§ 7.0 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Roy Jenkins)
I beg to moveThat the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 (Continuance) Order 1975, a draft of which was laid before this House on 1st May, be approved.The effect of the order is to continue the provisions of the Act in force for a further six months from 29th May, when they would otherwise expire.
The House will recall that the bombing campaign in Great Britain, which began with the car bombs planted in London in March 1973, continued throughout the remainder of 1973 and 1974. Up to the middle of November last year 21 people had been killed in bomb incidents in Great Britain and 570 injured. Then, on 21st November, two explosions in public houses in Birmingham killed 21 people and injured nearly 200.
The bombing campaign had always been largely indiscriminate, but after the Birmingham bombs—which were violence on a new and more dreadful scale—there was widespread agreement in Parliament and outside that it was right to take the additional preventive powers in the Act. It was in November necessary to act quickly in taking preventive action to provide protection against the risk of still further violence from the terrorists and against any possibility of a hostile reaction against the peaceful and settled Irish community in Britain. That was a real danger for a period, happily brief, at that stage.
But when I introduced the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill last November I said that I did not wish these exceptional powers to remain in force a moment longer than was necessary. That is still my view. I said that it could not be without reluctance that we comtemplated powers of the kind proposed in the Bill, involving as they must some encroachment—limited but real—on the liberties of individual citizens. I therefore have no intention of letting the renewal of these powers become a habit. I am satisfied, however, that it would not be right to allow the provisions of the Act to lapse as early as 28th May.
1083 The security situation continues to give cause for concern. In the weeks following the explosions in Birmingham there were further bomb incidents in Great Britain, and they continued until a cease-fire was announced by the Provisional IRA just before Christmas. The cease-fire broke down in Northern Ireland on 16th January and there were further bomb incidents in London towards the end of that month. Shortly afterwards the cease-fire was resumed, and there have been no terrorist incidents in Britain since the end of January.
On 26th February, however, a police officer—Police Constable Tibble—was shot dead in Hammersmith, and subsequent police investigations led to the discovery of what was plainly an IRA bomb factory. We must assume that plans exist for the resumption of terrorist operations in Great Britain should the cease-fire come to an end.
The cease-fire itself continues to be fragile. Since it restarted on 16th January there have been a number of incidents involving the Provisionals. These include the murder of an RUC constable on 10th May. What is still being sought is a genuine and sustained cessation of violence, which is the essential test of the cease-fire. However, sectarian and factional murders are being committed in Northern Ireland with distressing frequency.
In these circumstances, and for the time being, I believe that our duty is to keep the Act in being for a further, strictly limited period. Were we to let it lapse and then, against our hopes, to be confronted with a breakdown of the ceasefire, we would all look very foolish indeed.
I do not propose in this short opening speech to try to anticipate and answer all the points which hon. Members will wish to raise. But while in commenting on the purposes of the Act I shall inevitably touch on some of them I will try to deal with others when winding up, which, with the leave of the House, I shall do myself at the end of the debate.
There are four main groups of provisions in the Act. Part I, covering Sections 1 and 2, deals with proscribed organisations. The Act proscribed the IRA and gave the Secretary of State the 1084 power, which has not been exercised, to add to the list of proscribed organisations by order.
It is an offence under Section 1 to belong to a proscribed organisation, or give or solicit support for such an organisation and to arrange or address a meeting held on behalf of such an organisation. Section 2 prohibits the display of support in public for a proscribed organisation.
Part I does not directly reduce or give protection against terrorist activity. Neither I nor anyone else has ever pretended that proscription would do that. The primary object of this part was to remove what was widely regarded as an affront to the British people, and, against the background of incidents which showed signs of leading to an unjustified but none the less dangerous backlash against the Irish community as a whole, it seemed, and will still seem, to many people intolerable that it should be lawful to collect money for the IRA and to parade with banners proclaiming support for it.
Only one person has been convicted under these provisions. It does not follow, however, that they are either unnecessary or ineffective. The Act is preventive in intention, and since it became law there has been a marked reduction in the kind of activities with which Sections 1 and 2 were designed to deal. I do not think it would be right, nor do I believe the country would accept, that in present circumstances these activities should be permitted to recur. We cannot allow, for example, collections of money for the IRA, whether in pubs or other public places, to take place. Displays of support for the IRA would still be offensive to a great number of people, and although the police can sometimes take action against people wearing political uniforms under the Public Order Act 1936, the provisions of Part I of the 1974 Act are the only ones under which action against other forms of support for the IRA can be taken.
Part II of the Act, covering Sections 3 to 6, empowers the Secretary of State, if he is satisfied that a person is concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, or is attempting or may attempt to enter the country with a view to being so concerned, to make an 1085 exclusion order against that person. An exclusion order prohibits the person against whom it is made from being in, or entering, Great Britain or, if he is not a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, from being in or entering the United Kingdom.
Since the Act came into operation, I have made 51 exclusion orders. Forty-four of these were served on the person concerned, and 13 people have exercised their right to make representations objecting to the order. These 13 cases were referred to the advisers nominated by me, and after considering their reports I revoked five of the orders. Two cases are still outstanding.
Thirty-nine of the orders have been enforced, and 22 people were removed to Northern Ireland and 17 to the Irish Republic.
Seven of the exclusion orders were not served. In five of these cases the person concerned is believed to be outside the United Kingdom. In the other two cases the person concerned was charged with murder and I revoked the orders before they were served.
The people against whom I have made orders include prominent members of the Provisional IRA who I was satisfied had organised acts of terrorism here; a few prominent members of the Official IRA who I was satisfied had been making preparations for acts of terrorism; people who had been involved on behalf of the Provisional IRA in the commission of acts of terrorism, for example by allowing their houses to be used for the manufacture of bombs; and people who were closely involved in the Provisional IRA in Ireland and whose motives for coming to Great Britain were deeply suspect. Some people in this House and outside have expressed surprise and dismay that, in view of their longer-standing cease-fire, any members of the Official IRA should have been involved. I can assure the House that nobody, Official or Provisional, has been excluded because of his views, however extreme they may be. I have been concerned with gelignite, not with ideology. But I cannot begin to accept the view that membership of the Official IRA should confer immunity if there is good reason to suspect a threat.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
I am most impressed by my right hon. Friend's statement that he is concerned with gelignite and not with ideology. However, we are also concerned with evidence. In two cases he has said that he has been able to bring charges of murder. What concerns us is that the evidence on which my right hon. Friend, with his known sensitivity, exercises his judgment in exclusion orders is not known and, therefore, a number of statements he made earlier about people being concerned with this, that and the other could be traced to various people and used against them. Therefore, they had already been convicted by virtue of the fact that my right hon. Friend has said it here.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I follow my hon. Friend's point. It could certainly not in any way affect the possibility of their being convicted. I make it clear to the House that we must have, in the special circumstances with which we have been confronted recently, the Special Powers Act because it is concerned with the prevention and not the punishment of terrorism and because I thought it right to take measures—and the House supported me—to try to protect people against terrorism, even in circumstances in which there was not evidence which would secure a conviction in a court of law.
My hon. Friend was putting a slightly more complicated but understandable point to me. He said that if I say that those whom I have excluded are people who I am satisfied were or might be concerned with acts of terrorism, this is a statement that is prejudicial to them. I suppose that to that extent it is, but if the House wishes to debate this matter I am bound to defend the actions which I have taken. To be honest, I do not see how I can avoid the dilemma.
I have endeavoured to state this in a general form and not to proceed further than I think is reasonable in dealing with these cases.
The safeguard provided by Section 4 of the Act, which gives the right to make representations objecting to the making of an exclusion order, has worked well. As I have informed the House, I nominated Lord Alport and Mr. Ronald Waterhouse, QC, to report to me on 1087 objections made under this section. I am most grateful to them for the time and trouble they have devoted to this task. This is not, and cannot be by its nature, an open process, but it is certainly not a meaningless one, as is clearly indicated by the fact that in five of the 13 cases where the person exercised his right to make representations I revoked the orders.
The exclusion orders do not, of course, represent the sum total of action taken against the IRA. About 50 people are at present in prison after conviction of various terrorist offences, and a further 20 are on remand awaiting trial.
The powers of Part II of the Act have enabled me to keep out of Britain a number of people who had organised or taken part in terrorist activities, or who I believed had come here for terrorist purposes. If Part II of the Act were now to lapse it is important that the House should realise that, not only would I be unable to make any more exclusion orders but, perhaps more important, the people currently excluded would immediately be free to return. It would be too soon to permit this.
Section 7 of the Act empowers a constable to arrest without warrant a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a person guilty of an offence under Section 1 or 3 of the Act, a person concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, or a person subject to an exclusion order.
A person arrested under Section 7 may not be held in custody in right of the arrest for more than 48 hours, but the Secretary of State may extend this period to a total of seven days in any particular case.
As I explained when introducing the Bill six months ago, the object of this provision is to enable the police to hold people whom they believe to be involved in acts of terrorism but whom they cannot immediately connect with specific offences. It enables the police to make inquiries and check police records in order to establish whether there is evidence on which specific charges can be brought or, if not, whether there is evidence on which it would be right for the Secretary of State to make an exclusion order.
1088 I have given authority for the extended detention of 91 people arrested under Section 7. In 24 of these cases I subsequently signed exclusion orders and the people concerned were removed.
The police have arrested 265 other people under the section who have been held for shorter periods than 48 hours. One hundred and eight of these were released within 12 hours and a further 116 within 24 hours; 41 were held for between 24 and 48 hours.
§ Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)
Could my right hon. Friend tell the House whether he has refused to extend the period of detention, at the request of the police, at any stage?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I do not believe that I have refused a request for extension. I have authorised extended detention in 91 cases. I shall give my hon. Friend a definitive answer when I wind up the debate. There have certainly been few cases—indeed, I am not sure that there have been any. There has been a different position in relation to exclusion orders, as I have indicated and as my hon. Friends knows.
Twenty-six people detained under the Act have been charged with criminal offences. It could reasonably be pointed out that a considerable number of the 265 other people, with whom I have been dealing—apart from the 91 for whom I granted special extension of the powers of detention—would have been arrested under normal police powers if the Act had not been in force. What the section does is to strengthen, extend and perhaps in some cases regularise police powers of arrest and detention in relation to suspected terrorists. It may in certain circumstances considerably assist the police in dealing with terrorism to be able to detain a suspect for up to seven days. But this can be done only with my specific authority, and has also been sparingly used, as the total of 91 cases indicates.
There has occasionally been some confusion in Questions. In the answers which we have given I am not sure that we have made the position as clear as we should have. The numbers held under the Act—about 500—have been referred to as though they were held under extensions of powers of detention for the extra five days. That is not so. The total 1089 involved under this provision has been 91. But to keep open this option of applying for the extra five days, the police have naturally tended to arrest suspected terrorists under the Act rather than under their normal powers when both courses were open to them. In fact, three major incidents account for the arrest of 171 suspects. Forty-six were arrested under Section 7 in the course of police investigations following the explosions in public houses in Guildford in October; 76 after shots were fired at three police officers in Southampton in December, and an IRA bomb factory was discovered there; and 46 after the fatal shooting of Police Constable Tibble at the end of February and the discovery of another IRA bomb factory in Hammersmith. Clearly, most of these people would have been detained even if the Act had not been in force.
The section has been fairly extensively used, and with positive results. Chief officers of police have no doubt that it has helped in a very difficult period and would not like to see it prematurely dropped.
Section 8 of the Act empowers the Secretary of State to make an order providing, among other things, for the examination of travellers entering or leaving Great Britain or Northern Ireland. It confers powers on examining officers, who in Great Britain are in practice constables, to examine travellers and to arrest and detain them if necessary.
