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Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. They are extremely important points. My noble friend will know, almost better than anyone else in your Lordships' House at the moment, that throughout the troubles since 1969 Sinn Fein councillors have been able to present themselves for election. So, when I answer his first question, he will understand that there will be no change from the present situation.
In the absence of a ceasefire, Sinn Fein will be able to take part in elections; but what is perfectly clear is that, unless they declare a ceasefire, they will not be able to begin negotiations. I would go further than that: just as they attempted recently to gain entrance to Stormont Castle during the consultation talks beginning on 4th March, they would find exactly the same refusal as they found then, in the absence of a ceasefire. So I put this with all the clarity at my command: unless there is a ceasefire, they cannot enter the negotiating chamber.
The second question which my noble friend asked I regard as equally important. There is a clear danger that, when presented by the terrorists--as is always possible and, indeed, it is one of their favourite ploys--with the option of giving a little or, on the other hand, facing a return to violence, the terrorists always calculate that we will choose to give a little. Let me be perfectly specific. We have no intention of having the Mitchell principles chipped away in the way that my noble friend fears. The representatives of Sinn Fein will have to sign up to all six unequivocally at the outset of their entry into the negotiating chamber. Unless they do that, they will be asked to leave.
Lord Annan: My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House how far, if at all, the Irish Government have been consulted on these matters? I ask, because I think it is of very great importance that we carry the Irish Government with us as far as is possible on all these matters, and I was relieved, in fact, to hear the noble Viscount the Leader say that Sinn Fein would be able to take part in the elections. I say that, not out of any regard for the lizard-like manoeuvrings of Mr. Gerry Adams, but because my mind goes back to the days of 1916 and afterwards, when we had to come in the end to negotiations with noted terrorists such as Michael Collins. The treaty was, in fact, signed with Lloyd George and Michael Collins. He came back and the Irish Free State was formed.
At that time the Republican Movement refused to accept that treaty and civil war followed. The Irish Government shot and executed more Irishmen during the next few months than the British had ever done since 1916. That is why it is important, it seems to me, to carry both Sinn Fein, if possible, and certainly the Irish Government with us so that, when we do get a settlement, there is absolutely no doubt that every interested party, except those who will never accept anything but the total triumph of the IRA, is behind the peace process.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I have tried to emphasise in response to similar comments on previous occasions like this the importance of the two governments keeping closely in step and I am happy to re-emphasise that today. The Irish Government have been made aware of what we propose, although I should make it clear that on the point of elections this was a matter for the British Government because we are dealing with elections within the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, as a matter of practicality and courtesy, it was right, once we had decided, that we should advise the Irish Government of what we had decided.
I should perhaps emphasise that the ground rules on negotiation remain the same as forecast and as have been forecast for many months now. Strands two and three of the three-stranded process, about which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, asked me, remain to be negotiated in the form forecast, and strand one is concerned purely with relations within Northern Ireland and is not a matter for the republic. Nevertheless, I should like to emphasise once again that it is important
Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, I wish every possible success to the proposals in the Statement read out by the noble Viscount. Can he say how the British Government, or indeed the Dublin Government, will keep in touch with the new elected body? It will be there discussing and, presumably and it is to be hoped, coming to sensible conclusions. Will Her Majesty's Government have observers there, or is some other arrangement in view?
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, the elected body is within part of the United Kingdom and therefore the Republic of Ireland does not have a locus in the proceedings of that body. I am sure the noble Lord would want that to be so. At the same time it is clearly important that this highly complex negotiating process, if, as we hope, it manages to get under way, should be co-ordinated in terms of its mechanics if not its substance. Therefore it is suggested--it is merely a matter for consultation at the moment--that there should be a co-ordinating committee to look at the mechanics of the three-stranded talks and on which representatives of the government of the republic would sit. That perhaps is the best way in which we can ensure that good order and discipline are maintained.
