HC Deb 28 January 1976 vol 904 cc555-80

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Beith

I was about to draw attention to the presence in the Judges' Rules of the words providing that no hindrance is reasonably likely to be caused to the processes of investigation, or the administration of justice by his doing so. I grant that it might be possible to improve on that wording in a specific context. The exercise is not quite the same, but that qualification is there.

Mr. Jenkins

I do not wish to impute any difference in the dislike of terrorism to different hon. Members.

Mr. Mikardo

My right hon. Friend did.

Mr. Jenkins

With respect, I did not. It is no use my hon. Friend muttering. I have to bear a greater responsibility for the consequences of these acts than he does. I do not wish to be drawn any further into this controversy. I accept everybody's motives. We want to strike as reasonable a balance as we can between preventing acts of terrorism and preserving civil liberties.

I have been asked about the practical issues with which I have to deal. I have just outlined an extremely practical issue of the kind with which I have to deal.

I am not sure that the interpretation of the Judges' Rules by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury is right—that in all circumstances people have to be notified immediately.

Mr. George Cunningham


Mr. Jenkins

He suggested that they did. However, I am sure that there would be a substantial body of opinion in the House to the effect that the Judges' Rules should be modified so far as they applied to terrorist activities.

I am confronted with a number of conflicting arguments. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) does not think much of the Judges' Rules. The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed wishes to write them into the law. The strongest point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury who asked whether it could be right to go on after the 48 hours without ensuring as a matter of adminstrative practice that people were allowed to communicate before introducing the five-day period.

Mr. George Cunningham

Seven days.

Mr. Jenkins

Before moving into the five-day period there is the 48-hour period, which makes up the seven days. It might be possible to look into that matter.

For the reasons I have given—first, that the attention of chief officers has been drawn to the fact that the rules apply here as much as elsewhere; secondly, that it would not be right to put the rules in statutory form, even if they were appropriate to be put in a statutory form here or anywhere else; and, thirdly, that there are certain practical problems—I cannot advise the House to accept any of the amendments.

Mr. George Cunningham

My right hon. Friend has not addressed himself to the point which I thought the most compelling. How can it be right in Scotland and not have these terrible consequences there if it is not right and has terrible consequences in England? No one starting from scratch could explain bringing forward one situation for Scotland and another for England.

Secondly, will my right hon. Friend undertake to communicate to the House somehow whether my understanding of the unqualified effect of Administrative Direction 7(a) is correct, and, if so, to say what he proposes to do about it? We cannot tolerate a situation in which the rules are categorical and yet are being constantly breached.

Mr. Jenkins

My initial impression in relation to the Judges' Rules is that there may be some contradiction, and there is certainly a division of opinion as expressed in this debate. Therefore, I think that we should examine the situation and see what follows.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate will deal with the legal position in Scotland. I wish to point out to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, who spoke of dreadful consequences, that Scotland has not suffered any bombings.

The Lord Advocate

Let me deal with the part of Amendment No. 36 that is intended to apply to Scotland.

I can best approach the matter by pointing out that the amendment is defective in two respects in its application to Scotland. The first defect is that it refers only to the rights of an arrested person under Section 19 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975. It should also refer to rights conferred by Section 305 relating to provisions similar to those in Section 19 in the case of a person arrested on a summary charge.

The second defect goes to the heart of the matter and could not be so readily cured. This part of the amendment commences with the words: For the removal of doubt … There is no doubt to be removed. A person who is arrested under the provisions of the Bill could undoubtedly rely on Section 19 or Section 305 of the 1975 Act. The only doubt is as to the precise ambit of the rights conferred in various situations covered by Clause 9. That is the doubt to which my reply to the letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) was directed. As I pointed out in that letter, even that doubt is largely theoretical. In practice there is no doubt.

Perhaps the best evidence on that point can be adduced from the Second Report

of the Thomson Committee on Criminal Procedure in Scotland, which was published towards the end of last year in Command 6218. Page 24 of the Report, at the beginning of the chapter dealing with the rights of persons in police custody, refers to the Scottish practice as follows: It is the practice of the police to contact a solicitor if an arrestee so desires. In those circumstances my hon. Friend may be willing to accept my assurance that this part of his amendment, in so far as it is not defective, is unnecessary.

In support of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I must point out that the position in Scotland is simply the standard procedure for arrested persons. The situation which my right hon. Friend adumbrated for England is standard procedure for a person arrested in England. The procedure which I have just outlined for Scotland gives the arrestee under this Bill no higher right than any other arrestee already enjoys.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Is any action taken to notify the next-of-kin of a person apprehended by the police?

