§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Shackleton Report on the Review of the Operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts 1974 and 1976.I understand from what you have just said, Mr. Speaker, that the House is to discuss at the same time the following motion:That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order 1979, which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.I propose to begin by giving an account of the use that has been made of the legislation, since this will provide a basis for our consideration both of Lord Shackleton's report and of the draft continuance order.
Under the provisions of part II of the 1976 Act, exclusion orders give me power to remove people from Great Britain or, if they are not citizens of the United Kingdom or colonies, from the United Kingdom as a whole. However, I may exercise this power only if I am satisfied that those people are, or have been, concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, or are attempting, or may attempt, to enter the country for that purpose.
This is, rightly, a stringent test, and no decision to use this power is taken lightly. Every case that is put forward by the police is very carefully examined and submitted to me personally. Only when I am satisfied that the strict criteria laid down in the Act have been met am I prepared to authorise exclusion.
Up to 28 February 1979, 166 exclusion orders had been made since the prevention of terrorism legislation came into force in 1974. This figure includes 47 orders that have been made since 1 March last year. I should also mention that 23 applications for exclusion orders have been refused since the 1974 Act came into force. The Act—quite rightly—provides that a person against whom an exclusion order has been made may, within four days, make representations against that order. The case is then considered 1506 by an independent adviser, who studies all the relevent information and submits a report to me.
During the past year representations were made by four people. In each case I decided, after carefully reweighing the facts, to confirm the order. The total number of people who have made representations against exclusion orders in accordance with the Act is now 26. In seven of those cases the outcome has been the revocation of the orders.
During the past year I have also revoked an exclusion order made in 1975, following representations made out of time by the excluded person and by others on his behalf. In addition, four orders have been revoked for other reasons—for example, because the person concerned was subsequently charged in this country.
Up to 28 February 1979, 150 people had been removed under the powers contained in this legislation, including 46 since 1 March last year. Of these, a total of 123 had been removed to Northern Ireland and 27 to the Republic of Ireland. The figures since 1 March last year are 43 and three respectively.
The task of considering representations made against exclusion orders under section 7 of the Act falls to the two advisers whom I have appointed—Lord Alport and Mr. John Newey, QC, who replaced the Honourable Mr. Justice Waterhouse, following the latter's appointment as a High Court judge. I take this opportunity to record my gratitude to all three people for the work that they have done and for the advice that they have given to me.
I turn now to the use that has been made of the powers of detention under the Act. Section 12 gives the police the power to arrest without warrant, and to detain, a person whom they reasonably suspect has committed an offence under the Act or is involved in acts of terrorism. They may detain such a person, on the authority that the Act gives them, for up to 48 hours. On application, I can extend that period for up to a further five days.
Up to 28 February 1979, the police had detained 1,117 people under these powers since they were introduced—238 since 1 March last year—and an extension of detention has been granted in 379 cases—102 since 1 March last year. 1507 This includes 58 people in respect of whom my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland had authorised extensions of detention—54 since 1 March last year.
The police also have power under the Act to impose controls on those entering or leaving Great Britain.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
Do the figures that the Home Secretary has just given for the use of section 12 of the Act relate wholly to Great Britain, or were some of those cases in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Rees
Those figures related to those orders that I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland signed. I do not believe that they include figures for Northern Ireland—I think that is correct. It is a point that I have in mind and I am aware of the interest in this, but I am answering for my own responsibility.
The police may examine passengers in order to determine whether they are, or have been, involved in acts of terrorism, whether they are subject to an exclusion order, or may have committed certain offences under the Act. If the police believe that a person may fall into one of these categories they can detain that person for up to seven days under their own authority under the Act. Since 1 March last year 494 people have been detained under this power, bringing the total since 1974, and up to 28 February 1979, to 2,685. Understandably, there is considerable interest in the number of people who have been charged with offences under the Act, and with other offences following detention under the Act.
Up to 28 February 1979, 58 people detained under the Act—I stress"under the Act "—had been charged with offences or with conspiracy to commit offences under the Act since 1974, and 38 of them since 1 March last year. In addition, 203 people, including 21 since 1 March last year, have been charged with other offences, including murder and firearms offences, in Great Britain following detention under the Act.
In my view, we should be in no doubt how we should treat such figures. They are not a sufficient or valid guide to the effectiveness of the Act, but when I see 1508 that a number of people have been charged with murder and firearms offences, I believe that it is a most important factor to take into account. Even then, it is not a sufficient or valid guide. I have been rereading the debates that took place when the original Act was introduced. It was always intended to be, and remains, primarily a preventive measure to deal with terrorism.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-west)
My right hon. Friend mentioned the two advisers. Can he give the House an assurance that now those two advisers have some indication of the evidence against the individual? When Lord Alport met a Bristolian by the name of Danny Ryan, he had to admit to Mr. Ryan that he knew nothing at all about the evidence that eventually led to the deportation of Mr. Ryan.
§ Mr. Rees
The point is that when I look at this, whether it is for extension or for exclusion, I see all the evidence that is available. All the evidence is given to the advisers. That is the way it is done. That is the only way in which it can be done, because I am advised by the advisers. However, if my hon. Friend has a particular point, I shall willingly look at it.
I turn to Lord Shackleton's report. Hon. Members will recall that during the discussion on the renewal of this Act in 1977, I said that I would consider ways in which we might look at the operation of the Act to see how it was working in practice. In December 1977, I announced that I had appointed Lord Shackleton to conduct this review with the following terms of reference—and it is important that the terms of reference are recalled: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.1509 I should like to express my thanks to Lord Shackleton and to pay tribute to him for his hard work in producing a most fair and comprehensive report. I know that he visited all parts of the country and looked at police cells. He did a most comprehensive job on behalf of this House.
In his report, which was published last August, Lord Shackleton discusses in detail each of the powers in the Act and comes to the general conclusion that while the threat from terrorism continues, the powers in the Act, subject to certain amendments that he proposes, cannot be dispensed with. That is a view that I share. Lord Shackleton made a number of recommendations aimed primarily at ameliorating the effects that the Act has on civil liberties. I can inform the House that I can accept almost all of his recommendations. I should like to deal with them.
I turn first to the recommendation in relation to section 11. This is the recommendation that I have not been able to accept. Section 11 makes it an offence to withhold information about acts of terrorism, and the recommendation is that it should be allowed to lapse. Lord Shackleton was unhappy about the implications of this section, which he described as havingand unpleasant ring about it in terms of civil liberties ".He pointed out that the section had been little used in Great Britain, perhaps because of the difficulties of proof, and that it might be used to bring pressure to bear on a person in detention.
The House will recall that section 11 was included in the 1976 Act as a result of an amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham). The arguments for and against the provision were finely balanced, but after a thorough debate my predecessor and the House were persuaded that its inclusion was right and necessary.
I have given careful consideration to the question of section 11, in the light of Lord Shackleton's recommendations, but I have also considered very carefully what was said in this House and the way in which section 11 appeared on the statute book. It did not come originally from 1510 the Home Office. In my considered view, it is too early to make a final judgment in regard to this section, particularly since the police have used it in their complex investigations into the recent bombing incidents. I am convinced that in the face of a renewed campaign in this country it would be wrong now to deprive them of this power.
If the Act is renewed for a further 12 months, the Government will look again at section 11 in a year's time. What influenced me was the way in which this section got on to the statute book. Of course, I took into account what Lord Shackleton said, but I also had to take into account the fact that this section has been of the greatest importance in recent bombing events. As Home Secretary, I could not ignore that, whatever was said about it in the Shackleton report.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I am most grateful for the remarks that my right hon. Friend has just made. He will understand that if in a year's time the Government were to decide that they wanted to drop this provision, it would be done in the renewal order and there would be no procedural way by which the House could countermand it. May I direct to his attention and to the attention of the Home Office the possibility that if that were to be tried there should be a motion on the Order Paper on that day which could be separately debated, so that the House could decide whether or not that provision was to be dropped? I am not sure how exactly this could be done, but I ask my right hon. Friend not to deprive the House of the opportunity of deciding whether that provision should be dropped, since, as he said, it was the House that decided that it should be put on the statute book.
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend has much greater expertise than I as to how this should be done. It will go on the record in the Home Office, and also in the House, that this was something that was introduced by the House. I should certainly do what I could to see whether discussions could take place before such a proposal appeared.
Two of Lord Shackleton's recommendations require an amendment to the supplemental temporary provisions order. The first is his recommendation that 1511 article 10(1)(b) should be dropped. This would limit the total period of detention under the Act at a port to seven days. I accept this recommendation. The power to detain for a longer period has in any case been used only once, but that is not the argument by itself. What happens at the ports should be on all fours with what happens in the country as a whole.
The second recommendation is that article 10(1) should be amended so as to limit the power of the police to detain at ports on their own authority for a period of 48 hours. I accept this recommendation. This will bring police powers to detain people at ports into line with their powers inland. If they wish to detain someone at a port for more than 48 hours, they will have to make application for an extension of detention to me or, in Scotland, to my right hon. Friend. It is right that this should be done, because there is no difference between what happens at the ports and what happens inland. That is one of the benefits of doing what I suggested last year.
If it is accepted that there is a need for legislation, every so often it is worth while having a thorough investigation to see whether the original ideas are being applied in the way that we thought. Alternatively, it may be that we ignored certain factors in the first instance.
Consequently, I have made an amendment order implementing both of these recommendations, and that order is at present before the House. It will come into effect on 18 April. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made a similar order in regard to Northern Ireland.
One of Lord Shackleton's objectives was to find ways of alleviating some of the hardship that the Act undoubtedly causes. With this in mind he recommended that consideration be given to a review of exclusion orders to see whether any might safely be revoked. I accept that recommendation.
I carefully consider each application for an exclusion order. Nevertheless, it is possible that over a period a person who has been excluded may dissociate himself from terrorist activities. It is right that such a person should have the opportunity to have his exclusion reconsidered. I propose, therefore, to institute a system 1512 for reviewing exclusion orders. The aim will be to review each order three years after it has been made.
Hon. Members will appreciate that as it is now nearly five years since the first exclusion order was made, in November 1974, orders that are already three years old or more may take a little time to work through, and there may be a delay before it is possible to achieve a regular three-year review. We shall work through them as quickly as we can. Thereafter, the arrangement will be that three years after exclusion the person concerned will be told of his right to have his case reviewed. The police will be asked to reconsider the case and to assess whether the person concerned still represents a threat. I shall then study all the papers and decide whether the order should be revoked.
If we do not know a current address, the excluded person will have to apply to have his case reviewed without the benefit of a reminder from the Home Office, but I shall ensure that as much publicity as possible is given to the review and that all persons excluded in future are told at the time of arrangements for the review. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is aware of my proposals and will be instituting a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
Many of my hon. Friends below the Gangway are disappointed at the choice of a three-year period. When a case is reviewed, will it be possible for it to be looked at again in another few months or at least within a year, or will there be another three years before the next review? In marginal cases a further review fairly quickly may be helpful.
§ Mr. Rees
Yes, I can agree to that. I have considered this. Practically, it may have been more sensible to have a four-year period because of the time required to do the job properly, but I decided on the three-year period and told the House that there would be some delay in the first instance, rather than making it four years and then having to bring the period down to three years. If there is a case that is marginal, rather than wait for another three years we shall look at it earlier.
My reason for mentioning the difficulty of review is that I should like to see 1513 sufficient time for both the amount of work and the calibre of the work that has to be done. This is not just a matter for someone in my Department; it involves the police in different parts of the country. There is a lot of work to be done, and I think it must be done properly for the sake of both sides. However, I shall look at this idea sympathetically.
§ Mr. John Ovenden (Gravesend)
I welcome any steps for the review of these orders, but does the Home Secretary accept that he has implied that the Government intend to keep this Act on the statute book as long-term legislation and that that is why he is talking about a three-year period?
§ Mr. Rees
I do not think that I have implied that. If an Act is to operate for a year, we must deal with it. I could have said that we were not going to have a review after three years because the Act may not be renewed next year, but the Act will be renewed next year only on its merits. I hope that my hon. Friend is not criticising something that I believe is advantageous, on the ground that I am providing a three-year review and that I therefore intend the legislation to last for three years. Towards the end of last year, when I was considering this matter, what concentrated my mind was the activities of bombers in the South of England.
If in a year's time there is more bombing, that will also concentrate my mind. I read about the way in which the country reacted at the time of the Birmingham bombing. It was said that in some way that reaction was wrong. I say that the country has the right to react to such bombings. The ending of this legislation is not just a matter for the Government of the day; it depends on the activities of the terrorists. Terrorism for political reasons is something that this country cannot accept. I assure my hon. Friend that there is no question of saying that it is a matter of three years. I am dealing with a particular recommendation.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Is it not the fact that the terrorists could call off this legislation tomorrow if they wanted to do so? If they would stop their activities, this House 1514 and the Government would be happy to remove this legislation from the statute book While there is terrorism, it is necessary for the Government and the House to retain the powers to deal with it.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
The review is important. Can my right hon. Friend give more information about the way in which the review will be carried out? If someone is picked up from Bristol and dumped in Northern Ireland, will his movements have been followed since his removal to Northern Ireland, and will the police have records of what he has been up to in the Province? Will the Home Secretary take such matters into consideration?
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
Can my right hon. Friend tell the House how many people, served with exclusion orders from the United Kingdom, were charged in Northern Ireland with a specific offence?
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend has asked this question before. If he will look at the terms under which exclusion is carried out, he will see that if, when a person is returned to the Province, there is evidence of conduct there which would go before the courts—or even if there were something for consideration by the courts while he was still in the United Kingdom—that is what matters as far as exclusion is concerned. Orders are made for the reasons that I have already given.
In this country there are sleeping cells of various groups. It may be that they are best left alone, but those cells are there and I have to do what I can to break them up. It is not just a question of the activists themselves; there are the couriers who take information around. My hon. Friend knows far more about this than I do, because he lives in an area where it happens.
§ Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that his Department has ended exclusion orders, under present practice, within the three-year term? Some hon. Members are anxious that that should continue. We are not considering proven terrorists here; we are considering those suspected of terrorism but who may be innocent. Does that obviate consideration within the three-year term once the Home Secretary has set this pattern?
§ Mr. Rees
No, it does not. To get the record straight, what happens under the existing arrangements is that the person concerned has the right to go to the adviser. It is on those terms, except in respect of someone who has applied out of time, that the revocation takes place.
Another recommendation is that consideration should be given to the provision of financial assistance to the friends and relatives of an excluded person for the purpose of making visits. I accept that in many ways it may be desirable to see how we can mitigate the hardship imposed on the families of excluded persons, but I do not accept that hardship is caused to friends, nor do I think that assistance towards the costs of visits would do much to alleviate hardship. Indeed, it may have the effect of encouraging the activities of couriers. That is the problem.
I am therefore giving further thought to a scheme for providing some measure of financial help to the immediate family of excluded persons to enable them to be reunited with the excluded man or woman concerned in his or her new home if they so wish. I shall bring proposals before the House.
Lord Shackleton made three further recommendations aimed at ameliorating the effects of detention under the Act. First, he recommended that thought should be given to matters such as diet, exercise and comfort. Secondly, he said that there should be greater uniformity of practice in notifying detained people of their rights. Thirdly, he recommended that steps should be taken to ensure that the fullest possible records of interviews are kept. 1516 These recommendations are sensible and humane. I shall be offering guidance to chief officers of police about how best to implement them. As in all such matters, I shall look to Her Majesty's inspectors of constabulary to report to me on the progress that is made. For the past two or three years the House has been concerned in a number of respects about notifying detained persons of their rights.
§ Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Scotland Exchange)
Will my right hon. Friend deal with the question of the people who are arrested and not found guilty of an offence but whose fingerprints are retained by the police? Surely that is wrong. The fingerprints should be destroyed.
§ Mr. Rees
We are talking about the investigation of people who have been associated with terrorists and have been excluded. They have been excluded for being associated with terrorism. This is an important factor and I am sure that the present procedure should be followed.
I turn to Lord Shackleton's recommendation about statistics. My practice has been to take the opportunity provided by such debates as this to present to the House a statistical account of the use that has been made of the Act. In the intervening 12 months I have also provided up-to-date information in response to questions tabled by hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) has been assiduous in this respect. I understand why he is not here today. I recall that when I made similar remarks last year he intervened to say that his questions had not been planted. That is right. He started asking questions because he became an expert on the figures. I pay tribute to him.
I agree with Lord Shackleton that this is not the most satisfactory way of providing the information. I propose to 1517 arrange for the regular publication, at quarterly intervals, of a Home Office statistical bulletin. This will cover the statistics that are at present given from time to time in response to questions. A copy of the statistical bulletin will be placed in the House of Commons Library. Similar arrangements will be made for the publication of figures relating to the use of the Act in Northern Ireland.
