HC Deb 21 March 1979 vol 964 cc1502-4
Mr. Speaker

I wish to draw the attention of the House to the scope of the debate on the Shackleton report and the prevention of terrorism order. On Friday last, when dealing with points of order before the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made his statement on the Bennett report, I suggested, off the cuff, that it might be possible in the course of today's debate to deal with specific allegations about the physical ill treatment of persons in custody.

On looking more closely at the documents before the House today, I find that the draft order and the Act that it continues deal with such matters as the proscription of the IRA, the power to make exclusion orders, the power to arrest suspected terrorists and control of their entry into the United Kingdom.

The Shackleton report is, therefore, a wide review of the working of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts and its emphasis is very different from that of the Bennett report.

While a wide debate covering any matter relating to the effectiveness or desirability of the powers that are being renewed is in order, any references to alleged ill treatment of suspected terrorists should be related to the documents being considered in today's debate.

Mr. Fitt

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I had intended to raise the very point that you have drawn to the attention of the House.

Section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act is applicable throughout Great Britain and in Northern Ireland. A number of persons have been arrested, convicted and sentenced and, indeed, released from interrogation under the Act. These are the issues raised in the Bennett report. Persons were arrested under the Act, which applies to all parts of the United Kingdom, and were treated in a certain manner. I suggest that all those who were arrested in Northern Ireland under section 12 of the Act are entitled to have their cases debated on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I think it is a matter of applied common sense that we should relate the speeches of hon. Members—it is easily done—to the documents that are before the House.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are extremely grateful for your ruling, but is it not a fact that the Bennett report specifically was not concerned with individual cases and that therefore your ruling cannot possibly admit the discussion of individual cases in this debate?

Mr. Speaker

I have tried to draw the distinction between the Bennett report and the Shackleton report. Really, the Shackleton report does not go into the question of alleged ill treatment. We ought to confine ourselves to what is there.

Mr. Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not think that you actually said to the House, before calling the Home Secretary, that we were debating together the"take note"motion and the motion to approve the draft order. I gather that that is the case. If so, will the motion on the draft order be put for Division, if necessary, when the"take note"motion is disposed of?

Mr. Speaker

If the House agrees to discuss the two together, of course the Questions on them will be put separately at the end of the day.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In paragraph 141 of the Shackleton report there is a brief mention of this matter, concerning the rights of prisoners and the allegations made by them. Would you, Mr. Speaker, rule, within that particular tight paragraph, on the issue on which you gave us your views a few moments ago?

Mr. Speaker

I am aware of paragraph 141, where Lord Shackleton draws particular attention to the fact that he had not gone into the question of the ill treatment of prisoners. He refers to the fact that the Secretary of State has announced the setting up of an independent inquiry, which was the Bennett inquiry. It is only tangential, and I suggest that it ought to be no more than tangential in anybody's speech today. It should not be the main burden, in view of the reports that are before us in the House.