§ 8.13 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
I beg to move,That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order 1978, which was laid before this House on 23rd February, be approved.The purpose of the order is to continue in operation for a further period of 12 months the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976, which is due to lapse, unless renewed, on 24th March.
In accordance with past practice, I shall give an account of the extent to which the Act has been used in the past year. I begin with a statistical report showing the use made of the Act up to 1st March and the cumulative statistics since 1974. Therefore, the figures will be twofold.
First, I deal with exclusion orders made under Part II of the 1976 Act. Under these powers, I may cause a person to be removed from this country. I can do that only where I am satisfied that someone is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or is attempting or may attempt to enter the country for that purpose. That is the strict test laid down in the Act.
My predecessor and I have made 119 exclusion orders in total, 24 of which have been made since last year's debate.
All persons against whom exclusion orders are made have the opportunity, under Section 7 of the 1976 Act, to make representations to an independent adviser. In this connection, 22 people in total—three in the last year—against whom orders have been made have made representations against the orders, and six of the 22 orders have been revoked. Of the three people who made representations this year, I enforced one order and revoked another.
A total of 104 people—23 in the last year—have been removed. Of those, 80 in total—22 in the last year—have been removed to Northern Ireland and 24 in total—one in the last year—have been removed to the Republic of Ireland.
544 It will be appropriate here, since I have been describing the use which has been made of the advisers, to place on record my gratitude to the two advisers, Lord Alport and Mr. Ronald Waterhouse, QC. The latter has stood down from this task following his appointment as a High Court judge.
I recognise, though I do not share, the feelings of those in Northern Ireland who may not welcome back there people excluded from Great Britain because I believe them to be terrorists. But I remind the House of the change made in the 1976 Act. That is the change commonly known as "reciprocity". In Section 5 of the 1976 Act, provision is made for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to exclude from Northern Ireland to Great Britain a person with connections here who satisfies the criteria for exclusion. As the purpose of these renewal debates is to give as much information as possible, I point out that this power has not yet been used. The exclusion order power is one of the main powers which it falls to me as Secretary of State to exercise.
The most significant of the powers that the Act gives to the police is in Section 12. That enables the police to detain a person who is reasonably suspected either of having committed an offence under the Act or of being concerned in terrorism.
The police have power to hold on their own authority for up to 48 hours. If they think that a further period is necessary for their inquiries, they may ask me to extend the period of detention for up to another five days.
The police have detained a total of 939 people—143 during the last year—under Section 12. In 277 cases—27 during the last year—my predecessor and I authorised extensions of detention. No police applications for extension of detention have so far been refused.
I have explained in the past the careful arrangements which have been made for dealing with these cases. I assure the House that these arrangements remain as stringent as they have always been.
There is an office at New Scotland Yard served jointly by Metropolitan Police officers and officers from other forces. That office has developed a great deal of expertise in these matters, thus enabling consistent standards or criteria 545 to be maintained. My predecessor was aware of the office at New Scotland Yard.
When I became Secretary of State, one of the first things that I did was to make clear how I saw the use of the power in Section 12. I believe that is the major reason why cases do not come forward to me. Cases do not come to me if it is felt that, on the basis on which I look at these matters, I should disapprove of them.
I personally see all applications for extensions of detention, unless there are unforeseen circumstances—for example, if a case arises at short notice when I am away. In that event, such a case would be dealt with by the Minister of State. But, for the record, I saw every extension of detention case this year. If for some reason I am not available, my Home Office colleague will give a decision, but it will come to me immediately on my return. It is extremely rare for me not to be available or to be got at somewhere in the country.
The other main powers available to the police relate to port control.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
My right hon. Friend has given us the figures for those who were detained under these powers during the last 12 months. Will he tell us how many during the last 12 months have subsequently been charged with an offence or offences relating to terrorism?
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
Will the Secretary of State say why all these people are detained and whether their relatives have legal rights to see them?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall come to that later.
All passengers travelling through ports are liable to examination, but comparatively few are detained. A total of 2,191 people—554 of them in the last year—have been held under this power. An indication of the small numbers involved is that the number of passengers who passed through major Irish ports in 1977 was nearly 4 million, of whom 308 were formally detained.
§ Mr. Rees
I do not know whether I mentioned Liverpool. I am referring to ports in this country to which people from Ireland come.
I turn to the question of charges brought for offences. A total of 21 people—eight in the last year—have been charged with offences under the Acts, such as soliciting or giving money in connection with acts of terrorism, failing to disclose information relating to acts of terrorism, or seeking to enter part of the United Kingdom from which they had been excluded.
A total of 118 people—20 in the past year—have been charged with offences in Great Britain after they had been detained under the Acts. These included murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to cause explosions, the unlawful possession of explosives and offences under the Firearms Act.
The House will recall that last year I undertook to see what further information could be provided about the results of charges. This involved an extensive review by the police of their records, but I was able to give information last October and I shall continue to report any further information. The information that was given in Hansard last October broke it down to the number of people detained by police forces in different parts of the coutnry.
The criticism has been made that only a small proportion of those detained under the Act are eventually charged. However, as I have said before, the test is not the number of charges but their nature and gravity. We are after all dealing with only a small number of terrorists. The situation in Northern Ireland is exactly the same as it is here. A small number of people are engaged in terrorism. But we should be under no 547 illusions about the amount of destruction that they can cause.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
Why does my right hon. Friend feel that the police need these extra powers for those people who have clearly committed these acts of terrorism? Long before the Act was introduced the police had adequate powers to deal with them.
§ Mr. Rees
I shall come to that in a moment.
Having reviewed the operation of the Act, I come to my reasons for asking the House to renew the operation of the Act for a further period of 12 months. Although the review by Lord Shackleton—I mentioned this a year ago—has some bearing on this matter, the main point is that the responsibility for asking for a renewal is mine. It is not something that I can put off to someone else or to an inquiry. It is for Parliament to decide whether to grant that request. I have to make a judgment, on the information available to me, about the extent of the threat from Irish terrorism to the mainland of Great Britain.
The past year has been free of terrorist attacks. That is a statistical statement. There is no gloating about it. It is simply a statement of fact. But that is only part of the picture. The House will not expect me to go into detail about my information in this respect. It would be foolish to reveal such matters. The House must take my judgment on trust. It is a judgment not lightly arrived at but it is one for which I have responsibility.
One aspect—I shall not go into great detail—is our knowledge of how the IRA operates by means of what they call active service units. These groups of four or five terrorists, hidden away in small flats and rooms in our larger cities, may often lie low for long periods before carrying out a terrorist crime. They may be quietly building up supplies of arms and explosives and surveying their targets. To the public at large the situation is peaceful and normal but under the surface the IRA may be planning its next campaign.
I can mention three points which may be of assistance to the House. The first is my understanding, formed in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 548 of events in Northern Ireland. As I said last year, we shall need legislation in Great Britain as long as there is IRA violence. Recent events show what cold-blooded savagery the IRA remains capable of.
The second point is the advice that I receive from senior levels in the police force. I remind the House that should the violence restart it would be the police who would have to deal with it. I must therefore weigh carefully the advice that I receive from the police.
Thirdly, there is evidence, which is now publicly known, of the efforts that the Provisional IRA have made in the last year to bring arms and explosives into this country. As recently as last August a discovery in Dublin revealed a complete terrorist's kit which was ready for shipment to Great Britain. That it was intended for use here is incontrovertible because the people who were to collect it had arranged a meeting place in the Home Counties.
The shipment contained 230 lb of explosives. Let me remind the House that experience has shown that a small bomb—some 2 lb or 3 lb of explosives—can kill several people and injure many scores more if it is expertly placed. There was a time when large amounts of explosives were required to create explosions because of the nature of the explosive that was being used, particularly in Northern Ireland—dehydrated nitrogen, for instance. With the more sophisticated explosives a small amount can create a bigger explosion.
I have little doubt that had the shipment been brought here, the story that I should have to tell the House would have been a more horrific one. We could have been experiencing terrorism on a scale as bad as anything in the last five years. The line between safety and terror is very thin. Let us be thankful for the year of peace and let us give the police the credit due for that, but let us at the same time recognise how fragile the present position is.
Let me here deal with the point raised earlier about the need for the powers to detain for two days and then for an extra five days. The police tell me that these provisions are extremely important for questioning and for checking purposes in different parts of the United Kingdom. That is something that I learned in 549 Northern Ireland. This is something that my right hon. Friend Lord Shackleton is looking at at the moment, and perhaps I could come to that shortly.
I believe that Lord Shackleton has the experience to examine those matters, to look at the papers and to travel to the various parts of the country and, by asking questions, see whether the legislation we passed is still required. As I made clear in the terms of reference, it is not his job to decide whether we need legislation. That is a matter for the House of Commons. What matters, however, is whether the various parts of the Act are still required in their present form, and that is what he will consider. I have no way of instructing my right hon. Friend on the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas), but he is quite free to comment on that aspect.
I took account of a number of considerations before I announced the review. I made clear that I was not seeking a Gardiner-type review which considered the whole situation in Northern Ireland which, in its way, partly led to the end of the use of detention in Northern Ireland. I explained that I was setting up a practical review into the working of an Act. I considered carefully a number of ways in which I could give reassurance and information, invoking the advice of an independent person of high standing with a view to a report being published. I had to consider any possible overlap that might exist with the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure and the introduction of the new system for the investigation of complaints against the police, which came into force in the middle of the year.
Finally, the situation in Northern Ireland had to be taken into account in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. With Northern Ireland matters one always has to consider how an inquiry of this kind might be seen in the Province where people see things differently from people in the rest of the United Kingdom.
For a number of reasons it was not possible for the review to start before December, but Lord Shackleton was able to start right away. How lie carries out the review is a matter for him. It is difficult to say when his report is likely to be published. I should like to remind 550 the House, however, of the terms of reference of the review. They are:Accepting the continuing need for legislation against terrorism, to assess the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts 1974 and 1976, with particular regard to the effectiveness of this legislation and its effect on the liberties of the subject, and to report".The review extends to the whole of the United Kingdom.