The Lord Advocate

That is a wider question and the answer depends on various circumstances. If my hon. Friend will write to me setting out the details, I shall be glad to reply to him.

Question put. That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 35, Noes 109.

Division No. 45.] AYES [10.09 p.m.
Beith, A. J. Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Rooker, J. W.
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Bidwell, Sydney Lamond, James Skinner, Dennis
Canavan, Dennis Latham, Arthur (Paddington) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Litterick, Tom Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Corbett, Robin Madden, Max Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Cryer, Bob Mikardo, Ian Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Newens, Stanley Wigley, Dafydd
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W) Noble, Mike Wise, Mrs Audrey
Flannery, Martin Pardoe, John
Freud, Clement Parry, Robert TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Penhaligon, David Mr. Stan Thorne and
Hooson, Emlyn Rodgers, George (Chorley) Mr. Ron Thomas.
Alison, Michael Bates, Alf Bray, Dr Jeremy
Archer, Peter Biggs-Davison, John Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)
Armstrong, Ernest Bishop, E. S. Buchan, Norman
Ashton, Joe Blenkinsop, Arthur Buchanan, Richard
Bain, Mrs Margaret Bradford, Rev Robert Carson, John
Cartwright, John Johnson, James (Hull West) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Judd, Frank Ross, William (Londonderry)
Crawshaw, Richard Kilfedder, James Rowlands, Ted
Crouch, David Lawrence, Ivan Shepherd, Colin
Deakins, Eric Le Marchant, Spencer Sims, Roger
Dempsey, James Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Skeet, T. H. H.
Doig, Peter Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Small, William
Dormand, J. D. McCartney, Hugh Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James McCusker, H. Spriggs, Leslie
Dunn, James A. McElhone, Frank Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Eadie, Alex McGuire, Michael (Ince) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Mackenzie, Gregor Stradling Thomas, J.
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Mackintosh, John P. Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Mahon, Simon Tinn, James
Evans, John (Newton) Marks, Kenneth Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Walker, Ter[...]y (Kingswood)
Fernyhough, Rt Hn E. Millan, Bruce Ward, Michael
Fookes, Miss Janet Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Watt, Hamish
Golding, John Molyneaux, James Welsh, Andrew
Gourlay, Harry Monro, Hector White, Frank R. (Bury)
Graham, Ted Moyle, Roland Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Grist, Ian Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Whitlock, William
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Oakes, Gordon Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Harper, Joseph Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Winterton, Nicholas
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Park, George Woodall, Alec
Henderson, Douglas Peart, Rt Hon Fred Woof, Robert
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hunter, Adam Rathbone, Tim
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
James, David Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S) Mr. Laurie Pavitt and
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Reid, George Mr. David Stoddart.
John, Brynmor Rifkind, Malcolm
Question accordingly negatived.
Clause 10


Amendment made: No. 38, in page 7, line 12 after '8', insert
'or (information about acts of terrorism)'.—[Dr. Summerskill.]
Mr. Biggs-Davison

I beg to move Amendment No. 40, in page 7, line 17, at end insert: '(2) For the purpose of facilitating the examination of persons arriving in Great Britain from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland or arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain or the Republic of Ireland in accordance with subsection (1)(a) above, and for facilitating the control of entry of persons into Great Britain or Northern Ireland no person shall be admitted to Great Britain or Northern Ireland without production of a valid passport or such other document of identification as the Secretary of State shall provide for citizens of the United Kingdom'. In it we propose nothing which would seriously inconvenience the law-abiding. Still less would it threaten the freedom of the individual, which so greatly depends on the defeat of terrorism. Indeed, it would contribute towards that. In Committee we were told that police opinion was adverse to what we suggest. I am not the only hon. Member who had heard otherwise from police and military officers closer to the struggle than anyone in this House.

I much regret the absence in hospital of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Petersfield (Mr. Mates). He has seen service with the Army in Ulster, he has personal and practical knowledge of security measures and he has advocated a particular design of identity card which he considers to be reasonably forgery proof. I have it in my possession. We are not tied to any particular form. That suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend looks a little like a credit card. On it are embossed the name and status of the holder, together with a reference number. That reference number might be the same as the person's national insurance number. The card would include a photograph and fingerprints. Fingerprints are not liked. I do not like the idea, but it is a small price to pay for even one innocent life.

In Committee my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mr. Gilmour) said: The fingerprint does not produce any undesirable Police State implications."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A. 16th December 1975; c. 118.] The reason for that is that the only edition of the fingerprint need be that placed on the card, and the only person in proper possession of it would be the person whom it identifies.