The bulletin will also contain immigration figures, separately. I believe that there should be a more regular way of providing statistics to the House. The bulletin will include a number of figures.
§ Mr. Ivor Clemitson (Luton, East)
How many people have been detained under the Act immediately after their release from a prison sentence? How many people have been excluded immediately after serving a prison sentence? If my right hon. Friend cannot give the House that information immediately, will he consider providing it in the future?
§ Mr. Rees
I am sure that I shall be able to provide that information before the end of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) has brought to my notice the case of a constituent whose prison sentence was shortened. When he came out of prison he was excluded, and his wife joined him. That is the only case that I know of. I shall examine the figures and I shall let my hon. Friend have them if they are readily available.
I turn to the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. It cannot be said too often that the powers contained in this Act are exceptional. I have always accepted—as, indeed, has the House since the Act's first introduction after the tragic consequences of the bombings of 1974, culminating in Birmingham—that the Act represents a temporary infringement of civil liberties, but I believe equally firmly that it was, and remains, a necessary infringement. A clear responsibility is placed upon me and upon Parliament to ensure that the police have adequate powers to deal with a savage and dangerous minority who have no respect for the life or civil liberties of others.
If there are those who had doubts that the Provisional IRA still had the will and the capability to mount a campaign, the 1518 bomb attacks last December and in January made it clear that such a view was myopic and unrealistic. I can, of course, fully understand that, after almost two years without IRA violence in Great Britain, that period of quiet may have prompted some to question the need to continue with this measure, but if that lull gave a greater sense of security it proved to be false.
I have to take into account the fact that violence may happen again. There is nothing that leads me to believe that it will not happen again. I read in the papers—hon. Members must make up their minds whether it is one report copied in all the newspapers—of the threat of a bomb attack during the general election. At one time I would have read that and pooh-poohed it. Unfortunately, when I hear of that threat today there is a question at the back of my mind. I have the same question at the back of my mind when I consider whether to renew the legislation.
We cannot ignore the part played by this legislation, and by the hard work of the police in general, in preventing the Provisional IRA from resuming its bombing campaign sooner. Indeed, in August 1978 a spokesman for the Provisional IRA recognised the efforts of the police in this country in limiting the IRA's ability to operate here. He said that it had not resumed its campaign in Great Britain because of"logistic difficulties ". Those logistic difficulties are the major factor in preventing terrorism in Great Britain. They cause difficulties in obtaining the fuses and the equipment, getting them to a place where they can be put together, and finding a store place where nothing can go wrong in the short term. At one time these activities were carried out in an amateurish way. Now, with the collection of information from all parts of the world, those activities are more difficult to deal with, but dealing with them is the most important job in the effort to defeat terrorism.
There is no doubt that the difficulties faced by the Provisional IRA stem, in part, from the use of these powers. Of course, I do not say that they are the complete reason. The bombings of December and January indicate that the Provisional may have partially succeeded in overcoming the problem, but the powers do not make it easy for them. One must 1519 never be absolute in these matters because one can be proved wrong so quickly. In my view the House has a duty not to make the job of the terrorists even easier.
Let us be in no doubt that the Provisionals are prepared to mount further attacks in this country. They are prepared to inflict heavy casualties and extensive damage to property. Anyone who saw the bombs near the oil terminal on Canvey Island could not possibly believe that the placing of those bombs was designed to produce a little explosion, because of the amount of oil at the terminal. The same must be said of the incident at a gas holder in Greenwich.
These attacks show the nature of the people involved. I have known about them for far too long to believe that they are people with a temporary aberration who might change their minds over-night. The police must be given the powers that they need to apprehend and detain those responsible for such acts.
That applies not only to the Provisional IRA but equally to the paramilitary groups on the other side of the divide who engage in similar acts of terrorism. I remind the House that the powers under the Act both to detain and to exclude have been used to deal not only with the IRA but with members of other Northern Irish terrorist groups, and much of that has been done in recent months. I say this, in particular, to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who has quite properly in the past felt strongly—he still does—that the Provisional IRA must be dealt with. I have always given him credit for that, and I remind him that the Act has been used against the UVF, the UFF and other groups. I believe that this has been noted in the newspapers.
We must be absolutely resolute against acts of terror related to Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Rees
I refer specifically to Northern Ireland because the legislation deals only with the Irish situation. I fully accept that it could not be used against other groups, and that may well be another matter. From whatever quarter acts of terrorism come, we must be resolute. But this legislation is concerned with Northern Ireland, and the 1520 police have told me that they remain convinced of the Act's value in the struggle against terrorism. The decision is mine, but that is the view of the police. I shall therefore be asking the House to support them and, with the approval of the people of this country, to support the renewal of the Act.
A few moments ago I quoted a backhanded tribute to the work of the police from a spokesman of the Provisional IRA. Neither I nor the House would wish to let that be the only such expression of tribute arising from this debate. I wish firmly to record my gratitude for the diligence, professionalism and determination of officers in all forces engaged in this aspect of the prevention of terrorism. Their skill is our protection, and on behalf of the House I give them our thanks.
I conclude with a reference to the sentiments expressed by Lord Shackleton in the final chapter of his report. He said that basic civil liberties include the right to stay alive and to go about one's business without fear, and thatWe must be prepared to forgo some of our civil liberties for a time if that is the cost, on the best assessment we can make, of preserving the essentials.Unpleasant as are the powers contained in the Act, they are, in my view, necessary in order to prevent the far more serious consequences of terrorist violence. These powers were not taken lightly. Moreover, they are not designed—contrary to what is said in a book that I read today—to stop legitimate political activity.
Anyone in this country who wants to advocate the reunification of Ireland may so argue. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West believes that in the ultimate this should be so, as does the party for which he speaks. There is not the slightest reason why that aspiration should not be expressed in this country. It is a legitimate political aspiration, and, indeed, it has been expressed for well nigh 100 years.
What is not legitimate is the elitist purpose that people can be switched to that idea by the use of the bomb and the bullet. That is a basic belief that I express in this House.
These powers were not taken lightly. They have not been renewed lightly, and I do not lightly ask the House to renew 1521 them today. But, by the same token, we cannot lightly discard them.
I ask the House for support in the renewal of the Act, and I hope that the House will take note of the recommendations in the Shackleton report.
§ Mr. John Prescott (Kingston upon Hull, East)
I recognise the sincerity with which my right hon. Friend puts his views, but I must say that the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) about fingerprinting—that one can keep fingerprint records even though no charges have been preferred—is an indication of the corrupting aspect of this piece of legislation.
Secondly, since my right hon. Friend is asking the House to endorse the Act again, will he say something about the special position of seamen who are detained under the Act but whose wives know nothing of it and fear that they have been lost at sea? Have matters been in any way improved in his review of the situation?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Mr. Speaker desires me to remind the House that it is proposed that consideration of the Shackleton report and the motion relating to the order be taken in one debate.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. David Howell (Guildford)
Since we are debating the"take note"motion and the draft order together, perhaps it would be helpful if I made clear at the outset that the Conservative Party supports the continuation of the Act, subject, of course, to any changes which the Home Secretary may seek to make by bringing orders before the House for approval, a matter to which I shall return later.
Obviously, we view this legislation, and have always viewed it, in common with all right hon. and hon. Members, with some unease. That is bound to be so from the libertarian standpoint. But we 1522 have always recognised that this is part, and these debates are part, of the enormously difficult dilemma facing a free society trying to defend itself against terrorism. In that light, we have in the past supported the Home Secretary in his belief that the Act should be renewed, and we support him again today.
Especially in present circumstances, we are convinced that the Act should continue. As the Home Secretary said, some people may say or think that there has been a lull in acts of atrocity. But we have a heavy electoral season ahead, and the Home Secretary was right to note the threat from the Provisional IRA that it would try to disrupt our elections.
In these circumstances, we believe, it would be utterly foolish to do anything which might weaken our capacities in any way at this time in the fight against terrorism.
Before coming to the Shackleton report, I shall make some general points about the campaign and the fight against terrorism as it is being carried on and as we have sought as a nation to carry it on in recent years.
First—this is obvious but always worth repeating, I think—there will be no progress without the express and expressed political will to counter terrorism with every available means. That is the first requirement. Without it, nothing else will carry forward. Secondly, we need the necessary legislation, and part of our debate is about that. Thirdly, we need first-class intelligence and, of course, an efficient and strong police force with high morale to use the intelligence and carry out counter-terrorist activities.
I hope that we have both first-class intelligence and a strong police force. On intelligence, we rely upon the Home Secretary to assure us, as I hope he can, that the Metropolitan Police special branch is strong enough to deal with the enormous growth in the amount of work which must face it. I believe that an hon. Member on the Government Benches told the House some time ago that over the past 20 years this branch had doubled, or rather less than doubled, in strength. I trust that this is enough to cope with an increase in the volume of activity which must be well more than double. We would value a comment on 1523 that when the Home Secretary speaks again, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I join gladly with the Home Secretary in thanking the police for their skill, vigilance and efforts in this most difficult of all work—counter-terrorism. The Opposition welcome signs that the police forces' numbers are picking up, although we have to say that the rate of premature resignations of skilled and experienced people is still very worrying. It was higher last year—the Home Secretary confirmed this—than it has ever been before in the recorded history of these statistics. That reinforces our view—we have put it forward before—that the Edmund-Davies pay proposals should have been adopted at once instead of being phased over a 12-month period.
We think that high morale in the police is absolutely crucial, and nowhere more so than in this area. This is related not just to questions of pay. It is also vital that our whole arrangements for criminal justice—I do not think that one can quite call it a system of criminal justice—do not frustrate police action against terror.
I now turn briefly to the Shackleton report itself. Again, I associate myself and my hon. Friends with the Home Secretary in thanking Lord Shackleton for his work in producing this report. The first thing to which I call attention is that while Lord Shackleton rightly warns us against taking a dogmatic view for or against the prevention of terrorism legislation and arguing either, on the one side, that it is the answer to terrorism, or, on the other side, that it does not have the slightest effect, he does not cast doubt on the need for legislation of this type—although he emphasises the hope that the temporary concept will remain at the centre of it. That confirms and echoes our view about this legislation as a whole.
As to the detailed recommendations and Lord Shackleton's detailed examination, let me come first to exclusion orders—that is, sections 3 to 9 of the 1976 Act. I think that we accept the case for review of orders. We noted the Home Secretary's proposals for how he wants to carry that out. I confess—and my right hon. and hon. Friends who have spoken about this legislation in previous years have made this clear—that this is the part of the Act about which we are least enthusiastic. 1524 We have never been greatly taken by the view that gains are made by moving people from one part of the United Kingdom to another, and we have expressed doubts in the past.
However, in paragraph 130 of the report, on the matter of prevention, Lord Shackleton says—and we have to accept it—the police have no doubt that exclusion has made a significant contribution in this respect.Therefore, if that is the considered view of the police, and the Home Secretary reinforced it, I have to say that that is what we must accept, despite our twinge—more than a twinge—our feeling of unease about the particular arrangements under the exclusion sections.
I gladly support the Home Secretary in his decision not to let section 11 drop. I see what Lord Shackleton was worried about. He puts his worries very clearly. But, as the Home Secretary says, the police are now making use of this section in their anti-terrorist efforts, and it would be quite wrong to consider the idea of dropping the section by order at this stage. Therefore, we support the Home Secretary in his decision to keep that section.
I come next to what are the most difficult and controversial parts of all of this legislation—sections 12 and 13, powers of what is, in effect, as the report recognises, detention for questioning.
Let me say at the outset of my comments on these sections that we accept the suggestions of Lord Shackleton for amelioration, which the Home Secretary mentioned. We note, and we think right, Lord Shackleton's views in paragraph 148 about the use of limited discretion by the police in allowing access to a solicitor. This must be right. Of course, this is something which the Royal Commission on criminal procedure will be looking at, again as Lord Shackleton notes. I think I am right in saying—the right hon. Gentleman will confirm this—that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has now promised that in Northern Ireland those in custody should have the right—he has used the word"right "—after 48 hours to have access to a solicitor.
Therefore, the Shackleton report, the evidence and views being submitted to 1525 the Royal Commission and the points made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland all seem to be moving in the same direction. We think that this is probably the right direction.
I also note the Home Secretary's views about bringing powers at the ports into line with inland powers, as recommended by Lord Shackleton, and note that the right hon. Gentleman will be bringing forward an order. However, I must sound a note of caution. Lord Shackleton recommends this, but I believe that we must be very careful about this matter. Governments are rightly criticised—the Home Secretary will be the first to know this—when dangerous people, violent people and people who threaten our society, slip in and out of this country. We must do absolutely nothing which increases that danger. Therefore, I have to sound that note of caution about the decision of the Home Secretary to accept that recommendation and to move an order accordingly. We shall want to think about it.
The conclusion of Lord Shackleton about the whole of section 12 is that it is, in his words,"regrettably necessary ". That is also our view. Of course we recognise that charges are few in relation to detentions, and the figures confirm that. But what the statistics do not tell us is how much information is being acquired, how many offences are prevented, and how much suffering, horror, misery and cruelty are avoided as a result of the detention and the information gained. None of these things is reflected in the statistics; none could be, by the nature of this legislation. Yet those things are just as important or as vital and weigh just as much in the balance as figures and statistics in examining, from the libertarian point of view, the value of this measure in the fight against terrorism.
In concluding these brief remarks, broadly in support of the Home Secretary but with one or two qualifications, I echo Lord Shackleton in a comment that he makes in his introduction, when he says that our experience with this legislation has made us aware and is making us aware of the need for a new look, a review—I think that we need a cool new look—at the whole question of police powers and procedures—it is not just terrorism 1526 that drives us that way; it is the high crime rate generally, which is pushing us in the same direction—and that this is the centre of the work of the Royal Commission on criminal procedure.
I reiterate what my right hon. Friends and others have said previously. The work of that Royal Commission is most urgent and very important to the efforts of our society in the near future in dealing with all kinds of crime, including the most violent and revolting crimes of political terrorism.
Meanwhile, and in the light of those facts, of course, the fight against terrorist violence must continue relentlessly. There must be no will to weaken or slacken for a moment because that, obviously, as the Home Secretary recognises and all hon. Members must recognise, would be to surrender what is still a free and reasonably open society to the forces of evil, and none of us came into public life to do that.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
First, I suggest that the terms of reference given to Lord Shackleton placed him in a very restricted position in the investigations that he was to carry out. Paragraph 10 of the report states that he was given a brief which began:Accepting the continuing need for legislation against terrorism ".Since the introduction of the Act, there has been a continuing question mark hanging over the need for its existence, because many people believed, in that highly emotional time in 1974 in the wake of the Birmingham bombings, and many have continued to believe ever since, that the law as it was in the United Kingdom was sufficient to enable the forces of law and order to apprehend anyone engaged in terrorism.
I feel that this legislation, as some of my hon. Friends have noted, is taking on something of a permanent nature in this country. I look back on experiences in Northern Ireland. The special powers Act was introduced in 1922 and renewed annually for a number of years. Members of Parliament then got fed up listening to the same debate every year and decided to make it a permanent facet of legislation. In other words, they wanted to do away with prolonged debates. When that Act was taken off the 1527 statute book by this House, it was replaced by even more draconian special powers, namely, the emergency provisions Act applying to Northern Ireland followed by the Prevention of Terrorism Act applying to the whole of the United Kingdom. I believe that there are violent contradictions in the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I believe in the maxim of pure and simple justice. One person must not be seen to be getting favoured treatment under any section of the Act.
When the emergency provisions Act was being debated in Committee upstairs, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and myself supported an amendment that, on the abolition of juries in Northern Ireland, three judges should be appointed to hear cases of those suspected of being involved in terrorism. I hope that the House will agree that there is a violent contradiction. Section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act enables one to be arrested, detained and charged. If the person is arrested, charged and brought before the courts in London or any other part of Great Britain, he will appear before a court containing a jury. A jury will listen to all the evidence given by the police in connection with the charge that has been preferred.
If a person is arrested and charged in Northern Ireland under the same Act, he will be brought before what are known in Northern Ireland as the Diplock courts. There will be no jury. The person will probably be convicted on the grounds that he has made a confession. That shows the reality of a glaring injustice. I do not believe that such a situation should be accepted by this House. If there is an Act of Parliament on the statute book of the United Kingdom to enable the fight against terrorism to be carried on, everyone charged under that Act should be afforded the same treatment before the law.
I should like to refer to The Economist of 17 March, which rightly drew the attention of the public to this glaring contradiction. The article said:An astonishing 80% of court convictions for terrorist offences stem from ' confessions '.I have always contended that 80 per cent. is a very high figure for confessions to terrorist crime. In view of the controversy contained in the Bennett report, this House should examine all that is entailed 1528 by accepting confessions in an open court. A confession obtained by whatever means in Northern Ireland in relation to terrorist offences must be subject to the closest scrutiny to ensure that the confession is, in reality, a confession to an alleged terrorist crime.