I shall now say a little about what might follow publication of Lord Shackleton's report. This has some bearing on my asking for a 12-month renewal. After it has been published the House will have a full chance in due course to debate it. I stress, however, that this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. If the report were to cast doubt on whether the Act should be continued in whole or in part, it would be a simple matter to bring an) or all of its provisions to a close by order, if that were to be the Government's decision.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Does my right hon. Friend not think that he could have waited until after the Shackleton Report came out before seeking renewal of these provisions?
§ Mr. Rees
If I had, the Act would have lapsed on 24th March, and that could not be. In my view, the best thing is to renew it for 12 months. I have just said that the Government are clear in their belief that we need legislation. We shall have to see what the report says. If any parts need a change, I shall consider the matter. This is extremely helpful to me, let alone those with other considerations—quite proper considerations.
§ Mr. Fitt
Does my right hon. Friend pay any regard to the dictum that there is nothing more permanent than that which is regarded as temporary? Is it a fact that most of those who have been detained, convicted and charged have been convicted not of any offence within the island of Great Britain but of an offence in Northern Ireland? Would nor my right hon. Friend, with his experience of Northern Ireland, regard it as helpful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to ask that the same provision as he has made for 551 inquiry into the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Great Britain should be applied to Northern Ireland, where the legislation is even more Draconian than in the island of Great Britain?
§ Mr. Rees
All that I can speak on is the question of legislation that applies to the whole United Kingdom. Lord Shackleton has been to Northern Ireland.
The other legislation for which I was responsible is a different matter—a matter for my right hon. Friend. The statistics that I gave a moment ago were for charges in Great Britain, not the United Kingdom. I think that my hon. Friend misunderstood.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
Why did the Home Secretary decide to have only one person carry out the inquiry? Does he not think that that imposes an unreasonable responsibility on Lord Shackleton? What support facilities will be provided to Lord Shackleton to carry out his inquiry?
§ Mr. Rees
I am always very dubious about inquiries. I believe that wherever possible a Secretary of State should do the thing himself, because it is to the House that a Minister is responsible. However, that could not have been done with the Gardiner inquiry.
The support given to Lord Shackleton is good. He has told me how good it is. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, with his knowledge of the work of the police, is aiding Lord Shackleton, as is the Chief Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland. I know what help Lord Shackleton has been given in Northern Ireland.
I must make clear into what subject the inquiry goes. There was a need for somebody to stand aside from the day-to-day operation of the legislation, to go to the ports and certain parts of the country, to look at the papers, to see the procedures followed in different parts of the country.
We are dealing with a temporary provisions Act. Here I take up what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). There is always a danger—though not on principle, because this is a matter for the House—that something carries on in the old way when that is no longer appropriate. It 552 was in that spirit that I said what I said to the House a year ago.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
My right hon. Friend wants to see Lord Shackleton conduct an independent inquiry. He must know that a group of us went to see Lord Shackleton to put to him certain views about the Act only a few days ago. Lord Shackleton did not give us the impression that it would take him a year to produce a report arising from his investigations. Therefore, would not it be possible to renew the temporary provisions for three months, by which time I am sure Lord Shackleton would have produced a report?
§ Mr. Rees
It is a matter of judgment. This measure will be renewed for 12 months if the House agrees, but I have already said that if any changes in the workings of the Act are required we can debate them in the House. We are not talking about matters of principle. I, too, am extremely interested in what Lord Shackleton has to say. He is interested in the efficiency of the legislation and in the question whether the procedures set out under the Act are being carried out properly.
There was an article in The Sunday Times last week which, in my view, was misconceived and which misunderstood the nature of the Act. I presume that the person who wrote it talked to Lord Shackleton and brought his information before Lord Shackleton. I have not checked this, but I am sure that anyone who writes an article in The Sunday Times is the sort of person who would do so. It is that sort of newspaper. It does not do things for effect. We shall see.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Can the Home Secretary give an assurance that the Shackleton Report, as it will become, will be debated before the Summer Recess? I think that that would relieve the anxieties of many hon. Members.
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. and learned Gentleman is pressing me rather hard on this. I cannot give an assurance about the timing. I was trying to assure the House that I have set up the Shackleton inquiry. I want the report to be debated. It is important that the workings of such a vital piece of legislation is debated in 553 the House. I cannot be firm on the timing. I would like to see the report as soon as possible. Not even that, I think, will satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman, because I am not Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Powell
Is it not correct to say that, by order made under this Act following, for example the Shackleton Report, it would be possible to modify the operation of the Act only by dropping existing provisions, but that no other alteration than cessation of some of the provisions would be possibly by order?
§ Mr. Rees
That is correct. Let us take a matter in which the right hon. Gentleman has shown an interest in the past year or so—the method of questioning at the ports. A change was made in that respect. I shall be interested to know whether that has proved to be of use. If it has not, we shall have to make a judgment. If it proves to have been a misconceived idea, it can be dropped. The nature of the inquiry that I promised a year ago was of this kind, to see, how the Act was working.
There need be no delay of any kind in implemting any administrative changes which Lord Shackleton may recommend. It is often the administrative methods used to implement legislation which are important.
I was asked about the Judges' Rules. This issue may come up later, so I will simply say that changes were made under Section 62 of the Criminal Law Act 1977. Those changes apply to the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the same way as to other legislation.
I believe that the Act continues to have an important role to play and that recent events in Northern Ireland have reminded us of the continuing danger. We must maintain our vigilance. The position is one to which I have given careful attention. We shall continue to monitor the ports, and I look forward, in due course, to receiving Lord Shackleton's report. I ask the House to agree that this is the right course.
§ Mr. Fitt
On the question of exclusion orders, will my right hon. Friend tell the House how many people have been excluded from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and from Northern Ireland to Great Britain? He will recognise that 554 this was a very important point raised during the course of the passage of the Bill by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), who asked whether it was possible to exclude people from one part of Great Britain to other parts of Great Britain. My right hon. Friend must have these figures at his disposal. I should like to know, in addition, how many of those who were excluded from Great Britain to Northern Ireland were charged with terrorist offences on landing in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Rees
I gave figures. I accept that it is difficult to take them on board. The figure for people excluded from Northern Ireland to Great Britain is nil. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) can look after himself in matters concerning the principle of reciprocity within the United Kingdom, which was the point that he made.
On behalf of the people of this country, I am concerned about active service units—people who have been active in Northern Ireland in the Provisional IRA and, indeed, in other organisations.
§ Mr. Rees
I am concerned about those who have been very active in Northern Ireland and who are living in parts of the United Kingdom and in some cases associating with known people in the Republican movement. I have to make a judgment on that. I am advised that the threat is from small groups in a small active service unit, spread about different parts of the country and often using nearby telephone boxes in order to pass information.
I have to make that judgment, and if at the end of the day I were to get it wrong and there were explosions in the constituencies of any of us in this country, many hon. Members would be first to chase me and ask why they had occurred. I have to make a judgment which balances civil rights on the one hand with the threat that we are up against on the other hand. I have to do all I can to support the police and to protect the community.
The Provisional IRA—my hon. Friend knows this, because he always speaks up on it in Northern Ireland—is an army; it is not a political movement. Its aim 555 is to get what it wants by means of explosions and killings, and it glories in them in a way that I find quite remarkable. We are dealing with a form of terrorism which has driven us to move marginally from the sorts of freedoms to which we are accustomed in this country. It is the price that we have to pay. Those who believe that we should not do so are ignoring the facts of life which are apparent to anyone within 24 hours of arriving in Northern Ireland.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Sir Michael Havers (Wimbledon)
The House will be grateful to the Home Secretary for his careful and useful report on the use of the order and for the information about the setting up of the Shackleton inquiry. As I support pretty well every word that he said, I can be very short.
The question that I think the House has to face tonight is this: do the facts justify a substantial modification—because that is what it is—of certain civil liberties in the interests of defeating terrorism? No one can doubt that there still exists within this Kingdom a hard core of people prepared to kill and maim, with the intention of forcing any Government to change their declared principles about Northern Ireland.
This intention to force change is supported by wicked, murderous attacks upon innocent people, without caring who may be the victims, in order to create such an atmosphere of terror that the public forces the Government to change their mind. Such actions cannot be acceptable in any democracy. Indeed, if they succeed, they destroy that democracy and encourage imitators to act accordingly to achieve their own purposes against the will of the people.
The fact that there has been a lull in Britain must not be taken to mean that the threat has been removed. Recent events in Northern Ireland show the dangers of any such optimism, and I defy anyone to say that there are no sleepers awaiting their orders to awake and act in England. If the IRA thinks that its cause will be advanced by renewing its terrorism on the mainland with the use of the active service units to which the Home Secretary referred and which are present at the moment quiescent 556 inside this country, it will do so. Therefore, in my view, the continuance of this provision is essential.
May I add one comment about the responsibility which the Home Secretary has to act in his own discretion? Of course, he gets advice, and I suspect that part of the advice which he gets is from Commander Neville of the anti-terrorist squad. I know that officer extremely well as a result of certain court cases in which I was involved. In my view, he is a very remarkable police officer upon whose judgment I should be willing to place very great weight. It comforts me, when the Home Secretary is having to rely upon advice from others, to know that included in those numbers are people of the experience and total integrity of officers such as Commander Neville.
Because the House has given that discretion to the Home Secretary, in the end we have to rely upon a responsible exercise of that discretion. Nothing that I have heard since these provisions came into operation has shaken my confidence in the way that it is exercised, and I invite the House to support the order.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
There is one area in which the House is united, and it is in our abhorrence of terrorism of all sorts. If from these Benches some of us question the measure, it is not because we lend any support to terrorist acts but simply because we question whether the order is not counter-productive.
I begin with a comment on the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I want especially to thank him for the up-to-date figures which he provided. However, I am concerned that he seems to think that because only a small number of people were eventually charged out of the large number detained, that somehow justifies this measure if that small number of people were eventually convicted of very serious offences.