I do not know what the Home Secretary will say, but he may again tell us that our scheme would be expensive and non-productive. The right hon. Gentleman said in Committee: the amount of expense which would be involved in the universal issue of identity cards would be significant, but it is a degree of expense which I should be prepared to countenance—and, I believe, the Government would, if it would lead to the extirpation of terrorism."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 16th December 1975; c. 131.] As the Home Secretary recognised in Committee, the amendment encompasses not the universal issue of identity cards but the issue of documents for travellers. One can argue for identity cards for everyone, and I have argued that case, but the amendment is strictly concerned with checks upon movement. As for expense, it would be for consideration whether a small fee would be levied for the issue of a document.

The Home Secretary maintained in Committee that police checks should appear to be haphazard, selective and unpredictable, but perhaps he attached too much importance to the wording, of the amendment, which is as follows: no person shall be admitted to Great Britain or Northern Ireland without production of a valid passport or such other document of identification as the Secretary of State shall provide for citizens of the United Kingdom". We are not insisting in that wording that officials should be obliged to inspect the travel document of every person passing through the check, so perhaps the amendment could be better worded.

Immigration officers are already making checks by inspecting, for example, driving licences. In Northern Ireland a driving licence bears the holder's photograph. Sometimes less satisfactory documents than driving licences are produced before immigration officers.

The Home Secretary laid before Parliament in November a Statutory Instrument under the previous Act—The Prevention of Terrorism (Supplemental Temporary Provisions) Order 1974, which came into operation on 30th November. Article 5 of that order is as follows: It shall be the duty of any person examined under Article 4"— that is, persons examined when arriving in or leaving Great Britain— to furnish to the person carrying out the examination all such information in his possession as that person may require for the purpose of his functions under that Article. Article 2 is as follows: A person on his examination under Article 4 by an examining officer shall, if so required by the examining officer … produce either a valid passport with photograph or some other document satisfactorily establishing his identity and nationality or citizenship; I do not think that the Home Secretary can be so far away from our amendment, or at least its purpose.

We have heard few objections from Northern Ireland to the sort of system we are advocating. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) pointed this out in Committee. Formerly, there were objections to proposals to differentiate between Ulster people and other United Kingdom citizens. This amendment does not do that. Persons entering the United Kingdom by sea, air or land would have to show on authorised demand this or other identity documents.

This brings me to the position of Irish citizens, which raises important questions between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Irish Republic. The effect of the British Nationality Act 1948, the Ireland Act 1949 and the Immigration Act 1971 is to exempt from immigration control citizens of countries within the Common Travel Area embracing the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Irish Republic. That exemption has already been qualified in the Prevention of Terrorism legislation. The Secretary of State has taken the power to exclude Irish citizens and to examine travellers between the Irish Republic and Great Britain. The carrying out of what we ask would require discussion with Dublin, but I cannot believe that an Irish Government so determined to suppress terrorism would show themselves unreasonable or unconstructive.

We cannot afford to neglect any instrument for the apprehension of terrorists and the protection of human life and property, and although the Home Secretary may say "No" today, he may say "Yes" a little later. I beg him not to close his mind but to consider what could be done in another place.

Mr. Powell

It has been recently shown by the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition that it is a perilous enterprise In this House for anyone not a Scot to quote Burns, yet I am emboldened to attempt the same enterprise and to say, For a'that, for a'that, It's coming yet, for a'that. and although tonight perhaps the Home Secretary—I hope not—will repeat the objections he raised in Committee to this proposal, it is a proposal which sooner or later, and better sooner than later, will be found to be indispensable.

The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) pointed out how narrow, though still important, is the difference between the law as it stands under the regulations made under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the law as this amendment would leave it if it were accepted. There is at present a power to require the production of documents of identification for the purpose of this legislation, but the manner in which that power is exercised is at present unsatisfactory, and the unsatisfactory nature of this exercise is something which calls in question the seriousness of the implementation of the Act and, indeed, has wider implications by calling in question the seriousness of the Government in maintaining the status of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

Many hon. Members—those on this Bench and some hon. Members opposite, although those on the Treasury Bench commonly travel by different and less harassing methods—are familiar with what actually happens when travellers enter and leave Great Britain from or for Northern Ireland. I am not just saying that the procedure is haphazard in the sense that the special branch police who are in charge do not know what they are doing, but it is indeed a remarkable procedure. My method is to raise my hat, and that is sufficient to secure my admission or exit, as the case may be. I believe that that is perfectly lawful, for I have satisfied those responsible—it would be difficult not to—of my identity.

10.30 p.m.

But behind and in front of me there stretches a queue of people—women with children, business men, and so on—fumbling in their handbags and brief cases—no, the business men will not have their brief cases with them at this stage; they have to wait another 30 minutes or so to get them back—in their wallets for a bit of paper by which they can perfunctorily—and it is necessarily perfunctory—satisfy the examining officer of their identity.