Article 9 of the order provides that a person may be detained under the authority of an examining officer for up to seven days, or, if the Secretary of State so directs, for another five days after the conclusion of the examination. I have not had occasion to give a direction under this article, but 224 people have been detained at the ports under the authority of examining officers. Only 32 of these were held for more than 48 hours, and in 12 of those cases I made exclusion orders and the people concerned were removed. Only 20 people who were not subsequently excluded have therefore been held for more than 48 hours, and no one for more than seven days.
The background to this section is that after the car bombs were planted in London in March 1973 the police greatly increased the surveillance carried out at 1090 ports dealing with Irish traffic. Surveillance has been maintained at a high level since then. I think it is true to say that in the interchanges and the debates which we had following the various incidents of last year, opinion in nearly all parts of the House attached great importance to effective surveillance over movement between Ireland and Great Britain.
It is possible for this surveillance to be carried out without special statutory powers, as it was before the Act came into force, because in general travellers are ready to co-operate voluntarily with the police. But the existence of statutory powers greatly strengthens the hand of examining officers. The vital task of surveillance can be carried out more effectively if the police have an express power to question people and detain them, if, in their judgment, this is necessary.
The essence of the Act is, as its name implies, prevention. It is an Act—though this is sometimes forgotten, I think, in the discussion about it—not for the punishment of terrorism, which is dealt with under the ordinary law, but for the prevention of terrorism. The surveillance at the ports, quite apart from the number of terrorists or potential terrorists actually detected, has a considerable deterrent value, and is an essential part of our precautions. The conditions under which this work is carried out are often burdensome, and the police officers who undertake it—who have achieved some notable successes, both before and after the Act came into force—are entitled, I believe, to such support as we can give them. To abolish the powers contained in the supplemental order would be compatible only with a reversion to a lower level of surveillance at the ports, and I do not think that we could yet contemplate such a step.
I therefore believe it to be in the public interest that the Act should remain in force for a further six months. It has proved itself to be a useful addition to the powers of the police, and, therefore, to the protection of the public, and it would be premature in the present rather uncertain situation to give up these additional powers.
I know that some hon. Members who may not be opposed to the powers would nevertheless have preferred the Act to 1091 lapse and a fresh Bill to be introduced, which we could have examined and debated clause by clause in a more leisurely and considered way than was possible last November. I understand the force of that argument, but I have not been persuaded that this was necessary on this occasion. Given the fact, of which, as I have told the House, I am overwhelmingly convinced, that we need for the present to retain the Act, I can think of no amendment that I would wish to propose to the House. But I stress that I do not see the Act as anything other than a temporary measure. I am determined that we should not make an easy habit of renewal. I obviously cannot say at this stage whether we shall be able to dispense with the whole of it or at least substantial parts of it in November. I hope we may.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
Is my right hon. Friend at least prepared to say that if there was no renewal of urban terrorism in this country he would expect a substantial proportion of these measures to be replaced by something else in November?
§ Mr. Jenkins
I think it will be better if I proceed with what I had intended to say about that.
I shall certainly ask for no automatic, unconsidered renewal. I am also prepared to tell the House that unless in November I feel able to recommend the dropping of substantial parts of the Act, I shall not ask the House to proceed by order. If, regrettably, we have to continue with the full or main scope of the powers of the Act, I would think it right to introduce fresh legislation and thus to make it possible for the House as a whole to review the full working in some detail and, of course, for individual hon. Members to table amendments.
It might be necessary in the process of renewal by legislation to cover the interim period by an order for less than six months while the House considered the legislation and it went through. But, unless we were dropping substantial parts of the Act, I would not propose to ask for a renewal for another six months in November.
I do not like special powers legislation of this sort. But I am convinced that 1092 the Act has helped to protect us in a difficult position, and that in a fragile situation it continues to be necessary for the immediate future. Therefore, I ask the House to accept the order.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham)
The Opposition support the continuation of these powers for a further six months, because we believe that it would be highly imprudent to abandon them in the present situation. They are a disagreeable necessity. We agree with the Home Secretary that if they are still needed in six months' time there should be new legislation. Legislation necessarily rushed through the House in 24 hours should not remain permanently on the statute book. If such powers are to be preserved after the next six months the whole subject should be thrashed out with care and at more leisure than was possible in the emergency conditions of last November.
Equally, it would have been wrong to have embarked on a major legislative revision at this time. For one thing, we all hope, with varying degrees of conviction, that the situation in Ireland in six months' time will be such that the order can be allowed to lapse. For another, if that hope is vain, it is more sensible to gain another six months' experience of the Act before introducing major innovations or alterations.
That would not, of course, be so if the working of the Act had revealed major deficiencies or had turned out to be a much greater infringement of the liberty of the subject than seemed likely six months ago. That has not happened. The alarmist tone of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), who is not here this evening, in his speech on Second Reading has fortunately turned out to be unjustified. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who made a much more temperate and considered speech than did the hon. Member for Pontypool, has also been proved wrong by experience. He said:I do not believe that this Bill will have the effect that is desired. What is even more dangerous is that it will lead to very dangerous erosion of the civil liberties of the people of this country."—[Official Report, 28th November 1975; Vol. 882, c. 667.]1093 Of course there is an infringement of the liberty of the subject—that is conceded—but it has been acceptably contained.
The first part of the Act has undoubtedly been successful in one respect. It has kept the IRA off the streets, and the British people have not had to see either in person or on television the IRA strutting through the streets of London or other cities, and we all welcome that. I think, too, that it has cut down the activities of the political wings of both the Provisional and the Official IRA, and that also is to the good.
On the other hand, as the Home Secretary said, very few people have been charged under this section of the Act, but that merely illustrates the difficulties of this sort of legislation. It is difficult to prove membership of any body, and that is one reason why the previous Conservative Government did not bring in legislation of this kind. Another reason was that touched upon by the Minister of State in his speech on Second Reading when he said about the banning of the IRA:The House knows that both this Government and the previous Government have been reluctant to take that step. The Government took the step only because in the end it became clear that, although the police would find it more difficult with the IRA underground to make proper contacts and to see what was going on, the open panoply of IRA activities was such an affront to our people that it had to be banned for that purpose … the police now accept … that this is the time to proscribe the IRA."—[Official Report, 28th November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 746.]I think we are all agreed that that was and is the general view.
It is the second part of the Act, relating to exclusion orders, that is the most disturbing. It is particularly disturbing because, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and many other hon. Members pointed out, it gives powers to exclude United Kingdom citizens from one part of the United Kingdom and to send them to another part of it. The smallness of the numbers involved is only partially reassuring. The Home Secretary said that 22 people had been sent to Northern Ireland and 17 to the Republic. What is surprising is that none of the 22 sent to Ulster has been imprisoned or interned. In our debates last November it was assumed by the hon. Member for Belfast, West, my hon. 1094 Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and other hon. Members, that such men would certainly be interned, yet none has been.
While nobody wants internment unless it is absolutely necessary, it is surely a matter for comment that men who were deemed by the Home Secretary to be terrorists of one sort or another should be deemed by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland suitable people to go freely about their business in Ulster. What is the explanation? Has the Home Secretary been unexpectedly severe and the Northern Ireland Secretary unexpectedly lenient? That seems improbable. But, on the face of it, either terrorists have been allowed to go free in Northern Ireland or the Act has been used to dump a few undesirable men—undesirable, but not terrorists—back into Northern Ireland. I realise that the Home Secretary cannot go into great detail on this matter, but I should be grateful if he would give us a further explanation.
The "Draconian powers," as the Home Secretary described them on Second Reading, have resulted in very few prosecutions, but, as he said, prevention is the main objective of the Act, and, in view of the improvement in the security situation since last November, the lack of prosecutions is not necessarily a criticism. As I said earlier, the Act has removed the public affront by keeping those black berets, dark glasses and set faces off the streets.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I cannot let that remark pass unchallenged. Surely it must be said that on at least one occasion when members of the IRA chose to march wearing dark glasses and berets they were successfully prosecuted under previous legislation—the Public Order Act—for the wearing of uniforms?
§ Mr. Gilmour
That is so, but there has been doubt whether that uniform would be caught by the Public Order Act, and there is no harm in being absolutely certain.
§ Mr. Gilmour
Yes, but there is not always total unanimity in decisions of the courts. As I remember, the case was 1095 dealt with in a lower court, so the point I make is not affected.
In view of the present situation in Northern Ireland we agree with the Government that this is no time to dismantle the Act, and we support its continuance on the understanding the Home Secretary eventually gave us. At the beginning of his speech, when he said he would not make a habit of this, I thought that he would not be so forthright, but at the end he was forthright. We accept continuance on the understanding that in six months' time the order will not be reintroduced and that either it will be allowed to elapse or new legislation will be placed before us.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
I think that it is a fair translation. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) was following the point fairly closely. I have in mind that there are, broadly speaking, and four main parts to the Act. If the situation were such that I had to ask the House to renew four or three parts of the Act I should certainly do so by legislation. I do not exclude the possibility that we might drop two parts and continue with two parts or possibly one part. I cannot specify further than that. In those circumstances, if we dropped substantial parts, it might be reasonable to proceed by order.
§ Mr. Gilmour
It might depend on which parts were retained. On that understanding we believe that the order should be made because we firmly believe that the dangers of the Act are much less than the dangers it is designed to meet.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
I find a measure such as this almost impossible to justify except in the immediate circumstances which existed after the Birmingham outrages. At that time it was important for Parliament to be seen to do something even if what it did was not particularly relevant. It is important to make a distinction between Parliament and the Government. Immediately after the outrages the Government, 1096 under existing legislation, took effective action, but it was important that Parliament should be seen to do something immediately afterwards. In those circumstances this emergency legislation could just about be excused. But six months later no such excuse exists.
When the Act was introduced no one disputed that it infringed basic human rights. No one argued that it could be justified, save as extreme emergency legislation. Everyone recognised the fear—as with other emergency legislation which has been passed by the House—that it would become permament legislation, like the Official Secrets Act, the Incitement to Disaffection Act and other Acts which remained on the statute book long after they were intended to disappear and ended up by being used in ways which Parliament never intended. There was that real fear when these measures were introduced.
We must ask ourselves why we should continue this measure for another six months. Does public opinion demand that it should be kept? I hardly think so. If public opinion is making any demands, it is much more concerned that we should find a solution to the real problem of Northern Ireland—if necessary by getting our troops out—rather than continuing with this measure. Public opinion about this measure is not likely to change very much merely by the passage of another six months. It is much more likely to change because of other events.
Are we keeping the Act because it has worked? The police thought that making the IRA an illegal organisation was not very relevant at the time. In their view it was not important. I have not found any evidence that the police think that proscribing the IRA has helped. My right hon. Friend has mentioned the advantages of being able to stop people carrying out displays in IRA uniform. It has already been pointed out that that could almost certainly have been done without emergency legislation.
Next, there is the question of people making collections for the IRA. I have a suspicion that we have had far more of these illegal collections taking place. It was very often the mode of collection before we introduced the emergency legislation. People did not say that they were collecting for the IRA for weapons; 1097 they dressed it up in some other way. The dressing up continues. It has not been stopped by proscribing the IRA. It would be far better if it were clearly seen what people were collecting for, as the vast majority would not give anything anyway.
The suggestion that we should get some benefit by proscribing the IRA has not been proved to have worked. Should we keep this legislation because the detaining of people by the police has been useful? I know that it is impossible to go into individual cases, but I have not been convinced that by detaining people for long periods we have ended up getting a great deal of extra information. My right hon. Friend has been asked whether he has been required to exercise the right to allow detainees to be kept for longer periods. In the nature of things, that must be a choice for my right hon. Friend but he cannot possibly know what information might be acquired by keeping them a little longer. I do not believe that that section of the Act has proved to be particularly effective. I would like to be convinced, but I am not.
I turn to the question of powers to deport. They may have been used with effect to serve the orders to remove the 51 people, but like all repressive measures the Act has probably ensured less sympathy for the police and less sympathy for the Government amongst the Irish community in this country. The injustice of just one mistake may well have done far more harm than the good of deporting just one person. So far, one or two cases have been documented in respect of which doubt exists as to how fair the procedure has been in practice, but I have heard considerable rumours from the Irish community, based on no real fact but put forward on the basis that the Act exists and that unfairness has occurred.