Very little work is done to see what impact this measure has on the very large number of innocent people who are detained for a lengthy time. There should be some consideration of the psychological effect that it has on an innocent person detained under these provisions for what is to anyone in detention a long period. It may be the sort of experience 557 that results in people giving support or turning a blind eye to some terrorist act. The recounting of their stories may also cause support for the terrorists. So I hope that Lord Shackleton's inquiry considers the impact which this measure has had on innocent people who have been detained for long periods of time. Judging from the number of people who have been charged, there must be many innocent people being held under this measure.
I turn, then, to the inquiry which Lord Shackleton is conducting. It seems to me to be unfortunate that, although we were promised in a debate almost 12 months ago that an inquiry would be set up, it took virtually nine months to find anyone to conduct the inquiry and to set it up and that clearly we are unlikely to get a report for at least another few months. I should have thought that a little more urgency in setting up the inquiry would have been better.
I was pleased to hear my right hon. Friend undertake that he would do all that he could to ensure that there was a debate fairly soon after publication of the report. I also understand from my right hon. Friend's remarks that he will bring forward an amending order if Lord Shackleton recommends that some parts of this measure are no longer necessary. I hope that he will go a little further and say that if Lord Shackleton felt that a different type of Act or a different approach in the Act was necessary, he would try to bring forward legislation amending the Act, rather than merely bringing forward alterations to the order now before the House.
I also appreciate that the Home Secretary has difficulty in ever ending this temporary measure. He is always under the difficulty that if he does not renew it and some incident happens a week or two later, he will be blamed. As the Act was originally very much a cosmestic measure, I appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulty. I hope at least that he can see the advantage, when the matter comes up for renewal, of coming to the House and saying that it will be the final renewal, so that he takes a decision that is well detached from the actual date when the provisions run out.
I turn to some particular provisions. The exclusion orders are one of the matters that puzzle me the most. Since the Act came into operation, I think 558 that 119 people have been excluded. First, it seems odd that such a small number of them have appealed. It may be that most of them felt that their exclusion was perfectly just, but I suspect that many did not appeal because they saw no justice in the appeal procedure itself.
If one does not know what one is charged with, it is very difficult to prepare an appeal against it. It is also very difficult to be certain that someone must be excluded and yet not to be able to bring forward charges that will stand up in the courts. It is also very difficult that one cannot bring forward charges and at least disclose them to the person one intends to exclude without there being a risk of damaging one's security information.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
These matters come to me. I give a lot of time to them. The judgment that I have to make is not whether someone should be charged. I should add that I still have some residual knowledge of the situation in Northern Ireland., being heavily involved in the days of detention, and of a man who is an active member of the Provisional IRA, and of another instance, recently, of the UVF in Northern Ireland. The judgment that I have to make is not whether there should be a charge but why the person concerned is living in a part of the United Kingdom. These are not easy decisions to take, but they are not taken on the basis whether the person should come up in court. They are questions, for instance, about the setting up of an active service unit in some part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Bennett
I accept that argument. However, last year 24 people were excluded. If they were excluded because it was felt that they were involved in some way in setting up active service units, I should have thought that in good policing terms it would have been better to keep those 24 people under surveillance and try to obtain, by watching them, information that might lead to the arrest or apprehension of the whole of the active service units, rather than exclude them. I realise that if one has to keep track of a large number of people, that becomes very expensive and difficult in terms of police manning. But in terms of a mere 24 people during the last year, I should have thought that it 559 was a practical proposition for the police to keep those people under surveillance if they were really dangerous, rather than simply turfing them out.
I come to the question of the qualification period. If someone who is regarded as dangerous has been here for 20 years he cannot be excluded. Why is 20 years the magic period? I am very puzzled by this because I cannot see why it should not be 18 or 19 years. In all logic the time limit should be much lower—somewhere in the region of five years. A person who has been in the English community for that length of time will have built up so many links that it is reasonable that he should stay. If we broke down the figure of 24, I am sure that we would find that the number who had been here longer than five years, was even smaller. We could easily keep tabs on them by police surveillance.
I am concerned that the order allows the Government to take people who are integrated into the English community, move them to Northern Ireland and assume that they become less of a risk to the community there. It is quite unacceptable to take people who are considered a risk in England and put them in Northern Ireland where they will become an even greater risk. This is very puzzling.
I turn to Section 11 of the Act which I do not believe has been abused much in practice. However, it contains provisions which, if accepted into English law, are extremely dangerous. They concern the question of someone who knows or believes, and fails without reasonable excuse to tell the police that another person is about to commit an offence. Very often it is easy to know this with hindsight—it is easy to be wise after the event. It is very dangerous that people can be charged with not providing information to the police which afterwards it seems obvious that they should have provided at the time, but which was not really so obvious at all. Section 11 is causing a lot of concern and I believe that it should be dropped from the legislation.
I turn to the question of arrest, and whether people should have the right to communicate with a solicitor or with relatives. I realise that as a result of amendments to the Criminal Law Bill 560 last summer—or Act as it is now—the Home Secretary will monitor this provision. Has he asked Lord Shackleton to look at the question of differences between England and Scotland? How far are the police handicapped in Scotland because a person detained there has a right to legal representation and contact with a lawyer immediately, whereas in England that person does not have an automatic right. The right can be given only through the Judges' Rules. It would be interesting to see whether the police feel that they are at a disadvantage in Scotland compared with England in carrying out this legislation. Or perhaps we should have the same provisions as of right in both England and Scotland.
The real practice of this legislation tends to be used to harry the Irish community, particularly in movements to and from Ireland. In practice, during the past 12 months terrorism has been contained in the United Kingdom by good police work and because the provisional IRA has found its terrorist activities counter-productive. Also there has been co-operation from the vast majority of Irish residents in the United Kingdom. The continuation of this legislation tends to weaken the will of Irish people in England to help the whole community combat terrorism.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) has stressed the risk of psychological damage to those who are detained for a comparatively short period. I know that with his usual fairness he will concede, on the other hand, that often there is a certainty that if criminals and terrorists are not apprehended there will be not merely psychological damage but serious physical injury to people. In many cases people will lose their lives. I know that hon. Members will appreciate this because many, on both sides of the House, have had constituents who have been victims of terrorism.
I wish briefly to examine the workings of controls at ports and airports. If the controls and scrutiny are to be effective, they should at least have something in common. They should not be as patchy as they now appear to be. I say "appear" advisedly because appearance is part of the deterrent. There must be evidence that the authorities as a whole 561 have a grip on the situation and, above all, that they know what they are doing.
If we examine first the situation in the ports, there would appear in my experience to be no consistent pattern in the measures taken at the two main ports of entry in Northern Ireland, Stranraer and Liverpool. One has the impression that far too much importance is attached to the spot check. If one has the misfortune to be singled out for special scrutiny—and one might almost say special treatment—the check can be rigorous indeed, but for the vast majority of people who escape the net completely the checks at least appear—again I use that word advisedly—to be almost nonexistent. I do not advocate queue-forming examinations, but I am certain that the public would have a great deal more confidence in a system based on something more convincing than the present hit-or-miss procedure.
It is perhaps when we turn to the airports that we find the greatest inconsistencies. At Gatwick the arriving passenger is expected to complete a landing card, which is checked against some document of identity. The same procedure is employed the other way round against departing passengers. In both cases there is a certain degree of delay and inconvenience but most passengers accept these as necessary.
However, if they are necessary at Gatwick, why are they unnecessary at Heathrow, where no such check system is employed? The screening appears to be related to age groups and possibly almost to style and appearance. I have noticed that if a young person comes into the airport wearing tattered jeans, not particularly tidy in the upper storey, with hair flying around, he is inevitably brought in for questioning, whereas somebody with short back and sides and much more respectably attired is normally allowed to go free. I hope that I am not putting ideas into anybody's head, but I am sure that this will not have escaped the attention of the potential terrorist.
In the past we have been told that the contrast between those two airports results from the fact that they are situated in different police areas. If it be true that no man is an island entire of himself, the same could be said about these 562 two airports. Whatever the distance between the two airports, the vast majority of their passengers end up in a small section of London roughly between Victoria and Gloucester Road. I find it impossible to justify such a wide variation in the processing of travellers who will be rubbing shoulders within an hour of arriving in the capital city. I trust that some action will now be taken to ensure that these measures, taken with a common objective in view, bear some resemblance to one another.
The Home Secretary said that the police were aiming at consistent standards in procedure and made that remark in relation to Scotland Yard. One assumes that Scotland Yard is the coordinating centre for the whole operation. If that be the case, why is it so difficult to ensure that it can enforce standard procedures at the subordinate centres and at the point of entry?
If this is being done to secure the protection of the citizens of the United Kingdom, on whatever side of the Irish Sea they live, those citizens will be somewhat disturbed by the Home Secretary's confirmation of the potential destructive force and power of explosives intended for shipment from Dublin to the Home Counties. It is clear that the right hon. Gentleman shares the serious view taken by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the desirability and necessity for the Government of the Irish Republic to co-operate fully in eliminating supplies of bomb-making material and—perhaps even more important—in preventing the movement of terrorists and suspected terrorists from all parts of the British Isles.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)
I should like at the beginning of my speech to make clear, as have other hon. Members, that I am totally opposed to any violence or terrorism which has resulted in the deaths of innocent people. I represent a Liverpool constituency, and I have hoped and prayed over many years that the tragic instances of terror occurring in other parts of the United Kingdom would never occur in Liverpool, because we are so close to Belfast and Dublin. However, we have had a couple of narrow squeaks in the past couple of years. My constituency includes 563 the Liverpool Irish centre, which is the headquarters of the Irish community of Merseyside. In the Scotland Road area we have the old Liverpool Irish Catholic communities who have lived there for many generations. In the Netherfield Road area, for many generations we have had the traditional Orange supporters. Fortunately, thank goodness, over many years we have had peace and harmony among these two communities of Merseyside. But recently in my constituency, unfortunately a senior officer of the Protestant paramilitary organisation was convicted of terrorist activities. Supporters of the IRA have attempted to explode a fire bomb in one of the public buildings in the city centre, so we are aware of the problems in Liverpool.