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the legal powers which are necessary as a supplement to the ordinary criminal law to counter terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Bill re-enacts, with omissions and amendments, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. It is made necessary, first, by the fact that the 1991 Act expires in August this year and, secondly, by the fact that the security situation in Northern Ireland requires that the powers be renewed.
Perhaps I may describe briefly the situation as it existed in the run-up to the terrorist ceasefires of August and October 1994, and since then up to the present time. The ceasefires declared in 1994 saw a significant down turn in some types of terrorist activity. In the 17 months prior to 31st August 1994, 117 people died in Northern Ireland as a result of terrorist activity. In the period of just over 18 months from September 1994 to 17th March 1996, 15 people were killed in Northern Ireland. These figures do not include the recent London murders. During 1994
In response to the ceasefires, the Government relocated more than 1,500 troops to their home bases; they removed several Army bases and security installations; routine military patrolling in support of the police dropped by around 80 per cent.; closed roads at the border with the Republic of Ireland were opened; the majority of orders under the vehicle control zone order were revoked; all Northern Ireland exclusion orders were lifted; and the civilian search unit was disbanded. The Government's response was measured and proportionate. Their response to the breakdown in PIRA's ceasefire has been so, too.
Steps have been taken to reintroduce appropriate security measures; for example, police officers are again wearing flak jackets and patrolling in armoured vehicles; they have increased their patrolling and are carrying long weapons. In addition, two of the three relocated battalions have returned to Northern Ireland to be available to support the police if required.
The Government's view remains that for as long as the terrorist organisations retain their capacity in terms of armaments, organisation and training to renew their campaign of violence with little or no warning, it would be irresponsible to dismantle any security measures on the ground which would not be capable of being reintroduced quickly. The same argument applies to emergency legislation. The Government and the security forces must retain their ability to protect the community from terrorist attack. It is our duty.
I now turn to the Bill itself. Like its predecessors, the current Act has enabled the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland to function effectively and fairly, and has provided the legal basis for the police and Army to take appropriate and effective action against terrorism. At the same time it has provided terrorist suspects with appropriate safeguards.
The Government have consistently made it clear that the emergency legislation will remain on the statute book only for as long as is necessary. The provisions are regularly reviewed independently, at the invitation of the Government. The most recent major review of the emergency provisions Act was conducted by Mr. John Rowe Q.C. in 1994. His terms of reference were:
The Government, while having made a working assumption that the ceasefires were intended to be permanent, could not accept that they brought about anything more than a fragile peace. This view was reinforced by the background terrorist activities which I have described, and has been vindicated by subsequent events. On this basis, Mr. Rowe's conclusions were considered to be as valid in the post-ceasefire situation as they clearly would be in a non-ceasefire scenario. In shaping the Bill, therefore, much of what John Rowe recommended in his report, has been taken on board.
I shall take a few minutes now to outline the detail of the Bill and to explain in what way it differs from the current Act. The most obvious change is the removal of the confiscation provisions, set out in Sections 47 to 56 and Schedule 4; and the authorised investigator provisions set out in Section 57 and Schedule 5 of the current Act. Broadly similar provisions will be introduced to the ordinary law by way of the Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order which will be laid after the Easter Recess. These proposed new provisions will apply to all forms of financial crime including those perpetrated by or on behalf of terrorist organisations. Indeed, in some respects, these new provisions will be stronger than those in the EPA which they will replace.
The EPA Bill is in eight parts and has six schedules. Part I and Schedule 1 contain provisions relating to the scheduled offences; that is, offences which merit special treatment under the Bill. Schedule 1 lists and defines the scheduled offences; Part I makes arrangements for preliminary inquiries in magistrates' courts. It sets out the conditions for granting bail and for the holding in custody of young persons and their treatment on conviction; and it provides for the setting of statutory time limits in scheduled cases. It makes special arrangements for the trial of scheduled offences; namely, the continuance of the system of Diplock Courts, with its associated safeguards.
