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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Continuity IRA and the Real IRA are proscribed under that Act.

4 p.m.

Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble and learned Lord for that. Can he therefore confirm that "The Irish Republican Army", which is at the top of the list in Schedule 2, includes all those organisations?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Only four organisations are specified under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act--the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Red Hand Defenders and the Orange Volunteers. Perhaps I have misunderstood what the noble Lord said and my intervention was badly judged, but those are the only four organisations specified under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act.

Lord Glentoran: Perhaps I may recap what the noble and learned Lord said. Under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act we have the Continuity IRA, the Real IRA, the Orange Volunteers and the Red Hand Defenders; we do not have the INLA or the LVF because they have been despecified.

This is where the confusion arises. As I understand it--I shall go back to my script because the matter is quite complicated--the Bill defines a specified

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organisation as one which is specified under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act and is, or forms part of, an organisation which is proscribed for the purposes of this Bill. Therefore, as I understand it, the organisations on the list of those specified also have to be proscribed. According to my reckoning, the Real IRA, the INLA and the Provisional IRA are not currently in Schedule 2.

It is a matter of some detail. As we are all a little at sixes and sevens on this--I spent some time trying to sort it out--there is room for confusion.

In order to be specified under this Bill, an organisation has to be both specified under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act and proscribed under the Terrorism Bill. As I understand it, Clauses 108 to 111 will be applicable only to an organisation that is specified under the Terrorism Bill. Under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, organisations such as the IRA, UVF and UVA are not specified organisations and therefore would not be specified under this legislation. They would not therefore be subject to the powers available in Clauses 108 to 111. Given their failure to decommission, we feel that this cannot and should not be justified. The effect of both of our amendments would be to tighten significantly the criteria by which an organisation is specified and therefore subject to the powers available in Clauses 108 to 111. They will make specification automatic if any of the four factors in the Northern Ireland Sentences Act are not being satisfied. Those four factors are set out in Section 3(9) of the Act. It states:


    "In applying subsection 8(b) the Secretary of State shall in particular take into account whether an organisation--


    (a) is committed to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve its objectives;


    (b) has ceased to be involved in any acts of violence or of preparation for violence;


    (c) is directing or promoting acts of violence by other organisations;


    (d) is co-operating fully with any Commission of the kind referred to in section 7 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997"--

known as the de Chastelain commission--


    "in implementing the Decommissioning section of the agreement reached at multi-party talks on Northern Ireland set out in Command Paper 3883".

These amendments would not remedy the defects in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act but they would avoid repeating them in this Bill. Our Amendments Nos. 169 and 170 would ensure that an organisation was automatically specified under this Bill if it failed to satisfy any one of those four factors.

Amendment No. 171 would ensure the automatic specification of any organisation that failed to fulfil its obligations to decommission its illegal arms and explosives under the decommissioning section of the Belfast Agreement--that is,


    "the complete disarmament of all paramilitary organisations".

We have discussed which are the specified organisations under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act and which are the proscribed organisations under the Terrorism Bill.

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As I understand it, the present arrangement in the Bill allows for significant discrepancy and for the possibility of setting up two classes of terrorists--that is, those who are subject to Clauses 108 to 111 of the Terrorism Bill and those who are not subject to those clauses.

I apologise if it sounds rather complicated. I have done my best to explain, but it is a somewhat difficult area. I look forward to the Minister explaining it all very simply. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: The Committee should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and his co-sponsors of these amendments. Over hundreds of years your Lordships' House has developed a tradition--which I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General supports--of being precise, particularly in matters affecting the law of the United Kingdom. That is why, collectively as a House, we do our best to distil matters, over a period of careful consideration, into language that does not contain ambiguity. If I may say so, I think we succeed in that.

A problem has been indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, which has pertained in Northern Ireland over the past three years or so and which runs a coach and horses through the laws which your Lordships go to so much trouble to make perfect. When a particular point is raised--be it on a security or a judicial matter--there is no calm deliberation such as we have in your Lordships' House. It appears to me, as an outsider, that spin doctors summon a gathering; they meet behind closed doors; they blind each other with endless forms of words; they are starved of sleep, and sometimes of food and drink; and in the end they achieve a form of words which appears to satisfy all present. But when they wake up the next day to what they have agreed, they get as many as four different versions of what they think they have achieved.