§ Mr. Bidwell
My hon. Friend will recall that the hallmark of the 1930 Moscow trials was that all confessed under the Stalin terror.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Republic of Ireland, which is favourably inclined to the Republican cause, had to introduce the same type of special courts without juries to deal with terrorism, which is not visited on England to the same extent as in Northern Ireland? The amount of terrorism in the Irish Republic is small compared with the violent, obscene crimes committed by the terrorists in Northern Ireland. If the Republic of Ireland needs special courts and if, in those special courts, confessions are produced at about the same percentage, this would seem to indicate that the Provisional IRA uses attacks on the police and uses the admission of confessions as a means of furthering the Provisional IRA cause, which must be repugnant to all democratic and decent people in this country.
§ Mr. Fitt
The hon. Gentleman, like myself, has probably heard rumours that there will be an election within the next few months. He is perhaps safeguarding himself against the possibility that he will not be able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye during this debate. The hon. Gentleman may have overlooked the fact that there are three judges in the courts of the Republic of Ireland. There is only one judge in the courts of Northern Ireland.
I should like to draw the attention of the House once again to what is stated in the article in The Economist. It said:Three judges should sit instead of one in non-jury courts. Individual judges are bound to become hardened to pleas that the accused's confession was beaten out of him. Three would have to satisfy each other they were not letting a scandal through.That may be possible for a person living in Northern Ireland who has been 1529 charged with a terrorist offence under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The article also suggests:as it is too soon to bring back juries, what about independent assessors to do their job? They might even be imported from England and specially protected during their tour of duty.That is another safeguard for anyone who has been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The article makes suggestions which I believe should be acceptable to the Minister in asking this House to reinforce his opinion that the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be kept on the statute book. The article goes on to say:Rules on the admissibility of confessions should be tightened and the police made responsible for showing they were fairly obtained—easy, if interrogations are to be videotaped. If a reduction in admissible confessions means that more of the guilty men are plainly escaping, then the possibility of presenting evidence without necessarily revealing the identity of witnesses should be investigated.If this Act is to remain on the statute book, clearly defined action can be taken to make it more acceptable. I shall be voting against the continuation of the Act tonight, but some hon. Members may still believe that the Act is necessary. I suggest that before they make up their minds on how to vote they should make the same representations as I am making to the Home Secretary to see whether the Act can be improved.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument and understand very well his sincerity and his record in this matter. He seemed to be saying that the burden of proof about whether a confession is acceptable to the courts should be placed upon the police. Surely, under the laws of this country, the burden of proof is a matter for the court to decide. It is wrong to say that the police must indicate whether a confession is acceptable to the courts. It is not for them. It is for the court.
§ Mr. Fitt
The hon. Gentleman probably has the wrong end of my argument. Anyone who is charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act with having been involved in the commission of a terrorist offence should have his case heard before a judge and jury and not by the police. The judge and jury should be in a position to accept or reject the prosecution evidence and, more importantly, 1530 to decide whether the confession is genuine and was made voluntarily. I am prepared to accept any steps, no matter how dilatory they may be and no matter how reluctantly they are taken, that will give added protection to a person who is brought before the courts.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
If the court—that is, the judge—believes that the confession has been improperly obtained, it is entirely up to him to reject it. It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to say that in deciding whether a confession has been properly obtained the burden of proof shall rest upon the police. Their purpose is not to determine the law. They are there to provide the prosecution and the evidence. It is for the court to determine whether the evidence has been properly obtained.
§ Mr. Fitt
There are Diplock courts in Northern Ireland where there is one judge. I have already quoted from the article in The Economist, which states:Three judges should sit instead of one in non-jury courts. Individual judges are bound to become hardened to pleas that the accused's confession was beaten out of him.There are too many accused persons going before the courts who have allegedly made confessions. It is said that 80 per cent. of those convicted of terrorist offences in Northern Ireland under both sets of legislation have allegedly made confessions. I do not accept that percentage. There are many, especially members of the legal profession, throughout these islands who have doubts about the high percentage of confessions that are allegedly obtained by the police in Northern Ireland.
I realise that Mr. Speaker has placed restrictions on the debate. However, the report, which was made available last week, highlights the fact that people are being charged, detained and interrogated under the Acts of Parliament that we are now discussing. That enables me to try, to the best of my ability, to highlight the matters that are causing myself and many others in Northern Ireland and in Britain such great concern about the emergency legislation.
I make a legitimate protest. I do not know how many of my constituents who have been arrested by the police in Northern Ireland under section 12 of the Act were taken into Castlereagh holding 1531 centre or some other interrogation centre, detained there for seven days and subsequently released without any charge having been preferred. That is evidence that should have been contained within the covers of the report.
§ Mr. Powell
Has the hon. Gentleman any reason to suppose that any of these persons was detained under section 12? That is a question that the Home Secretary was not able to answer, but prima facie it would seem unlikely.
§ Mr. Fitt
If the right hon. Gentleman reads appendix 1 to the Bennett report, he will understand that it does not seem unlikely. There were 1,478 persons detained under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1973 and 1978 at the Castlereagh holding centre last year. There were 141 persons detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Those figures are contained in the appendix.
§ Mr. Clemitson
Is my hon. Friend aware that table 6 in the Shackleton report deals with persons detained in Northern Ireland under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts 1974 and 1976? It deals with a total of 487 persons.
§ Mr. Fitt
That poses the question that I believe must be answered by my right hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department has said that he has been told by the police that persons who they were convinced were engaged in terrorist activity have been removed by the use of exclusion orders. Chapter 63 of the report states:The police believe that exclusion has brought about the removal from Great Britain of many of those who were involved in the leadership and organisation of the IRA terrorist campaigns in Great Britain and that this has resulted in considerable disruption of the IRA here.I find that sentence unintelligible. If the police believe that those persons were involved in furthering the terrorist campaign in Great Britain, why were they not charged? Why were they not brought before a court? Why did they suffer exclusion? Why were they sent back to Northern Ireland? Why were they not charged on leaving the aeroplane at Aldergrove or the Belfast boat? It seems strange that such an assertion is made, 1532 namely, that the police are convinced that these persons were involved in the IRA terrorist campaign in Great Britain and that their exclusion from Great Britain has resulted in considerable disruption to the IRA here.
§ Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)
Is not the answer to the question that the hon. Gentleman puts to be found in the next sentence but one of the report, which refers topeople…against whom there is insufficient evidence for a charge "?The passage begins:people strongly suspected of being terroristsThat is what has to be dealt with, and that is what is dealt with by the present Acts. Is not that the answer?
§ Mr. Fitt
If a person is a terrorist in London, he is likely to be a terrorist in Belfast. I have yet to see the records of those who were excluded from Britain, sent to Northern Ireland and subsequently charged with having been involved in terrorist offences in what is allegedly an integral part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
Is a more interesting case the example of the man who was served with an exclusion order and who was found to have been a resident in this country for 20 years? There fore, the exclusion order could not be carried out. That person remained in this country and, as far as we know, no further charges have been preferred and no further action has been taken against him.
§ Mr. Fitt
The more deeply we begin to probe the ramifications of the Act, the more difficult it becomes to understand why it is on the statute book.
If a person is suspected of being a terrorist and has been living in this part of the United Kingdom for 19 years and 10 months he may be arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and excluded. Nothing can be done about a person who has lived here for two days over 20 years and is suspected of being a terrorist. He cannot be served with an exclusion order.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Under United Kingdom law he may be convicted in a court of law on grounds of suspicion. The Act excludes people suspected of being engaged in terrorist activity. What the hon. 1533 Gentleman says proves conclusively that the Northern Ireland police and courts are more than fair since people excluded and sent back to Northern Ireland are not then taken to Castelreagh police station, beaten up—as the hon. Gentleman would like to suggest but which I believe is totally untrue—and a confession forced out of them. It shows that the police in Northern Ireland and especially in Castlereagh are more than fair to Republicans excluded from Great Britain on the grounds of being suspected IRA terrorists.
§ Mr. Fitt
Only a lawyer could advance that argument. Only a lawyer could understand what the hon. Gentleman has said. He said he did not believe that confessions were extracted from people in Northern Ireland by wrongful methods. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in Belfast last night that he was absolutely delighted that the Bennett report had vindicated the Northern Ireland police. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend can read, but that is certainly not my reading of the Bennett report. Nor is it the reading by the press throughout the United Kingdom.
For instance, The Guardian today would seem to suggest that the draconian emergency powers that we are discussing are unnecessary. In an attempt to justify these powers, the attitude, even in Britain, is this:"We accept that it is fair, especially when it is enunciated by someone such as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Whether or not he says it aloud, he means ' Look at the terrible acts the IRA are committing. We are entitled to hold on to powers such as these. Even if they affect many innocent people, at the end of the day we are always assured of getting someone who has been involved in acts of terrorism '."
My idea of the law of the United Kingdom is that the greatest defence and protection must at all times be afforded to people who have not been involved in acts of terrorism or criminal conduct. I accept that there has been a dramatic lowering of standards in Northern Ireland, especially by those involved in the judicial system. The concept of the British judicial system has crashed to the ground in Northern Ireland as a result of this legislation.
1534 One paragraph in the Bennett report refers to the acceptability of the police. It says that in the implementation of laws such as these the police must at all times act with a fairness that can be readily seen, especially in a community which is divided as that in Northern Ireland. It also says that if the police force oversteps its legal position in an attempt to gain confessions to enable it to bring a person before the courts, that builds up further bitterness and division within that community.
Today my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary went out of his way to congratulate the police forces involved in the fight against terrorism. With few qualifications, he will know what I am speaking about. I refer to some of the special branch officers, especially at Liverpool, who seem to take great delight in arresting, checking and detaining persons when that would seem to be unnecessary. That happens in a small number of cases. However, as yet I have neither heard nor read that the police force in the United Kingdom beats up suspects because of the Prevention of Terrorism Acts. That charge has never been made. I agree, with slight reservations, with my right hon. Friend. My objections to the existence of this legislation are not supplemented by making an attack on the police in Great Britain.
I realise that I may be placing my right hon. Friend in a difficulty as I see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland sitting beside him. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary does not include all the police in the United Kingdom in the congratulations that he expressed. There are cases involving the Northern Ireland special branch in Castlereagh in which truth is no longer necessary. It is understood by people all over the world that those men have overstepped their position and have used ill treatment.
The semantic argument on police interrogation in some of these documents is interesting. We are now trying to draw a distinction. We examined this matter eight or nine years ago. It was discussed in Europe when the Irish Government brought a case against the United Kingdom on the grounds of ill treatment or brutality. Learned legal men 1535 argued whether it was maltreatment or ill treatment. It is mentioned again in the Bennett report. The whole world fully understands what are the objections. People in Northern Ireland are arrested and interrogated under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. They are subjected to ill treatment at the interrogation centre of Castlereagh.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is trying to be fair. Is he in agreement with the proposition that no member of the RUC, on the basis of paragraph 163 of the report, should be treated as being guilty until convicted by a court of law?
§ Mr. Fitt
I have said repeatedly that I am not giving a blanket condemnation of every member of the RUC. Many—including those who do not accept the stauts quo for the Northern Ireland State—have said, about charges made against the special branch, that the uniformed branch of the RUC was not to be condemned for what is contained within the covers of the Bennett report.
It is appropriate that I should answer the hon. Gentleman's question. Paragraph 158 of the Bennett report states:It is to be noted, however, that the complaints do not come only from Republican prisoners. It must also be noted that expressions of concern, based on acceptance of these complaints as at least to some extent justified, have come from some prominent public figures who cannot be accused of political motives or conscious bias or prejudice.I may be placed in that category.
I have never supported the terrorist campaign being waged by the IRA. However, those in charge of security in Northern Ireland should not allow themselves to lower their standards and engage in practices which have already been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights and Compton. This is not the first time that we have debated confessions. This is not the first time that we have debated ill treatment or maltreatment.
I remember well that eight or nine years ago in this House my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) made a searching inquiry into the report of the Compton committee, which again quite clearly pointed the finger of guilt at the 1536 practices then taking place, under the guise of security, in Northern Ireland.
We also remember that the Irish Government, in the face of the mounting evidence at their disposal, proceeded to take the British Government to the European Court of Human Rights. That court concluded, after a searching investigation, that the security people in Northern Ireland, under the command and the control of the British Government, had indeed been in violation of the European Charter of Human Rights.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General gave an undertaking to the European Court of Human Rights that this would never happen again, and that the British Government would put into practice procedures which would ensure that a person in police custody would in no circumstances be subjected to ill treatment. Yet we find, as the result of the Bennett inquiry, after deliberations for only eight months, that in 1976, 1977 and 1978 the same malpractices were going on in interrogation. Many of the men who were interrogated in such a way subsequently went to the courts with a confession laid against them, and many of them are now suffering long terms of imprisonment.
§ Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell us how many of the submissions to the Compton inquiry which indicted the security forces were made under oath? Is it not possible that those people who have subsequently been placed in prison for murder and for violence are also quite capable of lying?
§ Mr. Fitt
What the hon. Gentleman is saying is that everyone who has been sentenced in Northern Ireland under the emergency laws has been guilty of some offence. I do not accept that. When he calls into question the evidence which was given to the Compton inquiry and the evidence which was given to the Bennett inquiry, I say quite clearly that the same restrictions and handcuffs as were placed on the Shackleton inquiry, which had to accept the need for the continuance of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts 1974 and 1976, were placed on Judge Harry Bennett. He was told, in effect,"Look at the procedures and see if you can improve on them, but you are not allowed to look into the allegations which have been made. You 1537 are not allowed to talk to individuals who have made very serious allegations against the police concerning the interrogation to which they were subjected in the interrogation centres in Northern Ireland."
Incidentally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am pleased that the Bennett inquiry went out of its way to try to dig out the real facts of the interrogation procedures in Northern Ireland. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said to someone just recently that the Bennett committee exceeded its terms of reference. What does that mean? To me it means that the committee found out too much. It was not supposed to talk to doctors or to look at medical files. It was not supposed to meet people of the calibre, conscience, integrity and courage of Dr. Irwin. It was supposed to bring in a nice quiet report, under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and to say that everything was justified.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
One of the imponderables about the whole business relates to the community to which the people who have been beaten up belong. Every time we ask a question in this House about that, the answer is"We do not ask the religion of the people concerned." But it is absolutely fundamental to us to know which community is being beaten up by which community. These are fundamental realities which never emerge. When we ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State how many Catholics and Protestants are in the RUC, he always says"We do not ask their religion." But they are asked which school they went to, and in that way their religion is established. These are the realities.
§ Mr. Fitt
My hon. Friend is quite right when he tries to draw a distinction between those who may be involved in these incidents in Northern Ireland and those who may be involved in this part of the United Kingdom. I shall try to illustrate that in a very simple way.
Northern Ireland is a very sadly divided community. It is divided because of the history of Ireland, because of the political situation, and because of the political happenings over centuries—particularly in this century. It is because of these 1538 happenings that a policeman interrogating a suspect is almost certain to be diametrically opposed to that suspect on the ground of political belief, on the ground of religion, and on the ground of race. Before the interrogation begins, there is already this great division between the interrogator and the person being interrogated. It is only natural that in those circumstances violence will be used on occasions by the interrogator.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has told people in Northern Ireland that the report makes two main recommendations: first, that there should be closed circuit television looking in on the cell in which a person is being interrogated, and, secondly, that there should be readier access—
§ Mr. Kilfedder
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to have some guidance. I hope at a later stage to catch your eye, and I should like to know whether it would be possible for me to pursue what the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is now dealing with, that is, the Bennett report. I understood that Mr. Speaker ruled against it. If it is possible to enlarge on the Bennett report, I should like to know now.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have been listening very carefully to what the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has been saying. On the one hand, it could be said that he is on the extreme margin of admissibility under the rules of order. On the other hand, the hon. Member has shown considerable skill in keeping within the terms of the Act. I know that he will help the Chair by not going into the question of any individual case.
§ Mr. Fitt
The argument that I have been putting forward, Mr. Deputy Speaker—that is why I believe that you have realised that I am within the bounds of order—is that we are discussing the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act as applied to Northern Ireland. People have been interrogated under section 12 of that Act. The same interrogations take place also in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Now that the matter has been brought to my attention by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder)—although I do not believe that it was his original intention—I want to refer to the new revised procedures to which my right 1539 hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said that he will agree. I refer to the provision of closed circuit television cameras in the cell in which a person is being interrogated.