A number of changes are proposed to Part I. Certain offences have been removed from the schedule. They are those which, in the light of experience, have proved not to be charged in terrorist cases. Other offences have been made capable of being certified out. These include offences under the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 of robbery with violence and aggravated burglary. Often cases involving these offences could safely be tried by jury as they tend to be committed without terrorist involvement. Part I also includes a new provision which allows for such transitional arrangements as may be necessary in the event that an offence is added to, or removed from, the list of scheduled offences.
New and more flexible provisions have also been introduced for the setting of time limits for remand proceedings. In relation to custody time limits in particular, experience has shown that the current provision, as contained in Section 8 of the 1991 Act, is too rigid to be applied in Northern Ireland. There is in existence a scheme of time limits and this has demonstrated clearly that if a statutory scheme had been introduced in accordance with Section 8 of the Act, a number of potentially dangerous defendants on serious terrorist charges would have been released on bail. The new provisions contained in Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill
Substantial progress has already been made in reducing the time that is spent in custody on remand by those facing serious charges. In a Written Answer on 7th December last year, I reported on the first three years of the administrative time limits scheme to which I have just referred. I referred at that time to a substantial reduction in the average time that is taken to process cases from first remand to arraignment, and to a particularly impressive fall over the past year in waiting times between arraignment and the start of trial.
Part II of the Bill relates to powers of arrest, search and seizure. It provides for the specific circumstances in which the police and Army have power to enter and search premises; arrest and seize without a warrant; search for ammunition and transmitters; search for, and seize, explosives; examine documents; stop and question; and requisition and interfere with private property and public highways. It creates a new offence of failing to stop and be searched when required to do so by a police officer or a member of the Armed Forces. At present, police officers and soldiers have the power to stop and undertake a search for munitions or transmitters, but anyone failing to stop for a search does not commit an offence under the Act and the right of arrest under Section 17 of the current Act does not apply. The Bill corrects this.
Part III and Schedule 2 deal with offences against public security and public order. Part III continues in force the offence of directing a terrorist organisation. It lists the proscribed organisations and provides for offences relating to membership of, or support for, such organisations. The provisions make it an offence to dress in paramilitary clothing and forbid possession of any item intended for terrorist purposes, as well as the collecting or communicating of information likely to be of use to terrorists. They also re-enact an offence relating to training in the making or use of firearms or explosives.
The Bill strengthens the current provision in relation to proof of possession of information likely to be of use to terrorists, by providing that evidence of proximity shall be treated as proof of possession unless proved otherwise. This is consistent with the onus of proof applied in the case of prohibited articles such as explosives, firearms and ammunition.
Part IV and Schedule 3 contain the provisions relating to executive detention. These powers are retained in their current lapsed state. Their retention is the subject of some debate; but it is the Government's firm belief that until they are satisfied that peace in Northern Ireland is permanent and irreversible, it would be grossly irresponsible not to ask Parliament to re-enact this power.
Part V deals with the regulation of the provision of private security services. It continues to regulate all private security firms in Northern Ireland offering security guard services. The provision of security
Part VI deals with persons in custody under the terrorism provisions. It sets out the statutory rights of those in police custody under the terrorism provisions; for example, the right of a suspect to have a friend or relative informed of his detention, and the right of access to legal advice.
At this point it is appropriate to mention the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of John Murray, which has caused the Government to consider whether any amendment is necessary to the Bill to comply with the requirements of the convention.
The Murray case concerned inferences drawn from silence. On the general question of whether inferences may be drawn, the judgment supported the Government in their view that the drawing of inferences was a matter of common sense. But on the narrower question of inferences being drawn at a trial from silence at a time when access to a legal adviser was denied, the court found against the UK.
The Government are considering how best to respond to the judgment. We have reached the view that the implications of the judgment may go beyond Northern Ireland and beyond the emergency legislation. For that reason we do not think that an amendment to this Bill would be the most appropriate response. We have not yet concluded which steps, legislative and administrative, should be pursued to ensure that we comply with our obligations under the convention.