I received a letter from the Liverpool Irish Centre and this afternoon spoke to Mr. Tom Walsh, who is known by many hon. Members as a leading member of the Irish community in England. He is a very moderate man who has made a great contribution towards Irish culture, sport and entertainment. Mr. Walsh asked me to raise some points in the debate. The letter from the Irish Centre says:Only at the weekend I was involved in a case of two brothers who came to Liverpool from Belfast for a funeral and were detained. One was representing his trade union at the funeral.I understand that those two brothers, named McGurk, who have been coming and going from London over many years at least every fortnight, are seamen and have been entering London from Belfast and returning home without harassment or being picked up by the police. There is nothing in their characters to suggest that they have been involved in any terrorist organisations. Yet the first time that they came to Liverpool they were arrested at Liverpool Airport.
I understand that the aged mother of the two men rang up the Irish Centre in tears because she was terrified. She did not know what had happened to her sons. The letter from the Irish Centre continues:A few weeks ago I was involved in a very depressing case of a very young wife who had recently had a miscarriage. Her husband was taken from her on the boat and she was left with all her luggage and completely uninformed as to what was happening. I spent a couple of days working on her behalf and she was near hysterical most of the time. 564 The most urgent aspects are (a) seven days detention is too long and should be abolished; (b) relatives must be informed of detention within hours; (c) a solicitor must be available within at least 12 hours.On Merseyside I understand that we have seen a quarter of the total number of detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I understand that the recent figure for the total number of detentions is 3,098. The number of detentions at ports is 2,171 and those made by the Merseyside police, 767. Just under one-quarter of all the detentions in the United Kingdom and one-third of the detentions made at ports of entry are made on Merseyside.
Recently on Merseyside a prominent Irish trade union official, Mr. Phil Flynn, was arrested. I understand that he is acting general secretary of the Irish Local Government and Public Servants Union and was the full-time health service officer of the National Union of Public Employees in London from 1963 to 1967. I was a NUPE organiser at that time and, although I have never met Mr. Flynn, I understand that he has never been involved in terrorist organisations. He came to Liverpool on trade union business and it was only through representations made to the chief constable by the local trades council and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) that Mr. Flynn was released.
In a submission to the Shackleton Committee which is reviewing the Act, the Federation of Irish Societies said:People who have been detained under the Act, even though not charged, are terrified to say they have been detained because of the stigma attached. Men have actually lost their jobs after being held for questioning—again even though no charges were made.Most of the Irish Societies in Britain, particularly in the areas with large communities, felt that all their activities, social occasions, charity collections came under suspicion after the introduction. Many of the Societies were collecting for holidays for children who live normally in Belfast and Derry. These collections virtually dried up. People were actually afraid to collect or contribute lest it be suggested (as it was in some British newspapers) that the money was being used to promote terrorism.I have never supported renewal of these provisions. The Home Secretary said that the provisions would be renewed for one year and not for three months as some of my hon. Friends have suggested, but I feel that interpretation of the Act 565 varies between police authorities in different areas. There is still a lot of concern on Merseyside, not only in the trade union movement, the National Council for Civil Liberties and the Irish community but among people in general, and I should like the Home Secretary to comment on the situation in Merseyside.
I appreciate that there will be arrests on Merseyside because the port is used by so many Dublin and Belfast boats, but I believe that a number of those who are arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act could be arrested under other legislation. I asked the Home Secretary recently how many people had been arrested under the Act but charged under different Acts. I was told that some detainees have been charged with various trivial offences, such as motoring offences, theft or resisting arrest. I am sure that the police could deal with these people without using the Act.
Many people believe that the Act could be used for harassment and intimidation. I am also concerned about the photographing and finger-printing of people who are detained. Is it correct that even if these people are cleared and released, their photographs and fingerprints are kept on file?
In the light of the Home Secretary's reference to vigilance, I will conclude with a phrase from a speech which is often quoted by an old friend of mine from Liverpool—Joe Kelly. The quotation is from a speech by John Philpot Currans on the election of a Lord Mayor of Dublin on 10th July 1790:The condition upon which God hath given liberty to Man is eternal vigilance.Those words are as true now as they were 200 years ago. For that reason, I shall be voting against the order.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Any measure which bears the title "Prevention of Terrorism" or which could colourably be represented as assisting in the prevention of terrorism would naturally attract the good will and support of the people of Northern Ireland whom hon. Members on the Ulster Unionist Bench represent. Nevertheless, it would have been objectionable had the renewal of this order for a further 12 months not come under severe scrutiny in this debate.
566 The provisions of the present Act, since the inception at the end of 1974, have been highly objectionable to the people of Northern Ireland. It is indeed preposterous that, by the time this order has run its course, it will be more than four years during which it has been possible for a citizen of the United Kingdom compulsorily to be shifted from one part of the United Kingdom to another part of the United Kingdom. Such provisions can indeed be designated as temporary, but they are inherently objectionable in their very nature.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who has not been able to with us tonight for very long, thought it a ground for amusement that, in the amendment of the original Act, reciprocity in this respect was instituted between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, and elicited for the second time from the Home Secretary the information that the power had not been used in the reverse direction.
I make no apology at all for the fact that I pressed for that provision and I believe that the Government were fully justified in introducing it—and that for two reasons; first, we have actual evidence of the preparation in Great Britain of persons and materials destined for the commission of terrorist offences in Northern Ireland, so that it is impossible to deny that the circumstances can, and indeed do, exist in both directions; but, secondly, if we are to have the kind of legislation which makes it possible for citizens of the United Kingdom to be shifted from one part to the other, at any rate one part of the United Kingdom should not become the one-way recipient of this traffic. So it was entirely right that the Act should be framed in a reciprocal form.
I was relieved to hear what the Home Secretary had to say on the report which he is to obtain from Lord Shackleton, for it is quite clear that a scrupulous investigation is now called for as to the extent to which these provisions are having any effect whatsoever.
The Home Secretary said, I think, that 20 persons who had been detained under this Act had been charged with offences from murder downwards. But of course that in itself does not prove that the Act was essential to the detention, arrest 567 and conviction of those persons. I appreciate that it is difficult to do so. I appreciate that it is possible to argue that it was on the seventh day of detention, or as a result of other persons, who were later released, having been detained, that it was possible to identify and eventually convict these persons.
However, difficult though it may be—here again, I see the advantage of the sort of inquiry that the Home Secretary has instituted—we should not rest content with just being told that 20 persons who have gone through this process have sooner or later been found guilty of what were offences anyhow under the law of this country. It was in any case the duty of the police in this country to apprehend them for those offences.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that an additional advantage in appointing Lord Shackleton was that it took nine months to appoint him? We are now giving the Act a 12-month renewal knowing full well that Lord Shackleton's report is due quite soon.
§ Mr. Powell
It is not for me to apologise for the delay in the appointment of Lord Shackleton to these duties. That is the business of the Government. I would have been glad of the earliest review and detailed examination of the working and application of these provisions.
I come to the other case in point that the right hon. Gentleman cited. He referred to the Dublin consignment, if I may so describe it, that was mercifully prevented from reaching its intended destination in England. However, I inquire whether it was prevented from arriving because of the exclusion clauses. Were they necessary to the discovery that the consignment would be on its way? Or were the powers of detention necessary or used in the identification of the consignment? It is conceivable that they might have been. Again, I appreciate that it may be difficult for the Home Secretary in any particular case to parade before the House the perhaps complex stages by which information reached the point at which it could be used. Nevertheless, the fact is—we in the House must face it—that prima facie there is little connection between the events cited by the right hon. 568 Gentleman and the powers that are conveyed by the Act that we are renewing.
Thirdly, there is the point upon which my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) has already touched, namely, the bewildering lack of uniformity with which the provisions of the Act are enforced. As my hon. Friend was arguing, if it is necessary for the security of life and property in Great Britain that persons entering Great Britain by air from Northern Ireland should complete a form and verify that they are the persons who are signing the form, it must equally be necessary to do so whether they are entering at Liverpool, Gatwick or Heathrow.
This lack of uniformity damages the support of the public and the comprehension of the public for the need for these irksome and in some cases—I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry)—harassing provisions. He is right to say that they could be harassing. To say that does not mean that the police are deliberately engaging in victimisation; it means that by the very nature of examination directed to the purposes of the Act there may easily be circumstances of distress.
It is the experience of those of us who frequently make the journey, and who, because we are ourselves known, normally have a fairly easy passage—which is reasonable enough, as we are identified and are thus easy targets for apprehension should we engage in terrorist offences—that we have felt a certain sense of shame when we have seen others, no doubt in every case as innocent of any evil intent as we are, and conceivably more innocent, being held up for considerable periods.
So the inquiry ought not only to establish whether any assessable benefit is now being derived from each of these provisions, but, where any provisions are still felt to be necessary, to secure that their enforcement is uniform, seen to be uniform, and accessible to explanation by common sense.
I shall not return to the old debate between the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor and myself about the business of the common travel area and the passport. At the time I accepted the argument of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor that examination of the passports of persons entering this country is a different 569 process from surveillance of persons entering this country with a view to the prevention of terrorism. Nevertheless, if, as I hope, we are very soon to drop this legislation, we shall need to give attention to some regular and acceptable form of checking entry into the United Kingdom from the Irish Republic as from all other countries. That process involves no stigma and conveys no criticism, but is necessary in many respects for the protection of the public interest in the United Kingdom.
When the time comes—I trust that it will be soon—when we can dispense with these provisions, I hope that our law and administration in other respects will enable us to exercise neither more nor less than normal surveillance over all persons not belonging to this country who seek to enter it.