That is the major danger of this sort of legislation. It allows and even encourages that sort of rumour. It is very difficult to stop the rumours. My right hon. Friend has taken action in respect of one case, but the rumours continue. Should we keep the Act because the Home Secretary is phasing it out? I know that we have had the assurance that it will not again be automatically renewed. I would be inclined to vote 1098 for its renewal now if I could see some way in which we were deliberately phasing it out over the next six months, if I could see that from a certain date my right hon. Friend would not be signing any deportation orders, provided the present political climate continued, and that from a slightly later date the powers of the police to arrest people and detain them for such a lengthy period would not be used.
It might be more important if, during the next six months, we could consider the one major area of criticism mounted against the Act, namely, the question of some independent appeals procedure, particularly against the police. That was pressed very hard when the legislation was passed by the House. It was suggested by many hon. Members that before the renewal came up there should be a completely separate piece of legislation to deal with independent appeals against the police. I have in mind appeals based on the misuse of the powers given to the police. It would help me a great deal if I felt that before we were asked to deal with this measure again the independent appeals procedure would be on the statute book. Unless there are assurances of that kind I feel that we are in danger of having a fairly repressive measure left on the statute book for year after year.
We have had the assurance that if necessary the Government will introduce a new piece of legislation. I have great doubts about a new piece of legislation. Parliament would have the opportunity to go through it and scrutinise it, but it might well be basically the same repressive measure, with a few saving liberal clauses in it.
Now is the time to get rid of this Act. We have a truce, and it appears to be working. I believe that the only effective way to defeat terrorists is to isolate them—to ensure that the Irish community in this country will not harbour them and that it abhors the violence that they have brought with them. That is the key point.
We should not be doing anything to give hostages to terrorists. Any legislation which appears to discriminate against a community begins to have that effect. That is the sad picture from Northern Ireland—that small pieces of repressive legislation have made one section of the 1099 community begin to feel that it has grounds for grievance. I hope that we can have positive assurances from my right hon. Friend. If not, I hope that the House will consider defeating this measure.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)
My colleagues and I support the extension of this legislation with exactly the same sort of reservations that we held when it was first introduced. Perhaps I should say that those reservations are more strongly held today than they were previously.
We are happy to be able to note that the legislation has been successful in that it has contained terrorism in Great Britain. Contrary to the opinions held by the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett), I believe that it has reassured the Irish community in Great Britain. It is certain that life for the Irish community would have been very difficult if steps had not been taken to control IRA terrorism in Great Britain.
The Home Secretary has asked us to renew or extend this legislation because of the present uncertain situation. I find that a somewhat unhappy way of defining the situation. We are in considerable difficulty, because we have not had an opportunity to debate the consequences of the so-called cease-fire of the IRA in its Northern Ireland campaign. I believe that the situation is very serious. There is no evidence that the IRA campaign is being called off or that there is any rundown in IRA potential. Indeed, I believe that the strength of the IRA is rapidly approaching the height of 1973, and I have considerable forebodings as to what the late summer or early autumn may hold for us. It would have been valuable if we had been able to debate the situation of the IRA in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. However, no one can dispute that it is prudent for the time being to extend this legislation.
I am concerned, however, that the orders under Section 8, which have been made in respect of the control of the movement of people, appear in many ways to be unsatisfactory. Certainly in Northern Ireland the land frontier is still very much an open frontier and movement across it is all too easy. People arriving at our ports and airports are 1100 going through a form of checking which I find, unfortunately, is all too often slipshod.
Perhaps one of the difficulties is the rather haphazard way of identifying people who are moving. There is a very good case for laying down some standards of identification. Whether it be by passport or by travel permit is a matter of opinion, but there need to be more clearly defined documents of entry. I believe that police forces on both sides of the Irish Sea would agree that for the security forces the observation of movement is very important in the field of intelligence.
The reservations we had when the legislation was first introduced are still held very strongly. We are somewhat reassured in that the Home Secretary said in his introductory remarks that if the legislation is to be substantially renewed in the autumn he will do it by fresh legislation. If that should prove to be the case, I appeal to him to look at the anomalies that exist and, in particular, at the very unhappy situation where IRA terrorists suspected of being a menace in Great Britain can be excluded to Northern Ireland where, apparently, they are free to be a threat to the citizens of Northern Ireland.
The Home Secretary said that 22 people have been excluded from Great Britain to Northern Ireland—another part of the United Kingdom. I cannot understand how anyone can feel that a man who has shown that he is prepared to commit IRA terrorism in Great Britain is safe to be sent to Northern Ireland. I should have thought that he would be an even greater risk in Northern Ireland. We were all very dismayed that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland apparently took no action under the powers he has. It is not surprising that there has been a growing loss of confidence amongst the citizens of Northern Ireland in this respect. The whole question of exclusion orders in so far as they relate to Northern Ireland, and the capacity to make exclusion orders from Northern Ireland, needs to be looked at urgently.
I do not think that there is anything more that I can usefully say, except to ask the Home Secretary to convey our congratulations to the police here in Great Britain on the manner in which they have 1101 used these very strong powers. They have shown considerable skill and consideration as they have set about their tasks, and all of us in the House must feel reassured by the extent of knowledge that the police have of the situation.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
Today and last November when we discussed the Act which we are now renewing references have been made to the feelings of the Irish community in their country about the introduction of these measures. I have in my constituency what I suppose is one of the larger Irish communities in the country, and I wish to put it on record that over the last six months I have received not one complaint from any member of that community in respect of these provisions. That is an interesting point of fact. It does not mean that we should then say that there is no reason why these provisions should not be continued.
The way in which the House passed the legislation last November and the way in which it appears to be proceeding to renew it today are two different illustrations of things which are wrong with the House of Commons. Last November we had—I will not call it panic legislation, but an emergency situation which we dealt with less than perfectly.
Today, as was predictable and as was predicted then, we have a very small House which is apparently prepared to renew these fundamentally important provisions but is giving the matter only a fraction of the attention which the House should devote to a matter of this importance.
The way things look at the moment, it is perfectly possible that this debate, which is scheduled to last for four and a half hours, will pack up before then because not enough Members want to say anything on one side or the other to keep it going until the scheduled hour of 11.30 p.m.
This indicates not so much that the House is not interested in the essential matters of principle which are involved here but that what we ought to be discussing tonight are not the fundamental matters of principle. I think that there is a vast majority in the House in favour of continuing the legislation 1102 in substance. Tonight we ought to be discussing the details.
The details should be discussed in Standing Committee where there could be the to-ing and fro-ing of Standing Committee procedure. I still regret that the decision was taken to renew the legislation by order instead of by Bill. Had it been renewed by Bill, we could have done with probably three hours, on present showing, of Second Reading debate, with the rest in Standing Committee.
I know that this is a bad year for parliamentary time, but if the Bill had been prepared for from last November—and I raised the point in the Committee stage debate last November—the time could have been found in Standing Committee.
This is too fundamental a matter for Parliament to be able to say that it has not got time. In any case, the argument that there is a shortage of parliamentary time is complete boloney. We are short of parliamentary time only because we do not organise ourselves properly.
§ Mr. Cunningham
No, it is not about time that the Government did something. It is about time that the House did something and stopped looking to the Government to take action—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. I doubt very much if that comes within the ambit of the order under discussion. I ask the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) not to encourage other hon. Members to lengthen their speeches so that the debate might continue till 11.30 p.m. when it is hoped that it will finish before that time.
§ Mr. Cunningham
I am not doing that. The matter to which I was referring is one of considerable historical importance, namely, the control of the Executive by the Legislature. I think that subject merits at least half a sentence, even if it is irrelevant to the debate. However, I welcome the Home Secretary's assurance that come November of this year, if the provisions are to be renewed substantially, it will be done by order.
1103 Our duty tonight, as I see it, is to review what has happened, in so far as it is possible for us to know how things have been decided, and to consider what needs to be said so that next time when we deal with this kind of emergency situation the House may have the benefit of our views based on the experience of the past six months.
One thing that should be said—I do not think any hon. Member can be unaware of this, but there may be members of the public who are not aware of it—is that the relative peace in this country is not to be attributed to this Act. It is to be attributed to things which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Act. The Act may have helped, but it certainly has not brought about the cease-fire, whether in this country or elsewhere.
When the subject was discussed last November, I asked that certain more practical measures for controlling the activities of the IRA should be considered. I had in mind particularly the regulations applying to the control of explosives. I hope that in the last six months this subject has been considered, because my impression is that it is still too easy for anyone to get hold of explosives, whether in this country or in Northern Ireland, and, while accepting that many common substances can be used as explosives, it is important that we have assurances that whatever can be done to limit access to gelignite and other substances has been done, or that there are good reasons for its not being done.
Given the Government's desire to renew the provisions by order rather than by Bill, there nevertheless are three provisions in the Act which could have been dropped. The first is Section 1(1)(a), which makes it an offence merely to belong to the IRA. The Secretary of State has said that no one has been prosecuted for that offence, of merely belonging. I think we all recognise the difficulty of proving belonging to, as against support for, the IRA. It is pretty well impossible to prove that offence, unless one is prepared to adopt the procedures which Dublin has adopted of allowing a police officer to state it as his belief that a person belongs to the IRA, and then for the court to accept that as sufficient proof. I hope that never comes 1104 about in this country. If it is not to come about, it seems to me completely superfluous to make it an offence merely to belong to the IRA. Therefore, I would have preferred Section 1(1)(a) to be dropped.
There has been reference to Section 2 of the Act which makes it an offence to wear uniform or dress or to carry anything else indicating membership of a proscribed organisation. If there is something wrong with the Public Order Act, as the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mr. Gilmour) suggested, if it is possible that berets and dark glasses might not be held by a court to constitute a uniform, obviously we should improve the Public Order Act. We should not let something stay on the statute book if it is subject to that imperfection.
We should not substitute—or rather supplement—such an unsatisfactory provision with another one making the penalty for the second one four times as great as the penalty for the first one. It is a messy way of going about legislation, to say the least.
The words in Section 2 of the Act are extreme. Let us recognise that. They are the sort of words which were adopted in the emergency legislation of the illegal régime in Rhodesia, which was roundly condemned by all liberal-minded people in this country. I hope they can be dropped.
The third provision which should have been dropped is that contained in the schedule to the Act, permitting a police officer in certain circumstances to issue his own search warrant. The Secretary of State gave a number of useful figures in his opening speech. Those figures related to the main provisions of the Act. I think it will be useful if, in his winding-up speech, he is able to state the number of times on which a police officer has issued his own search warrant under the powers conferred in paragraph 5(4) of the schedule. That provision, although not unprecedented in our law, is one which ought to be adopted only with the greatest reluctance. That, too, could have been dropped without the necessity of passing new legislation.
Had those three provisions or any others been dropped under the powers conferred by Section 12 of the Act, and 1105 had they been found to be necessary in the course of the summer, when Parliament was not sitting, then under Section 12(2)(c) they could have been restored to full effect. There was, therefore, a safety net, had the dropping of the provisions been found to be regrettable.
There are some aspects of the administration of the system under the Act about which we ought to have assurances. The system of appeals against exclusion orders, the reference of such quasi-appeals to the advisers, ought to be made as judicial as possible in the atmosphere and procedures, even if they are not judicial in the proper sense of the word. It seems to me that there are three ways in which this quasi-judicial quality could be introduced. The first would be in the personality of the advisers. I think that, on the whole, without casting any aspersions upon the two people who have acted as advisers, it is better if the advisers are or have been High Court judges, whose minds—I was going to say are bent—lean towards the judicial safeguards.