Part VII and Schedule 4 deal with miscellaneous matters. A number of changes are made here. The current Act contains a discretionary power to make codes of practice in relation to the police and armed forces' powers of arrest, search and seizure. That provision had been removed from the Bill, in recognition of the improvement in the security situation brought about by the ceasefires. However, in the light of recent IRA attacks, and the possibility, which we all hope fervently will not be the case, that the security forces' powers set out in Part II of the Bill could still be needed for some little time, the Government intend to table an amendment to the Bill reinstating the discretionary power to make such codes of practice for your Lordships' consideration at Committee stage.
The basis of the appointment of the independent assessor of military complaints procedures has been changed from a mandatory to a discretionary one. This will allow flexibility to discontinue the post in the event that routine military support to the police is no longer needed.
Part VII also contains a new provision which will provide for the silent video recording of all interviews which take place in the police holding centres, and for a code of practice to be drawn up for that purpose.
The case for introducing some form of electronic recording of interviews with terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland has been argued by successive reviewers of the Emergency Provisions Act and others.
The Government have concluded that a scheme which would safeguard tapes to the extent that would be necessary in Northern Ireland to meet the security concerns to which I have referred would be so elaborate and so restrictive as to undermine the benefits of recording the interviews.
Part VIII and Schedules 5 and 6 contain the supplementary provisions: included is a provision which will allow for the powers of arrest, search and seizure conferred upon the police and the Army to be separated, to allow the Army powers to be more easily suspended if during the lifetime of the Act that becomes a realistic prospect. Also included in this part is a new, technical provision to avoid problems caused by the transition from the old Act to the new Act.
Part VIII also contains the provisions for the repeal of the Act in two years' time. The new Act will have a lifespan of two years, compared with the five-year lifespan of the current Act. Following the breakdown in PIRA's ceasefire, the Government have given careful consideration to the arguments for and against extending the life of the new Act beyond two years.
The Government have decided not to make an amendment to the Bill at this stage, but should the security situation in two years' time require the emergency provisions to be extended, they will not hesitate to introduce a Bill at that time for that purpose.
I shall conclude my remarks by looking to the future. Your Lordships will be aware that an independent review is currently underway into the future need for counter-terrorist legislation in the United Kingdom. The review is led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who has the following terms of reference:
No one can doubt the need for this Bill. The events of recent weeks demonstrate how very necessary it is, much as we all regret it. We remain full of hope that a peaceful settlement will be reached for the people of
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her usual careful exposition. She and I, together with the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, are used to having a very small congregation late at night; but earlier in the day the congregation is enlarged, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, who I welcome to our discussions on Northern Ireland on the occasion of his maiden speech.
The Minister concluded by saying that no one could suggest that this Bill was not necessary. I do not suggest that a Bill is not necessary, but I do suggest that this Bill has defects. The defects of any legislation of this sort necessarily arise out of the emergency circumstances or circumstances where the normal rule of law has in part been impeached or impeded, or where the normal judicial processes cannot work fully and fairly. It is self-evident that there are difficulties in empanelling juries who can try criminal cases in Northern Ireland.
My objection is that the balance has not been properly drawn. I should like your Lordships to consider briefly one or two of the provisions because this is an argument and a debate that has been long lasting. First, I welcome the limitation from five years to two years in the currency and the life of this Bill. Secondly, I wholeheartedly endorse, first, the setting up of the review under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who is assisted by Mr. Justice Kerr from the Northern Ireland Bench, and, secondly, the fact that it is the noble and learned Lord who has been chosen to chair that review. As is well known and on the public record, we on this side of the House and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats, have been pressing for such a review for a very long time. I hope that it is not ungracious to say that the review has been set up far too late, although we welcome the fact that it has been set up in the end.