Others carry their passports, and show them as they would if entering Heathrow on return from the Continent. Others show driving licences, which, if they are issued in Great Britain, contain no form of identification other than their signature.

It is a totally haphazard procedure, and I simply cannot believe that it conduces to the efficient performance of the tasks laid upon the examining officers, or to the fulfilment of the law as it has been made by the right hon. Gentleman.

Those of us interested in this matter have studied many times what the right hon. Gentleman said in Committee. In Committee he said that the police have an almost universal view … in believing that the introduction of a compulsory system by which they would not be permitted to admit anyone without such documentation, and would therefore have a responsibility for doing a universal check, so far from helping them would be a considerable disadvantage."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 16th December, 1975; col. 132.] Try as I may, I must say for myself that I cannot understand the argument. Is it alleged that, if it were a requirement that those entering or leaving were to carry passports, or another form of specified identification, the examination of those entering or leaving would need to be more exhaustive or more time-consuming, or that there would be less opportunity for the police to concentrate—as of course they should—upon doubtful cases, without wasting time where they were instantaneously satisfied? After all, there is no substantial difference here from the control upon entry to the United Kingdom from elsewhere outside the Common Travel Area.

We all know that the immigration officers, the Home Office staff at the point of entry, are highly skilled and concentrate their time and attention upon the necessary cases, waving through, upon the production of a passport, which takes only a few seconds, those whom they have no reason to spend more time in examining. I cannot see but that the same reasoning applies as between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in present circumstances.

Indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that it is the haphazard nature of the operation, the fact that there is no obligation to carry a specific document of identity, which enables the police to perform their tasks successfully, then it would appear to follow that we should have more chance of preventing international criminals and other undesirables from entering the United Kingdom if we were to abolish the requirement of carrying a passport to come into the United Kingdom from outside the Common Travel Area.

I have been very careful, and most considerate, in the examples and cases I have given, in making no reference whatsoever to a subject which must be a painful one for the Home Secretary's mind to dwell upon, and to which, therefore, I have deliberately made no reference, feeling that the reference to entry from outside the Common Travel Area is fully sufficient for my purposes.

I believe that it is necessary for the Home Secretary to face the requirement of rendering the enforcement of the law under this Act and the regulations made under it much more regular than it is at present and for it to be seen to be regular and a requirement by all those concerned. If he has a case for saying that to do so would involve an undue and unnecessary expenditure of police and other manpower, he must explain far more convincingly than he has yet succeeded in doing how that arises.

My arguments are directed wholly to the ambit of the Bill. However, it would be absurd to deny that there is a connection between the apparent determination of the Government to avoid disturbing the Common Travel Area for the purposes of the Bill and the much larger question of the determination of successive Governments to keep up the fiction that there is some essential difference in the distinction between United King- dom citizens and citizens of the Irish Republic and the distinction between United Kingdom citizens and citizens of the other countries of the European Economic Community. I shall not dwell upon that point, but it is one which goes to the very heart of the political background to the terrorist activities in Northern Ireland which are the underlying reason for the Bill.

Therefore, although the ambit of the debate is narrow, its implications are very large. I join with the hon. Member for Epping Forest in assuring the Home Secretary that the question of control upon travel between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom is one which will not go away, will not lie down, and will not rest in its present unsatisfactory form. It may be brushed aside once again this evening and in the passing of the Bill, but it will return and sooner or later it will have to be dealt with and acknowledged openly for what it is—the control of movement between two independent and mutually foreign States.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) for the way in which he moved this important amendment because it raises questions of considerable importance. It is desirable that even at the end of a fairly long series of debates we should deal with it seriously, but I do not think that that necessarily means dealing with it at length.

There is no difference of principle between the hon. Member for Epping Forest and myself on this matter. However, there is a certain difference between the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and myself because in the concluding part of his remarks he indicated that he rather wanted for its own sake the erection of travel barriers between the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom. That is not my view. I would embrace them in the same way as I would embrace travel controls between the Six Counties and the United Kingdom if I thought that they would make a significant difference to our battle against terrorism. However, the right hon. Gentleman took the matter somewhat wider, as I think he recognised, and raised the point that it was desirable in principle to break the Common Travel Area. That, I think, goes wider than the point made by the hon. Member for Epping Forest. Between the hon. Member and myself there is no difference in principle. We would embrace such measures if we thought that they would help in the battle against terrorism. No one should take up a dogmatic position—I would not accuse the hon. Member of so doing—on this matter.