Secondly, wherever possible, without damaging security—and that is quite a qualification—reasons for decisions taken should not only be given to the victim but should be given publicly, and if it is decided that grounds of security prohibit the giving of reasons it should be stated that security prohibits the giving of reasons. This is a sort of administrative safeguard to prevent the gradual erosion of liberties.
Thirdly, the atmosphere in which these quasi-appeals are held ought so far as possible to be judicial. That is to say, the formality of the room in which the interviews take place ought to come as close to the formality of a court of law as circumstances permit.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I am sorry to refer back to the second of the hon. Gentleman's points. Why is he so anxious not only that the reasons should be given to the persons affected but should also be made public, in the light of the intervention of his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara)? This poses the danger that the person upon whom an order is served is subject to public criticism for actions which are not the subject of conviction in a court of law. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept 1106 that it might not be wise to make it public?
§ Mr. Cunningham
Yes, I accept that. I was speaking in a rather confused way. If the reasons are given to the victim or defendant, he will be free—he must be free—to make those reasons public if he wishes, but I certainly agree that they ought not to be made public if he does not wish them to be. Thus, the position would be the same, in effect, as in any other judicial case, except for the nature of the hearing and the non-announcement of reasons in a public place, as is done in court.
The second administrative way in which the system could be better operated, it seems to me, lies in the application of the Judges' Rules to those who are held for the extra five days. The Judges' Rules ought to have been put in statutory form long ago, and if the House was doing its job properly that would have been done, but at least we know that they are being reviewed at long last by the Home Office, so one presumes that they will be put into statutory form at some time.
As I understand it, it would be possible now under the Judges' Rules to use the loophole which permits the police to deny access to a solicitor if they fear that that access would impede their investigations. I do not consider that the police ought to be allowed to use that provision in respect of the extra five days. Let them use it in respect of the 48 hours, sparingly — it would be handy to know how often it is used in respect of the first 48 hours, whether in connection with IRA suspects or anyone else—but I think it not reasonable that they should be able to argue that access to a lawyer during the extra five days would impede their investigations.
I do not know whether the police have ever denied access to a lawyer for a period extending beyond the 48 hours, but I think that guidance should go from the Home Office to chiefs of police to say that the Home Secretary considers that they ought not to invoke that provision in respect of the five days.
One of the reasons why we ought to be ultra careful about renewing these provisions and about the detail of them is that, the British being what they are, 1107 we tend to deal with an emergency, get it past us, put the legislation on the shelf, and then, when the next emergency comes along, pull it down, dust it off, and reintroduce it. We all remember what was said last November, making perfectly clear that the legislation we are now renewing was subject to that disadvantage. It was in many respects legislation which had been used before, either in this country in 1939 or in Northern Ireland for what were thought to be roughly comparable conditions.
That is just about bearable when we have an emergency situation to face, but after six months it is not good enough. It is important, therefore, whether these provisions are to be renewed in November or not, that they be reviewed in substance to see whether they were necessary and whether they were apt for their purpose, so that when, in five or 10 years, we face—God forbid—a militant Scottish Nationalist movement or something of that kind, we do not then introduce exactly the same sort of provisions simply because we have nothing else prepared and handy.
The whole of the United Kingdom needs an emergency code ready in skeleton to be introduced if it is ever necessary, and with such safeguards as in the calmness of a non-emergency situation we can put into that emergency code. I hope, therefore, not only that Whitehall will conduct its review of the working of these provisions but that the House of Commons will decide that it is a matter of sufficient importance for a Select Committee to be set up to look back upon—not in order to have access to the security reasons for doing this or that—but to consider whether these provisions are the proper way to deal with an emergency situation of the kind which we faced last November.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
Like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I prefer short speeches and short debates, but, as the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) said, we ought to reorganise ourselves and arrange our business better. For a start, we might have less legislation, but, apart from that, one cannot help thinking on this occasion that a debate touching the 1108 protection of life, limb and property in Great Britain and also the abridgement of the liberty of the subject ought to be taken very seriously by all hon. Members.
It was an insult to our people that terrorist bodies engaged in warfare against our troops should parade in our streets and rattle collection boxes in our pubs and parks. The Home Secretary said as much. It was, moreover, unfair to the Republic of Ireland, where the IRA has been proscribed—the Republic of Ireland to which we look for co-operation against a common enemy. I have said this for years. It took a Labour Home Secretary to remove the affront.
I imagine that the Home Secretary will be grateful for the constructive points made by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury. I was interested, for example, in what he said about reinforcing the Public Order Act. That in itself is something of an arbitrary measure, however, and I am not altogether sure that there would be particular advantage in that direction.
There is one bond that unites us—a dislike of the necessity for these powers. When they are used mistakes can be made, just as mistakes were made over internment and detention in Northern Ireland. Innocent people may be harassed. For that reason I hope that the Home Secretary will pay careful regard to what the hon. Gentleman has just said. I imagine that all of us are glad that there has been no automatic renewal of the powers in this Act.
I shall be obliged if the Home Secretary will elucidate one passage in his speech. I understood him to say that the statistics which he gave the House were larger than might otherwise have been the case because after, for example, the murder of Police Constable Tibble the police were using powers to detain people under the Prevention of Terrorism Act instead of using their normal police powers. To the layman it would seem better that normal police powers should be used whenever possible, and I wonder what advice the Home Office gives to chief officers of police and what instructions chief officers of police are giving in this matter.
When the Act was rushed through all its stages at the end of November some 1109 hon. Members told us that we were acting emotionally or even under the effect of panic. Now, however, we are examining the powers in what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury called a non-emergency situation. I am not quite sure that he is right about that, but at least we are doing it at a time when we have had some respite from the sort of outrages which oppressed our minds at that time, although they still afflict Northern Ireland. Some people, no doubt, will be inclined to say—I think that this was the burden of the remarks of the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett)—"It is all Quiet now, is it not? Why make such a fuss and bother, and why extend these powers?" With that in mind, I think that the House will be grateful to the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig), and also for what the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said about the effect of the Acts upon the Irish community.
There was a time of ugly talk—I heard it myself—between the two communities hitherto living side by side peacefully and honestly and honourably in this land, but now, I believe, there is on the whole a better atmosphere between British and Irish in this island, and that is all to the good.
If there be anybody in the House who is tempted to say "It is all quiet now in this country, therefore, why should we need these powers in Great Britain?" let him heed the indication given by the Provisional IRA that, if it goes over again to full-scale operations against the United Kingdom and our people, it will not confine its activities to Ireland but will concentrate its attentions on Great Britain. It is difficult for those of us with no access to information to understand the effect of this measure and to know to what extent it has led to the present respite which we are now enjoying.
It is reasonable to suppose from what the Home Secretary said that the measure has proved useful. We wish to echo the right hon. Gentleman's gratitude for the efforts of the police and of other services which are undermanned and certainly not overpaid but which defend the Queen's peace which is ours, not without sacrifice.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
I wish to take part in this debate 1110 because one of my constituents and another person in Bristol whom I have known for many years have been served with exclusion orders. However, before coming to particular cases I wish to refer to Part I of the Act and to proscribed organisations.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had a good deal to say about proscribed organisations and about the Irish Republican Army. He stressed that nobody was issued with an exclusion order on political grounds. The two cases in Bristol with which I am familiar involve members of Clann na h'Eireann. I wrote to my right hon. Friend suggesting that he should make clear whether this organisation is or is not a proscribed organisation. There is a growing feeling in Bristol that the police will be picking up members of. Because of the extension of police powers it is believed that human frailty will lead the police to use those powers to the full and periodically to detain people. I am concerned at the fact that many politically naïve youngsters will find themselves involved in that organisation and might well find themselves being picked up and harassed by the police. However, the only response I received from the Secretary of State, through one of his colleagues, was to refer me to the schedule to the Act setting out the fact that only the IRA is a proscribed organisation.
When we discussed the legislation on an earlier occasion many of us were concerned about the effects of certain parts of it. Many of us believed—and I still believe—that the police force has more than enough power to deal with these situations. In Bristol people were taken into custody on similar kinds of charges prior to this legislation and use has been made of agents provocateurs acting on behalf of the police. People have been kept in custody following such action, and therefore I believe that the police already have adequate powers to deal with these situations.
I am, however, more concerned with Sections 3 and 4 of the Act. Under Section 4 there is a right to make representations to the Secretary of State. Surely, an individual who has a right to make representations should be given some indication of the evidence against him. Certainly in the two cases with which I am 1111 familiar in the Bristol area the individuals concerned were given no such indication.
It was earlier suggested that it would be wrong to make public any aspect of the evidence. I accept that as a fair point, but the argument applies equally to a solicitor acting for an individual. I was telephoned by a solicitor involved in the case whose plea was "I want to prepare a defence statement, but how can I do so when I am given no indication whatever of the evidence against my client?" My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was asked earlier in the debate whether he could ensure that individuals were given their legal right to be represented by a solicitor. What is the point in being represented by a solicitor if he cannot prepare a defence statement?
§ Mr. Whitehead
Does not my hon. Friend agree that, in a sense, the position is even worse for an accused man since, when he appears before his advisers, those advisers have not seen the police evidence? Therefore, their interrogation of the accused cannot lead to any indication whether or not he is innocent.
§ Mr. Thomas
I thank my hon. Friend for that interesting observation. I was just about to deal with that stage in this farcical situation. I was informed that when the assessor, Lord Alport, went to see one of the individuals in Bristol, he asked "What do you want to talk about?" I also understand that Lord Alport had to admit that he had no idea whatever what the evidence against the man was. It looks as though they spent the time talking about Bristol Rovers or something akin to it. They spoke about how long the man had lived in Bristol and dealt with matters of that kind.
I emphasise that the individual is given no idea of the evidence against him, nor is his solicitor assisted in any way whatsoever. If even the assessors have no idea of the evidence, who has such evidence? Presumably only the police possess it. No doubt, the young woman who typed out the evidence knows about it, and there must be people in the Home Secretary's Department who have that knowledge, but the individual concerned, his solicitor and his Member of Parliament have no idea what that evidence is. They are frustrated in their activities and there is nothing one can do.
1112 We all protest when this kind of procedure, which is contrary to all the tenets of natural justice, is practised in other countries. It is completely unacceptable, and I will not be voting for this extension. Given the opportunity, I will vote against it.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The House will have listened with interest and concern to the account by the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) of his personal experiences in dealing with those affected by exclusion orders. It is one of the great features of this House that when reviewing legislation hon. Members can often do so on the basis of personal experience of its impact on their constituents. I hope that the Government will take particularly into account the kind of difficulties which the hon. Member described from experience and of which others of us have read.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) expressed the concern of many of us on the Second Reading of the Bill when he said:The House is engaged on a difficult operation, that is, legislating in haste and under the immediate pressure of indignation on matters which touch the fundamental liberties of the subject; for both haste and anger are ill counsellors, especially when one is legislating for the rights of the subject."—[Official Report, 28th November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 667.]It was, of course, in some haste—only eight days after the Birmingham bombings—that the House passed the Bill.
One thought which cannot be far from our minds is that such a Bill would not have been passed in different circumstances. That is bound to make us slow to accept the wholesale renewal of its provisions. If we had the Bill before us tonight, through our normal legislative procedures rather than by an order, would we pass it as it stands? In that light, we are bound to feel concerned about the order procedure being used to ensure its full renewal.
The only haste imposed on us tonight is imposed not by urgent response to the situation but by having only the order procedure to work in and the limited debate which that allows. The restrictions on our legislative judgment are not those of immediate and urgent need, but those of the take-it-or-leave it, all-or-nothing, nature of deciding something by 1113 order. We welcome the Home Secretary's assurances that he would not seek to use such a procedure if he wanted to reintroduce substantial parts of the Bill after a further six months, but that welcome cannot blunt our feelings of concern that we should be going through this unsatisfactory procedure after six months.