I turn now to one or two of the clauses in the Bill. Clause 10 is a welcome introduction of a degree of flexibility. It means that the Diplock non-jury courts can if necessary, and where expedient and appropriate, be held outside the Crown Court sitting in Belfast. The consultations that I have had, which have been quite careful, with legal practitioners in Northern Ireland indicate that they support that course in appropriate cases. I believe that that provision usefully amends the former Act.
Turning to Clause 37, not for the last time we in England and Wales should be able to learn something from the Northern Ireland experience. Clause 37 is of great importance since it prohibits private security services acting for reward unless they are certificated
My real criticism of the Bill derives from Clause 53. That provision empowers the Secretary of State to introduce a regime, underpinned by a code of practice, which relates, among other things, to the silent video recording of interviews. The Minister paid full tribute to the work of Mr. John Rowe QC. As long ago as February 1995 Mr. Rowe said in his report that audio recording, not silent video, was the very least that should be provided, and that if a video recording was made as well it would be so much the better. Mr. Rowe had considerable experience of Northern Ireland. His recommendation was very clear. I regret to say that I have heard nothing from the Minister to persuade me that Mr. Rowe is wrong and the Government are right.
Mr. Justice Kerr of the Northern Ireland bench tried a case that began in August 1993 and finished in December 1994. A very substantial part of that trial was taken up by the voir dire as to whether or not confessions or admissions had been made and whether or not they were admissible. The Minister has said that there is no efficient mechanism that the Government can devise to safeguard the improper disclosure of audio tape recordings. A long time ago Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, at the request of the Government, examined this point. I studied his carefully researched and argued report on a number of occasions. He concluded that a closely prescribed procedure for the disclosure of tape recordings only to those detainees charged with terrorist offences, and who at trial challenged the admissibility of statements, would be a safeguard. In his report there are many safeguards, with which I will not weary your Lordships, that persuade me that audio recordings can be kept in the circumstances of proper security.
What is the purpose of an audio recording? It includes at least the following. First, it avoids endless trials about who said what to whom in what circumstances, namely, the voir dire. The single most effective measure under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which limited trials in this country both in duration and expense, was the introduction of audio recording. Secondly, it is much more efficient as a true record of what was said. It includes questions which a trial judge or jury need to consider: the shade of meaning, the nuance of voice, the tone of voice of the question and the way that the answer is given. Thirdly, it makes the conviction of the guilty more and not less likely. Fourthly, it improves police performance. All senior police officers to whom I have ever spoken about this matter underline that proposition. It improves the quality of the interview and the evidence derived from it. Not least, the audio recording is a very powerful, sometimes fundamental, safeguard to the honest, honourable policeman who is falsely accused of misbehaviour and misdeeds in the circumstances of the interview. Therefore, it is a source of regret that the Government have felt unable to introduce audio recording as opposed simply to silent video recording. Silent video recording is an improvement but a very limited one.
Clause 55 refers to the right to compensation. After all these months and years, is the Minister able to say whether the Government have at last reached any conclusion about the future of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in Northern Ireland? Some may say, unkindly, that that is not a question directly referable to the structure of this Bill, but at least I had the modest decency to give the Minister notice that I would yet again put that question.
All in all, we regret the necessity for legislation, which sometimes can be draconian in either its structure or use. Emergency circumstances require deviations from the norm. However, I suggest that the Government ought to have gone further with audio recording as a safeguard to interviewees as well as police officers.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness for her customarily clear and cogent presentation of the contents and case for this Bill. It comes at a sensitive time when in Northern Ireland we are poised in limbo between peace and violence. We on these Benches had it in mind--I put it in the past tense since it preceded the terrible events at Canary Wharf--to table an amendment that this Bill should be for one year only in the first instance. We felt then that the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, might overtake it and there would be a chance to have a comprehensive look at a new peaceful situation in Northern Ireland. Unhappily, that is not assuredly the case. The noble Baroness is quite right to remind us of the prevalence of punishment beatings and armed robberies, quite apart from the murders of five people in Belfast by Direct Action Against Drugs, which may well be a cover name for terrorists, and various horrendous incidents in London.
