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The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Brougham and Vaux): It may be convenient for the Committee if, contrary to the advice of the Companion, I do not read out the full text of the amendment. Copies are available at the Table of the House and on the Government, Opposition and Liberal Democrat Benches.
Lord Glentoran: I thank the noble and learned Lord for his and the Government's co-operation in producing Amendment No. 29A, which we felt was very necessary. I was anxious throughout to try to tie in the international agreementto which reference has been made, but which is not yet ratifiedas much as possible to the Bill so that the Bill neatly reflected it.
The Committee will have noticed that in the Bill there is not much demand on the Government, from wherever it may be coming, to report to this Parliament on the happenings, results and workings of the Bill. I feel that at least once a year is a reasonable time. Althoughunlike the noble Lord, Lord Smith, who I am sure spent a lot of time in YorkshireI was the one who totally misread it, getting my Spanish mixed up with my English, I assure the Committee that I spent most of August in the Province. I still live there although I sometimes wonder with the amount of time that I spend here, among your Lordships in your Lordships' House. Having said all thatand I hope
Lord Carlile of Berriew: In speaking to these amendments I declare my interest as the independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act 2000. Indeed, I take advantage of that role to speak publicly on an aspect that has caused some concern and which I believe is resolved by these amendments.
As the independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act, I prepare a separate report annually on the operation of Part VII of the Terrorism Act 2000. Part VII contains the provisions which apply to Northern Ireland alone and are renewable on an annual basis. I have received some concerns from outside about the possibility of the independent monitoring commission being yet another reviewer of what is happening in Northern Ireland politically and in relation to terrorism. Alternatively, I have received the concern that the arrival of the independent monitoring commission will make redundant some reviews which some people regard as valuable in relation to the affairs of Northern Ireland. Some academic commentators have expressed concern about the overlapping activities of the various reviewers, reporters and commentators, no one more eloquently than Professor Clive Walker of Leeds University, a very eminent author on the Terrorism Act 2000.
It may be as well, in a moment or two, to remind your Lordships that there are people or bodies who monitor complaints against the military. There is an excellent reviewer of the holding centre in relation to those arrested on suspicion of terrorism. There is an independent Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland who carries out reviews of police activity. There is the statutory Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. There is myself as the independent reviewer of the Terrorism Act, and there are many other non-statutory reviews, including the valuable work of many academic and, indeed, some very good journalistic commentators, too. So there is no shortage of people monitoring and reviewing what is going on in Northern Ireland in relation to decommissioning, anti-terrorism law, the fairness of the political process and human rights, among other matters.
The independent monitoring commission is yet another body that will review important aspects of life in Northern Ireland. I and, I believe, many other reviewers or monitors involved in the affairs of Northern Ireland, recognise that it could become all embracing if it is able in due course to carry out the full remit of its responsibilities under the 2003 Hillsborough agreement. I and, I suspect, other reviewers, hope that it will eventually become all embracing. We look forward to being declared redundant in the name of normalisation, for that is the name of the game which underpins the Hillsborough agreement.
If Northern Ireland is ever to receive the blessing of normality, we shall depart with thanks for having enjoyed part of bringing that normality about. The blessing of normality in my judgment would be that
The independent monitoring commission, unlike all we other reviewers, has a strong imprimatur from the international community. It has the advantage of external membership and the great advantage of being created by international treaty obligation. Those are all advantages over any role I perform and they are advantages over the roles performed by the other monitors and reviewers to whom I referred.
Normalisation would rid Northern Ireland watchers of the burden of having to read a multiplicity of reports. That would be a good thing but, above all, our departure would signify that normalisation to which I referred. I want to take this opportunity to allay in public the concerns of all those who contacted me and suggested that there would be an inconvenient multiplicity of reviewers and monitors which would work against the public interest. In my view the plurality of the reviewing mechanisms and the number of them is a guarantee of rigour in reviewing the process towards normalisation. In any event the future work of the independent monitoring commission, at least in its first two years, is bound to be focused upon decommissioning. It will not have either the time or the resources to impinge upon the work that others do.
I therefore wish to reassure those from outside and inside this building who expressed misgivings about the addition of the independent monitoring commission that I certainly see no difficulty in that regard. I look forward to working with it. Others who are involved in this matter who have spoken to me also look forward to working with it and see no difficulty whatever arising in that regard.
The proposals in Amendments Nos. 29A and 31 are much tidier than the original amendments that were drafted. It seems to me that the reporting system will also have the advantage of providing a thermometer of how normalisation is working in Northern Ireland. I and the other reviewers and monitors will read that thermometer in the hope of viewing our own early demise.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I want to say only that as a regular reader and admirer of the noble Lord's reports I sincerely hope that he will continue to write them and that they will not be regarded as in any way unnecessary.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: The Minister indicated the conciliatory purpose of the proposed new clause but he is almost certainly unconscious of another respect in which he has been conciliatory. On the Licensing Bill the Government put down very definitive and abrupt deadlines for certain actions which had to be taken by those affected by the Bill. When I on a number of occasions moved amendments to add the words "as soon as practicable", those amendments were rejected by
Lord Williams of Mostyn: We do things better in Northern Ireland, I think. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, for his generous and, indeed, magisterial review of this area to which he has contributed so greatly. I cannot improve on what he said.
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