Let us be clear about the case for serious reconsideration. Even in the face of the Provisional IRA cease-fire, it cannot be maintained that the "clear and present danger" has been removed. That is not the case. It may briefly be a less clear danger, but it would be a foolish man who supposed that the danger had been removed and who rested the case for fundamental review of this legislation on that premise. Violence could erupt at any time. Anyone who considers the Northern Ireland situation can see many circumstances in which that could happen.
No, the real reason for reconsidering the legislation is much firmer. It is that we must ask ourselves certain questions—two in particular. Does the experience of six months show that the powers given are all necessary and all effective in the detection and prevention of terrorism? Have the reservations expressed when we passed the Act about its effect on civil liberties proved justified? We have had six months' experience, and we should ask those questions in that light.
It is that, the opportunity for reconsideration after time, which makes it important that we give serious attention to these matters, rather than any supposition that the danger is no longer with us. It will take far more than my speech to answer those questions, but I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to use what has been said tonight as an assessment from a number of points of view of the answers to those questions—whether the powers have proved all to be necessary or effective and whether the reservations expressed have proved justified.
I will confine myself to the main areas in which concern has been shown—proscription, exclusion and detention. The fourth aspect of the legislation, the surveillance of movement, is one for which I accepted the need from the first, about which in some respects I share the reservations expressed by the right hon. 1114 Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) and one which I would see no reason for us to abandon at this juncture.
Let us consider, first, proscription. This element of the Act more than any other was seen even at the time as more of moral and psychological significance than of serious purposes in ending or preventing terrorism. The Home Secretary said at the time:I have never claimed, and do not claim now that, proscription of the IRA will of itself reduce terrorist outrages. But the public should no longer have to endure the affront of public demonstrations in support of that body."—(Official Report, 28th November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 636.]I supported that contention at the time—the need to remove that affront to the public—but, particularly after a period of Provisional IRA cease-fire, it seems to apply with at least equal force to some other bodies engaged in violent terrorist activities, to certain Protestant armed groups such as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) tried to introduce into the legislation in the first place—like the Ulster Freedom Fighters—and possibly to the Irish Republican Socialist Party. Other groups are involved in terrorism on the Northern Ireland side of the water.
As we have often reminded ourselves, the main provisions of the Bill are concerned with the prevention of terrorism in Great Britain and not with the regulation of the situation in Northern Ireland. However, this part of the Bill is not really concerned with the regulation of terrorism in any but a minor respect. It is concerned with an affront and an outrage which is represented by public support for and belonging to organisations engaged in violence. Outrage cannot be confined to one side of the water. Some of the arguments that hon. Members have adduced for retaining the proscription on the IRA have related to the continuance of acts of violence in Northern Ireland and not to continued acts of violence in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary has said several times in those words and in others that the Act must be seen to operate in this respect even-handedly. He said that if necessary — and he thought it might well be necessary—orders would be used to add to the list of proscribed organisations. The effect of the continuance of the IRA's 1115 proscription in the absence of any addition to that does not make the Act appear even-handed in its attitude to terrorism.
The second area of concern is that of exclusion. Here we encounter the most serious difficulties of the Act. Exclusion has several faces. In one sense it can be seen as a substitute for deportation to the Irish Republic of people who, if our relations with the Irish Republic were on a different basis, would be the subject of the normal type of citizenship and under alien law would be deported in certain conditions. It can be seen as a substitute for detention for United Kingdom citizens not resident in Northern Ireland but supposed to be concerned with the same activities. For those who are actually resident in Northern Ireland it appears to be unwanted, at least in the opinion of the Secretary of State, who has been conspicuous by his lack of use of the powers conferred by the Act. The House is bound to respect his judgment and his feelings that the other powers at his disposal are the ones we should be using and not those which were conferred by the Act.
However, the following specific reservations arise. In the first place it has seemed, in certain cases, that exclusion has been used inappropriately, and in one case there seem to be indications that the departments on either side of the water were falling over each other and that the activities for the containment or prevention of terrorism in Northern Ireland and those in the rest of the United Kingdom were getting at cross-purposes. I refer to the case of Tony Devine, who was sent back to Northern Ireland after having been released from detention, when he had been encouraged to proceed to a job outside Northern Ireland. Circumstances of this kind give us cause for concern that in seeking to pursue the interests of the containment of terrorism in the rest of the United Kingdom we defeat the purposes of our activities in Northern Ireland.
There has been an apparent failure to distinguish between various organisations and those involved in them, between the Provisionals and the Officials, between the Officials and Clann na h'Eireann. I take the point made by the Home Secretary that membership of any of these organisations is in no sense an excusal or a source 1116 of exemption from the operations of the Act.
One makes inquiries about the way in which the distinctions have been recognised in order to establish whether the police have been using the powers to deal with those who were the cause of difficulties and the potential source of terrorism.
There is the difficulty that people do not seem to have been informed in all cases of their right to make representation against exclusion. The Home Secretary has been made aware of a number of instances in which this seems to have happened, and certainly after the event, rightly or wrongly, people have claimed that they were misled by the police or that they were not given to understand that it would be in their interests to exercise their right to make representation.
Hon. Members have already referred to the inability of the defendant or his solicitor to have any inkling of the case they are seeking to refute. That is bound to cause concern. There is the position of the adviser, again something about which many hon. Members had reservations when we first dealt with the legislation. What is his rôle, particularly if he does not, as a matter of policy, read the police evidence? Fears on this score seem well justified. The Home Secretary made it clear then, as he has now, that the advisers are not carrying out a judicial procedure. However, he must give an indication, perhaps even to the advisers themselves, of what it is they are supposed to be doing. Are they simply trying to establish by a friendly conversation that the man with whom they are dealing does not seem to be the sort of chap who would be involved in terrorism? That is, honestly, what the procedure used so far seems to amount to—an attempt to ask an individual person to establish by mere conversation what sort of assessment he makes of a man. It is hard to see what that is meant to amount to and what kind of procedure we have legislated into effect.
Many of us realised that in doing something about which we had very strong reservations we were not creating anything like a court of appeal, but we did expect, on the Home Secretary's assurances, that we would get a reasonably sound procedure by which the case against an individual could be re-examined by someone 1117 competent to do so and equipped to do so. That does not seem to have happened.
The Home Secretary may recall that on Second Reading my right hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) drew his attention to the working of the aliens tribunal under Lord Birkett during the war. There is no doubt that there is a body of precedent to go on which, although it would not satisfy us as to being totally satisfactory judicial procedure, would at least provide a better precedent for the way in which this legislation ought to be working than what we have seen so far.
Another problem that has arisen has been the lack of help and guidance for the families of those affected by exclusion—who are not men convicted of any crime but against whom certain suspicions are held, perhaps on good grounds. This concern was raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South in Committee. I believe that his fears have been shown to be justified in certain cases, particularly in relation to those whose orders have subsequently been revoked but who have been held for considerable periods while the procedures were gone through and have not had satisfactory provision made for their families, whom they have not been allowed to see.
On the whole issue of exclusion, we are bound to ask the Home Secretary what his long-term intentions are when the Act expires, as it is bound eventually to do. The Home Secretary put his finger on the crucial point when he said that if we allowed the provisions to lapse not only could we no longer exclude people but we would allow to return all those whom we have already excluded. We shall have to face this problem some time. We need to be clearer about how the Home Secretary sees this working in the future. Sooner or later—and many of us hope it is sooner—we shall be able to dispense with this legislation. However, the fact remains that a number of people will thereby have restored to them the right to return to the United Kingdom or that part of it from which they were excluded. One wonders whether we are contemplating the return of a group of men so dangerous that we shall need to seek greater powers to exclude them, or whether the reality is more prosaic than that.
1118 I come to the issue of detention. This is the most used of the provisions of the Act, but used mainly to carry out a wide exercise of interrogation from which extraordinarily few charges emerged. The Home Secretary has helpfully broken down the figures so as to distinguish shorter 48-hour detention, against which fewer objections can be raised, and the full seven-day detention. These powers were, clearly, used by the police to establish information—perhaps it was information they needed—but it was on a large scale and with the outcome of only a limited number of charges.
Again, confusion seems to be arising about who ought to be questioned and picked up under this legislation. Some concern is clearly felt about the longer periods for which people had been kept — longer than is required to do the actual questioning. What is particularly disturbing is the number of instances of those who were questioned within the first 48 hours and left in detention for a further period of several days in which no more questioning took place.
All these problems are made worse by the lack of any independent element in the complaints procedure against the police, and when we pressed during the Committee stage of the Bill for the inclusion of a provision for independent complaints procedures, the Home Secretary said that he needed a few more months in which to get the legislation into shape. That legislation is still not before us. We know full well that he is using his best endeavours to carry out the necessary consultations, but that does not remove the difficulty or the reservations, and it makes some of us feel that we were right to press for the inclusion of a specific provision in this legislation, and that we are right to regret its continued absence from the statute book. It is also holding up the implementation of other Gardiner recommendations in relation to police complaints machinery in Northern Ireland.
In conclusion, we are bound to ask by how much these powers have added to the effectiveness of the forces of law and order to an extent which justifies their wholesale continuance, and whether the containment of violence which has occurred on this side of the water has been the result of the exercise of these 1119 powers or rather of changes in the situation in Northern Ireland, and equally—and I think more important—effective use by the police of powers which were already available to them, or the equivalent of which were available to them.
It would be a very sad day indeed for this House if we did not reflect on the experience of six months, and ask ourselves very seriously whether we need to retain the powers here before us. The word "premature" has been used by several hon. Members but, even on the most optimistic estimate, the risk that Northern Ireland violence could continue to spill over into the rest of the United Kingdom will be with us for many years to come. Even on the most successful outcome of the discussions now taking place, whatever the policy pursued—whether it is the policy I have advocated or that advocated by other hon. Members—we ought all to concede that someone in Northern Ireland will be dissatisfied, and someone will continue to want to use violence. That risk will be with us for a long time, even if on a smaller scale than at present. We shall always be able to say that it might be dangerous to remove from the statute book the powers we granted to ourselves so rapidly in November last year. I do not think we can decide it on that basis, and it is for that reason that I am convinced that the House must ask itself: are these powers justified? Are they what we need? The assurance of the Home Secretary that we shall not be presented with these powers in the same form in six months' time, and will be given the full legislative opportunity to deal with them, goes some way to meet my reservations, but I am far from happy at these proceedings.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryan Gould (Southampton, Test)
I start from the position of one who accepts, however reluctantly, that if our society is subjected to a sustained and violent attack we must be able to protect ourselves, even at the cost of some diminution in civil rights. But that argument for emergency measures carries force and can be accepted only in so far as those measures can be seen to be necessary in order to deal with that attack and also seen to be effective in achieving that purpose. Neither of these conditions is met with in this Act. The 1120 grounds on which men are excluded are not disclosed. It is therefore impossible to tell what sort of men are being excluded and for what sort of behaviour. It is therefore equally impossible to reach any judgment on the effect and effectiveness of the Act in relation to its stated purpose.
I know that there is a powerful security argument, but even that argument is abrogated by the secrecy it engenders. It is itself made immune from scrutiny and from critical judgment, and we are therefore forced to rely not on evidence but on assurances provided for us by members of the Government.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will accept that I mean no disrespect when I say that the acceptance of such assurances on that sort of basis cannot make any of us confident that we are acting in the best way to safeguard the freedoms of our constituents. This is a situation with which no self-respecting Member of this House can live for very long. If we can form no judgment of the efficacy of the Act, many of us are, unfortunately, all too able to judge other consequences of the Act in other directions.
Southampton, my own constituency, has been particularly unfortunate in this respect. Many of us have had constituents deprived of their liberty on undisclosed grounds, with a right to make representations which is severely circumscribed by the fact that they are not allowed to know the evidence against them. On any view, that must be regarded as a gross violation of the principles of natural justice. That is a violation which could be justified only by the belief that these men are terrorists. That is an assertion which I do not dispute, because I do not have any evidence on which to dispute it; nor can I confirm it, because, again, there is no evidence.