We have argued this matter at some length. We probably debated it for an hour and a half in Committee, and some of the arguments will be familiar to most hon. Members present now. At the end of the day, I said that, although I was satisfied that the police did not think that such new controls would be helpful, I would consult them again and report to the House at this stage. This I have done, formally and in writing. I have consulted the Commissioner of Police and the relevant committee of the Association of Chief Officers of Police. They remain firmly of the opinion that, subject to one small matter with which I will deal later, no new powers or documents are required, and that this suggestion would, in their view, make no useful contribution to the task of controlling the movement of terrorists across the Irish Sea.

I do not believe that it would be right to impose, against the advice of the police, a requirement for which they see no need. The decision for this must, of course, be one upon which Ministers should advise the House and it must be for the House to decide whether to take that advice. I would certainly not wish to promulgate the doctrine, in which I do not believe, that the police should make law. But it seems to me that it would be foolish for the Government to go against police advice in a matter of this sort, which essentially concerns the best use of manpower to detect terrorists.

I do not know whether I can move any way towards convincing the right hon. Member for Down, South. In Committee, he put, as he often does, a pretty acute point, which he rather repeated tonight, when he asked why, if what I was advocating was right, the existence of passports for travel outside the Common Travel Area did not impede the detection of international crime. I was aware that in endeavouring to deal with that argument in Committee I did not absolutely convince myself that I had dealt with all aspects of it and therefore thought it unlikely that I had succeeded totally in convincing everybody else. Therefore, I tried not only to get the advice of the police as to what they thought should happen but also in the interval to apply myself to exactly this point and to see, if it were invalid, why it was invalid.

I believe that it is so for this reason: we apply immigration control to entry from countries outside the Common Travel Area. We do not apply immigration control within the Common Travel Area. The right hon. Gentleman may think that we should, but we do not do so. Therefore, the supervision of travel within the Common Travel Area, or within the United Kingdom for that matter—within the two separate parts of the United Kingdom—is a matter for the police and the police only, whereas in the case of people coming in from areas outside the Common Travel Area, that is primarily a matter for immigration officers, with the police able, as it were, to move freely and selectively, and, on top of the work of the immigration officers, to do their work of crime control or terrorist control as a supplementary, selective process.

On the other hand, if there were an absolute requirement that people could not enter the United Kingdom without a passport or some other document, without a great deployment or redeployment of manpower that we do not have or cannot spare it would be necessary for the police themselves, who are the only people there concerned, to do this universal check.

That is the difference. That is the reason why the police are not only sceptical but a little more than sceptical about the value of this provision. They not only say that they do not want it: there is a hint that they think that it would be positively deleterious.

They believe that a control which is designed to identify terrorists should concentrate principally on examining and assessing the travellers themselves rather than relying entirely on the documents they carry. Although it may seem paradoxical, they see certain positive advantages in there being a variety of documents, which enable them in certain cases to engage in conversations with travellers as to why they are carrying particular documents. This may lead to some more useful information than going through the routine passport check as is done in other cases. That is the essential difference.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

We all appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's desire to keep separate the police procedures and the procedures carried out by immigration officials. In that case, why is it thought desirable to use at certain airports in the London area immigration cards to be completed by travellers from Northern Ireland?

Mr. Jenkins

A variety of methods is used, but they are not subject to the normal checks through immigration officials. There is a difference in the relationship of the police and immigration officials to movement, whether between Northern Ireland and Great Britain or between the Republic and Great Britain.

I do not want to be dogmatic about this. I do not think there is any chance of my changing my mind, because the advice I get will not change between now and the remaining stages of the Bill in another place. I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's view that this will necessarily come. I very much hope that it will not. I hope that we shall move into a position in which the need for it will appear much less attractive to some people than at present.

I agreed to meet the right hon. Gentleman on the point about reciprocity, having been persuaded by his argument. If I believed that full passport control would make a significant contribution to defeating terorrism without having a number of disadvantages, I would be prepared to set aside all those considerations and to introduce it. However, I am not prepared to introduce it as a gesture to demonstrate toughness when those in positions of responsibility advise me that it would not help.

I hope that the Opposition will place considerable weight on the advice I have been given and will think carefully about going against it. That advice could change. If it did I would take careful notice of it.

I have fully discharged the undertaking which I gave in Committee that I would consult fully and thoroughly again. I consulted the Commissioner and the Association of Chief Police Officers, representing provincial forces throughout the country.

There is one matter on which the police do want controls over entry to be tightened. They are anxious about the possibility of potential terrorists entering Great Britain in light aircraft which may not land at airports where passengers may be examined. At present there are requirements which apply to aircraft carrying fare-paying passengers but not to private planes which may carry one or two passengers other than for reward.

