Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the contributions made. The noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, said that I was embarrassed because I made a short speech—quite the opposite. I try to avoid ceaseless repetition of the obvious, which I regard as not particularly useful and certainly as rather disrespectful of this House.

I said that if we wish decommissioning to be an option, which we do, the passage of the order is a necessary pre-condition. No one who has spoken today denies the obvious nature of that proposition. So I am not embarrassed. I am perfectly capable, as my friends at the Bar will remind your Lordships, of going on for several hours, but I never think that going on has an intrinsic human or philosophic virtue.

I turn to the contributions that have been made. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Park, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames. He is quite right. The theme that I take from him—the text that I accept—is that decommissioning is one dimension only. All noble Lords who have spoken have made that point, with which I entirely agree, but we are focused today on this one dimension because that is the nature of parliamentary proceedings.

The noble Baroness referred to Sinn Fein/IRA punishment beatings and the driving of people into exile. She frequently refers to that issue, and she is right. But my understanding of the events of last week-end and the week-end before is that Sinn Fein/IRA played very little part in them.

The question is whether we want to move forward in admittedly difficult circumstances—for those who live in Northern Ireland they are terrifying circumstances—and the answer must be that we do. The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, quite rightly said that amnesty is a necessary evil. It is required as an unusual remedy for evil, and we do not need to overlook the evil to recognise the necessary nature of the remedy. He said—I remember his words plainly—that he does not want to see this go as far as 2007. Nor do any of us. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, said, it is better to deal with this year by year.

The noble Lord asked specifically about contacts with General de Chastelain and his colleagues. There has been no report from the de Chastelain commission of any contact with either the IRA or the UVF since those organisations publicly suspended contact with the commission.

10 Feb 2003 : Column 547

The noble Lord, Lord Smith, spoke about a vacuum and a gap in the paramilitary, allegedly loyalist, partisans. Significantly, that may be true. There is something to be said for listening occasionally to David Irvine, who still remains part of the parliamentary process. Certainly when I have had conversations with him—I do not pretend that we agree—many of the things that he says are worth listening to and considering.

The noble Viscount asked about the IRA's control over dissidents. The noble Baroness gave her view on that issue; I do not necessarily share it. But I can reassure the noble Viscount and your Lordships' House that we shall not take any steps—the Secretary of State and his predecessors have said this—without paying keenest attention to the advice of the security services and the Chief Constable, who has the prime responsibility.

In an ideal world, which I have never found myself inhabiting, we would not need such an order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Terrorism Act 2000 (Continuance of Part VII) Order 2003

8.38 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 23rd January be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, my ambition, which I hope shortly to succeed in achieving, is to take longer than one minute.

As your Lordships will see, the Government have decided to renew almost all of Part VII. When the Act was introduced it was made quite clear that the Northern Ireland specific provisions in Part VII were to be temporary. Indeed, that temporary nature is embodied in the legislation itself. So we must be in no doubt that the provisions in Part VII set Northern Ireland apart from the remainder of the United Kingdom.

We have a commitment to removing Part VII. It is a crucial aspect of our commitment to the Belfast agreement and the peace process which sustains it. But that obligation to remove the temporary nature of Part VII is not unqualified; we have other responsibilities. We have an unquestionable, non-negotiable responsibility to protect the people of Northern Ireland in so far as we can from violence and terror. I agree with what your Lordships said in relation to the earlier order. The police cannot do this alone. If the community does not will it, it will not come about. I suppose that we need both politics and security measures.

We have seen steps towards peace. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Eames, pointed to recent history. I agree that many aspects of it are gloomy and depressing. But I remind your Lordships of the number of those who were killed in what are

10 Feb 2003 : Column 548

inelegantly called "security related incidents" last year. There were far too many; but the figure must be compared with the hundreds who were cruelly killed not very long ago in Northern Ireland.

We do not have a normal security situation. There are the punishment beatings that have been referred to; there is sectarian rioting, alleged intelligence gathering, and dissident groups whose purpose is to see that peace fails. We have therefore decided to offer to your Lordships the conclusion that we need to renew most of Part VII.

We have relied in great part on the advice of security advisers. We rely significantly on the police service and the Army. We have to pay careful attention to their careful, measured, proportionate, professional judgments about what is required.

Some sections will lapse, but only on the basis of a careful appreciation of the advice to which I referred. Subsections (1) and (2) of Section 97 allow the Secretary of State to confer port and border control powers on the Army by specifying members of the Armed Forces as examining officers. This power has never been used and its use has never been sought. The police service believes that in the current situation there is no operational requirement for retention, and the Army thinks that little would be lost by allowing it to lapse.

I turn, secondly, to paragraph 36 of Schedule 4. That allows the Secretary of State to make a restraint order in place of the courts. It is many years since this power was used and the police do not see any current operational need for it. They would seek restraint orders through the courts. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, whose work we deeply appreciate and are grateful for, has recommended that paragraph 37 also be allowed to lapse. We shall give this further thought. Some questions still remain. The Secretary of State intends to launch a consultation on that provision.

Likewise, paragraphs 19 to 21 of Schedule 5 allow the Secretary of State to authorise in place of the courts a search of premises in the investigation of terrorist finance or direction offences. This is in order that the police might avoid having to disclose sensitive material or techniques to the courts. It is many years since the power was used. The police see no current operational need for it. They are content to seek such warrants through the courts.

The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer, agrees with the Government that these provisions may safely be allowed to lapse.

The noble Lord has also raised the possibility of allowing subsections (3) and (4) of Section 67 to lapse. These subsections set out the limitations on granting bail in terrorist cases in Northern Ireland. We want to look at the possibility. It is a complex issue and we want to avoid unintended consequences. We shall therefore consult before making a decision.

10 Feb 2003 : Column 549

Other issues were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, in his report which we shall want to explore with some care and caution—for example, the possibility of resident magistrates granting bail in terrorist cases, and the possibility of extending the list of protected groups in Section 103 to include part-time as well as full-time prison officers. Both proposals seem to have a good deal of virtue in them, but we want to give them careful consideration following consultation.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, will keep a careful eye on the workings of Part VII. His efforts are invaluable. They have shown the value of independent scrutiny on a forensic basis, not a partisan basis. For the moment, we come to the conclusion that these temporary provisions, subject to the lapsed provisions, need to be reviewed. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 23rd January be approved [9th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for explaining exactly what is in the order. I admire the work that has been clearly been done behind the scenes to look into the needs of this particular Part VII before formulating the order. I have nothing to say to challenge the noble and learned Lord on anything that the Government have done. I am relieved that the risk factor has been kept at a fairly sensitive level and that risks have not been taken in this legislation, in my view and in that of the Government.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, we, too, support the order. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for spending time on explaining what the Government will do with two recommendations in the Carlile report that they have not as yet accepted. Those recommendations relate to allowing resident magistrates to hear bail applications and the suggestion that the distinction between scheduled and non-scheduled offences should no longer obtain. Bearing in mind that the Government intend to reconsider those recommendations again and hold consultations, I am satisfied. I support the order.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page