The effect of these provisions on the men's families is also all too apparent. As I argued in the Committee stage of the debate in November, their effect has been and will be to break up many well-established families in this country, families which have been living here for a decade or more, with children born and educated in this country. Those families are made fatherless and husbandless by these measures in situations which are 1121 much more severe in some respects than if the men had been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment after proper conviction for a normal and regular offence. At least there would then have been the possibility of prison visits for their families. But that possibility is not open to these families. They are completely disrupted by these provisions. Many of my constituents have been to see me with complaints about the procedures followed by the prison authorities and the police against the men so cruelly taken from them.
We are told that all this is justified because these men are terrorists. The families are assumed to be innocent, but because we are told, again without evidence or the possibility of judging this assertion, that the men are terrorists, the families must suffer.
A Member whose constituents are affected in this way is placed in an almost impossible dilemma. Is he to accept the word of the executive, or does he assume that his constituents are innocent until the contrary is proved and therefore offer them all the help and protection of which he is capable? For me there can be no choice; there is no dilemma. Therefore, unless I am shown good evidence to the contrary, I shall take the course of offering my constituents what help I can. I was able to obtain the release of a person served with an exclusion order who came to me for help on the ground that he had been resident in this country for 20 years.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
Did not my hon. Friend find it strange that here was an individual, presumably against whom there was evidence of involvement or likely involvement in terrorism, who was released when, with my hon. Friend's help, it was shown that he had not been in this country for the requisite period?
§ Mr. Gould
I did find it strange although I am glad to say that the argument that the exclusion order could not be made—whatever other grounds there were—because the jurisdiction was lacking, found favour with the Home Office, and therefore the order was revoked. However, my hon. Friend is right.
There remains the uneasy suspicion, in the case of other constituents of mine 1122 who have been excluded that had it not been for the provocation of police action in the Irish community in Southampton, occasioned by the shooting in Southampton just before Christmas, many men might still be living with their families and working in Southampton.
I do not underestimate some of the difficulties which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary faces, but many of them—such as the difficulty about men making representations, difficulties for the advisers in making their judgments, difficulties for the families and friends of the men concerned in deciding what action they should take, and, not least, difficulties for hon. Members in evaluating the Act and its effect—could be avoided if there were more disclosure of the () rounds on which men are to be excluded.
I do not underestimate the security argument, although one must take it on trust, but my right hon. Friend should be urged, and I urge him, to make such disclosure as he finds possible, subject to whatever safeguards he may think necessary so that when disclosure is made the damage to civil liberties is reduced to the minimum and we are able to make a proper judgment of this exceptional measure.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
Several hon. Members on the Government side of the House have rightly raised the problems of constituents who have been caught by the Act. Some have spoken as though we were living in normal times. Unfortunately, we are not. To experience terrible terrorist attacks, as we have done in this country in the past two or three years, cannot by the wildest stretch of the imagination be called normal. Therefore, when we talk about the deprivation of liberty, we must remember that this is not a normal situation, in which normal rules can operate.
We are being asked to continue, by order, the provisions of the Act, and those who have criticised the procedure should bear in mind that if we were to deal with the matter today in the form of a new Bill, providing us with a proper discussion of the details, that legislation would automaticaly become more permanent. By handling the matter under 1123 the device of an order we shall be provided with the opportunity, in six months' time, if it is necessary, to renew the provisions and then to debate the matter in detail. Until then the legislation does not become permanent.
We are now examining these facts in a calm atmosphere—much calmer than existed at the end of last year. I do not believe those who now seek to convince us that the dangerous situation has passed and that we may not have to face exactly the same problems which originally gave rise to the Act. The House has not had an opportunity to debate the security situation in Northern Ireland, particularly the cease-fire and its implications. The great fear is that the ceasefire has been used by the IRA as a cover beneath which to reorganise, re-equip and increase in strength in order to launch yet another attack in Northern Ireland and, as it has said, if the cease-fire finally breaks down, on the citizens of this country. All these things must be borne in mind.
When this measure was first introduced last November I said that such a measure should have been introduced long before. It was introduced not necessarily because of the affront caused to the British people by the IRA marching here and freely collecting money; its introduction was not so much to help the police either, but, in the circumstances following the Birmingham outrage, to protect the Irish population in this country. There was a very difficult balance to strike here, and the Home Secretary had to know the right moment to introduce the measure in order to provide this protection. The situation could have deteriorated and become far uglier.
This evening the right hon. Gentleman spoke about the incident we had suffered here since the Bill was enacted and since the cease-fire came into effect the tragic shooting of PC Tibble. Has the Home Secretary any further information on the question whether these investigations have been completed? What information is now available to the public? Is it known whether PC Tibble's assailant escaped from the country, and, if so, by what means? Is he supposed to be in the Republic? Has he been arrested in the 1124 Republic, or have any arrests been made as a direct result of this incident? If there could be some enlightenment on the matter it would be of great public interest.
Proscription under the Act has been criticised by several hon. Members. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) pointed out that there was a duty on us to take measures which are in accord with measures being taken in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. During a visit to the Republic a few months ago a delegation of which I was a member came under considerable criticism for the lack of action being taken in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain. The effect of proscription by the Act is that certain organisations are now proscribed in the Republic, Northern Ireland and this country—indeed, the whole of the British Isles. In this connection it was absolutely right, even though some hon. Members have pointed out that it cannot be fully effective.
Perhaps the Home Secretary will deal with another aspect of liaison with the Republic and the progress of the Criminal Justice Bill, which we understand was dealt with in another place before Easter but of which we have seen no sign in this House. When will that Bill take another step forward?
There has already been reference to travel restrictions and travel documents. I believe that the most simple type of travel document that could be introduced is the disembarkation card for passengers to fill up when they are on board an aircraft. If such documentation is necessary, that is a simple way of dealing with the matter.
It is now appropriate to pay tribute to the police forces in this country. We often pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and congratulate it on the way it is dealing with the terrible problems over there, but this is the time for us to congratulate our own police forces, especially the police forces in the Metropolis, for the very different and possibly even greater burdens which they have to bear. I understand that in the Metropolis it is normal for a police officer to get only one weekend in eight free from duties. This places a very heavy burden 1125 on the police and their families. We should take this opportunity to congratulate them for their skill and moderation in overseeing the provisions of the Bill which they have to operate.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
It is not my intention to speak for long on this order which, I regret, will have to be passed again this evening. However, I should like to make a few observations about it and its operation. I am one of the few hon. Members who have carefully monitored the working of the Act by monthly Questions since it was passed.
First, the Act has by no means realised the worst fears of the people who were afraid of it when it was originally passed. I say that not because of any particular virtue which happens to exist within the legislation itself, but because of the way in which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has supervised and been scrupulous about the operation of the Act. It could be an instrument for tyranny, but it has not been because of the way that my right hon. Friend has operated it.
Secondly, some of my hon. Friends on the Labour benches think that if we have an adequate system of appeal against the police or their wrongful handling of cases, that in some way will help or strengthen the Act, if it were necessary to reintroduce it in the future. I regret to say that that is not the case. It is true that we could examine whether the police were right to make requests for an extension of time for keeping a person in detention for an extra five days. It is true that we could look at the way they exercise supervision at the points of entry into and exit from this country. However, the real crux and the real power within the Act lies in the executive power of the Home Secretary. Whilst there is this executive power, there can be no control of the exercise of that power by any judicial or quasi-judicial system. If it is left to the Minister's discretion, that is it.
I say to hon. Members who have not always followed events in Northern Ireland, particularly the operation of internment or detention, that an executive power of this nature cannot be controlled, because ultimately there is vested a discretion in the executive which cannot 1126 properly be challenged. In dealing with executive detention of one form or another, we have tried Mr. Brown's appeal under the original Special Powers Act, which was thrown out of the window, the system of commissioners set up by the right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw), and a similar system under my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. All those systems have failed, because the executive felt at some point that it could not release the full information upon which its acts were to be judged.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
My hon. Friend is on a good point, but does he accept that if an effective appeal procedure exists, even though the final decision rests with the executive, the existence of that procedure has an effect, not on the cases that are brought but on the cases that are never brought?
§ Mr. McNamara
I regret that that is just not so. Look at what has happened in Northern Ireland over the past four or five years. It does not work like that, because there comes a time when, no matter to whom the appeal is made—be he a judge or recorder or ex-diplomat or an ex-politician of highest standing—he may not know what the information is, nor judge the quality of the information, on which the security forces acted. One can understand that. The security forces do not reveal their sources. All this is evidenced in the situation in Northern Ireland.
We are left with the eternal dilemma of any liberal democracy. At what point does it say that in the interests of the whole of a society it may be necessary to exclude people from the country or to intern them without trial and without the evidence being produced? That is why I intervened in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he spoke about various offences with which people may be alleged to have been associated.
That my right hon. Friend should say "As an executive action, I have decided that this person shall be excluded, because I do not think that it is safe for this country for him to be here is one thing. It is another thing for it to be possible to link the person with definite incident, as 1127 one can, from the evidence of time and situation. As I have pointed out in previous debates, when releases have been suggested and people have said "These people may have been involved in a particular crime", and we can link the whole thing, we are putting a person on trial in the House and convicting him without his having seen the evidence against him. Therefore, I urge my right hon. Friend, as I have urged my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, that if we do not see the evidence against individuals there must be no smear. There must be just a statement of the fact that they are excluded.
We come to the crunch of the problem: how do we seek to defend the individual in our society? Some hon. Friends see the answer in a police appeals procedure. Some see it in another form of administrative procedure. I do not think that it exists in either of those procedures, important as they might perhaps be. On occasions they might be helpful, although I am not certain about that from what has happened in Northern Ireland.
The main defence is the House, this country and public opinion. It is the fact that my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) and Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) can make representations. That procedure is not always successful but from my experience of watching events in Northern Ireland it is far better to have a member of the executive answerable to this House for what he has done than to have a bastard, quasi-judical system which seeks to give a veneer of respectability and objectivity to executive action and then for the executive who controls the power to seek to wipe his hands of it. That comes out most clearly in the Gardiner Committee's Report.
Some of the points of detail raised by my hon. Friends are correct. My hon. Friends the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) have continuously raised the important matter of being able to question the police on the nature of their conduct of particular happenings.
§ Mr. Whitehead
We have constantly urged on the House that relations 1128 between the police and the minority community must be improved by the existence of a complaints procedure, which I accept can take effect only in cases in which executive power has not been used and the man who has been released complains about his treatment whilst under detention.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am coming to that point. There should be written into our legislation the right of a person to seek a solicitor after he has been detained for two days. That is fundamental to protect both the individual and the police from accusations that can be made about what has happened. Where a person has been taken—as people were taken after the shooting of PC Tibble—it is sometimes impossible to trace where he is being detained at any time. A veil of secrecy descends over the whole operation, perhaps for security reasons or perhaps because they think that a thousand well-armed Provisional IRA members will go storming down the streets to the Cannon Street police station. An atmosphere of secrecy is created. There is a feeling that nobody cares and that the police are not answerable to anyone, least of all to the people and their elected representatives. In the O'Rourke case people were chasing round to find out where the detainees were. That is an indefensible situation.
§ Mr. Mather
Does it not occur to the hon. Gentleman that people outside the House may find his remarks rather curious, because this was a brutal, callous and indiscriminate murder of a police officer? When that sort of action occurs people are bound to suffer inconvenience.
§ Mr. McNamara
I accept that it was brutal, callous and inhuman and that it did no good to the cause of those who carried it out. It did no good to community relationships. In fact, it did no good to anybody. I accept that, but I happen to believe that the standards of our democracy are such, or should be such, that we should be able to say that even under the pressures and the emotions of a Birmingham or the shooting of a police officer we maintain our old standards. The interesting thing about O'Rourke was that no charge was brought. An exclusion order was served against him and he appealed and was released. He is now back at work.