We wish to have the power to require, if necessary, any aircraft to land at airports where crew and passengers may be examined. No new provision for this is required in the Bill. The necessary requirements can be made by Order when the Bill becomes law. I will discuss the detailed arrangements with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. As the new requirements are bound to cause a marginal measure of inconvenience and expense to those operating the aircraft, it is right to tell the House of the proposals. My disposition is to strengthen the Order to plug this possible loophole as far as possible.

I hope that hon. Members, bearing in mind that we can make ongoing judgments about the matter, will not divide the House. It would be unfortunate if, against professional advice, we gave the impression that there was some protection that we could give if only we were not stubborn. It is not a question of being stubborn. It is a question of acting on the best professional advice—not infallible, but to be given a great deal of weight. If that advice changes, I shall reconsider the matter.

Mr. Lawrence

I had hoped to catch your eye before the Home Secretary rose, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall be brief, because some of my intended remarks may now be superflous, but I should say something as I contributed to the debate on the matter in Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no difference in principle between him and the Opposition. He does not think that the difficulties surrounding identity cards or problems of cost would stand in the way of what is proposed. He bases his refusal to accept our amendment on the argument that the best professional advice from police officers is against it.

I shall not vote against the right hon. Gentleman now, but I urge him to keep the matter in the forefront of his mind, so that if he or the police change their mind we need not wait another year before the amendment is implemented. There may be differences of opinion about whether it would limit the number of terrorists coming into the country, but if the people feel that the Government and Parliament are doing everything possible to deter terrorism the whole climate will be much better than it may be at times now.

We are not starting from scratch and expecting that there may be some terrorism in the future, not yet having had any, and seeing no reason to introduce legislation which is costly in money or manpower. In present circumstances, with no identity cards, terrorists are not being prevented from entering the country. There was more terrorism here last year than in the year before. Something more must be done, or we run the risk of recurrent bouts of terrorism caused by terrorists coming from the other side of the Irish Channel, slipping through our protective barriers.

I appreciate that the essence of the police objection is that they may not have enough manpower to cope. That is not a sufficient reason for not preparing ourselves to take this action when we can build up the manpower. If cost is not a reason, and identity cards are not a reason, we must do something about manpower. If it means a reallocation of resources so that we attract more people into the police force or the immigration control force over the next 12 months, so that they are properly manned, we must do it.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman never seems to move along with the argument. I answered this point in Committee. The job is one of the most skilled that the police have to do. People with great knowledge and considerable experience are needed to do this Special Branch work. The recruitment of an extra 5,000 people into the police would make no difference, within the period we are discussing, to the ability of the police to do this skilled job effectively. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will occasionally take the point.

Mr. Lawrence

I do take the Home Secretary's point, but it does not impress me, and it will not impress most of the public.

Mr. Jenkins

Why does it not impress the hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Lawrence

It does not impress me because over a period of time people can be trained to look at identity cards to see whether they are in order or are not in order. It does not require a vast amount of police training or the greatest amount of experience and wisdom in order to do that. Immigration officers exist who do not have necessarily the degree of training that police officers have. I am not saying that we can do this tomorrow. This is a plea to start manpower recruitment and training to the degree required so that perhaps at some time in the future, if it is necessary, we shall be able to do this. The Home Secretary said that there is an advantage, of which the police have informed him, of conversations which can take place but which might not take place if there were identity cards and, of course, that is a very understandable point of view. But we do not know whether that way we are tracking down more people than we would be tracking down if there were identity cards.

The fact of the matter is that the terrorists are getting into this country. Therefore, I ask the Home Secretary to bear this matter very much in mind as he has borne very much in mind the attitude of the police on previous occasions. One has only to recall the objection to proscribing the IRA 12 months ago. The Home Secretary was telling the House then, or if not him then his predecessor in office, that the police had said that proscribing the IRA would make their job more difficult. In due course the pressure of public opinion, as reflected in this House, brought about the proscribing of the IRA in the Bill this time last year.

Twelve months have gone by, and we have had the experience of it. The Home Secretary has not said that this experience has been a failure. I only draw his attention to this to say—with the greatest of respect in the world for the police—that the police view of two years ago is not necessarily the police view today. I ask him to bear that matter very much in mind.

I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the House but I think that these matters are very important and worthy of the gravest consideration. While I give all credit to the Home Secretary, all I am asking is that he will keep these matters in mind. I hope that I can urge upon him the acceptance of the view that manpower resources in the experience or wisdom of the police, are matters which could be taken into account in the coming months so that, if necessary, identity cards can be introduced.

11.0 p.m.