Let us suppose, for example, that when these closed circuit television cameras become available, one of my constituents is arrested under section 12 of the Act and is brought to Castlereagh. He will be placed in a cell with an interrogator. It would be interesting to know how the camera would be focused and whether it would take in the entire cell or just the top half of the bodies of the interrogator or the person interrogated. I wonder whether it could be shifted around or whether a bit of chewing gum could be put on it, as is suggested can be done with the spy holes in cells.
There will be no sound coming from that cell in which my constituent is being interrogated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but other policemen will allegedly be watching on the monitor. The interrogator could tell my constituent that no one could hear. If he did not sign a confession, he would be put in a police car, dropped off in the middle of Sandy Row and the word spread that he was a Republican suspect. He could be threatened with being brought back night after night until he made a confession—and many of my constituents were interrogated at Castlereagh.
The Bennet report recommends specific prohibitions in the interrogation of suspects under the Prevention of Terrorism Act or the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act:(i) any order or action requiring a prisoner to strip or expose himself or herself;(ii) any order or action requiring a prisoner to adopt or maintain any unnatural or humiliating posture;(iii) any order or action requiring a prisoner to carry out unnecessarily any physically exhausting or demanding action or to adopt or maintain any such stance;(iv) the use of obscenities, insults or insulting language "—I have just said that no sound will come out of the cell—about the prisoner, his family, friends or associates, his political beliefs, religion or race;(v) the use of threats of physical force or of such things as being abandoned in a hostile area; and(vi) the use of threats of sexual assault or misbehaviour.1540 We must ask why these recommendations were made. They were not just pulled out of the air. Judge Harry Bennett did not suggest that the police might do that and they should therefore be told not to. It was not just a figment of the imagination, and no one would honestly believe that it was.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The hon. Member is repeating the allegations that the Provisional IRA is instructed to make once apprehended by the police. It is high time that the hon. Gentleman came out four square for the RUC. That is the only way to destroy the Provisional IRA, which he says that he is attempting to do. Instead of that, in this House he is giving aid and support to the Provisional IRA by spreading these allegations and lies.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) is using rather extreme language, and he is getting outside the bounds of order.
§ Mr. Fitt
The language of the hon. Member for Down, North does not perturb me. I have heard it many times before. He has never forgiven me for beating hell out of him in the Belfast, West election in 1966.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is supporting whatever members of the RUC do in their fight against the IRA. He says that they are a good body of policemen. On many occasions I have read of the brutal and dastardly crimes committed by the IRA against honest and decent members of the RUC. No one is more sorry than I about that. I have recently received anonymous letters from other parts of the United Kingdom suggesting that I support the IRA to the total exclusion of saying anything in favour of the security forces. Every hon. Member knows that that is totally untrue. From the onset of the Provisional IRA campaign I have opposed it and have made that clear. But I do not support without criticism and close scrutiny every measure taken by the RUC in Castlereagh.
It is clear that my right bon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable of the RUC are not enthusiastic to apprehend members of the RUC guilty of that behaviour. They may be small in number in Castlereagh, but only one is one too many.
I should like briefly to refer to Dr. Irwin, and I hope that justice will be 1541 done without having continuously to raise this matter in the House. Dr. Stanley Burgess has supported Dr. Irwin's allegations. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph on 19 March, he said:Those of us who are privileged to know Dr. Irwin have never doubted his courage, sincerity, competence or impartiality. We believe his allegations were on an honest expression of his contempt for circumstances which offended him as a person, a medical practitioner and a forensic physician.That is a character reference from no less a person than the president of the Association of Police Surgeons of Great Britain. That recommendation is stronger than anything said by those in the Northern Ireland Office or the ranks of the RUC. A campaign has been waged to justify the actions of certain members of the RUC, which are condemned by all who believe in justice.
Restricted as this debate has been, I have been able to give sufficient reasons why I shall not be in the Lobby tonight supporting a further extension of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I believe that it is unnecessary. It has been used against many Irish people who have been living in Britain for most of their lives or were born here. It gives rise to racial prejudice in the United Kingdom. Evilly disposed persons can use the Act as a means of vengeance or ill will against someone with whom they do not agree because he or she is of Irish extraction. Even though the Home Secretary has said that the Act has recently been used in connection with UDA people in Scotland, the main import of it has been linked with those who have expressed the ideal of the eventual reunification of Ireland.
This debate has been helpful in view of the revelations of the Bennett report. I believe that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not been wise to give such blanket support to every member of the RUC involved in Castlereagh.
Recently on the Floor of the House I said that the interview between Dr. Irwin and the Assistant Chief Constable, Mr. Killen, had been taped. I have since been led to understand that this was not so. If I caused any embarrassment to Mr. Killen, I unreservedly withdraw. That being said, I still believe that the police in Northern Ireland have placed themselves in the position of condoning ill 1542 treatment to persons who are guilty of no crime. Unless and until this Government take decisive action to bring that intolerable set of circumstances to an end, this legislation and any legislation in similar terms will meet with my unremitting opposition.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)
The temptation to follow the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) on all the points that he raised is enormous, but if I did so I fear I would incur your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I may not have the same skill as the hon. Member in skating on the borderline of order. However, he started a lot of false hares which, if allowed to go unchallenged, would do enormous harm.
I do not intend to discuss the character of Dr. Irwin, save to say that we have not been told why he did not file the necessary reports to the authorities in support of his allegations, as the law requires.
I intend to speak only to the excellent review that we have had from Lord Shackleton. I join with other hon. Members in congratulating him. His was a painstaking study of a difficult and important problem. Few of us could have had any hesitation in supporting the renewal of the order, unpleasant though it may be in terms of academic law.
To get things in proper perspective, I quote from paragraph 160 of the report:I cannot end this report without paying tribute to the skill, determination and indeed courage the police service as a whole has shown in the task of combating terrorism. I conclude by reference to the truism that basic civil liberties include the rights to stay alive and to go about one's business without fear. A society will always seek to defend itself against threats to its security. We must be prepared to forgo some of our civil liberties for a time if that is the cost, on the best assessment we can make, of preserving the essentials.That sets the limit for this debate. It sets the standards to which we must conform if we are concerned about the peace and well-being of our fellow citizens and the rule of law.
My question is not whether we should renew the order but whether we are doing enough. Rightly, hon. Members have complained that this sort of order has prevailed for too long. But that is only 1543 because we have been unable to cope successfully and adequately with the problem of terrorism. We are talking of a matter of life and death. We are discussing horrible mutilation. These are no ordinary crimes. They represent the degeneration of civilised beings to an all-time low in our democratic society. We must all ask ourselves how a democratic society can, through the ballot box, solve the problem and contain those who cast it aside and seek a solution by the bomb and the bullet.
I respect the hon. Member for Belfast, West in his courageous condemnation of the outrages perpetrated by the IRA. Anyone who questions his integrity is doing him a great disservice. However, with all humility and sincerity I must say to him that it is all right to condemn something but he should go further and apply his mind to containing it and defeating it. We must consider what sacrifices we are prepared to make to ensure that the rule of law prevails.
I regret very much—even making allowances for electioneering—that the hon. Member for Belfast, West protested too much. He may not wish to attack the police generally; he may just wish to highlight wrongs. Even one wrong merits severe condemnation. But it is my judgment, and that of many of my fellow citizens, that the manner in which he protested goes well beyond what is necessary. It is seen as a condemnation of the law and its guardians. In the interests of us all, I ask the hon. Member to address his mind to how we can enforce the law to deal with this desperate evil.
The fundamental weakness is the uncertainty in the minds of the terrorists of the will of the Government about enforcing the law. There are those who say that the troops should leave. I wonder whether they realise how dangerous that is. That incites terrorism. I exonerate the Government from any intention to bow to force and violence by pulling out the troops. But it is our duty to see that the Government's message is clearly and firmly understood. We must get the message across that no bomb or bullet will ever cause the British to pull out of Northern Ireland. We must say loud and clear to the world that the British are not chickens. We must remind people 1544 of that historical phrase"Some chicken, some neck ".
As well as the aspect of bringing out the troops, there is the whole constitutional and political set-up which can only give aid and comfort to the terrorists. The sooner that the ambiguity is cleared up, the better for those who want to see a return to law, order, peace and stability.
Direct rule is a constitutional nightmare. It is an aberration of all that is fair, right and democratic. All hon. Members should face their responsibilities. If the right decision cannot be reached quickly on a proper form of devolution for Northern Ireland, we should admit failure and Northern Ireland should be governed as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The indefinite constitutional aberration cannot continue. We must make up our minds or the terrorist will continue to exploit the uncertainty and suspicion that the Government and Parliament might yield to the bomb and the bullet.
There are a number of points in the excellent review that are well worth pondering. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is present because he is concerned about the matter that is dealt with in paragraph 148—access to solicitors. Recently I said to the House that, as a solicitor, I believed that this was a right not to be easily interfered with and I was anxious that it should be maintained. The Secretary of State has indicated what was in his mind. The review does not recommend an unconditional right of access to a solicitor after 48 hours. I believe that the purpose of detention, even for short periods, can be justified only if it is for the purpose of inquiring into a threat to the peace or an outrage that has been committed. Detention must be capable of allowing useful and constructive interrogation to take place. I hope that the matter will be examined at considerable length.
I agree with the Home Secretary on the points that he is prepared to accept. It is reasonable to accept the recommendation that detention should be limited to a period of seven days. I say that as a politician and a lawyer, not as one who is skilled and has knowledge of the interrogation of difficult crime. I do not doubt that, in combating crime—whether terrorism or other crime—interrogation is perhaps the most valuable weapon in the hands of the police. 1545 Some hon. Members may be disturbed by the number of convictions that are obtained because of confessions. However, more and more that must be the pattern of law enforcement of the criminal law and we cannot escape from it. We should address our minds to ensuring that the interrogation is carried out within strict definitions of conduct and propriety. At the same time, we should not exclude the many modern techniques that are available to assist in worth while and productive interrogation.
I support the recommendation and acceptance that detention at court should be limited on the authority of the police to a period of 48 hours. The lines of communication in this country are good enough for the extension of that detention by a higher authority if it is felt to be justified.
I do not quarrel with the Home Secretary's acceptance of the recommendation that orders of exclusion should be reviewed after three years, although it is a difficult burden to impose upon a hard-pressed section of the police and the Home Office.
I positively support the Home Secretary in his decision about section 11. That important section deals with the withholding of information. I was glad that the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) was precise and accurate in his support of the Home Secretary's decision. I am tempted to ponder whether the present law goes far enough, but this is not the proper place to delve too deeply into the matter.
However, we have been tempted by others who have found fault with what we are doing. But it is easy to find fault, provided the question"What is the alternative if that is not done?"is not asked. There are two distinct approaches to the combating of terrorism. We are now dealing with the preventive approach, which is the most important approach—to prevent the outrages that have horrified and shocked the outside world on so many occasions in recent times. The other approach is to detect, prosecute and, I hope, obtain convictions of those who perpetrate the outrages.
The preventive side needs to be enhanced and strengthened in every way possible. It is easy to say that, but it 1546 is not so easy to make constructive proposals. I am tempted to think that there is a case for what was known as"excutive detention"in Northern Ireland. I should not like to think that that is a weapon which has been discarded permanently. It should be continually reviewed, not only in the light of the existing problem in Northern Ireland but in the light of problems in the rest of the United Kingdom.
I do not speak with the authority of either the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but I digest what is reported in the newspapers and other channels of communication. The reports indicate that, far from terrorism being well under control, it is likely to escalate—even if for only a brief time. Recently reports in the newspapers—whether or not they are to be believed—suggest that another campaign is envisaged in Great Britain. I find it a sad reflection on Parliament and Government that, after all the years of violence, we have to admit that our citizens are still at risk.
Reference has been made to the wave of strong feeling that was felt in this country after the Birmingham bombings. One can only speculate what the wave of feeling would be if Canvey Island had been the catastrophe that it could so easily have been. We should appreciate that this is not something to be treated as a matter of routine, endorsed and then left. There must be a developing and continuing campaign to defeat terrorism in all its forms.
I would not depart from the basic approach of the United Kingdom. If we look at our neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, we shall see that it has moved in directions in which we should not go. For example, proscribed organisations in the Republic face an onerous law which we could not subscribe to. It is sufficient for a senior police officer to say to a court in the Republic that he has reason to believe that a person belongs to a proscribed organisation. The onus of proof is on the defendant to prove his innocence. We must avoid that approach at all costs. Whatever we do must be, as far as possible, within the traditions of British judicial history. A man must have the right to be assumed innocent until proved otherwise.
1547 However, we are left with the problems of prevention and suspects. If we are to deal with them, it would be better to do so through executive detention rather than by distorting the judicial process.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West referred to the nature of courts in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that we should follow the example of the Republic and set up special courts to deal with the problem of terrorism. If necessary, we should modify our system in the light of peculiarly difficult circumstances. Setting up special courts of a military or Star Chamber character would be wholly wrong.
My colleagues and I deplore the necessity for the renewal of the order, but none of us has the slightest doubt about the propriety of supporting the renewal. We are convinced that the Government and Parliament must do much more and must not fall into the trap of trying to contain terrorism within bounds that the public will accept. It must be rooted out.
Let us make sure that the IRA is under no illusion that the bomb or the bullet can win any objective for it, whether a short-term legal advantage or political or constitutional advantage. Getting rid of existing ambiguities should be a high priority in the Government's policy. I look forward, if not in the short time left for this Parliament, then at least in the early days of the next, to seeing all those uncertainties ended. I believe that the law will then start to triumph.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Miss Jo Richardson (Barking)
I should like to refer first to the Shackleton report. I regretted the need for Lord Shackleton to have to report at all, because the fact that he was asked to do so revealed many deficiencies in the way that the Prevention of Terrorism Act was working. I hope that one day, probably long after we have all gone, the House will produce legislation that works properly and does not need inquiries to be set up after it has been operating for some time.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said, Lord Shackleton had to do his job with one hand tied behind his back. His investigation had to be based on his acceptance, as the person carrying out the investigation, of the continuing need for legislation. There is a growing number of hon. 1548 Members on the Government side who do not accept the need for the legislation to continue and who intend to vote against the renewal order.
However, Lord Shackleton's recommendations have been helpful and I am glad that the Home Secretary has accepted most of them. Unfortunately, he has not accepted the recommendation relating to section 11. Lord Shackleton said:Section 11 was not thought necessary in 1974. It has an unpleasant ring about it in terms of civil liberties. I recommend therefore that it be allowed to lapse forthwith.It is important to note that Lord Shackleton went on to say:No doubt the Government will wish to consider whether the needs of the security situation in Northern Ireland are such that its continuation there could be justified.He was even envisaging it going beyond the shores of this country to Northern Ireland.
I suppose that it is an advance that the Home Secretary is willing to look at expulsion orders after three years to see whether they should be revoked. However, that assumes that the Act will go on for ever. It is called a temporary provisions Act. It started in 1974, was brought to adulthood in 1976 and is still with us in 1979. How temporary is"temporary "?
The three-year review is better than nothing, but I can foresee that the House will still be referring to the 1976 Act, perhaps in a different context, in 2076. Statutes in this House have a habit of lingering on long after the need for them has disappeared.
The right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) referred to the necessity of maintaining the rule of law. We all accept that. It goes without saying that we all condemn terrorist activity, wherever it takes place and by whomever it is perpetrated. However, when we talk about the rule of law, we must go a little further and make sure that the law is extended to those who come under suspicion so that their pre-trial rights are also protected. That is where my hon. Friends and I differ from most other hon. Members in our assessment of the operation of the Act.
The general view seems to be that if someone is suspected of terrorist activity, he is not entitled to proper pre-trial treatment and a proper trial. I do not hold 1549 that view. Such people are as entitled to straightforward human justice as anyone else.
Exclusion orders deny suspects a trial and do not allow them or their accusers to know whether they are innocent or guilty. We put those suspected of terrorist activity in a different category and bypass altogether the requirement for a trial. In many cases, the Act results in the exclusion of those who are innocent. At least, we must assume that they are innocent because we have never had the chance to find out whether they are guilty.
A further assumption made by many in this country is that suspects are got rid of quickly because their guilt could not be proved by a court. I have never really understood the business of deportation and exclusion. If someone is suspected of a misdeed or terrorist activity—as in this case—it seems strange to say"We shall not gather the evidence against him or bring him to trial. We shall not allow him to have the normal rights we allow other people. We shall simply export him." We are simply exporting, in this case, a suspected terrorist—suspected in the eyes of the police—from one country to another. That is a crazy way of behaving.
We had the same argument over the deportation of Philip Agee and Mark Hosenball. If either of those two Americans was guilty of any offence against this country, or against any of the international agencies, we simply exported them to another country to continue what they had been doing. Why is it not right to state clearly what people are suspected of having done, or to give them their proper rights in terms of defence and then bring them to trial in the ordinary way?