1129 I turn to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North was making about the position of minority communities. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary can take some satisfaction in the working of the Act, in the fact that the numbers that have been stopped, questioned and detained have been so few. However, the House would be misleading itself if it believed that merely by the passing of the Act through this House and another place in the space of 48 hours we effectively stopped terrorism in this country. It would be foolish to take that view. There were other reasons. First, there was the truce. Secondly, there was the revulsion felt in the Irish community in this country at what had happened in Birmingham. Thirdly, there was the understanding by the Provisional IRA that there was a danger that their host Irish community would not accept them and that the host majority might hit back at the Irish minority community.
After a time this sort of legislation can be self-defeating. I regret that the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) is not present. It is one thing for this sort of legislation to be introduced for a short sharp period and then pushed out of the way, but it is another matter when it continues in existence and perhaps continues to be used. It then has the reverse effect of what was originally intended. It is then that the minority community, which is allegedly protected by this legislation by the majority or host community, tends to see its members being attacked and closes ranks to protect its own.
It is my impression that in the building trade and in other areas where there are a lot of immigrant Irish, and possibly first-generation Irish, there is a growing feeling — and it is reported to us by our trade unions—that this legislation is being used against them. Already in the cities there is being created within such communities a closing-in and a self-identification. There is the feeling "He is one of ours and we will protect him". That is the danger of all repressive legislation. That is why come November it will be of the utmost importance, if we cannot have the whole thing dropped and pushed aside, to examine in detail the little bits that we retain. In fact, some of those bits contain the root of the trouble and merit in 1130 themselves the whole legislative procedure of First Reading, Second Reading, Committee and Third Reading.
We listened to the gloomy forebodings of the right hon. Member for Belfast, East as regards late summer. I regret that he is not present. I hope that his right hon. and hon. Friends will convey the message to him. In the hands of the right hon. Member for Belfast, East and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) there is more power to bring happiness and contentment to Northern Ireland than even exists in this House. They should bear their responsibilities in mind.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Hooley (Sheffield, Heeley)
The Home Secretary was very forthcoming in the information he gave the House about the operation of the Act and the number of persons to whom it had been applied. It would be interesting to have one further piece of information, namely, the length of residence in this country of those who have been served with exclusion orders. It would be useful to know whether those deported had, in the main, been here for several years or had only recently come to this country.
I have had no complaints from my constituency about the operation of the Act, or of individual cases. Nevertheless, I regard it as a serious potential danger to civil liberties in this country and I still believe that it was an Act passed in panic and in a manner unworthy of the House. The powers of the police in this country are excessive, and as long as the police continue to obstruct the creation of an impartial system of investigation of any alleged misdemeanours the suspicion will continue that their powers are sometimes abused. The Home Secretary, in what was perhaps a Freudian slip, talked about regularising the activities of the police in certain instances.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
No, I said that deliberately. I intended to say that. I noticed that my hon. Friend says that the powers of the police in this country are excessive. I believe that we should have careful regulation of the powers of the police in this country. I do not know whether my hon. Friend has in mind any country in which the powers of the police are less than they are in this country. 1131 If so, perhaps he will tell us which country that is.
§ Mr. Hooley
I am sure that it would be out of order if I were to indulge in an exegesis of the powers of the police in this country as compared with the powers of the police in other countries. I say that the powers of the police in this country are excessive. We can indulge in an argument about that at other times.
The point on which I want to dwell is the question of the exclusion order. We should remind ourselves of the powers which this carries. It is an executive order. There is no trial, no hearing, no defence. A person subject to an exclusion order has no right to know the evidence on which the order was made, to have any formal or informal hearings, to make representations, or to know why the representations were unsuccessful.
At no time does either a person subject to an exclusion order or his solicitor learn of the nature of the police evidence, nor at any time is he charged. His solicitor is in an impossible position in trying to refute unknown allegations or make representations to the Home Secretary. He is not allowed to represent his client before the adviser appointed by the Home Secretary. Under this legislation we seem to have a situation which is more reminiscent of the situation in some story by Franz Kafka than what we might expect in Britain under normal conditions.
A question arises, which should be answered from the Front Bench, as to why only 13 appeals were made in 51 cases. In view of the consequence of the exclusion order, one would have thought that so many cases would have given rise to rather more appeals against the order.
§ Mr. McNamara
It may help my hon. Friend in pursuing this point if I tell him that I have learned from correspondence that I have had that the reason for the small number of appeals is the paucity of success of appeals against exclusion orders. People feel that it is better to go away to Ireland than to spend five or six weeks in Brixton Prison. This is what happened in O'Rourke's case.
§ Mr. Hooley
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that information. It has also been alleged that the police have discouraged persons from making appeals. 1132 In the nature of the whole business it is impossible to determine whether this is a serious argument.
In the course of the very hurried debate we had throughout the night when this legislation was passed I and a great number of my hon. Friends pressed very hard for an effective system of appeal against these exclusion orders. In fact, I divided the House on this issue, and I believe it was the only issue during the whole night's debate on which a formal Division took place, although I am speaking from memory, and there may have been others.
I believe it is necessary that under this system a person should be given more time in which to appeal. He should have full opportunity to consult his own legal advisers on the question whether he should make an appeal, and the solicitor himself should appear before the advisers to the Home Secretary if necessary to present the case.
I do not altogether agree with the general argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) that a system of appeal, in effect—I shall not use the expression "whitewashes"—merely covers over the exercise of executive power. We are not talking about academic and theoretical systems; we are talking about the operation of an Act by people who are subject to all kinds of feelings and emotions in these matters, and I believe that if some safeguards are built into this kind of legislation it will have an effect on those who have the very difficult and disagreeable duty of making arrests and presenting evidence. They are less likely to wander beyond the bounds of what is reasonable if there is the knowledge that safeguards and appeal procedures are built in. For that and other reasons, I would have liked a much stronger system of appeal within this legislation.
A rather remarkable statement was made by my right hon. Friend that this legislation relates only to prevention and not to punishment. I find rather startling the suggestion that to uproot a man from a country in which he may have worked peaceably and without offence for several years and to transfer him to another part of the United Kingdom, leaving his wife and family without his support, is no form of punishment. It may not be a 1133 punishment in the technical sense, but it is certainly a punishment for all practical purposes. It certainly inflicts very considerable hardship on the wife and children whom he is forced to abandon. As one of my hon. Friends said earlier, the position of the families of men who are served with exclusion orders and are required to leave their homes, their jobs and the place where they have been accustomed to live for many years, requires further investigation.
I welcome the pledge by my right hon. Friend that this legislation will not again be renewed in its present form by this parliamentary process—that if we feel that this kind of legislation is necessary at all there will be a proper process of debate in Second Reading, Committee and the rest, so that the House can build into any legislation which it feels may be necessary a more civilised and sensible system of appeal for those who may be the victims of our legislation.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Whitehead (Derby, North)
The House passed this temporary provisions legislation exactly a week after the Birmingham bomb incident. It was passed in a crowded House in a moment of high drama—which was very good for tension but very bad for legislation. Now, six months later, in a less crowded House, we are renewing that legislation. We are not amending it. We are relying very much on the assurances given to us about what will happen in November of this year.
It is fair to say that had this measure been introduced a week before the Birmingham bombings, the House would not have passed it. It is also true to say that my right hon. Friend would not have wished to introduce it. It is because of that, and because, to some degree, all of us who voted for this Bill on Second and Third Reading on the night of 28th-29th November acted under the pressure of those terrible events in Birmingham, that we have today given my right hon. Friend, once again, very much the benefit of the doubt—on his record, and on the fact that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) said, this Act, which could be a measure for tyranny, has not worked out according to some of the forebodings which were expressed six months ago.
1134 Nevertheless, there are several causes for serious concern not only about the way in which the legislation has operated but about the fact that we do not now have the piece of parallel legislation to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) referred in the earlier debate and to which reference was made tonight by his colleague from Hull, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central.
I wish to make a point of substance about the complaints procedure and one or two general comments about the way in which the Act has operated and what it has done to some sections of the minority community in this country. In its leading article of 9th January this year, reviewing the Act which by then was on the statute book, The Guardian said:If even one Irish person has been wrongly served with an exclusion order then civil liberties have been badly damaged by the new Act. And even if none has been wrongly served, civil liberties have still been eroded. No one can defend the Act from a civil liberties platform.That proposition is unhappily true, and I imagine that my right hon. Friend would probably assent to it, for none of us likes this legislation, and we look for-forward to what he has to say further about the way in which it may be reviewed and replaced by new legislation in November.
Some of the case histories which have been put before us suggest that although Members of Parliament may act for their individual constituents in particularly bad cases, there is serious cause for concern. We all applaud the knowledge that in a situation where such a wide area of executive discretion operates, ultimately, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central said, Members of Parliament are the last channel of appeal. My hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) and Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould), in the McAllister case, I think it was, have shown what a Member of Parliament can do, perhaps acting against the temper of the time in a situation of high tension after the shooting of a policeman or something of that kind, in representing the interests of a constituent who may have been wrongfully detained. Neverthless, that is but the action of an individual Member of Parliament 1135 attempting, without even knowing the nature of the charges levelled against his constituent, to do what he can by representations to the Secretary of State. He has more or less the same powers as a Member of Parliament would have in a situation of total war under Regulation 18B, when a man could be detained but ultimately the responsibility for that detention and its continuance remained with the Home Secretary, the Home Secretary being responsible for it to the House.
These men, of course, are not detained. They are sent abroad, and when they are sent abroad their families are left in circumstances of great distress, sometimes even destitution. To that extent, as hon. Members have said, it is worse than a short-term imprisonment or even of detention within this country.
Moreover, there are anomalies in the procedures. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) has referred to the Devine case—the case of a man having been released from detention by the commissioners in Northern Ireland, coming to this country, and being promptly served with an exclusion order.
My right hon. Friend has been listening with care to the debate, and I hope that he will tell us how much co-ordination there is between the commissioners in Northern Ireland and either the office of the Secretary of State in this country or the advisers. Is there any? What is the rôle of the advisers in considering information which comes before them? Is it always true that they do not have before them at the time of an interview on appeal the information upon which the charge is based? This applies not just to the anomalous cases arising from the release of detainees in Northern Ireland and their coming to this country—of which, I believe, there have been only two—but to all the cases referred to in the debate, and it seems one of the strangest facets of the whole adviser principle.
According to a man recently detained under these procedures, who afterwards supplied some information to the National Council for Civil Liberties about the adviser's procedure for interrogation, this is what Lord Alport said to him when the interrogation began: 1136My name is Alport. I am one of the advisers appointed by the Home Secretary to give him advice as to whether an exclusion order should be maintained or revoked. This is not a court of law. This is not an interrogation by me. My object is to try and add to the background of the grounds for the representations that you have made against the exclusion order, so that I may be able to judge fairly to the best of my ability as to what advice I give to the Secretary of State. I have not seen the police evidence. I have not done so for two reasons. One is that I wanted to meet you and to ask questions in order to get from you certain information which may be helpful to me in making my decision. Secondly, I do not want to be placed in a position where I might ask you questions which might be of an incriminating nature.If that is the preamble and basis on which these interviews are carried out, how is the adviser able to judge what the situation of an accused person is in English law? The normal practice in English law is to regard a person as innocent until evidence to the contrary is brought. However, in these cases the accused person is never confronted with that evidence. We accept that that may be a detestable but necessary part of the proceedings where State security is involved. Why is it that even those interviewing such a person have no information of charges? It seems a strange procedure for an adviser to have to face.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Is it not particularly ironic that Lord Alport, as an individual, might be denied access to that security information because, as a former British diplomatic high commissioner, he would in normal circumstances have had access to MI5 or MI6 material?
§ Mr. Whitehead
I entirely agree with that point. It points even more to the anomaly of the situation.
I turn to the central point involving a case which I wish to draw to my right hon. Friend's attention. I refer to the independent complaints review procedure. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central said that such a procedure would be a specious whitewash and would add a quasi-judicial procedure in a case which involves the responsibility of the Secretary of State. I hope I have not misrepresented by hon. Friend.