Therefore, I join with others in hoping that we shall see the duration of this order in practice being less than the 12-month period which is upon the face of it, and that, when the Shackleton Report is available and has been debated, it will appear that we can at least narrow and rationalise, if not dispense with, a provision which, if it is irksome to the inhabitants of the rest of the United Kingdom, is offensive as well as irksome to the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that I am not mistaken for my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Ellis).
§ Mr. Flannery
There was a suggestion that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) might be mistaken for Mike Yarwood, but we will pass over that.
I share the desire of the right hon. Member for Down, South that the Act need not be on the statute book for another year. I should hope that this would be an occasion for an extension of 570 three months and then for a change when the Shackleton Report came out.
What binds us together in the debate tonight is what my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) referred to as an abhorrence of terrorism. Indeed, most Labour Members have worked for civil liberties for many years. We often find it necessary to say that, especially when these debates are reported, so that people may know that we are totally opposed to terrorism and violence. Many hon. Members, including myself, have struggled and fought for human liberty in South Africa, Iran, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, and other countries. These are our credentials for fighting now for human liberty in our own country.
I find it necessary, without developing this theme, to reiterate what Opposition Members have heard me say on many occasions, namely, that there would not have been any need for this legislation had there been democracy in Northern Ireland. The greatest defence against terrorism is democracy. Where there is a lack of democracy and communalist politics violence breaks out. Democracy is still not present in Northern Ireland. The sooner it is the sooner this type of Draconian Act can be relegated to the dustbin of history.
I wish to speak about the injustice of exclusion orders. They are really deportation orders. The Secretary of State mentioned reciprocity. He is more aware than I that exclusion still goes in only one direction. I do not know of any exclusions from Northern Ireland in this direction. If there are any I should like to hear about them.
One of the most terrible things is that most people know nothing about this Act. They know nothing about the exclusion orders. They know nothing about the arrest and detention without trial that is going on in their midst. They merely know that a panic measure was taken after the Birmingham bombings. The details of what that resulted in are known only to politicians, and basically only to those at this level. Most of the people in trade unions do not know what an exclusion order is. They do not know that it is a deportation order.
The National Council for Civil Liberties has described exclusion orders. We 571 should take note of its summary of them. It states:To make an exclusion order, secret evidence is presented to the Home Secretary by the police. Neither suspect nor any legal officer appointed by a court of law has access to such evidence. Thus exclusion orders operate entirely outside the rule of law. This is a form of punishment without trial. It is particularly serious when applied to individuals who have left Northern Ireland in order to escape personal involvement with the troubles.To be accused of something and never to be made aware of what is surely the ultimate.
Many of my hon. Friends could give details of how this operates. The NCCL has the old figures. It says that of the 110 orders made, 20 representations were made against the orders. A total of six succeeded. Those figures are almost up to date. They tell an awful story of people being arrested without knowing why. We use the semi-genteel word "exclusion" when we know that it means deportation.
The real aim is to gather information about the Irish community in this country. People from that community are arrested but they have no right, as arrested persons, to do anything about false imprisonment or arrest, even when it is shown ultimately that they have no connection with terrorism.
In the process of questioning, knowledge is given about the Irish community. It could be argued that this is necessary to stop the bombings. However, many of us believe that far from its being an act to prevent terrorism, it is an act by which a section of our community is terrorised. Anyone who has struggled in the cause of human liberty is bound to abhor the fact that this should occur.
My figures may be wrong, but of the 3,017 people detained, 2,100 were at ports of entry. Sixty-five were subsequently charged, and there were 47 convictions. We do not know, however, whether there was more than one conviction per individual. In other words, the 47 convictions were not necessarily against 47 people.
Many of us contend that this terrifying ritual to which some of our people have been subjected is unnecessary. We feel that the legislation that was in force before this Act was quite adequate to deal with the problem. This Act came 572 into being in order to prove to people that the Government were taking measures to combat terrorism, but it could have been proved in a less panic-stricken manner that existing legislation was quite sufficient to deal with the problems of these crimes. I reiterate that many of us believe that this legislation was born in panic, that it should not be continued, because it is unnecessary, and that if we are to extend it the extension should be for only a minimum period of three months. We are confident that the Shackleton Report will provide sufficient evidence to justify the withdrawal of this Draconian legislation.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
The House should approve this order tonight, but reluctantly. We should suspend our final judgment on it until we receive the Shackleton Report, when we shall have something basic to go on. No hon. Member could justify this legislation except in a state of war. It is our view that the IRA has been in a state of war with this country for a considerable time.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) that at the time the Act was passed it was ineffective. In its early stages it was extremely useful in the attack against terrorism. Terrorism is a great threat to liberal values—
§ Mr. Hooson
Not at the moment. If we had not had this Act, and if, following the Birmingham pub bombing, that terrorism had escalated to London, the action that the country would have demanded would have meant a far greater abrogation of civil liberties than we have seen under this Act.
The real problem is that this Act has an enormous potential for misuse. I have no doubt that even when it is properly used—that is, when there are genuine grounds for suspicion—many innocents are bruised by its processes. I have no doubt that what we have been told by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) and what is contained in the NCCL document of evidence should be properly investigated by Lord Shackleton's review.
573 However, in dealing with terrorists who are intent upon a certain course of action, the normal rules are not adequate. Although innocents have been bruised by the provisions, some people have been drawn into the net who otherwise might not have been. Let me pose a basic question. Is terrorism in the modern age a temporary state of affairs? If it is not, as I suspect, it is time that the House gave far greater consideration to the matter and had a debate in depth such as will take place on the Shackleton Report.
There is a great danger in a country such as this that when we approve this kind of legislation as a matter of necessity and urgency we get used to it. We get used to some of the methods employed and to the terms, and even police officers get used to the powers it gives and regret the lack of them in other directions.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is right in insisting that there should be a proper review of this matter with a view to obtaining the kind of measures that will enable us to deal with terrorist activity in time of peace without this kind of emergency legislation being extended from year to year and, far from being a temporary measure, becoming permanent. That is the great danger that all who value liberal values and civil liberty have in mind. That is why I say that we should approve the order tonight, because it is a necessity, but we should do so very reluctantly.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Hooson
I had indicated to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) that I would give way to him, but I had forgotten about it until I was in the process of concluding. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I give way to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Litterick
I have almost forgotten what I was going to say.
The hon. and learned Gentleman was properly careful in saying that he thought 574 that in its early months of application the Act was effective, but would he not concede that he, like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, is not in a position to prove through convincing evidence of any direct character that it has been effective either in the short term or in the long term?
§ Mr. Hooson
That is so. There is no published evidence. But I suppose that in my profession I learn of certain things, and I adhere to the view that I expressed.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
When we have discussed this legislation on other occasions both my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary and the other gentleman whom we now prefer to forget, who is drawing a considerable salary in the European Economic Community, were able to point to certain acts of terrorism committed in this country, which all of us condemned and were appalled by, as a justification for continuing with the legislation.
My right hon. Friend began this evening by saying that last year this country was free of acts of terrorism. Nevertheless, he tells us that in flats and houses in some of our major cities there are active service units making ready for acts of terrorism. That is the suggestion related to us in a James Bond style. It would seem that that is the justification for continuing the legislation for another 12 months.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that there is enough legislation on the statute book and that the police have more than enough powers to deal with the active service units, if there are such in Britain. Without much firmer evidence, a much firmer indication of what my right hon. Friend is getting at, I can se no justification for asking the House tonight to extend the legislation for another 12 months.
A good deal has been said about Lord Shackleton's inquiry. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) rightly suggested a searching and in-depth inquiry. I understood him to say that the onus was on the Government to prove a correlation between this legislation—not the other police powers or any other legislation—and the dcrease in acts of terrorism and the arrests said to have been made.
575 I very much welcome the fact that Lord Shackleton is looking into the matter, but will he be any more successful in obtaining information than Members of Parliament have been? Unless the police, the Home Office and others involved are prepared to give him information, his report will be more or less useless. If the philosophy of the Home Office and the police in discussions with Lord Shackleton is that the arrests, the extension to seven days and the exclusion orders are purely executive orders, about which only the Home Secretary in his wisdom can make a judgment, Lord Shackleton presumably is not going to get any information on that score. There are the areas which are of crucial importance in terms of legislation.
I want to know what information the Home Office and the police are prepared to give to Lord Shackleton. If Lord Shackleton becomes as frustrated in his attempts to get information as I have become in seeking information about a couple of Bristolians who were served with exclusion orders I am afraid that his report will not enlighten us very much. I, too, cannot see why it is necessary to extend this legislation for another 12 months rather than for three months, until we have time to look at Lord Shackleton's report.
Like other hon. Members, I want to deal with exclusion orders. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Flannery) is right to say that this term is simply a euphemism for deportation. The right hon. Member for Down, South spoke of people being shifted—taken from their wives and families and jobs and shifted to another part of the country, without any indication of the charge against them.
In the case of the two Bristolians to whom I have referred I was contacted to see whether I could find even the slightest amount of information about the nature of the charges against them. I am sure that hon. Members will realise that it is not pleasant to be telephoned by a representative of a constituent who says that the constituent is in prison faced with an exclusion order and is likely to be separated from his wife, family and job and moved from Bristol to Northern Ireland. It is not pleasant to be told that that representative cannot get any 576 indication of the evidence against his client.
It is no good the lawyers in this House telling us about the right to legal representation. In both of these cases the men managed to get a solicitor to represent them. The solicitor telephoned me and said "I am trying to prepare a brief but I can get no indication of the evidence against my clients. What is the point of my attempting to prepare a brief?"
When the assessor appointed by the Home Secretary went to see Danny Ryan in Horfield Gaol he was asked by Danny Ryan what the evidence was against him. The assessor said "I have no idea. Even I do not know what it is." They spent about half an hour talking about Bristol City and Bristol Rovers. It was a pleasant time, but it was not very pleasant for Danny Ryan when he was deported to Northern Ireland.
What a strange situation this is. Here is someone suspected of being involved in committing acts of terrorism yet he is picked up and dumped in Northern Ireland, where he is allowed to go free. He is allowed to go free in the sense that Danny Ryan was allowed to go free, to be unemployed for most of the time because he could not get job. Eventually his wife and children found themselves in extreme difficulties.