Broadly speaking, the Government can expect our support for the Bill. However, I do not believe that it got off to a very good start. Curiously, the Government did not consult the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in advance of the Bill. The Minister will recall that the commission had received specific assurances from the Government that it would be consulted in such matters. The commission has strongly criticised the Government for their lack of consultation and expressed deep concern that the Bill has been brought forward in this way with so few changes. When the noble Baroness replies, can she tell us how to avoid this problem? There is no point in having a standing advisory commission on human rights if it is not consulted. In fairness, the Bill in another place has made good progress in Committee. The Government have made several concessions. Although some of them are technical matters, it demonstrates a welcome flexibility of approach.
Since we regard the 1991 Act and now this Bill as a regrettable necessity, some of the changes are welcome. For instance, the consolidation of terrorist funding provisions in Part VII and Clause 5 are admirable. The Minister will recall that we called for that from these Benches. The provisions relating to terrorist funding are put into a special proceeds of crime order, which will come before us soon, together with similar provisions
I turn to the issue of the video taping of police interviews. I agree with a great deal of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I do not intend to repeat it, save to commend to the Government the report of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper. The report is overwhelmingly persuasive on the case for audio taping. However, as far as it goes, silent video taping is a step forward. I suspect that when the noble Baroness referred to others who had been pressing for it she had in mind the fact that for the five years during which I had been privileged to speak on these matters from these Benches I had asked the Government why there could not be taping of interviews. I believe that it is better to have video taping than nothing, though we should move towards audio taping.
I refer to the question of custody time limits in Clause 8. I congratulate the Government on having almost eliminated the backlog of criminal cases pending and succeeded in reducing custody times a great deal over the past 18 months. However, although the Bill makes it possible to set custody time limits none has yet been set. Perhaps the Minister could let us know when this could happen. I am glad also to see that the omission of the Ulster Defence Association (Clause 30) from the list of proscribed organisations was purely a drafting error. I believe that everyone in the House would want to congratulate the former Loyalist paramilitaries on their attitude to the provocation by the Provisional IRA and on not responding to it. That has been impressive and admirable, but those people who might take up arms on the Loyalist side must be clear that should they return to violence they will be afforded treatment no different from that which we currently provide for Republican terrorists.
Finally, I have two points of concern. The first is the issue in Clause 47 of the right to silence. Clause 47 restricts rights to a solicitor in the first 48 hours of police questioning. The police have to put in writing the reasons why a solicitor is not allowed. However, with the change introduced since 1991--that inferences of guilt can be drawn from an interviewee's silence--having a solicitor present becomes that much more important. It is possible that we may want to come back with an amendment on that point with which of course the European Court of Human Rights will concern itself.
My other point of concern relates to Clauses 20 and 23 under which inspectors are allowed to authorise searches. Selectively, that is a useful power, but I cannot for the life of me think why it has been extended from chief inspectors to inspectors. There are 166 RUC chief inspectors and 501 inspectors. Why do we need to increase by a factor of three the privileged group which has been given powers previously reserved to magistrates? I fail to understand why that is necessary. With those provisos, and no doubt we shall return to those questions on subsequent occasions, I give the Minister the assurance that, in general, we shall be supporting the Bill.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, it is with some nervousness that I am making my maiden speech in your House during this sensitive debate. I live in Northern Ireland and I have spent a great deal of time in the past 20 years working for the public good in the Province. I hope that I may be able to continue some of that work in your Lordships' House in the future. I am very proud to have inherited this peerage from my father and grandfather, who was the first Baron, both of whom spent a large part of their lives involved in Northern Ireland politics. Indeed, they spanned the full 50 years which was the duration of that Parliament, but as far as I can ascertain neither spoke in this House.