§ Mr. McNamara
I was distinguishing between the rôle of the police in the conduct of a case and arrest and 1137 detention and the decision taken by the executive. I am not saying that the rôle of the police should not be the subject of scrutiny, but that appeals against executive decisions are generally ludicrous if the decision is found to be taken at the discretion of the executive. That has nothing to do with the rôle of the police.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I follow my hon. Friend's argument. It is the rôle of the police and how that rôle is regarded by the minority community to which we should address ourselves. That is what we feel will be influenced by the introduction of an independent complaints procedure.
It must be remembered that we had to use the medium of an amendment to the legislation on 28th November because that was the only way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central and I could introduce that degree of bargaining—if that is the right word—into our public discussion, in a highly charged atmosphere, and in that way bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
We are now dealing with "temporary provisions—and we must remember that the last temporary provisions on Northern Ireland lasted 10 years. We do not want to see these provisions amended, but we are suggesting that parallel legislation should be introduced implementing a pledge which has already been given to the House by my right hon. Friend. I refer to the introduction of a review procedure in respect of complaints against the police—particularly necessary in this situation because we now have a section of the community within the United Kingdom which is beginning to define itself as a body set apart by the police.
There are one or two cases which have been brought under the legislation and which give cause for concern. For example, there is the McAllister case—a case in which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test intervened to some purpose. There was also the case of the Irish teenager, Danny Wilson, who was arrested under these provisions not so long ago. It was alleged that while he was in the police station he was confronted in the middle of the night by plain-clothes policemen, who abused him 1138 and threatened him. He was then allowed to sleep for an hour, after which different policemen came in and were very nice and offered him cigarettes. The procedure was repeated. It is what is known as the "Mutt and Jeff" technique of interrogation.
If that kind of thing is happening and a man is thereafter released because the detention order cannot be proved against him, he should have some recourse to an independent appeals procedure if he feels that he has been maltreated in custody. We perfectly accept that this will not help those who have been detained and against whom the Secretary of State finds the case proven and, therefore, orders an exclusion order to be made. But it is absolutely crucial in terms of the minority community and how they see the operation of the law in this country with the independent review procedure.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am sure that my hon. Friend did not intend the logic of what he has just said, that such a procedure would be useless for a person against whom an exclusion order has been enforced. It is equally right that the sort of methods that he has described should not be used against those people. It is the same thing that we are attacking.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I agree entirely, but a person against whom an exclusion order was enforced would have to wait until he came back within this jurisdiction to bring his appeal if he wished to do so. In the present situation, as my hon. Friend knows, under Section 49 of the Police Act, one's complaint cannot be investigated while the matter is still sub judice.
My right hon. Friend gave certain undertakings in the small hours of 29th November last during the Committee stage of the Bill. We had asked him rather closely about when he proposed to introduce an appeals complaints procedure. In answer to me, he said:I cannot give my hon. Friend any guarantee that this legislation will come into operation during the lifetime of this Bill. I shall need a few more months to get the legislation into shape. I shall then be anxious to proceed with it, but it must go through this House in the proper way. My hon. Friend knows that there is great pressure on Government legislative time. But I shall not object if, after the few months which I need to get it ready, he and other hon. Members press me about when legislation will be forth- 1139 coming."—[Official Report, 28th November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 893.]We are pressing my right hon. Friend tonight. We have had those few months; we have had more than those few months. We have had rather a longer time than he informally told me last November he would need.
When I asked my right hon. Friend in a Written Question on Friday of last week when we could expect to see the appeals complaints procedure, he said that the consultations were still proceeding. I have again understood from him that those consultations were now completed, that we were waiting only for the Legislative Committee of the Cabinet to give approval for parliamentary time for this measure. My support for the continuation of these temporary provisions tonight for a further six months is very conditional on our being told in this debate by my right hon. Friend precisely when that appeals complaints procedure will be brought in.
I am saying this not merely because I want the procedure introduced as a general principle but because I honestly believe, against the background of the case histories which are now before us after six months of the operation of the Act, that it is necessary for the well-being of relations between the police and the minority community that this legislation should be on the statute book—not as an amendment to this Act but as a quite separate Act, and there for good—so that, if our civil liberties have been diminished in one particular, they shall have been increased and embellished in another That is absolutely crucial.
§ Mr. Mather
Has the hon. Gentleman held any consultation with the Police Federation about this complaints procedure? I understand that it is very unhappy about it and it will be very difficult to bring it into effect if that is the situation. It feels that it is continually under pressure and that this is yet another pressure being exerted upon it.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I do not think that that is the case. My consultations with the Police Federation were some years 1140 ago when I introduced this proposal as a Private Member's Bill. I understand that my right hon. Friend completed his discussions with the Police Federation certainly before 30th July last year, which is when he announced his intention to introduce these proceedings. It is because that is now the best part of 10 months ago that we are asking him: where is the Bill and why have we not got it? Why can we not, for once, see an increase in civil liberties brought about by this House? We shall, of course, be told tonight by hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) that this measure is necessary and that it must stay on the statute book.
If there is no resumption of terrorism in this country, we shall be told that the Act is succeeding, though there may be other reasons for that. If there is a resumption of terrorism and if it is worse than it was at the time of the Birmingham bomb blasts, we may have the consolation—although it may be a terrible and dreadful consolation to have to say it—that the Act does not work and that if it is to remain on the statute book a more Draconian measure will have to be found.
We have to act on the hypothesis that terrorism will not be resumed in this country. If it is not, it is right to ask the Secretary of State to say when, within the parliamentary timetable, he can see a place for the introduction of a complaints procedure, not after November next but in this Session of Parliament. I should also like to ask my right hon. Friend what precise part of the temporary provisions which are before the House tonight he would intend to retain or amend by new legislation if there has been no increase in terrorism in this country in the intervening six months, as we all hope and pray.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
I, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), hope that there are no acts of terrorism in Britain over the next few months as a consequence of what may be a worsening political situation in Northern Ireland. However, should there be acts of terrorism as a consequence of an increasing conflict in Northern Ireland, the Act will not affect that issue one way or the other.
1141 The Home Secretary could claim that there is little evidence for that view, but there is little evidence to support any claim that the Act has had any material effect on terrorism in Britain. As many hon. Members forecast when the Act was passed, the effect has been that certain people, even if only a few, have lost their liberty, possibly unjustly. That has been fairly well established.
The report which has been published by the National Council for Civil Liberties, which I doubt many Members have read but which I am sure the Home Secretary has read from start to finish, shows that aspects of the working of the Act are open to serious question. The cases of McAllister, Danny Ryan and O'Rourke illustrate that beyond any reasonable doubt.
I do not wish to spend the few brief minutes I have discussing how the Act has worked. I am more concerned about the situation which appertained before the Act was passed, the situation now and the situation in the future. As all hon. Members seem to agree—although some did not say so in November—the Act has been an erosion of civil liberties. [HON. MEMBERS: "We did say so."] I said that some hon. Members did not say so. We did not hear a great deal from Conservative Members about the way in which civil liberties should be protected, and this measure was reluctantly accepted. There seemed to be a message coming over in this direction that Conservative Members were only too pleased to have the opportunity, yet again, of strengthening the repressive measures that exist here with regard to Northern Ireland.
I said in November that the present situation existed in Northern Ireland because in England we have legislated on that situation in the past in a repressive manner. In regard to Northern Ireland we have acted as the colonial Power looking after a part of our empire. That is the history of Ireland. We have partitioned Ireland. Since then we have seen the majority use their position of power in order to deprive the minority of the place to which they are entitled in terms of civil liberties, housing, employment and everything else that goes therewith. That is the background. That was the back- 1142 ground when we discussed the Act. Some of us took the view that it was wrong then. It seems that its renewal now is also wrong.
Lord Justice Scarman, for example, has rightly drawn attention to the fact that a Bill of Rights is required not only in respect of Northern Ireland, where it is long overdue, but in respect of England, too. In terms of our rights as individuals, over time a considerable erosion has taken place. While we claim continually to be a nation of free speech, and so on, there is much to be desired in legislation to protect the individual in the normal course of his way of living in British society.
Nearly a year ago we had a debate about the decline in respect for the law, yet we still have not introduced any laws that protect people against unfair exploitation in capitalist society. We are in the process of dealing with the Employment Protection Bill—a very valuable Bill. But I am beginning, as I am sure are many of my hon. Friends, to receive an increasing quantity of mail attacking that Bill. An employer wrote to me the other day saying that he was a chief executive of a large concern and that he hoped that I would support action to amend that Bill. Naturally, I wrote to ask him whether he had consulted his employees on the subject before writing to me—[Interruption.] I digress a little. However, we are still waiting for legislation of certain types to protect the individual within our society.
In the next few months I believe that in Britain there could be a tremendous increase in conflict arising from our continued membership of the Common Market, if that is to be. [Interruption.] This matter is highly relevant. Increases in unemployment could present us with a number of situations of confrontation. Unlike times past, trade unionists and others are no longer prepared to accept being thrown on the scrap-heap without taking militant action to protect themselves and their families. When they take that action there may be some in the Home Secretary's Department who consider aspects of this particular Act particularly useful in regard to preventing some of the demonstrations which may occur in such a situation.
§ Mr. Thorne
It can be adequately illustrated that some of the people dealt with under this Act were not finally excluded from Britain because they were terrorists or could be deemed to be likely to be terrorists, but because, in the words of some of the people involved in those exclusion orders, they were considered to be "undesirable". The word "undesirable" has an interesting connotation. There are certain militant trade union leaders in Britain who are thought to be "undesirable".
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
Anybody who is excluded under these orders is excluded by a personal order made by myself. As I have assured the House, there is no question of doing this unless I believe they have been or are likely to be involved in terrorism. Will the hon. Member therefore please withdraw his ludicrous statement?
§ Mr. Thorne
I cannot do that because I have already made reference to one such case in which you had signed an exclusion order which in my view was wrong. I refer specifically to the case of Danny Ryan. You signed an exclusion order—
§ Mr. Thorne
The Home Secretary signed an exclusion order in the case of Danny Ryan on the basis to which he has just referred—that Danny Ryan was somebody who would be likely to be involved in acts of terrorism. That is a matter of the Home Secretary's judgment.
§ Mr. Thorne
Rightly or wrongly, I happen to believe that Danny Ryan is not the sort of individual who would be involved or would be likely to be involved in acts of terrorism, yet the Home Secretary judges to the contrary. If he can do that in the case of Danny Ryan, he might do it in the case of Joan Maynard, and it seems to me that on that basis it is a matter for my concern.
In this House we are all concerned to protect civil rights, and I take the 1144 view that this Act should never have been put on the statute book. It is a further erosion of civil liberties. It gives the police powers which are quite unnecessary in the circumstances, since the actions could have been taken to the police to prevent terrorism in just the way that this Act allows them to do. I take the view that this Act should not be renewed, and I urge hon. Members not to give it a renewal when a Division takes place later this evening.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
Many of my hon. Friends have drawn the attention of the House this evening to the circumstances in which this legislation was originally passed.
One can quite well remember that it was in the wake of the Birmingham explosions. Just prior to that there had been the Guildford tragedy. Later there was the killing of a policeman in Southampton. One can very well understand the deep sense of tragedy, emotion and frustration which affected the people in these islands, not particularly in Britain but in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic. There was a deep sense of tragedy. One tried to relate this in the first case to the personal feelings of the members of the families involved, and then to their political representatives in this House.
At that time many of my hon. Friends in this House spoke to me privately, and I am not divulging a confidence. Moreover, these private discussions were not restricted to the Government side of the House but took place with many hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side. They said that they recognised that this was an erosion of civil liberties in Great Britain but they did not dare to oppose it because no one knew whether a bomb was to be exploded in Glasgow, Oldham—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.