Few hon. Members will have heard of the third Russell tribunal. It is a tribunal set up by the Russell Foundation—that is Bertrand Russell—which, in the last 18 months, looked into the violation of human rights in West Germany. I was a humble member of a distinguished panel which formed a jury. We looked at a number of different aspects of human rights, which was fascinating. But in many ways it was shocking for me to look at another country and compare it with my own. In many respects, some of the avenues we pursued and the evidence given were such that I could hold 1550 my head up and say that the situation in Britain was very much better than in other countries.
West Germany is also facing a wave of terrorism. People who are arrested there for suspected terrorism face extremely bad conditions indeed. Many people arrested there are not given their proper rights when awaiting trial. Lawyers are not allowed proper access to their clients and so on. While I listened to all this—and deeply shocking it was—I found myself thinking of the emergency powers which exist in Northern Ireland, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and wondering whether what we were doing was very much different.
I should like, very briefly, to highlight how the Prevention of Terrorism Act is operated in a very nasty way against some families. I shall give a brief reference to three cases. First, I refer to the cases of two gentlemen, both of Belfast, whom I shall call Mr. H and Mr. Y.
These two men had been working on North Sea oil rigs and were en route to Belfast to spend Christmas with their families. They were detained at Stranraer on 20 December last year, and exclusion orders were served on 23 December—after three days. Neither of those men contested the exclusion order as, naturally enough, they did not want to spend three or four weeks in prison when the alternative was three or four weeks at home with their families.
Mr. H's wife was expecting a baby on 24 December. Nobody knows whether these men were innocent or guilty. Nobody will ever know. There is no encouragement for people to fight exclusion orders. Indeed, no way is open to people to contest exclusion orders, and most of them would not know how to go about it.
Another case concerns a young man aged 21, who also comes from Belfast. Having worked in London with a charitable trust for about six months, he wanted to go home to see his parents. He was detained at Liverpool and served with an exclusion order after three days. He had originally left Belfast to get away from the troubles. That young man is now condemned never to return to this country. He must now go back to the troubles from which he was trying to get away. Of course, he has now lost his job.
1551 The last case I want to refer to is one of which I do not know the final result. It concerns a young woman aged 24 who was five months pregnant at the time. Her husband was an ex-internee and did not accompany her to England, because he was certain that he would be arrested when he arrived. His wife, however, wanted to go to see her mother who lives in Peckham. She arrived with her three brothers, a small sister and her own two children, both aged under three years.
The whole family was taken to Paddington Green police station. They were all arrested, except the grandmother whom they were visiting. What is absolutely appalling about this case is that the two small children, aged under three years, were kept in Paddington Green police station from 10.30 a.m. until 9.30 p.m. before any relatives were allowed to take them away. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) has just muttered, they were"dangerous characters ". Are we really to regard children of 3 or 7 years of age as dangerous characters who should be kept in custody? Did we, in that case, take the fingerprints of those young children, and will those fingerprints remain on the police computer record for the rest of their natural lives, even though two of the children were under 3? In spite of the difficulties faced at the time of the introduction of the Act, it is a very dangerous and corrupting thing that we have enacted.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I have listened with interest to the three cases the hon. Lady mentioned, and I suspect that the Home Office Minister will look into them. Can she answer two quite specific questions? Were any of these people citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies, and were any of them ordinarily resident in this country for the purposes of the Act? She knows perfectly well that there is no power of exclusion if those people were citizens ordinarily resident in this country.
§ Miss Richardson
If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the first two cases I quoted, both men were from Belfast.
§ Miss Richardson
As I undertand it, yes. The two men hailed from Belfast, 1552 but had been working on a North Sea oil rig.
§ Mr. Griffiths
It is important that we get this right, particularly since there is an allegation that the police have acted illegally. The Act is very clear. The power to make exclusion orders is confined to those persons who are not citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and who are not ordinarily resident in this country.
§ Miss Richardson
I was not making allegations against the police. I was not suggesting that the police had not done other than what they can do under this Act. That is the whole point. The Prevention of Terrorism Act gives them the power to do this.
§ Miss Richardson
Yes, he is quite wrong. Nobody can criticise what I say while we allow this Act to continue. I was trying to say that the first two cases, let alone the one about which I do not know the outcome, concerned people who may or may not have had some connection—nobody will ever know. They now have a blot on their records.
These three people were working in the United Kingdom, one in London and two on North Sea oil rigs, but because of the existence of the Prevention of Terrorism Act they were picked up and had exclusion orders served upon them. If we had not had this Act, those three men might very well have come back from their holidays in Belfast and have been working here now.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Perhaps we can put the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) right on the question of citizenship. Is not the hon. Gentleman wrong in suggesting that a person who is a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies cannot be the subject of an exclusion order? Everyone in Northern Ireland is a citizen of the United Kingdom and colonies, and the whole purpose of the Act is that they can be sent back to Northern Ireland.
§ Miss Richardson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for clarifying that point.—[Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members have now got it clear.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I cannot allow two or three what I would call"cross-channel debates"from sedentary positions while the hon. Lady is speaking.
§ Miss Richardson
As I said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the advice that he has given. I hope that it will clear the mind of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), particularly as he is an adviser to the police.
§ Miss Richardson
Under the circumstances, it is probably a good thing that he advises them correctly.
I do not believe that Parliament can any longer tolerate this kind of sloppy law which so endangers so many people. It is said to be temporary law, but it goes on year after year. One year we make some slight modification, and another year we perhaps tighten it up a bit more. Nevertheless, the whole principle is wrong. The plain fact is that the police have always had the powers to deal with terrorist suspects under our normal statutes. That is how it should be. Without such laws, it might have been necessary to have a provision of this kind. I believe that we should think again and decide not to give the Government the right to carry on with the Prevention of Terrorism Act for another year.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) was a distinguished member of the Russell panel which discussed human rights. I should like to come back to that issue later. At this early stage in my speech I should like to weigh up what she said about the burden of this Act on large numbers of people.
I believe that the hon. Lady should recalibrate a little on what she said about human rights, because the human right that is endangered by terrorism is the human right to live and to enjoy one's normal pursuit of happiness. It is the basic of all human rights which is threatened by terrorist activity. It is designed not merely to destroy the individual but to subvert and destroy the State from which all individual rights flow. That is something which the hon. 1554 Lady should bear in mind when discussing these impositions which, compared with what is imposed by the German and Irish Governments on their citizens, are considerably more liberal.
Since I am not a Northern Ireland Member, and since I have not seen the full horrors that hon. Members there have to suffer, I hope that within the terms of the Shackleton report I may be allowed to look at slightly wider issues than perhaps that of Northern Ireland itself. In his report, Lord Shackleton said that he feared that terrorism would not go away. I hope that it may, just as I hope that we shall not need this Act next year, but I very much doubt it.
There are even more alarming indications. World-wide terrorism is not diminishing. In a period when the world is materialist in outlook, and in a period which has been called"the revolution of rising expectations ", there has been enough terrorism. I shudder to think what will be the degree of violence when one looks ahead and sees a continuing deterioration in the world's expectations.
Another general matter which must be borne in mind is that, unfortunately, terrorism in the years to come may become more and more of a military weapon between States. This is a real problem which the House will have to face. After all, the Trojan horse exercise is as old as can be, but when combined with a nuclear threat it could be terrifying. Therefore, there is real reason for the Ministry of Defence and the Home Department always to keep under review this question of terrorism as a pursuit of war by other means. That is something that we shall have to look at seriously.
In discussing the renewal of this Act, another matter of general consideration is that the essential need is to ensure that the rule of law is pursued and that there is a feeling throughout the land that the rule of law should be pursued and supported. The hon. Lady said that this Act was unnecessary and that under common and statute law there are other means of dealing with these matters. That is true only if the law is enforced, but one of the problems in recent years is that the law in regard to these matters has not been enforced.
Endlessly the Foreign Secretary, on television, the evening radio and at the United 1555 Nations, has treated terrorist organisations as though they were sovereign Powers in exile. How can one expect people to grow up to think that terrorism is a bad thing when one finds the Foreign Secretary hob-nobbing with terrorists, not for reasons of State—which is acceptable—but because he believes that they are moderate, intelligent, democratic human beings? As a result, a sense of values is quickly lost, and that bears down on people until finally they feel they have to make decisions on whether terrorists are good or bad. In my view, there is only one good terrorist, and he is a dead one. The sooner that is appreciated by the country, the more solidly based we shall be.
The issues before the House in respect of the Act and the Shackleton report—I add my congratulations to Lord Shackleton—turn largely on the Northern Ireland problem today. Here again, this Act makes some contribution. But far more important than the Act—I am sure that Northern Ireland Members would agree—is the question of how this Act and, above all, the common law itself are enforced. Essentially I believe that that should be done and be best done by a police force rather than by the Armed Forces. This is a matter which the House must look at again and again.
Those of us who on occasions have taken part in Northern Ireland debates always ask that there should be more efforts to recruit more policemen from the minority community. Speaking as a Roman Catholic, I hope that that recruitment continues. I think that my coreligionists in Northern Ireland must face the fact that if we are to assume proper control and if constitutional means fail, or cannot be found, it would be a matter of enforcing the law on the ground. It is not the Army which will enforce the law; it is the police. If the Roman Catholic of Northern Ireland will not come forward, recruits must be found elsewhere.
§ Mr. Flannery
The right hon. Gentleman raises a fundamental point: if the Roman Catholics did not join the RUC and kindred organisations during the quiet times, why on earth should they join now? The reality is that for 50 years they would not join because of the pressures exerted on them. Does anybody 1556 really think that at a time such as this, when it would endanger their lives, and when no real effort is being made to recruit them, they would join the RUC? It is a dream. There is no chance of the Roman Catholics of Northern Ireland joining the RUC in the present climate.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels that way. He may be right, but I think that it is unfortunate. If Catholics are unable to join the police force, then we must have a larger police force in Northern Ireland—more police and fewer troops. There is no conceivable way in which troops can deal with an internal security problem.
I speak from experience of terrorism.—first, as a terrorist myself during the war and, secondly, as someone who had to cope with terrorism in Malaya and Kenya. I have seen terrorism from both sides of the fence and I am convinced that the only way in which we can cope with terrorism is with a police force rather than with the Armed Forces. That is the key to the situation.
Clauses 10 and 11 of the Bill were introduced in 1976 and I believe that they are the key to the effective operation of the Act, in so far as the whole essence of dealing with terrorists is to see that they are isolated. To use the phrase of Mao Tse-tung,"The terrorist swims like a fish secretly in the tide of opinion." Control that tide, penalise that tide and the fish is caught and stranded.
Even if deterrence is not used, and section 11 has not been very much used in this country, it still means that the co-operation which the terrorist seeks will not be forthcoming. I believe that the section is an important part of the Act and I am glad that the Home Secretary intends to keep it, because terrorism will remain with us.
If one looks around the world today, one sees Yasser Arafat being saluted, as he carries 10 pistols in his belt, by the United Nations. Watching terrorist activities throughout the world, one sees the dangers which could face this country, and in that context one feels that this Act makes a contribution and plays an active part in our security.
I know that some people feel that by taking a tough line against terrorists we face the danger of upsetting many people who would then feel a greater sympathy 1557 for people who might seem, or try to make themselves appear, to be martyrs. This is a wrong attitude because it is illogical. It means the use of kid gloves against terrorists. I am convinced that, had I been told, or had my colleagues been told, that British parachutists would not be shot out of hand but would be made ordinary prisoners of war, instead of getting an MBE in the last war I would have had as many medals as the self-called Field Marshal Amin, for acts of astonishing heroism or savagery.
The fear of retribution and of discovery and the fear of the penetration of their organisation are what matter to terrorists. That is the only way we will bring terrorism under control. Unimportant though it may be against the general background, this Act makes a contribution and should be renewed.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I intend to vote tonight for the renewal of the Act for a further 12 months though I have some misgivings, particularly in the light of the Shackleton report. It seems to me that those provisions of the Act which are most deserving of review are the ones which are likely to be most easily renewed from year to year. I refer to section 11, specifically, which in my view could form a permanent part of legislation, quite apart from legislation on terrorism. Section 11 seems to be the one which everyone is very keen—and the Government are a little keen—to terminate.
I hope that in the next year a rather better job will be done of reviewing the operation of this Act than was done by Lord Shackleton. For reasons which I shall come to soon, I do not share in the tributes paid to Lord Shackleton for the work that he has done in the report.
The problem in Northern Ireland, it is often said, is a political one rather than one of security, and there is no solution, in terms of security, to a political problem. That is the usual phrase used when assessing the situation. I do not believe that. There is a political problem, or rather a complex set of interrelated political problems, and there is a military-police problem. There is no political solution to that military-police problem. There is only a military-police solution 1558 to that problem. No political solution can buy off the thugs—or, at least, there is no solution which we should be prepared to accept. If we did accept such a solution, those who are prepared to use the gun and the bomb to secure their ends in the present context would be equally prepared to use the gun and the bomb to secure their ends in a different political context if we were unwise enough to concede it.
It is particularly important that Ministers—and I stress Ministers, and not some odd person appointed to do the job—should exercise very close surveillance over the activities under an emergency Act of this kind. I illustrate my point by referring to section 62 of the Criminal Law Act 1977, which gives a statutory right to an arrested person to be permitted to tell somebody, subject to certain qualifications, that he has been arrested.
Although it was desirable to put that provision on to the statute book as a desirable and useful measure, what has really made it work is the fact that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was prepared to initiate surveillance and control mechanisms in the police force to ensure that the Act was correctly operated. It is those control and surveillance mechanisms which are bringing about slowly a transformation in the treatment of those arrested in some parts of the country. There are parts of the country where behaviour was always good but in other parts those control mechanisms are almost a more important element than section 62 itself.
The lesson of that is that Ministers should be giving their attention to that type of issue. It is not enough to appoint a Lord Shackleton every three years to examine it. From month to month, Ministers should be doing spot checks so that they have a better and more detailed idea of how the provisions are being implemented.
I apply the same argument to the alarming and hugely disappointing revelations which recently came out about the treatment of prisoners in Northern Ireland. Of course, it is not like 1971; it is not like the organised torture which was revealed in the Compton report in 1971. But it is illegal. Given the fore-warning of Compton, Parker and similar reports eight years ago, Ministers should 1559 have ensured that such activities did not happen. It is their job to ensure that they do not happen. It is also the job of a Northern Ireland Minister to be on the Government Front Bench throughout this debate.
Having been forewarned by the experiences of 1971 and 1972, it is the job of Ministers to ensure that that kind of thing does not sully British administration in Northern Ireland. That is where the blame lies. I hope that the need for better ministerial supervision of what goes on in police stations and so-called police offices in Northern Ireland is fully understood.
I turn to the Shackleton report. I shall address myself to two bits of it. I do not echo the flattering remarks that have been made about it. Paragraph 91 refers to section 62 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and the right of a person to have access to a solicitor. When we discussed these matters a few years ago, those of us who wanted this provision to be introduced invoked experience in Scotland and the provisions in the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, now a consolidation Act, which gives to an arrested person who has been charged a right of access to a solicitor and, indeed, a private interview with him.
In paragraph 91 of his report, Shackleton rather pooh-poohs this experience north of the border. He says that it does not work out and that it is not administered in practice in the way that those of us who wanted that section to be introduced said that it would be administered.
When these matters were being examined in 1976 with reference to this Act, the Lord Advocate was on the Front Bench. There had been exchanges of correspondence between at least me and the Lord Advocate about this matter. Quotations from that correspondence were made in the House. The Lord Advocate is an authoritative person on Scottish law—certainly more authoritative than Lord Shackleton. He made it clear that, in his view, north of the border the provisions would certainly apply to persons arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. On 28 January 1976 he said that such slight dubiety as existed did not really affect matters in practice because the 1560 police—he meant the police in Scotland—were willing to extend the right of access to a solicitor and to all persons arrested and detained under section 7 of the 1974 Act.
There is not a word in Lord Shackleton's report about that. He simply pooh-poohs the Scottish experience and the suggestion that experience throughout the United Kingdom requires that access to a solicitor should be denied more frequently than described as standard practice by no less a person than the Lord Advocate in approving the terms in 1976. That is one reason why I do not regard this as a very good report.