Since the exclusion order was served on my constituent, Brendan Phelan, the family has broken up. He is, I understand, now separated from his wife, as a result of the long time that he has been in Northern Ireland. That is one family of which I know which has been smashed by this piece of legislation. When we get rid of this temporary legislation, will those who were deported to Northern Ireland be able to come back to their wives and families? I should like a clear-cut answer to that question, and the Home Office should tell us.
In order to show how ludicrous the legislation is, I refer to the case of a seaman who was picked up in Southampton at a minute before midnight, on an exclusion order, because he was alleged to have committed acts of terrorism. A clever lawyer, thank goodness, came along and said "We can show that he has been in this country for more than 20 years." As it was possible to prove this, the seaman was allowed to go back to 577 his ship, and he has carried on with his employment ever since. That shows what nonsense this legislation is.
I can understand the feelings of the Government, faced with the appalling outrages which took place in Birmingham and elsewhere. They obviously felt that they had to do something. But let us be clear about this—I say this to every one of my hon. Friends on the Front Bench—this kind of thing happens in the Soviet Union, in Czechoslovakia, in Chile or in South Africa, my hon. Friends are the first people to stand up, along with us, and shout about the loss of freedom in those countries. Let there be no mistake. If we have a piece of legislation which gives executive powers to the Home Secretary to deport anyone, without even giving him any indication of the evidence against him, it is not much different from some of the persecution in the Soviet Union. It is not much different from saying to someone "It is for the good of the State that you go into a mental hospital", or whatever it may be.
It is for these and many other reasons that I shall be voting against the renewal of the order tonight. I am convinced that the police had more than enough power before this legislation was brought in. If they have not that power, I am quite prepared that they should have it, providing that it is used to bring to court, and to punish with the full severity of the law, those who can be quite clearly proved, in a court of law, under British justice, to have been responsible for or to have been involved in acts of terrorism.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)
I wish to make only a very short contribution, having listened to the whole of the debate. I felt that the contribution from the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) was somewhat illogical and needs to be answered. He told us that he will vote against the order tonight, having said that he thought that it should be renewed for only three months. If he can see a case for its being renewed for three months, he can hardly argue that it should be dropped altogether. I should have thought that his proper choice was simply to support a renewal for 12 months.
§ Mr. Moate
The hon. Gentleman, then, will be voting against the renewal of the order.
I take issue with the hon. Gentleman's comments when referring to what the Home Secretary said about the active service units. The hon. Gentleman used the phrase disparagingly, and talked about James Bond type allegations. If that is the way in which he dismisses the IRA threat in this country, I can only say that he is totally out of touch with the realities of the situation, as are many of his hon. Friends. I think that the Home Secretary represented the views of the British people and of his constituents far more accurately than they were represented in many of the speeches that we have heard this evening.
I accept that, if I had a large number of constituents who had been subjected to irksome and harassing interference with their freedom of travel between different parts of the United Kingdom, I should perhaps have looked at the legislation in the way in which some hon. Members have looked at it. But, just as they have made it clear that they condemn terrorism, even though they might be against the order, I hope that they will accept that those of us who support the order and its extension are equally determined to defend the liberties of the individual and are reluctant to see any such impositions placed on the citizens of this country as are embodied in the order. Equally, one has to accept that in the circumstances it may be necessary to give the Government certain additional powers.
Although we can argue strongly that the order should be applied uniformly and fairly, and although we can argue about how it is applied, there is also an argument about whether the Government need additional powers in order to defend our citizens. We know, too, that the threat to the people will come from only a small number of individuals. The bombing outrages committed in Great Britain in the past were committed by only a tiny handful of people. But that tiny handful of people brought home to the people of Great Britain the reality of the horror with which the people of Ulster have lived for so many years.
It is easy to forget the horrified reaction of people to some of the indiscriminate bombings which we have experienced, with bombs being left in, 579 railway stations, in letter boxes and in restaurants. Any parent who has learned of a bomb left near the school which his child attends that luckily has not gone off knows how a bomb can threaten innocent lives. That horror could start again tomorrow, and it is complacent to believe that the threat has receded.
§ Mr. Robin Corbett (Hemel Hempstead)
If the hon. Member is such an ardent supporter of this wretched legislation, how can he say that the horror could start again tomorrow? The Government's case is that the order is preventing all this terrorism.
§ Mr. Moate
I accept what the Home Secretary said about these provisions having contributed to the peace which has prevailed in this country for the past 12 months. It would be the height of folly to drop these powers unless others were put in their place. But it would be greatly offensive to our citizens to believe that we should sweep away these powers simply because there have been no terrorist incidents in this country in the past 12 months.
At present, when it appears that the security forces in Northern Ireland are being more successful, it is likely that at some stage the terrorists will transfer their activities to Great Britain if they can do so easily. To make movement easier now by taking away these restrictions would be to offer an open invitation to terrorists to turn to the softer targets in Great Britain.
The Government are right to ask for the renewal of these powers. Equally, they are right to review them and to ensure that they are being applied as fairly as possible. It is necessary to examine them to ensure that they make continuing sense. Certainly we want them to be temporary, and they should be subject to the constant scrutiny which Government supporters sitting below the Gangway have given them. They should be subject to the sort of examination which the Home Secretary has put in hand. But I cannot see that for the next year or two—and perhaps longer—we shall not need additional powers to ensure that the terrorists who are still active in Northern Ireland do not gain the impression that it will be easy for them to come here and attempt to terrorise the 580 populations of London and of other towns and villages in Great Britain.
I hope that the Home Secretary will secure his proposed 12 months renewal of these powers, and I hope that those hon. Members who say that there should be only a three months extension will, because they have not got that option, accept the logic of their own argument and not vote against this proposal.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) will forgive me if I do not pursue his line of argument. The essence of his contribution seemed to be speculation, and I do not want to follow him down that road.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), following his excellent analysis of the arguments involved in appraising this measure, did not come to the conclusion which seemed to follow from his arguments. That was that we should be voting against the Act rather than waiting for some report from a noble Lord in the other place about how the Act has worked.
The earlier parts of his contribution, sensibly showed how the Act since its inception has been very questionable in a number of ways. I do not want to reiterate some of the arguments that were put during the first debate in 1974, but there was a general acceptance by many hon. Members that we were discussing an issue that affected individual liberty to a tremendous degree. I remember the words of one old philosopher:Liberty is a highly precious thing and as such, it ought to be rationed.If we accept that approach, it seems that we are in the business as legislators here in determining how we shall ration and whom we shall ration in this context.
The Home Secretary has made his case that we are to ration the liberty of a section of the community in the interests of destroying the ASU, but he has not given a bit of evidence that would encourage us to believe that the Prevention of Terrorism Act has prevented or can or will prevent terrorism. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ron Thomas) and others pointed out that there are already on the statute book sufficient police powers to enable the implementation of the sort of things that 581 the Home Secretary wants done in regard to the ASU.
There was an admission from the previous Home Secretary that these were Draconian measures that he was introducing. He gave us all the impression—I hope that it was not a hypocritical approach on his part—that he very much regretted having to take this measure but thought that in time it would be possible to ensure that it was the temporary measure that it claims to be.
I suggest that the main purpose of the Act is to discriminate against the Irish people who live on this side of the Irish Sea. Its purpose is to attempt to obtain information about their political views, their political activities and generally to apply constraints on those activities arising from the existence of this piece of legislation.
The detentions that have taken place have resulted in 95 per cent. of those who have been detained not being charged with any offence. That means that 95 per cent. of those detained were deprived of their liberty for two, three or seven days, and, it seems, without any compensation.
I question whether there is any way in which one can compensate anybody for depriving him of his liberty for a few days, particularly as—some of my colleagues have indicated this earlier—the circumstances in which this takes place are complete secrecy, no messages to the family and no messages to anyone outside the captivity imposed by the police.
If there is a way in which anybody being detained can get a message indirectly to a Member of Parliament, what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West indicates how inept he felt in attempting to represent such a person in those circumstances. In the case of exclusion orders, again, no charges need be made known to the person concerned or anybody who might seek to help him in any way. He is merely deported and given the opportunity to make a way for himself and his family, with the stigma that must inevitably attach to the fact that he has been excluded from the United Kingdom.
I make only one last point, Mr. Speaker, because I do not want to go on your "over eight minutes" list. I make this point to the Home Secretary. Let us conceive of a situation in which 582 there is a General Election between now and the ending of this 12-month period. The Home Secretary may be satisfied—but I am not—that the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, who might just, by some accident, occupy the position of Prime Minister of this country, would have a great deal of hesitation in using the prevention of terrorism legislation against some trade unionists in Britain.
Let us recall the inadequacy of the definition of "terrorism" that is contained in the Act. I can imagine a very difficult industrial relations situation, because Opposition Members are the architects of industrial conflict when they are in power. Screwing the workers is their traditional position. In those circumstances there could well be a picket at which someone was speaking on something of the lines of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), and he may even look a bit like the hon. Member. What sort of position would he be likely to be in if picked up by a policeman who had considerable sympathy with the sort of powers that we are giving to policemen under the Act? I shudder to think what could be done by an unscrupulous Home Secretary in the event of our ever having the catastrophe of another Conservative Government.
It is against that background that I urge the Home Secretary to think again. Even though I put the question to him earlier about the role of Lord Shackleton and the periodicity of the Act, I take the view, as do most of my hon. Friends who are present in the Chamber now, that we should vote against the Act. There is no case now, although there might have been one when the Act was introduced, for perpetuating the Act. The House would be doing a service in the interests of liberty of the individual if it voted against the renewal of these provisions.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I have no compunction about reciting for the umpteenth time the reasons why the House should see the Act as an entirely objectionable piece of legislation. I have been over this course every time it has come before us, and these reasons need to be repeated over and over again—if only because the State insists on 583 repeating its reasons for continuing to have this legislation.