Mr. Whitelaw

First, I should like to get one small point out of the way. The Home Secretary referred to it. There will be a general welcome for the arrangement as far as light aircraft are concerned. This is believed to be a loophole which should be dealt with, and I would strongly support the arrangement.

As the House knows, I come rather fresh to this argument in its current context of this Bill, if not in the least fresh to it in another guise or role.

My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) made a very powerful case when moving the amendment. He made it clear that it was none of our purpose in putting forward this proposal that it should be just a gesture. If that were the case I would agree entirely with the Home Secretary. A gesture in this regard would be totally valueless, and I can think of no reason for suggesting it. But that is not the problem.

I must say, in parenthesis, to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that I did not, as he will appreciate, have the experience of the sort of travel that he undertakes in Northern Ireland. I travelled around by a rather different means. I am glad that I did not travel by his means, because I never wear a hat if I can possibly avoid it.

I believe that we have to think very carefully, if the police view is that this provision would not help, whether this House would be entitled to press forward at this stage with this proposal. The Home Secretary has made it clear that the police would not favour it. Indeed, he went as far as to say that in some cases they might regard it as possibly harmful to their efforts.

Here I must say to my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) that the methods employed by the Special Branch are highly sophisticated and are not matters which we normally discuss in the House, nor indeed should we. This matter is not something that can be easily brushed aside as though one could recruit a few people tomorrow and hope that thereafter they would be powerful people in the prosecution of terrorists. It does not work that way.

We must realise that the members of the Special Branch have a very special role and that the way in which the police act in this matter must be something of which they are the best judges. That is where I find the Home Secretary's arguments persuasive.

Nevertheless, I hope that the Home Secretary and the police will constantly look at this matter. If at any time it is felt that it would be helpful to have this provision, I hope that the Home Secretary will not hesitate to come back to the House and say so. There is a widespread feeling in the country that this would help. The Home Secretary has told us that the people who actually operate in this matter and on whom we rely in dealing with terrorism feel that it would not help. Very well. I still hope that if at any time they felt that it would help they would not hesitate to say so. If the mood or the idea changes, it should certainly be brought forward. Whether the right hon. Member for Down, South was right in saying that it was bound to come is a point on which I would not speculate tonight—certainly not at this hour of the night.

As for tonight, I think that it would be reasonable not to vote on the amendment, simply because the people who would have to operate the whole arrangement do not feel that it would help them, and they are the people on whom we should rely. In the circumstances I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree that it would be right not to press the amendment.

I shall say nothing further because I see that another hon. Member wishes to speak in the debate and I do not wish to preclude him.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

There is a real need for officials, and especially members of the Special Branch in Great Britain, who are responsible for interviewing and questioning at points of disembarkation, to do that with proper consideration for the ordinary traveller. The Home Secretary, in replying to what was said by the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), emphasised that members of the Special Branch were people who were very skilled police officers. I should like to give him and the House some examples of just what some of the Special Branch do at these points of disembarkation in Great Britain.

I take up what the Home Secretary said about producing some evidence which would be of interest to the police and might lead to some conversations between the police and the person being interviewed. One of my constituents happens to be the president of a respected professional organisation in the United Kingdom. For his year of office he has a gold medal. He carries it on his person because it is very valuable. When he was searched at a check-point by the Securicor men they wanted to know what it was all about. He was eventually allowed through, but then he was stopped by the Special Branch and asked about the gold medal and about those who were members of this professional organisation. Is that the sort of skill to which the Home Secretary refers? I do not think so. There have been many such cases, and the people of Northern Ireland are tired of being treated as if they come from a leper colony when they enter another part of the United Kingdom, a country of which they are citizens.

I give another example which concerns an incident which occurred only recently. It is right to bring this matter to the notice of the Home Secretary as he is placing such importance on the way in which the Special Branch in Great Britain carries out its duties at the airports and at Liverpool and other ports. Recently three of my constituents were interrogated by a member of the Special Branch. Again, I do not have his name. In this instance the officer refused to give it. As he was in plain clothes it was not possible to get his number. In front of a queue of people at Liverpool dock who were waiting for their baggage to be checked before boarding the boat for Belfast, a Special Branch officer asked a young man who was with his father and another young person whether he hated the police. Is that a question which a skilled police officer should put to anyone? I think that it was meant to trap. I think that it was totally wrong of the officer to put such a question to the young man.

My constituent was then told that he was the spokesman for the gang, that he was speaking for his father and the other young man who was employed by the father. Apparently the officer expected him to be the leader of a gang. Is that the language to use to an ordinary traveller, to a young man who has never been in trouble in his life? The officer went on to say that no doubt my constituent had forged his identity papers and that his driving licence was stolen. Is that the way in which a skilled Special Branch officer is supposed to operate?