Worse still, I turn to Lord Shackleton's references—such as they are—to section 11 of the Act. May I say to the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) that I had some responsibility for section 11, but section 10 was a Government initiative and was nothing to do with me. Section 11 relates to the offence of withholding information from the police. There are two paragraphs about that in the report. That is all. The House debated that provision for about three-quarters of an hour, or an hour, the first time that the Act was passed. We did not adopt the provision in 1974. The Standing Committee on the renewal Bill in 1975–76 discussed the matter for about one or 1½ hours. In the course of the Standing Committee, which I am sure the Under-Secretary of State recollects, the Home Secretary said:I found some of the arguments advanced…in favour of the proposal rather more convincing than some of the arguments with which I proposed to refute them."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 16 December 1975; c. 150.]On a later occasion, the then Home Secretary, Mr. Jenkins, said:I thought that those arguments were better than those in my brief.On 28 January 1976, the Under-Secretary said:The Government take the view that the Bill could, with advantage, contain a provision of this kind."—[Official Report, 28 January 1976; Vol. 904, c. 463.]The provision, not the one in the form that I had proposed, but as redrafted by the Government, was put into the Act after a vote by 196 votes to 24. The two main parties supported the proposal, as did representatives of three of the minor parties.
1561 The then Home Secretary concluded:Because I believe that the clause is right in principle, I ask the House to support it "—[Official Report, 28 January 1976; Vol. 904, c. 463, 493.]The House did.
There is not a word about that in the two brief paragraphs that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton wrote on the subject. One would have thought that he would have thought it necessary to put the case for it, to put the case against it and somehow to describe the considerations which looked as if they had led the House of Commons and the House of Lords to vote this into the statute book. But no, he did not.
One must fish in two paragraphs to discover what he said. He said:There are genuine doubts about its implications in principle ".What are those doubts? He does not say what they are. Of course, we can all guess. But why does Lord Shackleton not say what the doubts are? Lord Shackleton says of this provision:There are genuine doubts…about the way it might be used in the course of interviewing someone.What does that mean? Again, Lord Shackleton does not elaborate. It is difficult to see what he is getting at. He goes on to say thatIt has…been little used in Great Britain.All sorts of offences are on the statute book which have been little used because people do not commit many of those offences. That is not a reason for not making an activity a breach of the law.
People always use the word"obvious"when they are not sure how to describe something—and Lord Shackleton says that there areobvious difficulties of proofThere are obvious difficulties of proof, of course. That was gone over at great length in the debates about whether we should put this on to the statute book.
Then, in his concluding and full-of-fact remark in paragraph 133, Lord Shackleton says that section 11has an unpleasant ring about it in terms of civil liberties ".
§ Mr. Cunningham
Yes, it does, and that is the sort of remark one might 1562 make, but it is not what one expects to be produced by someone whom one pays to produce a report on the subject. One expects him to produce something rather fatter on fact and more persuasive rationally than that.
Some of the things which Lord Shackleton might have mentioned if he had done a less sloppy job on the subject would be these. Until 1967 there was on the statute book the offence of misprision of a felony. Then we abolished felonies, so we abolished misprision of a felony, and it was doubtful whether misprision of a felony would have extended to mere withholding of information. There is no reference to that in Shackleton's two paragraphs.
Next, Lord Shackleton might have said that there already is an offence on the statute book relating to the withholding from the police of information about an offence. It is an offence to withhold such information from the police so long as one takes a bribe for it. Thus, quite apart from this Act, the present position is that if some men of the IRA say to someone who knows that they intend to plant a bomb"Do not tell the police and we will give you 100 quid ", that is an offence, but it is not an offence if the person says"No, I will do it for love of the IRA and I do not want your £100 ". One would have thought that that consideration might just have crept into one of Shackleton's paragraphs. But it is not mentioned at all.
I conclude, therefore, that the two paragraphs on this subject in the report should not be taken by the Government as a sufficient basis for reconsidering section 11 next year. If we are to reconsider this section next year—by all means, let us reconsider all the sections next year—let us do it upon some competent basis and not on the basis of this sloppy job on the subject done by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton.
I suggest that in the light of the existence of section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, already on the statute book relating to the withholding of information, there really is a case not only for retaining this provision in the Act now before us but for actually regarding it as a normal part of our law, despite the obvious difficulties about which we all know. In my view, this section is less deserving of review and termination than 1563 many of the others which exist already in the Act.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
As I recall it, the sloppiness was really in section 11 itself, and I remember that we had considerable debate about the wording:which he knows or believes ".One can argue till the cows come home that somebody ought to have believed something, but he may well insist that he did not believe that the information might be of material assistance, and so on. Quite frankly, I feel that the sloppy wording of the section is the reason why it has not been used.
§ Mr. Cunningham
If Lord Shackleton had done a less sloppy job, my hon. Friend would know the answer to that, because Shackleton would have made the point and would, indeed, have quoted—I know that it would have taken a few lines, but he could have done it—section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1967, which reads:Where a person has committed an arrestable offence, any other person who, knowing or believing that the offence or some other arrestable offence has been committed, and that he has information which might be of material assistance in securing the prosecution or conviction of an offender for it, accepts or agrees to accepta bribe, and so on. In other words, the words of section 11 of the present Act are modelled as far as possible upon the words of that section in our existing non-emergency law, and that law was drafted by the Criminal Law Revision Committee.
I do not say that anything drafted by the Criminal Law Revision Committee must be right. I say only that it was not dreamed up in the middle of the night after the Birmingham bombings but it was drawn up in the middle of the day by the Criminal Law Revision Committee and was passed to our permanent statute book, with all those considerations having been gone through.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
On Friday last, when he made his statement on Judge Bennett's report, I put to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a series of questions. I am glad that the Secretary of State has now initiated an inquiry based upon those questions. I am glad also that matters have been clarified regarding the allegation which was made concerning Assistant Chief 1564 Constable Killen and his interview with Dr. Irwin.
Now that the Secretary of State has taken this matter in hand and is having a full inquiry, I trust that the truth will come out, because I believe that it is in the interests of everyone that the truth in these matters—and especially regarding the dragging of Dr. Irwin's wife into the affair—should be fully ventilated. The truth should be seen to be told. I put on record now that I am glad that the Secretary of State has taken that action. I trust that we shall have a speedy report from him on the result of the investigations which he is making.
There are some matters of which some hon. Members do not seem to be aware and, as a Member from Northern Ireland, I think it my duty to enlighten them. The citizens of Northern Ireland are citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies. Let that be said and noted plainly. Some people would like us not to be citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and would try to put us out of the United Kingdom, but we are at this time citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies.
It is possible that a citizen from Northern Ireland travelling to this country can be deported back to that part of the United Kingdom which is Northern Ireland. It is possible also under the present law for a person resident in any part of the United Kingdom other than Northern Ireland to be deported from Northern Ireland back to that part of the United Kingdom. Although I am told that that power has not been used, I wonder whether the Home Office spokesman will tell us tonight how many times there has been that traffic the other way—not from Great Britain to Northern Ireland but from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
There is an impression abroad, an impression which needs to be corrected in the House, that Judge Bennett's report is a serious indictment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a police body. No one reading that report could take it as an indictment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a body. There have been all sorts of speculations, exaggerations and allegations made, but nowhere in the report—I have read it carefully and more than once—can that conclusion be found.
1565 I have found in my reading of his report that the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a body are exonerated by Judge Bennett. I am talking about the whole body of the police. I am talking also about the difficulties which the police are facing in Northern Ireland today.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Order. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are not dealing with the Bennett report.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
But, Mr. Deputy Speaker, a Member who spoke earlier, the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), dealt at some length with this matter, and it is mentioned in, or tied in with, the Shackleton report. On behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, I feel that I have a right to put a view opposite to that which has been put—or perhaps not a fully opposite view but the view of another section of opinion on the matter.
§ Mr. Fitt
In my references to the Bennett report, I repeatedly referred to the fact that people were being interrogated in the Castlereagh holding centre under the provisions of section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. As such, the report is completely relevant. If people are being interrogated and incarcerated under that Act, I certainly think that the Bennett report is relevant.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Perhaps I may help the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) by reminding him that one of my predecessors in the Chair mentioned to the House, I understand, that the matters with which the hon. Gentleman is now dealing are on the extreme margin of admissibility under the rules of order. Therefore, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will relate his remarks to the two documents that we are discussing.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
In the Shackleton report, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is mention of the fact that allegations were made concerning certain members of the RUC—not uniformed members but detective members. It is also mentioned that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had instituted a committee, which was the Judge Bennett committee, to look into this matter. That is part of the Shackleton report. In discussing that 1566 report, I am seeking to discuss that reference and the result of it.
As the hon. Member for Belfast, West has rightly reminded the House, under the very Act that we are discussing people find themselves in police custody, and, as a result, these other matters flow from the fact that they have been arrested and are in police custody.
I return to the point that the Bennett report does not indict the RUC as a body. It is vital that that is said in the House in plain, clear language. Second, the report commends the RUC for seeking to deal with terrorism in a very difficult situation.
There is a reference in the report to the fact that allegations have been made concerning ill treatment. A previous speaker has referred to paragraph 163. At the conclusion of that paragraph, Judge Bennett suggested that there were people who had received bruises and wounds which they did not inflict upon themselves. But Judge Bennett made it clear that, as he had not interrogated the police, he could not condemn them without hearing them. We in this House need to get the whole matter into its right perspective.
There is a mention in the Shackleton report of these various allegations and suggestions. It seems that only a very small number of police are under suspicion. Like the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham), I regret the fact that no member of the Northern Ireland Office is on the Front Bench to hear this debate. I suggest to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in his absence, that it is the duty of the Northern Ireland Office, of the police authority and of the Chief Constable, for the good name and credibility of the whole force—which has not been indicted but which has been the subject of certain misrepresentations as a result of this report—to ensure that the truth of the matter is brought forth.
There is no suggestion that there is a conspiracy among police officers to carry out acts against these prisoners, but there is a suggestion that certain police officers, on their own, are acting outside the law. As the Secretary of State said, one is too many. I think that we all agreed on that.
However, I must re-echo what was said by the hon. Member for Islington, South 1567 and Finsbury—that warnings have been put up in regard to this matter and, unfortunately, those warnings have not been heeded. It is a great disservice to the RUC and to the security forces that these matters are not fully laid, once and for all, so that the security forces in Northern Ireland can go forward with the support that I believe they have right across the divide in Northern Ireland.
I want to leave that point and to come to some matters that are relevant—perhaps this will make you happier, Mr. Deputy Speaker—to the Shackleton report and the Act.
I feel very strongly that we need to see that deportation on suspicion is not regarded as being the result of a judicial trial of any kind. These people are not guilty of anything. We had better get it into our minds that this is an executive act of Government, that the Executive make a decision, and that the Home Secretary is responsible for that decision. But the person has not been tried. He does not even know of what he is accused. No witnesses are called. The idea of the adviser and the term"appeal"are completely misleading, because this is in no way a judicial hearing or a judicial appeal. The Executive make a decision.
I totally disagree with the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig), who suggested that we should bring back executive detention in Northern Ireland. That would be the height of folly, because we know what has happend previously. I was the only person on the Protestant side in Northern Ireland at the time who took a strong stand on this matter. I am glad that my stand has been fully vindicated. I do not want executive detention brought back in Northern Ireland. However, I realise that this is an executive act, and the sooner we get this fact over to people, the better.
If fingerprints have been taken from people who are deported, or if there is a record on a police file, such records should be completely destroyed immediately, or the fingerprints should be given to them together with the whole of the police report on them, because such people have never been tried. This is an executive act. It should be an executive act, because if it were a judicial act we could not even discuss it in the House. How ever, 1568 we can come to the House and make the Home Secretary, or his representative, answerable in the House for what he does. But that we could not do if it were not an executive act. I believe that it must remain an executive act.
Northern Ireland is at present in the grip of terrorism. In the coming months we shall have more horrible murders and a holocaust of explosions. We have seen what has happened in Kinauley. Anyone who saw on television the state of the police station there after mortar bombs had been rained down upon it will realise that it was a miracle that only one soldier was hurt at the time. It was in the Newtonhamilton area that the killing of a soldier took place. This is a sad fact.
In regard to the Act and its renewal, are the Government really taking on board what was said by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury—that there is a political problem in Northern Ireland and that there is also a military and a police problem? No matter what we do politically, we shall never settle the Provisional IRA because its members will not stand for election.
We shall never settle that section of the Republican community which believes not in the ballot but in the bomb and the bullet. It never stands for election. The hon. Member for Belfast, West has spoken about these people in his area. I do not know what they do in my area because they never put up candidates. But they resist other candidates. These people make it very difficult for a candidate to stand for election. They make it difficult for people to go out to vote for him and they make it very difficult for him to conduct his election campaign.
The House needs to realise that there is a political problem. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Belfast, East. I do not believe that the answer is rule from Westminster. The answer to this question is a devolved Parliament and Government in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that this House can properly govern Northern Ireland, even with what is called total integration. We need to work towards a devolved Government and a devolved Parliament. I hope that some day this House, in its wisdom, will give us what it gave to the people of Wales and Scotland—the opportunity to have a 40 per cent. vote. We would then, 1569 perhaps, have the opportunity to say what type of Government we desire.
We face a terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland. This House should be aware that, sooner or later, that campaign will spill into Great Britain. It is only because of the measures adopted by the Government that it has not spilled more extensively into Great Britain. In a war situation, we have to forgo certain privileges. Everyone during the last war had to carry an identity card. That was obnoxious to many people but it was essential to the security of the country.
Many matters are essential to the security of this country. Hon. Members would be foolish to think that this Act stems the flood tide of terrorism. In some ways, however, it acts as a deterrent. What worries me about the Act is the way the courts are handling convicted people in Northern Ireland.
I recommend the House and hon. Members present to study carefully a list which appeared in Hansard on 21 February in response to a question by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). It is a startling revelation to compare the numbers convicted and the numbers given custodial sentences. One-third of all the people who came before the courts and were convicted of such offences as attempted murder, wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, causing explosions, carrying a firearm with intent, hijacking, arson, withholding information, possessing prohibited articles, membership of illegal organisations, and kidnapping and false imprisonment did not receive a custodial sentence. How can one fight terrorism when one-third of the people convicted of these serious offences are not even imprisoned?
Let us take kidnapping, for instance. Of the 11 people charged with that offence between July and December 1978, seven were not gaoled. They were found guilty but were not gaoled. A total of 38 people were charged and found guilty of being a member of an illegal organisation, but 27 of them were not imprisoned. What use is served by this Parliament passing laws relating to offences that terrorists may commit when, once they are brought before the courts and properly tried and sentenced, the sentence is not one that is likely to deter? Four people, for instance, were charged and found guilty of 1570 carrying a firearm with intent. Two were not put into prison. That is 50 per cent.
I shall not weary the House but I recommend every hon. Member to examine those figures. We shall never fight terrorism if people found guilty do not receive gaol sentences. I feel strongly that people who are found guilty after a proper trial must receive a sentence that is related to their offence. These offences include attempted murder, kidnapping and arson. On the latter point, everyone knows of the burnings that take place in Northern Ireland. There has been a whole series, in my constituency, of haysheds and farmhouses going up. What do we find in the arson figures? Of the 40 people charged and convicted, 19 were not given a gaol sentence. If we go on with that sort of administration of justice, we shall certainly not deal with terrorism. These are matters to which the House needs to apply itself.
This Act does not deal with a Diplock court. I would like to put on record again that I am opposed to courts without a jury. I voted against this proposal. I stood against it and I continue to stand against it. The suggestion that juries would be intimidated does not wash one iota with me. No one knows who will be members of a jury until it is picked on the trial day. Witnesses are far more likely than jurors to be"got at ". The sooner we return to jury trial in Northern Ireland, the sooner would the objection of those who say that people convicted by a Diplock court are different be taken away. Jury trials would strengthen the forces of law and order, not weaken them. I trust that we shall soon advance to that day.
I am scared about temporary provisions. We had a temporary suspension of Stormont and Stormont went altogether. Temporary measures adopted by this House have a way of becoming permanent. The time has come to face up to the reality of the situation. Knowing the situation in Northern Ireland and knowing what we are up against, I feel, however, that the Government are duty bound to have in their possession an arsenal of weapons by which they can defeat terrorism. This Act is needed to deal with terrorism when it spills over into this part of the United Kingdom. No one in Northern Ireland would like any part of Great Britain or the world to suffer in 1571 the way we have suffered. We would like to see the rest of the citizens of this country saved from the awful scourge that has occurred in Northern Ireland in the past 10 years.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas (Bristol, North-West)
I agree with a number of points made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). I agree with him about the grave danger that the so-called temporary provisions will become permanent.
One could understand, at the time of the outrages in Birmingham, why the Home Secretary felt it was necessary to bring in legislation, even though many of us on this side of the House felt it was simply cosmetic. To some extent, we could see that there might be some justification for it, although, from the beginning, a small handful on this side of the House have always voted against the prevention of terrorism legislation. One could understand that a Secretary of State, faced with the heinous crimes that occurred at the time, might come forward with this legislation.