I am an Ulsterman, and when I am at Twickenham I cheer for the boys in green. However, I served as a regular soldier with the Grenadier Guards for 12 years and competed in two Olympic games for Great Britain. I am an Irishman whose sovereign is the Queen and whose colours are the Union Jack.
While I was doing some research for this speech, I read the maiden speech made in another place in April 1969 by a fervent young Ulster civil rights leader of the day. Having read it, I asked myself: What has changed since then? Some cynics outside the House might say, "Nothing". This is very far from the truth. Our speech-maker of the day was demonstrating about social injustices such as housing allocations, which at that time were in the control of the district councils. It should be remembered that in 1969 in Northern Ireland only ratepayers had a vote for local council district councillors. That disfranchised all those living in public authority housing. She complained of the lack of equal opportunities in the workplace, and the perceived hypocrisy of successive Stormont governments. Today, that has changed significantly. Sadly soon after she made that speech the democratic process was highjacked by the terrorists. But in response to the public demand of the day Stormont was suspended by the Conservative Government in 1972 and direct rule was imposed from Westminster. Later in the same year the district councils were reorganised and their powers significantly reduced. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive was set up to tackle the serious housing difficulties of the time. One of the results of that is that we now have some of the finest public authority housing in the kingdom, and housing as an issue is off the political agenda.
Proportional representation was introduced for all elections, and today everyone over the age of 18 has a fair vote. The Fair Employment Commission is now in place to ensure equality of opportunity in the workplace for all, regardless of creed or culture. However, it must be said that there are still concerns over inequality of unemployment. That will only be solved by further inward investment in the west of the Province. I have known and admired many of the Ministers of the Crown who, at great risk and sacrifice to themselves, have been responsible for the positive changes which have taken place over the years. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to pay my tribute to them today.
An acceptable method of replacing direct rule from Westminster must be found. I submit that it is important to raise the intellectual level of debate among the elected representatives from within the community in the Province. That I believe must start at district council level. It is with those local authorities that I believe the future lies. Once the threat of terrorism subsides and local politicians are again able to concentrate fully on the social needs of their electorate, those same politicians must be given the responsibility and authority to enable them to play a full part in the democratic process.
I hope that my noble friend the Minister will forgive me for suggesting that the democratic process in Ulster will have to be rebuilt from the bottom up and not from the top down. In conclusion, I believe that there is now a real possibility of putting the border issue and the terrorist on the back burner. That will only happen if the resolve of this Parliament and those of the Republic of Ireland and the United States remains constant. In the meantime, we must remain constantly vigilant against the terrorist with all the powers necessary available to those charged with the defence of this realm against terrorism.
Lord McConnell: My Lords, I begin my congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on a fluent maiden speech. I knew his father and his grandfather. I am glad to see him now a Member of this House. I hope that we shall hear from him many times in the future. He is well known, not merely for his business ability but for his public service. He brought great credit to us all by taking part in the bob-sleigh race in the Olympic Games. If he can negotiate the perils of that, he will be able to negotiate any lesser perils he may meet in this House.
Therefore, I intend to refer to a few clauses in the Act rather than to attempt an exhaustive review of it. First, there is the renewal of the provision whereby scheduled offences are tried by a judge without a jury; in other words, terrorist offences. They have become known as the Diplock courts because that course was recommended by Lord Diplock and his recommendation was followed. The reason for that is that jurors were being intimidated. Unfortunate citizens were called onto a jury panel through no wish of their own and were then subjected to intimidation by people who wanted them to find a not guilty verdict. It was unfair to the jurors and very bad indeed for the system. I am glad to see that the Diplock courts are to continue. In those cases, the judge must give a reasoned judgment as to why he has reached a decision either to acquit or convict the accused. I support that.
I am glad to see also that Clause 20 renews the powers of the Army and the police to carry out searches for munitions and radio transmitters. Clause 21 means that a full report must be given of all activities carried out under Clause 20. If any questions arise as regards that behaviour, the report can be referred to.