The State has no argument to offer, other than the original argument that there is a threat. We all know that the origin of that was a single event in one city in Britain, which the Government Front Bench lamentably and shamefully used as an occasion for a hasty piece of legislation which was designed to convince a properly shocked public that something was being done, and nothing more. As we have learnt on every attempt at renewal by Home Secretaries since then, the Government are not able to justify this Act in terms of results, in terms of positive, constructive benefit to the British people.
That is why the worthy Lord Shackle-ton was appointed. It was because no Home Secretary is able to justify this legislation, so he needs a fall guy, a patsy—
§ Mr. Litterick
—a symbol, and above all, he needs time.
The Home Secretary will have to take tutorials in English colloquialism.
§ Mr. Litterick
My right hon. Friend ought to know better than that. It is an American colloquialism.
May I get on with my speech? This is the first time that I have been banned by a Home Secretary. I think that my right hon. Friend quite enjoys the experience.
The Government had to appoint Lord Shackleton to buy time, since the promise was made a year ago to appoint a person to investigate the operation of the Act and it took such a very long time to find someone who was properly qualified to do this strange and uniquely important job—nine months in fact—with the result that we are now asked once again to renew this damned legislation for a year. This means that it is guaranteed—we all know what the result of a Division will be—for another 12 months on the statute book, regardless of what Lord Shackle-ton says. The Home Secretary and the State are safe for another 12 months. It means that the State is safe—
§ Mr. Litterick
It means that the State is safe, although the Home Secretary has not been able to prove once during the last three years that this legislation has been of benefit.
§ Sir M. Havers
Does the hon. Member remember the appalling disasters at Guildford and Woolwich? Does he remember how this provision was responsible for the detention of those who committed these atrocities?
§ Mr. Litterick
Prove it. The right hon. and learned Member makes the mistake of believing that because someone is charged under a piece of legislation, that is the only piece of legislation under which that individual could have been charged. That is not the case. For example, the men who were subsequently charged and convicted of the horrendous Birmingham bombings were charged and convicted under the previous legislation. Incidentally, they were arrested within 24 hours of the bombing. They were arrested days before being charged, and they were held incommunicado without the benefit of this hellish legislation. The police had adequate powers then to apprehend and hold these people incommunicado without the powers conferred by this Act.
It is wrong to say that subsequent arrests could have been made only because of this legislation being on the statute book. The right hon. and learned Member forgets that arrests and detentions were made before this legislation was on the statute book. It did not seem to worry the police that they violated the civil liberties of those they arrested before this Act was in force. Nobody seemed to worry about it.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
If the police had sufficient and adequate powers without this Act, why is there such opposition to it? If it provided no further powers than those the police already had, why is the hon. Member so worried about it?
§ Mr. Litterick
I thought that I was in the business of opposing the Act. I do not wish it to be renewed, because I believe that sufficient powers exist without it to enable the authorities to cope with terrorism.
§ Mr. Litterick
I do not think that the hon. Member can be well. The fact is that the traditional liberties of the citizen have been violated in a new way by this Act and the police have been, to a significant degree, politicised in so far as the Act enables them to make political judgments about human beings before taking them into custody. That political judgment has now been made a reason for taking them into custody. That is a significant step towards a police State. I am not saying that we have arrived at the police State, but we are familiarising our people with the concepts and precepts of the police State by a process of gradualism. We are familiarising them with the idea that it is right to arrest someone without charge and to hold him incommunicado without charge, and that it is right for the police to make a political judgment about a human being. It is not all right; it is fundamentally wrong.
I make a point about the Conservative Party. There is a peculiar set of double standards in operation within the Conservative Party vis-à-vis its atitude to the State. I hope that the few Conservative Members present will pay attention to this point. I have been in this House for a short time—a little more than three years—but never a week passes before some Conservative Member rises to his feet to shriek about the iniquities of the State wishing to take action on property rights. More often than not, Conservatives complain about taxation.
It is noticeable that the Conservatives are quick to attack the State when it appears to impinge on property rights, but when a request or demand is made by the State to acquire new powers over physical liberties and citizenship by our wonderful Bobbies, as they are so often described, when they are given greater power over the citizen or when our Service men are given similar powers—and let us remember that both are agents of the State—whole regiments of Tories rise to their feet shouting choruses of approval. In other words, it is all right that the State should physically violate the liberty of citizens, but it is not all right, apparently, for the State to take action against property. The Tories adopt double standards. They are against the people, but they are for property.
586 In this debate the Tories have demonstrated this attitude again. That is not surprising, because it comes naturally to them. If one gives more power to agents of the State in uniform, that is acceptable, but if one seeks to give more power to the Department of Industry or the Treasury to take action on behalf of the community against property, that, according to the Tories, is an outrage. They apply double standards and it is utter hypocrisy. Those Conservatives do not serve the community well.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Irving (Dartford)
I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the fact that I was unable to be present in the opening stages of this debate. I shall make only a brief intervention.
I support reluctantly the need for this legislation. I am always sorry when the normal processes of justice have to be suspended, but I believe that basically this legislation seeks to protect the public and is designed to prevent such horrific happenings as those that occurred in Birmingham, Aldershot and Guildford.
I also accept the integrity and judgment of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, whom I have known for over 30 years since we were undergraduates together. However, I welcome Lord Shackleton's inquiry because some of the procedures leave something to be desired, particularly in respect of exclusion orders.
John McKenna, a constituent of mine, was taken to Gravesend police station early in the morning of Monday 23rd January. I do not know whether he is guilty, but he was kept incommunicado until the Thursday without being allowed to see a solicitor. It is difficult enough to contest that kind of charge without being excluded from advice for practically the whole of the period of 96 hours during which there is an opportunity to appeal. I hope that some examination of the procedures will be possible when Lord Shackleton reports.
It also makes difficult the examination of counter-charges that are almost inevitably made in such cases. There have been allegations on the other side about the tapping by the police of solicitors' telephone lines and of brutality by the Royal 587 Ulster Constabulary at Gravesend police station. It is alleged that somebody represented himself as a solicitor intending presumably to obtain some kind of confession. If the procedures were tidied up, it would make it much more possible for such allegations to be properly examined in the course of the inquiry.
One of the allegations appears to be that my constituent was involved in the Birmingham bombing. I understand from a Sunday newspaper that the RUC now says that it is satisfied that my constituent was not there. Has my right hon. Friend anything to say on that point?
The other matter that I wish to raise is the timing of exclusion orders. My constituent was kept at Gravesend police station from early Monday morning until late Friday evening and the exclusion order was made after 6 p.m. on Friday—when the Home Office had closed. It 588 heightens the difficulty of solicitors and hon. Members if such orders are made at weekends, when it is difficult to contact the Home Office and get the sort of assurances that are necessary in such cases. At the same time, I place on record my grateful thanks to the civil servants I eventually contacted for their help over that weekend.
By coincidence, confirmation of the order was made a fortnight earlier, again after 6 p.m. on Friday, and it was difficult for inquiries to be made about the fate of the man's wife and her two children, who may not have been involved in any act of which the husband may have been guilty. Indeed, the wife had never been to Northern Ireland.
I hope that when Lord Shackleton reports, some of these procedures can be tidied up. I support the legislation, but I hope that it will not have to be continued for much longer.
§ 10.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
After listening to the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers), I had not intended to intervene, but the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) draws me to my feet to reply to some of his comments.
I was about to apologise for the fact that I have not heard part of the debate, but since the hon. Member for Selly Oak stood up, blew up and blew out, I see no need to apologise for commenting on his speech in his absence. The hon. Gentleman described the legislation as hellish and claimed that it was brought in by the Home Secretary as a result of an isolated incident in a single town. We should make clear that this is not so.
Before the change of Government in 1974, there were various outrageous bombing incidents in London. As a Minister in the Home Office, I shared the concern of the whole House about the damage to life and property caused by the bombings and serious consideration was given to bringing in legislation of this nature.
The advice given to the Home Office at that time was that the balance was against bringing in a Bill because of the difficulty of proscribing individual organisations, the possibility that they might avoid proscription simply by changing their names and the fact that such an Act would inevitably be to some degree an attack on what we look upon as basic liberties in this country. After a great deal of consideration, no measure was introduced. However, I have no doubt that the Government, faced with the outrage at Birmingham and other actions, were right to accept that the balance of the argument had fallen the other way and that the Act was necessary.
Let us be clear what the Act does. It proscribes an organisation which is aimed at causing destruction in this country. It provides power for the Home Secretary to exclude anyone if he believes it is expedient to do so in order to prevent acts of terrorism in this country, and it gives him the power, on his personal decision, to extend the length of time that a person may be held in custody in this country.
590 Far from being a hellish piece of legislation, as the hon. Member for Selly Oak suggests, it is, regrettably, necessary in order to prevent people and property being damaged and attacked by terrorism in this country.
§ Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)
The hon. and learned Gentleman is expert in this subject. Would he not agree that most of the provisions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are covered by other statutes? I should be grateful to hear what he has to say.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I have no doubt that acts of terrorism, when committed, can be adequately dealt with under other parts of the law. Where this Act takes us further is in providing prevention of the act of terrorism rather than conviction of the person who has committed it. Therefore, a new power—and, I believe, a necessary new power in the circumstances as the Home Office then saw it—was the power to exclude those who, it was feared, were coming here for the purpose of committing acts of terrorism in future.
The hon. Lady will accept from me, I think, that, as any lawyer in the House will know, the necessary evidence to prove attempts to commit offences is very difficult to obtain, because it does not cover preparation, whereas here one is taking basically a preventive power rather than a power to convict those who have committed offences. One is stopping terrorism occurring.
Happily, as has been said, we have seen a substantial reduction in terrorist activity, but when one sees what has happened recently in Northern Ireland, one cannot believe that the threat is wholly excluded. As long as that threat to our property and to the lives of the people of this country exists, the Government are right to take what I am sure they have been advised by the powers involved are the necessary powers to fight that terrorism. I believe that the House should support the Home Secretary tonight.