But there is now a grave danger, especially in the light of the Shackleton report and the Secretary of State's statement about what he will accept and what he will not accept from that report, that the Government would like to see prevention of terrorism legislation, basically along these lines, for some considerable time to come, if not for all time. Those of us who opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Bills in the past always made it clear—I hope that the House once again will accept our stand—that we are completely and utterly opposed to the heinous crimes committed by the IRA and any other groups in Northern Ireland or terrorists anywhere else. However, we are concerned about civil liberties, and I want to say a few words about two Bristolians who found themselves caught up in the Act that we are discussing.
The Shackleton report contains some paragraphs on exclusion orders. It cannot be emphasised enough that when someone is faced with an exclusion order and is taken into custody he is given no indication of the evidence against him. We have heard a good deal about legal representation. My hon. Friend the 1572 Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) has mentioned it. We have heard about the rights of individuals to see a lawyer. But what is the point of having a lawyer if it is not possible to give him any indication of the evidence against somebody to allow him to build up a defence?
That was exactly the position of two Bristolians who were taken into custody separately. They managed to convey a message to me at this place. There were no problems about that. I received the message that they had been picked up. The National Council for Civil Liberties is to be commended on getting a lawyer to visit and help these two Bristolians. However, there was no way in which he could begin to prepare a defence. The individuals concerned had been given no indication why they had been taken into custody or of the evidence against them.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North is right to say that the term"adviser"is a euphemism. What can the adviser do? When Lord Alport went to see one of the Bristolians, he was asked whether he had any indication of the evidence that had been brought against him. I am told that Lord Alport replied that he had not even seen the papers. Apparently they spent the time talking about Bristol Rovers football club. There was general chit-chat. I do not know what Lord Alport learnt from that. He may have understood that the Bristolian was someone who might or might not create a disturbance on the terraces at the Rovers ground.
We are assured by the Shackleton report that the advisers read the evidence that has been prepared against individuals. But how can they advise without giving some indication of the evidence? Do they advise surreptitiously? Do they say"I cannot tell you what the evidence is against you, but I want to make a judgment on whether you should be excluded "? It is nonsensical.
I apologise in advance to the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) if I have misunderstood him. The hon. Gentleman suggested that if there is the least suspicion against anybody an exclusion order should be used. That is what I understood him to say.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
When I interrupted the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), 1573 I said that on occasions people were not brought to trial because there was not evidence available that would enable a jury to convict, but that there was in the minds of the police and the Home Secretary sufficient evidence to cause them—I do not have the exact phraseology—to be convinced that there were reasonable grounds for suspicion that they were engaged, or might be engaged, in terrorist activity. I do not have the exact formula, but that is the difference.
§ Mr. Thomas
I suggest that by implication the hon. Gentleman is saying that, if the police or someone else has suspicion, that is sufficient to take an individual away from his family in Bristol, London, Cardiff or wherever and to dump him in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Thomas
Suspicion may arise in many ways. The IRA is cunning. If it wants to get at certain people who are its enemies—for example, Irishmen living in Britain—surely it can find ways of introducing suspicion. It will then be said"I am sorry, I cannot tell what the evidence is, but we have evidence and therefore there will be an exclusion order made against you."
It is interesting to speculate how many people saw the evidence that led to two Bristolians being dumped in Northern Ireland. How many members of the Bristol police force saw it? Did a young secretary type the evidence? Did other individuals see it? Presumably many people saw the evidence if it was on paper. Of course, we do not know whether it was or is on paper. It may have been somebody's word. We do not know whether files were produced.
On that basis I, too, have grave doubts about the Shackleton report. Paragraph 124 refers to the adviser being independent and seeing all the papers. The paragraph states:The interview with the Adviser affords the subject a chance to elaborate on his representations ".How can he elaborate on his representations when he does not know the accusations that have been made against him? That is nonsense.
The implementation of exclusion orders is traumatic. The two Bristolians were 1574 taken from their families and sent to Northern Ireland where they were released. I am not a lawyer, but surely, in all reasonableness, if the police in a city such as London, Liverpool or Bristol are suspicious of somebody and think that he may be connected with terrorist activity, the proper thing to do is to watch his activities in the place where he lives and not to pick him up and dump him in Northern Ireland. That latter reaction seems illogical.
It seems that when those who are excluded reach Northern Ireland they are set free. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been questioned about the number of people dumped in Northern Ireland in that way. He has been asked whether they have ever been charged. As I understand it, none of them has been charged.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) said, there was the unusual case of a Southampton seaman that highlighted the facile and cosmetic nature of the legislation. He was picked up, presumably on suspicion that he had committed or would commit acts of terrorism. There was a long argument because he was a seaman and had an address in Southampton. The argument was about whether he had lived in Britain for 20 years. As a seaman he had lived only a part of the time in Southampton. Eventually it was decided that he was covered by the 20-year rule. That being so, he was immediately released. That is an example of the cosmetic and nonsensical character of the legislation.
In the Shackleton report the question is posed whether instead of having one adviser there should be a panel of advisers. The report states:I do not think it would significantly help the position of the subject of the order, and it would be a deceit to lead him to think otherwise.It is, I submit, deceitful to lead him to think that the adviser can do anything for him in any case. He is not in a position to know what the evidence is against him.
Referring to the exclusion orders, paragraph 130 says:Exclusion can be justified only so long as it contributes significantly to the prevention of terrorism.I do not believe that the case has been made out that excluding people from their families by means of exclusion 1575 orders has any effect on terrorism or its prevention. Paragraph 130 continues:On the one hand, it is held that exclusion is unacceptable in principle and makes no contribution in practice to the prevention of terrorism.That is where I stand. The paragraph goes on:On the other hand, the police have no doubt that exclusion has made a significant contribution in this respect. On the basis of the cases I have seen I have no reason to doubt their judgement.What does Lord Shackleton suggest? Does he suggest that those subject to exclusion orders would have committed acts of terrorism? He goes on:"I have no reason to doubt the judgment of the police." But how many cases did Lord Shackleton see? Did he interview any of the people subjected to exclusion orders?
There is a possibility that if a person is taken away from his family and dumped in Northern Ireland—as happened with the two Bristolians—that would create bitterness that might possibly lead to acts of terrorism. It could make such a person bitter about the system and might well propel him in that direction. There is no evidence in the Shackleton report that such orders have made any significant contribution. And the exclusion order procedure is completely contrary to natural justice. It has been said that we should stand by the rule of law. What do we mean by"the rule of law "? Do we mean the rule of law by Stalin in the Soviet Union, or Hitler in Nazi Germany? I do not think so. I thought that we meant the rule of law based on natural justice. That is why we stand up for the rule of law in this country. The rule of law is based on natural justice. If I am wrong, I hope I shall be told.
An essential ingredient of natural justice is that an accused person should know of what crime he is accused. People with exclusion orders against them are not told. In the case of one of the Bristolians the family was broken up. The man left his wife and children. There has since been a divorce. Yet Shackleton has the cheek to say that that is not a punishment. He talks like a lawyer. For my constituent, this was a punishment. His family was broken up and there was a divorce. There were other traumatic experiences associated with that. We stand for the rule 1576 of law—but the rule of law based on natural justice, and natural justice demands the right of someone to know of what he is accused. This House should be the watchdog of civil liberties and not the Home Secretary's poodle.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
No one likes exclusion orders. No one, including the police, likes powers to be given to anybody in this country to detain other citizens without trial. But equally—I hope that I am right—no one can possibly support terrorism.
This debate, as so many before, is the classic debate between those who put first the issues of liberty and those who put first the issues of order. The truth is that there can be neither without the other—no liberty without order and no freedom without law. It is the task of the House—and indeed of Ministers—to balance the liberties of our people with the need for law and order so that those liberties may be enjoyed.
The first civil liberty is the right to life and the pursuit of happiness. But the main threat to life and the pursuit of happiness in this country does not come from the police. Nor does it come from Ministers—although there are occasions when, among others, I contend that it does. The main threat to civil liberty comes from the criminal, the wrongdoer and the terrorist. Anyone who cares for liberty must therefore seek to defeat the criminal, the law-breaker and the terrorist.
There is, of course, the other side of the coin. If we give to the police, or, for that matter, to the bureaucracy, powers that are so onerous or usurpatious or tyrannical that they destroy the very civil liberties that they are designed to protect, the remedy may be worse than the disease. If the police abuse the powers that they are given, temporarily, by the House, they must be called to account. At all times the House has the task of monitoring what happens when we provide powers of this kind to any agency of Government, whether it be Ministers, police or bureaucrats. This debate is a part of the monitoring process. The Home Secretary, in the way that he put the arguments before the House today, was serving the House and the law by balancing the two poles of liberty and order.
1577 I judge this Act in terms of its title. It is the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. I want to say a word about those three main points. First, terrorism. There can be no doubt that we are in the presence of terrorism on a large scale in the present-day world though fortunately, in recent years, there has been some reduction in the carnage, at least in this country. But within the Province for which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland bears responsibility, terrorism continues, as the right hon. Gentleman will testify. And none of us can say with any certainty that it will not continue, and perhaps get very much worse.
Let me refer—as Lord Shackleton said—to the situation when the Bill was originally brought before the House. In 1970 there were acts of terrorism in Northern Ireland leading to the deaths of 25 people. In 1971 the number of deaths resulting from terrorist attacks was 174. In 1972 it was 468. Throughout 1973 those terrorist attacks increased and crossed the water to this country, with 86 bombing and shooting incidents. In the first 10 months of 1974 there were 99 bombing and shooting incidents resulting in 19 deaths and injuries to 145 people in this country. In the first 20 days of November 1974 there were 11 attacks, four deaths, and injuries to 35 people. Ultimately there was the horror of the Birmingham incident.
No Government could possibly have accepted that situation without taking action and bringing in legislation of this kind. So the Act was inevitable, just as much as it was, in the circumstances, desirable.
I believe—with the police—that the Act has had some value in reducing the toll. It would be wrong to ascribe to the Act the whole of the reduction in the killings and murders. There are many other factors. Probably more important is the improved intelligence service, the improved political climate and improved efficiency both in the methods and equipment of the police forces in this country and in Northern Ireland.
But he would be a bold Member of this House, not having the information that is available to the Home Secretary, who would say that this Act has played no part in the reduction of terror in this 1578 country. I believe that it has had some benefit and that it would be a mistake to remove it when the police are convinced of its value.
I should like to report to the House the views of the Northern Ireland Police Federation, representing all the ranks, up to chief inspector, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I need declare no special interest in this matter. For one thing, the House knows my police interest perfectly well, and, for another, I have in any case no direct relationship whatever with the RUC. But I was telephoned this morning, and this is the view of the Northern Ireland police.
The police say that they wish to retain the Prevention of Terrorism Act because it is necessary, in their judgment, to have these powers to help combat terrorism. They refer to the Shackleton report and to its recommendation to abolish section 11 on the withholding of information. They disagree with Lord Shackleton on that point. They wish this section to be retained because in practice there have been a number of successful prosecutions under section 11, and without it they would have been handicapped. Their conclusion speaks for itself. They say that any diminution of the powers provided to the police service under this Act would in their judgment be a victory for the IRA. Those words are not mine. They are the words of the men who are at the sharp end.
There has been an undercurrent of concern and in some cases condemnation of the police service in general and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in particular during today's debate. But we make two things clear. First if any police officer has broken the law, has ignored his oath of office, has behaved brutally or insensitively, he can expect no mercy from the police service. The police are harder on their own than any group of people in this country. There are cover-ups from time to time. There are bad apples in the police service, as in all walks of life. But the police have no wish to retain in their midst, or as their colleagues, those who break the law and behave as sadists or brutes.
I await with confidence the results of the investigation launched by the Secretary of State. If it should show that a minority of police officers has misbehaved, I am sure that the police service. 1579 as well as the investigatory body, will wish them to be called to account.
My second point is this. The police service has earned and deserves not insults but the respect of this House for the work it does in Northern Ireland and in this country. The reality, which perhaps not every hon. Member will recognise, is that day by day young police officers take their lives into their hands. It is they who suffer the casualties. It is their wives who worry, when they go out on duty, whether they will return. It is a difficult, demanding job involving courage, sacrifice and dedication.
Against the background of today's debate it is right to put these matters into perspective. While there may be—I do not doubt it—a few police officers who from time to time have abused their powers, the overwhelming majority of them do a task that few of us would be willing or able to do. They deserve our praise and not our insults.
I turn very briefly to three specific points. The first is a matter of perspective. I refer in particular to paragraph 98 of the Shackleton report, which says that controls at the port are thought to bean unreasonable interference with the travelling public',and that it is thought by many thatthe police have been exercising them harshly ".It may be so; I do not know. But I note the figures. Lord Shackleton says:It may come as a surprise to those who believe that an unduly large number of people are detained at ports to know that in 1977 "—the last year for which he had full statistics—out of a total of 3,967,583 people who passed through these ports, only 308 were detained—fewer than one in 10,000.I accept that there was inconvenience for those 308 people. But can it really be said, in a world where civil liberties suffer so much in so many other countries, that all our civil liberties are put at risk when 308 people are detained out of 3,967,583 people passing through the ports?
Lord Shackleton goes on to say:Out of a total of 2,299 people who were detained under the port powers "—that is to say, not necessarily in the ports themselves but under those powers—from 29th November 1974 to 1st June 1978, only 300 were held for more than 48 hours.1580 It may well be cause for concern that 300 people were held for more than 48 hours. But against the background of the killings and the murders I do not see that as destroying the civil liberties of this country. I see it as a prudent attempt to resist the destruction of large numbers of innocent people. Lord Shackleton goes on to show that of that number a substantial proportion were charged, and that in many cases they were convicted
I want to make a final point of perspective in relation to the powers in section 12 of the Act. Of the 394 people detained under section 12 in Northern Ireland for more than 48 hours, 232 were charged during the extended detention period. Of these, 67 were charged with murder, 17 with attempted murder, five with conspiracy to murder, 43 with explosives offences and 48 with firearms offences.
Is it not right and sensible that there should be this kind of police surveillance of crime on that scale? Some hon. Members might suggest that those were merely charges. In fact, by 1 June 1978, 232 of the 394 had been charged, and of those 117 had been convicted. So the working of the Act can be seen. The point is that 394 people were detained 272 charged and 117 convicted.
Here is evidence to demonstrate that the Act assists the police in their principal duty, which is to deter, to prevent and to avoid crime taking place.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett
But it did not prevent the crimes taking place, or deter those involved, because the hon. Gentleman has just referred to the ones which have taken place. He was claiming that the measure helped the police to catch people. Surely what he has to show on his figures is that because the police were able to hold people for that little bit longer they were enabled to get the evidence which led to a conviction. I suggest that in very many instances the police already had the crucial evidence.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman may suggest that. I am not in a position to argue it one way or the other because I have not that information. But I weigh perhaps more heavily than he does the judgment of the police who are involved in this business. They have to take responsibility and to bring charges before the courts. If they bring before the courts charges which are then thrown out, the 1581 House, the press and the general public will, quite rightly, criticise the police service.
The police frequently use these powers in respect of persons against whom they have evidence of commission of a crime. But other information may emerge during detention that was not available before, which can frequently implicate others. Investigation of one crime may lead to evidence that will result in conviction for another. That is the nature of the business.
I do not doubt that there have been interrogations in Northern Ireland, as there have been throughout our history, of which we should be ashamed. That can and will happen. I deeply regret it. But there is a difference between this country and the great majority of others where civil liberties are grossly violated. In this country these occurrences are exceptional, repugnant and will always be pursued in this House with the utmost vigour so that those responsible are discovered and punished. That is the great safeguard. It is one reason why the Secretary of State has to report to this House on what is happening.
Out of a concern for civil liberties, hon. Members from time to time, supported by sections of the press and media, indulge in witch hunts against the police. They are entitled to do that. But they should bear in mind that there is a great difference between the operational reality of what the police face and judging afterwards in cold blood.
A good police service, properly disciplined and fully accountable, is our strongest guardian of civil liberties. Those who attack the police should recognise that if they damage their morale and destroy public confidence in them, far from reinforcing the cause of civil liberty they will do great damage to it.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
In an effort to obtain justice, I hope that we do not suffer from an excess of zeal in defending the police to the detriment of others. Many of us are still worried about Liddle Towers. In Sheffield we are concerned about charges brought against people, which were subsequently thrown out of court, and are examining that matter. 1582 At the end of the report, in paragraph 160, Lord Shackleton says:I conclude by reference to the truism that basic civil liberties include the rights to stay alive and go about one's business without fear.I deeply want that for all of us, wherever we are. Lord Shackleton goes on to say:We must be prepared to forgo some of our civil liberties for a time if that is the cost, on the best assessment we can make, of preserving the essentials.I agree with that, but with qualifications. Liberty for the majority must be preserved but without destroying the liberty of even a small minority. In this case it is a minority whose freedom has been limited and curtailed for more than 50 years, or possibly more than 500 years.
