be in regard to offences created by this Bill. I will leave the point there.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: Not for the first time, I am glad that I did not make exaggerated claims for the drafting of this particular amendment, Amendment No. 10, particularly in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, had to say a few moments ago. I think that the noble Lord the Minister has got out of the "armed forces" difficulty. He has explained the solution to that. However, I am less clear about the position of other civilians who might be involved. I am not sure whether their position is as clear.
He referred a moment ago to the definition having been "tidied up" by its extension to anywhere in the world. If I may say so, I think that it is rather more than a mere "tidying up", but I do not think I need to pursue that at this moment. It is clear that we shall return later to this general point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Skelmersdale: I am not sure whether I am the only Member of the Committee who finds the drafting of this particular Bill incredibly difficult. On the face of it, Clause 2 says that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the Northern
However, one discovers on further reading of the Bill that the 1989 Act itself is not abandoned at all. For example, it creeps into Clause 128, and some of the definitions and procedures in that temporary provisions Act appear in other clauses in this Bill. Would not this Bill, when passed into law, have been far simpler and easier to read by lawyers and others had the appropriate parts of Clause 128 been made into a schedule, to go between Schedules 1 and 2?
I may have been a little indulgent in speaking about this now but, with a bit of luck, the answers I hope to be given will mean that I need not move my amendments to Clause 11, and that will save time.
Lord Hylton: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, because I think this is more than just a drafting point. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which I mentioned earlier, has stated its belief that there is no need for this provision--that is Clause 2--given the powers contained in Part VII of this Bill. It goes on to say that it believes the EPA should be repealed and not replaced. I hope the Government will give that some serious thought.
Lord Bach: Let me say first of all what Clause 2 intends to do. It has two purposes. First, it repeals the PTA and the EPA, whose provisions are due to be replaced by this Bill. Secondly, it gives effect to Schedule 1, which we shall come on to in a moment, to continue in force the EPA, with some amendments, until the provisions of the Bill are brought into force: in other words, they are transitional essentials. This is an essential transitional proposal for Northern Ireland.
The current EPA would expire on the 24th August this year. Unless it is continued by Clause 2 there will be a gap between those provisions expiring and the coming into force of the Terrorism Bill. It is not practical to assume that the Bill's provisions could be commenced at Royal Assent, given, for example, the need for the police to familiarise themselves with the new powers and procedures. As I say, the two Acts are repealed by Clause 2, but these transitional provisions are needed and they are set out in the clause to which the noble Lord refers, Clause 128. For example, they are needed where prosecution is begun under the PTA before the Act comes into force.
Lord Skelmersdale: Will the noble Lord give way? I am grateful to him. I was not complaining about the need, but about the way it has been done. In Clause 2 there is a cross-reference, quite rightly, to Schedule 1,
As your Lordships will realise, we have only just begun in this Committee to consider these very important provisions. While it would be wonderful to think that this Bill will become law by 15th June, we are realistic enough to realise that is not a very likely option. This amendment is therefore unnecessary and I am sorry to have troubled your Lordships with it. However, I beg to move.
Lord Skelmersdale: I am grateful to the noble Lord the Minister. Once an amendment has been spoken to in so many words, it really must be moved to allow a speaker to get in, should he or she want to, and question the Minister; otherwise the opportunity disappears for all time--or, if not for all time, at least until the next stage of the Bill--which is a pity.
The Minister went into all sorts of contortions explaining why he was not going to move the amendment, but the explanation seemed to me to revolve around it not being a feasible option to have the Bill on the statute book by 14th June or whatever the right date is or will be.
Lord Skelmersdale: At least we have our dates sorted out. Nonetheless, the Minister's reason for saying he did not intend moving the amendment appeared to be the reason for tabling the amendment. So I was totally lost in his argument. I am all for having a date and I am all for having the right date, but it may be that the
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Before the noble Lord sits down, does he agree that the Minister correctly explained to the Committee that there must not be a gap between the work we are now doing and the date when the new Act comes into force in relation to pending criminal proceedings? What is commendable about the Government's approach is that they are seeking to achieve certainty, but not in the way that one would do if this matter were not complicated, because it is complicated and one is trying to move from temporary to permanent legislation. Therefore, though I may not have drafted the whole of this Bill precisely in the way it has been drafted, the Minister's answer reassures us that there will not be a gap and that we will have complete certainty. In those circumstances we should not cavil about this.
Lord Skelmersdale: Cavilling or not, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, for what he said in that short intervention. I agree that it is important that there should be no gap. I hope that the words in the Bill as unamended will ensure that; but I shall have to look carefully at what the Minister said because, from what I believe he said, I doubt that they will.