I am glad to see that Clause 21(6) creates an offence of failing to stop for the Army or the police. It was quite ridiculous that that was not an offence. However, that has now been cured, and quite rightly so.
Clause 29 is concerned with people who direct the activities of terrorist organisations. That is very important. There are people who sit back in safety elsewhere and direct operations while letting some other unfortunate person run the risk of being caught with the bomb or whatever it happens to be. Culpability is even greater on the part of the people who are directing the operations and hiding behind other people who are carrying them out. It is essential that that should be an offence because, if those people can be rooted out, a large part of the problem would be solved.
I am glad to see it is to be an offence to dress up to show membership of a terrorist organisation. It is sheer provocation on the part of people who, not merely at paramilitary funerals but at parades and so on, try to stir up trouble by wearing their paramilitary uniforms of one kind and another. It is extremely important that that should be prohibited.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, referred to Part V of the Bill and said that he thought that that should be extended. That provides that private security firms must be registered. He said that that should be extended to England and Wales. I would go even further and say that Scotland should also be subject to the provision. It should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. It is far too simple to say, "Oh no, this is not a terrorist organisation. This is a security firm". That is a poor bluff, and the registration of such firms will prevent that because they will have to prove that they are legitimate.
I offer my support for the Bill. I join with others in saying that we look forward to the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, which I hope will guide us and help us in the provision of future legislation.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I strongly support the powerful arguments advanced by the Minister in support of the provisions of the Bill. I believe that it is important not only as an issue of law but also for the reassurance which the forces of law and order and the general public in Northern Ireland must derive from the recognition that they still need protection.
To take an instance relevant to the Bill, though in fact raised during our discussion of the regulations last week, I have heard exclusion orders dismissed as internal exile and a threat to the human rights of the person so excluded or detained. But the Government have a duty to defend the rights of potential victims where the person so excluded or detained is believed to intend violence against the public.
The IRA itself has not hesitated, in the midst of the ceasefire, to serve its own version of exclusion orders in terms of ordering a man and his family who have become persona non grata in its eyes to leave their homes in Northern Ireland and never to return on pain of death. Though there can be no comparison between the duty of proper and lawful behaviour laid upon a government and the savage rule of the jungle operated by the IRA, yet the victims make that equation and have a right to see themselves being protected from potential harm. Any deterrent action, properly applied within the law, which forces the IRA to abort an operation for lack of a courier, a bomber or a carrier of bomb-making equipment seems to me well worth it.
In the context of the threat to peace which the IRA continues to pose and of the Statement made earlier this afternoon, I should like to take the opportunity to comment on some related issues. One is the frequent and wholly unsustainable comparison made by some between Sinn Fein/IRA in Northern Ireland and the ANC in South Africa, and, even more offensively, between Gerry Adams and that great man, Nelson Mandela.
Sinn Fein, a minority party representing only a tiny fraction of the electorate, has the right to vote and to elect representatives to Parliament, and thus to put its case through the democratic process. The fact that Gerry Adams, having been so elected, chose not to take his seat because he did not recognise the authority of Parliament, nor of the Crown, does not alter the fact that Sinn Fein has always had the democratic mandate. The ANC, representing the large black majority in South Africa--the majority--did not have the vote and was deprived of a democratic and peaceful way of advancing its case: it had no choice but to have recourse to action outside the law as it stood then. There is no comparison between those two cases, and it angers me to hear a shoddy and devious small-time politician and thug compared with Mandela.
My next concern is that I hope very much that our Government and the Irish Government will not be in danger of going too far to placate an implacable opponent. I was reassured greatly by what my noble friend said, but a very small minority which happens to be armed with Semtex and a large arsenal of modern arms, must not be allowed to marginalise the vast majority which includes not only the unionists but a significant number of nationalists or republicans.
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