§ 10.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
The hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) talks about the preparations that were made under the previous Administration. One oddity of life is that one 591 cannot see the papers of a previous Administration, but I can well believe that consideration was given to legislation such as was eventually introduced.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Irving), who reminded me that we have known each other a long time, raised a constituency case. I mentioned earlier the article in The Sunday Times and said that I hoped the information in it would lead its writer to see Lord Shackleton. In my view the statistical information is wrong, but anyone who feels strongly enough to write such an article should bring the information forward.
However, the Kent police have authorised me to say that they are not in disagreement with the RUC about this case. It is important that I should get that on the record. Nor is it true that the RUC believes that the exclusion orders are made on inadequate grounds. Having been involved in these matters now to a much greater degree than when I was in Northern Ireland, I just felt that that article was misconceived and that the need for the legislation and its form had not been understood.
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne)—there seems to be a regular swish out of the Chamber at this time of night; I wonder whether the notes that I have made are really necessary. My hon. Friend has left the Chamber. It may be for the benefit of the House if I do not reply to my hon. Friend and move on.
It is my opinion that exclusion orders are important. I understand why the idea of such orders is not well received by hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies. Although they may be misnamed, there are in Northern Ireland a number of so-called battalions. There is a high command. A structure exists to provide violence. I have to take into account anybody who has been associated with that structure. I have to bear in mind that small units may be set up to repeat the sort of thing that has been done in the past. In the interests of the community here, I have to act upon that basis, but in a way that is laid down in the legislation.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) asked about port con- 592 trol. I shall consider what he has said. Responsibility for the controls at any port is in the hands of the chief constable. Much depends on the nature of the port traffic. In some instances police manpower requires that there is selectivity in the way in which the police act at a port of entry instead of the implementation of blanket control. That applies to landing and embarkation cards. However, I shall consider the matter.
That is the sort of matter that Lord Shackleton is examining. I understand that a number of my hon. Friend have been to see Lord Shackleton, and it may be that the hon. Member for Antrim, South, who uses the airport in question with great frequency, will care to put his case to him. Lord Shackleton will be reporting to me on any matter that comes within the terms of reference that I put before the House.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) referred to Lord Shackleton as a "patsy" and things of that kind. There is no way in which I have asked Lord Shackleton to be a fall guy. I regret that that expression was used about a man for whom I have the highest regard. Lord Shackleton will do what he wants without considering my views. That is why I asked him to do the job. He will have access to confidential information. He has had full access to papers in the Home Office. He has been given full cooperation by the police. It is obvious that not all the information should be made public, but the information will be made available to Lord Shacklton.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) made some remarks about what is going on in Merseyside. I suggest to my hon. Friend that it would be very much better if he spoke to Lord Shackleton on the allegations that he has made. That is the purpose of Lord Shackleton's inquiry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett), who has been to see me on a number of occasions on these matters, mentioned Section 11. That is the provision which was put into the 1976 Act at the initial suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). It was before my time as Secretary 593 of State, and I understand that the Government were a little hesitant about the advantages of the provision but on balance were convinced. It is one of the provisions on which Lord Shackleton's views will be of particular interest.
The section makes it an offence to withhold information about terrorism. It was aimed at the man or woman who knows that a bomb is to be planted, although he or she is not actively approving of the action, and keeps quiet. That has been the position on a number of occasions that I know of in Northern Ireland. It was put in the legislation, and Lord Shackleton may consider that if he so wishes. No instructions have been given.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scotland Exchange and other hon. Members mentioned the Judges' Rules and the length of time that people can be kept in detention without relatives or solicitors being informed. Section 62 of the Criminal Law Act and the Judges' Rules are still there. I have discussed with hon. Members a circular which should go to the police. The police have also been discussing the matter among themselves. Section 62 was deliberately drawn to refer to this legislation as well as to the ordinary legislation that applies in this country. That section is not separate from the prevention of terrorism legislation.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
Does my hon. Friend agree that the legislation in England is different from that in Scotland? Therefore, would it be reasonable for Lord Shackleton to consider how far the police feel handicapped in Scotland because the legislation there is different from English legislation?
§ Mr. Rees
Certainly Lord Shackleton can do that. But I say to my hon. Friend—when I say "but", that is not qualifying what I say; it is a qualification for my own statement—Section 62 applies to England and Wales. That is what the House decided in the Criminal Law Act. Historically, the way that it is done in Scotland is a separate matter. The Criminal Law Act cannot apply there. However, if Lord Shackleton wants to consider how it is done in Scotland, that is entirely a matter for him. In the longer term, the Royal Commission on criminal and prosecuting procedure, which will take some time, is, I like to 594 think, one of the most important investigations which will take place in my time at the Home Office.
Comparison with Scotland is important. Other aspects arise from the Confait case, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) played a part.
The right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) put the matter correctly in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) about other legislation. The prevention of terrorism legislation is designed to prevent terrorism. It is not another series of laws to deal with those who have weapons and commit murder or other crimes. It is not surprising that people are taken to court and charged with offences under other legislation, because that is the substantive nature of the charge. If, within the limited parts of the prevention of terrorism legislation as opposed to exclusion orders and extra detention for more than 48 hours, there is a charge to put before a court, as with Section 11, that is a separate matter.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) asked, as did some of my hon. Friends, whether the Act is any longer necessary. That is a perfectly proper question to ask about the legislation. Lord Shackleton is looking not at the principle of it—I keep saying that that is a matter for the House—but at the way that it works.
I come back to the point about there being plenty of law for dealing with terrorism. The problem that we have to face is that in a normal murder, if I may put it that way, the police step in to find out who has committed it. With terrorism, there are self-confessed members of organisations who, to get their political ends, state that they will kill and murder.
§ Mr. Rees
Let me stick to the dumping in Northern Ireland part. On that point my hon. Friend is allied with the right hon. Member for Down, South. That is as may be. There are in Northern Ireland para-military organisations. One is the Provisional IRA. There are others on the Protestant side. With one or two exceptions, the Provisional IRA has brought its battle to this side of the 595 water. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is concerned about the UVF and the other organisations there. I am not so concerned about the UVF on this side of the water, because generally—one has to be very careful—it is the Provisional IRA which gets involved in violence in this country.
It is my job to balance civil rights with the fact that there is a terrorist organisation which tries to get bombing material and weapons into this country. I have to bear in mind that the members of that organisation would not stop at killing and murdering. If ordinary people who have never had a political thought in their minds are involved in action against such people, that is part of the cost.
§ Mr. Corbett
A total of 3,000 people have been detained under the Act, and 95 per cent. of them have not been charged with anything. Is my right hon. Friend really saying that the main reason for picking them up is that they are suspected of being members or supporters of the IRA and that that is sufficient to knock them off? If that is the case, is he saying that there is no other legislation to deal with them? Do we not have conspiracy charges?
§ Mr. Rees
I shall have to look in the dictionary to see exactly what "knocking off" means. We have reformed the conspiracy legislation and I shall not go into that. I have to take into account that there are people who are involved in a para-military organisation. I have to decide whether individuals have changed their minds. I have to decide whether they come here to get away from the situation or to assist the terrorists. I have to protect the body politic because at some time the bombings and shootings that we have known in the past might happen again.
|Division No. 150]||AYES||[10.51 p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Brotherton, Michael||Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)|
|Ashton, Joe||Buchanan, Richard||Cryer, Bob|
|Bates, Alf||Burden, F. A.||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)|
|Beith, A. J.||Campbell, Ian||Davidson, Arthur|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Carlisle, Mark||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Cartwright, John||Deakins, Eric|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Dempsey, James|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Cohen, Stanley||Doig, Peter|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Dormand, J. D.|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Cowans, Harry||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
§ the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the intelligence that he has on the people brought to his notice who come here and are known to have associations with terrorist organisations. Is it not right that he should take precautions to ensure that they do not practise their violence and terrorism in this country?
§ Mr. Rees
It is right that I should do so.
There is a danger—it happened at the time of the Birmingham bombings—that the substantial Irish population which has lived here for some time will come under suspicion. This happens from time to time. I have good reasons for knowing that sometimes an Irish person's name or accent leads to problems. But the vast majority of the Irish here do not feel that they are being terrorised. The majority play an important part in the life of our community.
It would be a grave mistake to believe that the Irish population all vote the same way. Perhaps they do in certain areas, but not in general. I say this because of the things that are said outside the House about the nature of the Irish community. It plays an important part in the life of our community. The Irish population is not terrorised by this legislation. It is right to renew the legislation.
The Shackleton Report will come. I have made my promise about a discussion in the House. Lord Shackleton can look at any aspect of the prevention of terrorism legislation that he wishes. That was a suggestion that I made to the House last year. There is a continuing need for legislation of this kind. Is it the right sort of legislation? That is what Lord Shackleton should examine. In the meantime, I commend the order to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 118, Noes 21.597
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Sever, John|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||McElhone, Frank||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Macfarlane, Neil||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|George, Bruce||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Gilbart, Dr John||Maclennan, Robert||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Strang, Gavin|
|Golding, John||Madden, Max||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Gourlay, Harry||Marks, Kenneth||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Tinn, James|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Mitchell, Austin||Ward, Michael|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Moate, Roger||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hawkins, Paul||Molloy, William||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Molyneaux, James||White, James (Pollok)|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Noble, Mike||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|John, Brynmor||Oakes, Gordon||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Woodall, Alec|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Palmer, Arthur||Woof, Robert|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Penhaligon, David||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Younger, Hon George|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Lambie, David||Robinson, Geoffrey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lamborn, Harry||Roderick, Caerwyn||Mr. Ted Graham and|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Le Merchant, Spencer||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Litterick, Tom||Rodgers, George (Chorley)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Loyden, Eddie||Skinner, Dennis|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Corbett, Robin||Maynard, Miss Joan||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Flannery, Martin||Ovenden, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kerr, Russell||Parry, Robert||Miss Jo Richardson and|
|Lamond, James||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order 1978, which was laid before this House on 23rd February, be approved.