As I see it, that will be an on-going problem. I am not seeking to lay an additional burden on the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General, but we are on firm ground in suggesting that we should define clearly what we mean. We should ensure that others tampering with the law in another place are not permitted to run amok and make a total mess of what has been achieved at great expense in terms of time and energy.

I support the noble Lord's amendments. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to give an assurance that this matter will be looked at again. As the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said, I hope that the whole matter can be tightened up so that there cannot in future be different interpretations of even a single sentence.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I welcome the opportunity for a serious, detailed and precise discussion about these provisions, just as there was when they were introduced during special Sittings of Parliament in September 1998 following the terrible atrocity in Omagh. The Government recognise that these are indeed very serious provisions. Those are special provisions that can apply in respect of a certain

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number of specified terrorist organisations. We must also recognise the reality that they were introduced, and have been retained, in order to deal with very serious circumstances. We believe that they continue to represent a proportionate response to the serious threat posed by those groups which remain opposed to the peace process and are prepared to use serious violence, such as we witnessed at Omagh, to further their cause.

The intention behind the amendments is that organisations should be included within the scope of these additional powers if they fail to satisfy any of the four factors set out in Section 3(9) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, or if they have not implemented the decommissioning section of the Good Friday agreement. In response I would emphasise that these powers are not a political tool; they are hard-hitting additional powers designed to equip the RUC and the criminal justice agencies with the tools they need to combat those organisations which are violently opposed to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

They are draconian measures. The Government have said that before. We make no excuses for that. But we have a corresponding responsibility to ensure that they are targeted properly at those organisations that are prepared to carry out further atrocities, such as that experienced by the people of Omagh. That is why the Government have restricted the use of the powers against only those organisations that are not maintaining complete and unequivocal ceasefires. That is the test set out in Section 3(8) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act, and that is why the Bill has a direct read-across from that legislation. That requires judgments to be made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, taking all the necessary factors and information into account--judgments which are kept under review in the light of the latest security information and intelligence. As Members of the Committee will be aware, these judgments have on one occasion been tested in court through the judicial review process and have not been found wanting.

Clause 107 requires--replicating the existing law--that for the special provisions to apply to an organisation it has to be specified under Section 3(8) of the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act; that is, it has to be an organisation which is not observing the ceasefire. Presently there are four such specified organisations, the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Red Hand Defenders and the Orange Volunteers. Those are organisations specified under Section 3(8) because they are not complying with the ceasefire. In addition, it has to be an organisation proscribed under Schedule 2 to the Bill. The first on the list of proscribed organisations is the Irish Republican Army. That would include the Real IRA, the Provisional IRA and the Continuity IRA, but only the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA are also specified under Section 3(8) as organisations that are not observing the ceasefire. So it is only to those two organisations--the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA within the rubric of IRA--that the special provisions apply.

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It is a complicated explanation, but I believe it to be precise and I believe it to be tight. It is perfectly plain what the provisions are trying to do. They are targeting these additional powers only at those terrorist organisations which are not observing the ceasefire. We believe that to be a sensible approach. We are pushing the law to its limits with these draconian powers; and it is right that where one pushes the law to its limits, it should be properly focused and properly targeted. When these powers were introduced, we described them correctly as appropriate and proportionate. We said that because they were used in a targeted manner against those dissident groups opposed to peace. While these powers unfortunately remain necessary, as we judge them to be, it is vital that they also remain targeted appropriately. They should not be used as political levers. The proper place for the issue of decommissioning to be resolved is not through this legislation but through political negotiation. It was during thorough and painstaking negotiation that recent breakthroughs and progress were made.

The purpose of these provisions is to combat only those organisations which remain opposed to such progress. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Marlesford: I am sure that I am being very stupid--I apologise to the noble and learned Lord--but is he saying that in Schedule 2 on page 63 of the Bill, the first on the list, the Irish Republican Army, does not actually mean the Irish Republican Army but two other organisations which have in the past been associated with it?


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