I happen to know that that incident took place only recently. The officer was not satisfied with the monstrous assertions he had made. He went on to address my constituent with the prefix "terrorist", suggesting that he was a member of the IRA, the UVF and the UDA—all of them. This exchange took place in public—namely, in front of the people who were having their baggage checked.

There then followed the interrogation. There was question after question. One of the questions involved the officer asking my constituent whether he had ever been in trouble with the police before. That indicates the nature of the interrogation. It seems to have been a fishing expedition and not the sort of interrogation that has been contemplated by the House.

It is all very well the Home Secretary feeling pained about having to introduce this legislation, but it would appear to be the pain of the gourmet forcing himself to swallow another oyster. We should remember that this legislation is being enforced by men who do not all have the standards that we expect.

The Special Branch officer emphasised that he was a police officer and that he could take my constituent back to the nick in Liverpool and hold him there for seven days. That is the power that we have given him and his colleagues to exercise responsibly, but I fear that it is used all too often by Special Branch officers in Great Britain to annoy—perhaps not deliberately—and frustrate those who are travelling from Northern Ireland to this part of the United Kingdom about their everyday business.

The officer's excuse for the conduct I have described was that he was protecting England. This legislation was introduced immediately after the Birmingham atrocity and the Under-Secretary of State has referred to the seeking out of people who carry out terrorist activity, in that part of the United Kingdom. That is the purpose of this legislation. The provision is aimed at protecting one part of the United Kingdom, but surely it should exist to protect the whole of the United Kingdom against terrorists.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and other hon. Members are right to demand that the situation should be placed on a proper and regular basis. I wish to protest at the way in which people from Northern Ireland are being treated. They will not accept the situation without making their own protests. Therefore, I hope that the Home Secretary will ensure that Special Branch officers and members of Securicor will behave with respect to members of the public. It must be remembered that those personnel are there to protect citizens and to facilitate travel between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Mr. Fitt

I had not intended to speak on this amendment, but I wish to reinforce the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell).

I do not intend to deal in great detail with the objections raised by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I wish to underline the fact that there is cause for complaint against the activities of Special Branch officers at ports.

I know personally many Special Branch officers in London and they are always very courteous and helpful. I do not wish to condemn any Special Branch officer because I appreciate that they undertake a difficult job. However, I wish to put before the House the story of what happened to a constituent of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder). That man and two of his friends arrived in London on Tuesday of last week, intending to return home on Thursday evening by way of the Liverpool boat to Belfast. They were stopped by Special Branch officers and brought in for questioning. If necessary, I will give the constituent's name to the Home Secretary, and I am sure the hon. Member for Down, North knows him. The person concerned is a professional man who owns four chemist shops in Northern Ireland, a foremost member of the pharmaceutical profession. I repeat that that man was arrested by the Special Branch and brought in for questioning, and with his friends was kept in custody until Sunday.

On arriving home from Westminster on Friday evening, I received a telephone call and consequently made inquiries seeking to obtain the man's release. What annoyed and angered me was that when I telephoned a civil servant who I thought would be able to help, he said "It is a difficult time of the week. It is Friday evening and the staff concerned will not be back until Monday morning." I did not regard that as a valid excuse. The three men concerned—men who have never been involved in terrorist activity—were expected to await the arrival of staff on the Monday morning.

I persisted in my inquiries and contacted the RUC in Northern Ireland. The RUC within a very short space of time, efficiently and effectively, checked the bona fides of the three men and relayed that information to the Special Branch in Liverpool. The result was that the three men were cleared of suspicion but had to remain in custody until Sunday morning. They then discovered that there was no boat to get them home on Sunday evening. They are married men and obviously their wives and children were very concerned.

Surely if such a procedure is to exist, it should be properly staffed so that all the relevant inquiries may be made. People should not have to depend on a skeleton force before identities can be checked. Therefore, the present situation should be examined by the Home Secretary.

11.15 p.m.

On the larger issue—I say this against the IRA as a terrorist organisation—most people who have been engaged in acts of terrorism in Britain have not come immediately from either Belfast or the Republic. I realise that that happened with the Price sisters and others, but many who have been engaged in acts of terrorism have been resident in this country for many years. They were not imported from either the Republic or Northern Ireland into Great Britain. That is why the legislation is much too drastic and would affect and inconvenience many innocent people.

Mr. Kilfedder

In case there is any doubt about what I said earlier, I should like to point out that my criticism was against not the RUC but some Special Branch men operating in Great Britain. The hon. Gentleman has illustrated how proficient and able the RUC is.

Amendment negatived.

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