I agreed with a great deal of the speech of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), which is, to say the least, a rarity. But he made no reference to the 50 years that have spawned the present events in Northern Ireland. When the hon. Member for Antrim, North and his colleagues had power, they did not look after the minority community, and that community is being driven into a more difficult position than it has been for a considerable time.
In this Chamber no one will convert anyone else. We are making a series of set speeches, and we all know where we stand. On the Labour Benches most of us work with the National Council for Civil Liberties and the civil liberties groups in this House. We watch liberty all over the world.
§ Mr. Powell
If I heard the hon. Member correctly, he said that at present Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland are being driven into a more difficult position. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would say how and where the Roman Catholics in my constituency of Down, South are being driven into a difficult position, and I shall do what I can about it.
§ Mr. Flannery
If the right hon. Member does not realise that, I cannot teach him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is isolated except for a few of us on these Benches. He is basically the representative leader of the minority community. That community is taking careful note of the matter of the provision of extra seats, which will be 1583 mostly Ulster Unionist seats. In that sense, that community will be pushed into a position from which it will be difficult to recover. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and hon. Members opposite are responsible for that, and we shall all suffer as a result.
Today's editorial in The Guardian was fairly wise. It said:Anything with terrorism in the title has a powerful influence on the emotions.In that context, people who are against terrorism are against sin, and we are all against terrorism, even those who promote it. But we should consider carefully the cause, and the solution must be political. It is no good mobilising vast security forces and gaoling many people. That only proves what big gaols we have. The provision of extra seats has taken us further away from a political solution.
Mr. Roy Jenkins said that these powers were draconian and unprecedented in peacetime, and that was wise. But Lord Shackleton says:To a classicist "—I presume that Lord Shackleton is a classicist. I do not know him at all, nor why he was chosen to make the report. The Government should have inquired into what was happening in Northern Ireland, and such a report should not be needed, especially one of such splendid orthodoxy.To a classicist this perhaps overstates the implications of severity.I do not know how many classicists have been arrested, charged or released because they were innocent, but I should like their opinion on these draconian measures. When a man or woman is arrested and excluded and not allowed to know the reason, that is not justice. Lord Shackleton defends that and says that it is necessary. I am suspicious of any report that contains such a remark and talks of classicism. What classicism is there for anyone arrested under these conditions?
§ Mr. Ovenden
I am sure that my hon. Friend would wish to be fair to Lord Shackleton and place the responsibility for the legislation where it properly rests. We should consider the terms of reference of the Shackleton inquiry. Lord Shackleton was instructed to carry out his inquiry accepting the continued need for legislation against terrorism. We should 1584 argue about the legislation and its continued need with our Front Bench and not with Lord Shackleton. Within the remit that he was given, he has produced a report that includes valuable recommendations.
§ Mr. Flannery
Indeed, but Lord Shackleton could have resisted making the report within the terms of reference. I think that the terms of reference put him in a most difficult position. I would never have attempted to report, had I been placed in such a position. He was not allowed to take any details from individuals. He could report only in a broad and generalised manner.
This legislation was introduced in a dreadful witch-hunting atmosphere. We all remember how it occurred, just after the Birmingham bombs. The Shackleton report says that the provisions in; he Act had been in preparation even before the Birmingham bombs. I can understand what happened. I can understand the atmosphere that was generated, because when the bomb went off in this House I was one of those who was not too far away from it. We were all terrified. Therefore, I have the deepest sympathy with those people who honourably believe in these measures. But I believe that the Act's provisions have gone on far too long, and I have opposed them all the way.
It has been suggested that there has been no violence from police in this country. Have hon. Members forgotten Winson Green? I still receive letters from the mothers, wives and daughters of the men who were beaten up there.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I did not defend that either. There is a court case on now about that. But we are talking about beatings-up during interrogation. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) was talking about prisoners.
§ Mr. Flannery
Nevertheless, beatings took place in a prison. They were beatings of people who had not been found guilty. Wherever such things occur, they diminish and demean us all. Do not let us pretend that that sort of thing does not go on to some extent over here.
The Guardian editorial today says that we should constantly question such temporary provisions or they will, by default. 1585 become a permanency. My fear is that they are a permanency. I fear that all our liberties are being encroached upon by the seemingly semi-permanency of this. We fear the deprivation of human rights and liberties because the results are draconian and fraught with injustice. That is frightening to all libertarians.
The Guardian said that 3,782 people had been detained up to the beginning of February, of whom 206 had been charged. Another 34 were returned to Northern Ireland. Of those charged, 36 were accused of criminal actions and 20 were acquitted. In my opinion, the Act has become simply an administrative measure of convenience, and as such it is a great danger to our liberties. I believe that the law as it existed before the Prevention of Terrorism Act was sufficient to handle the situation.
The Prevention of Terrorism Act was introduced in order to allay the fears of our people. I deeply respect that intention, although I have always thought that it was unnecessary and have always argued that years hence we would still be renewing these measures.
It is impossible to discuss this subject without discussing the events in Castlereagh. What happened there has underlined all our fears. It has also strengthened the hand of the IRA. Undoubtedly, by diminishing us and diminishing justice, Castlereagh has strengthened the hand of the IRA. Many young men will say that there is no justice if things are left to us over here. They will believe that they must handle the situation themselves in Northern Ireland—and they do not mean by devolution. They mean that they have fallen for the IRA line, because they do not seem to get anywhere by other means. That is the grave danger.
Let us assume that Dr. Irwin had not told us the facts. There are powerful names and forces at work, trying to prove him wrong, to slander and demean him. Let us assume that they succeed. What will happen? In Castlereagh and places like that, the malpractices will continue. Therefore, the men who are ill treating people will continue to do so, and will do it all the more. Therefore, Dr. Irwin should be praised by us all for his courage and for letting us know what was going on in our name in Castlereagh. It 1586 is vital that, in the prevention of terrorism, we are seen to be like Caesar's wife—correct in every detail. We must be seen to be just people who would not condone this kind of treatment. I want all our voices to be raised in defence of people who are courageous enough to stand out.
I am very lucky in that I do not live in Belfast. I always pay tribute to hon. Members who live there. They have to live in a terrible atmosphere, constantly in fear of their lives. I know what that must be like. When I first came to this House, I received so many threats that at the request of the special branch I had to take my telephone number out of the book. In Northern Ireland it is far worse than that.
I believe that the Bennett report is incomplete. It is absolutely vital that we take evidence from the people who have suffered so that we can engage in research to find out exactly what has happened. I hope that the Government will say that they are prepared to engage in such an inquiry.
When one reads about exclusion orders, one finds it almost unbelievable. Paragraph 51 of Lord Shackleton's review says:This is exemplified particularly in the criticism that the excluded person is not told the nature of the case against him, nor is he afforded the means of subjecting it to cross-examination or otherwise testing it.In all conscience, how can we defend that?
I was gratified to hear the hon. Member for Antrim, North say that he wants the jury system reintroduced in Northern Ireland. That is what we all want. As long as the jury system does not exist, British justice will be brought severely into question. Why not have a trial? Why not have a proper accusation? What chance has the excluded person? My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) gave details of three cases of appalling injustice, and my hon. Friends the Members for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and Bristol, North-West (Mr. Thomas) also quoted cases which were quite horrifying. I believe that to the extent that we insist upon these measures we stifle justice. I also believe that this legislation will be permanent because the frame of mind that can tolerate it is the same frame of mind as produced it.
1587 Injustices flow from the essential nature of the Prevention of Terrorism Act as sure as rain comes from a rain cloud. It exacerbates and inflames the already difficult situation with which we are trying to grapple. It is applied basically to one section of the community—the minority in Northern Ireland. We dodge the reality that the Catholics, by and large, are excluded from the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland. They see the police as an alien force. I know that the majority of members of the RUC are doing an honourable job, but I should like to see more people from the minority community in such organisations. It is not enough for hon. Members to say that Catholics will not come into such organisations. We have had 50 years in which they were not wanted. These are the realities.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
When I was in Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable was a Catholic and 18 to 19 per cent. of the force were Catholics. I object to the idea that there are no Catholics in the police force. I understand why they do not want to join. I am not denying all my hon. Friend says, but his statement was not true.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that before the RUC was reorganised there was—as the Home Secretary has said—probably a 20 per cent. membership of Roman Catholics and one-third of the officership was reserved for Roman Catholics. After the reorganisation, there was a tremendous drop in the recruitment of Roman Catholics. That was partly because of the threat from their own numbers that if they joined they would be murdered. Roman Catholic constituents of mine joined and were murdered. Does not the hon. Gentleman think that a call from his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) to encourage Roman Catholics to join the police would be helpful?
§ Mr. Flannery
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that much of what he says is true. Catholics form a tiny minority of the RUC and the hon. Gentleman gave one reason for that. Every time we ask how many Catholics there are in the various organisations in 1588 Ulster, the Government bamboozle us. They say"We do not ask them what their religion is." Of course they do not. However, they are not silly and they know that this problem will go on indefinitely. The Government Front Bench do not understand the problem, and that is why matters will become worse.
§ Mr. Fitt
Is my hon. Friend aware that, throughout the many years of its existence, the RUC has always been seen as the upholder of Unionist law, Unionism, Unionist Government and one-party ascendancy rule? There have been occasions when certain members of the RUC have been seen to be actively engaged in trying to put down the minority—5 October 1968 in Derry and the murder of Mr. Samuel Devenny. An inquiry under Sir Arthur Young set up by the then Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister, concluded that there was a conspiracy of silence among the officers of the RUC. That is why the minority religion has no faith in the RUC.
The uniformed branch of the RUC has made attempts in the past few years to instil confidence in Roman Catholics. However, while members of the CID at Castlereagh continue to act in the way that they do, there is no possibility of members of the minority religion joining the RUC.
§ Mr. Flannery
I more than begin to accept what my hon. Friend says. In the past, these organisations have been seen to be Ulster Unionist organisations. That is why the problem arises. As long as it continues, the troubles in Northern Ireland will continue and the necessity for the Prevention of Terrorism Act will remain. A change of mind is demanded—not only of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), but of the Government Front Bench. There is no difference between Ulster Unionist policy, Tory policy and the policy of the Labour Government on Northern Ireland. They know that as well as I do.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that many policemen have given their lives in attempting to preserve law and order in Northern Ireland? Some of those policemen were Roman Catholics. They were prepared to give their lives to see law and order restored in Northern Ireland. I should like the hon. Gentleman to make a call 1589 to the minority population to join the police, despite the threats from the Provisional IRA. Will the hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that one policeman defending the home of his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) was murdered?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has already had a fair share of today's proceedings.
§ Mr. Flannery
I have spoken on many occasions to the hon. Member for Down, North and he knows that I should be the last person on earth to defend anybody who takes another human being's life in such a brutal manner. I deplore any loss of life.
§ Mr. Fitt
I should like to draw the attention of the House to a letter that was written by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) to the Home Secretary. It was on the occasion when the RUC was allegedly defending my home. The RUC did not arrive. My hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough asked the Secretary of State in his letter what had happened to the RUC. The RUC has never on any occasion defended my home, irrespective of what has been said by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder).
§ Mr. Flannery
I have consistently voted against the Act and I shall go into the No Lobby again tonight. That is because I think that the Act exacerbates and inflames—I know that the hon. Member for Down, North thinks I am wrong—the problem. I hope that circumstances in a few months' or a year's time will provide the opportunity to get rid of the Act.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Much of the debate has centred around the problems of Northern Ireland and the extent 1590 to which terrorism in Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a product of the continuing tragedy of Ulster.
I believe that the Home Secretary would agree that it would be necessary to renew the powers of the 1976 Act whether or not there was a continuing terrorist problem in Northern Ireland. I agree with the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) that there are parts of the noble Lord's report that are sloppy. I should like to refer to paragraph 141, which has been the cue for certain hon. Members to refer to the Bennett report. It states:detailed allegations of the kind which have been made in Northern Ireland must be a matter for concern. If these allegations were to be borne out, serious questions would arise as to the adequacy of the safeguards applying to the powers of detention of the kind provided in this Act.That was written on 18 July 1978, just eight months ago. It would have been more in conformity with the truth if the noble Lord had referred to the fact that the specific allegations—made by Amnesty International—have not been substantiated, despite a specific request to Amnesty by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Labour Members below the Gangway may not like that, but I call in aid what the Secretary of State said in the House on Friday. The right hon. Gentleman said:At the time, there were many unsubstantiated allegations "—the allegations referred to by Lord Shackleton—against unnamed police officers, and I asked Amnesty International to furnish the Director of Public Prosecutions with witnesses' names and medical evidence so that the matter could be thoroughly investigated and, if necessary, a course of action taken against those responsible for the acts…but Amnesty International has not followed this through.Amnesty International has not provided the medical evidence and names and addresses of witnesses for which the Secretary of State had asked.
The only other point that I wish to make about Lord Shackleton's report is that the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury was wrong when he said that the noble Lord had been paid for writing the report. That should be put on the record.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and your predecessors in the Chair have been at pains to remind us of the words of Mr. Speaker 1591 at the start of the debate when he amplified what he said in the House on Friday. However, it seems reasonable that we should consider the Bennett report, not least because appendix 2 of the report refers to the 496 cases of complaints made against the police by those who were detained under the 1976 Act, which will be extended by the order that we are considering. Furthermore, table 6 of the Shackleton report records the 487 cases of those who have been detained in Northern Ireland under the provisions of the 1976 Act.
The hon. Members for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) all made criticisms, some of them not so veiled, of the RUC as a result of what appeared in the Bennett report. Those who have called the report in aid in order to criticise the RUC have been doing a profound disservice to the RUC and, unwittingly, a profound service to the Provisional IRA. Referring to the hon. Member for Belfast, West, the Secretary of State said on Friday:My hon. Friend and members of the SDLP must now recognise that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is an impartial force.That was in complete contradistinction to what the hon. Member for Hillsborough was saying a moment ago.
§ Mr. Gow
The hon. Gentleman must not get cross if someone puts a point of view that is different from that of himself. I accept the words of the Secretary of State, which happen to coincide with my view. The right hon. Gentleman said of the RUC:It has risen in esteem and credibility throughout the Province. The way that it dealt with the Action Council strike and the Shankill butchers, and the way in which it is dealing with the IRA, must lead everyone who is objective about this matter to the conclusion that the RUC is doing a job as good as any police force in the world can do in the present circumstances. It is doing it magnificently well, and it is gathering the support of the whole Province."—[Official Report, 16 March 1979; Vol. 964, c. 967–77.]That judgment was correct and those who have criticised the RUC have misread and misinterpreted the Bennett report.
In the past 10 years of terrorism and violence in Northern Ireland, 117 RUC officers and members of the Reserve have 1592 been killed and more than 3,000 have been injured. Paragraph 163 of the Shackleton report makes clear that members of the committee have made no final judgment whether any members of the RUC have been guilty of any offence. Indeed, the Secretary of State has told the House that all the evidence presented to the Bennett committee will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Members for Belfast, West, Hillsborough and Antrim, North all spoke as though they were members of the RUC who had already been convicted and condemned by this report. Manifestly, that is not so. It is possible—and may very well turn out to be the case—that there is no evidence upon which any member of the RUC could be convicted.
Those who sustained injuries which were not self-inflicted may well have sustained them either at the hands of some other person who was in custody or, more likely, while a police officer was lawfully and properly seeking to prevent that person either from escaping or from perpetrating violence on other members of the RUC.
It is worth reminding the House what is actually stated in paragraph 163. It states:We are not to be taken as condemning these officers "—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman referred to the ruling given by Mr. Speaker. Among other things, Mr. Speaker said that the matters to which the hon. Gentleman is now referring were only tangential. In fact, he said:I suggest it ought to be no more than tangential in anybody's speech today ".Could the hon. Gentleman bear that in mind and come back to the two matters which are now before the House?
§ Mr. Gow
Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With respect, however, the hon. Members for Belfast, West Hillsborough and Antrim North all attacked—without, in my opinion, doing so fairly—the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I should have thought that it was reasonable that somebody should be permitted to give a more balanced view.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Having said all that, would the 1593 hon. Gentleman agree to those police officers—against whom allegations have been made of violent assaults on prisoners—being tried by a judge sitting alone, without a jury, taking testimony from anonymous witnesses and accepting unsigned confessions as substantial evidence of guilt? Would he accept that? If not, does not that indicate the inconsistency of the hon. Gentleman's view?
§ Mr. Gow
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) has misunderstood the position. Assuming that the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to bring any prosecution against those police officers, they would not be charged with any terrorist offence. Therefore, it would not be the same procedure as is applied to terrorists. The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the legal procedures at present in force in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State gave an assurance to the House on Friday that all the papers and all the evidence, including the evidence of Dr. Irwin, would be—or has already been—sent to the DPP. It will be up to the DPP to decide whether to prosecute, and, if he does, it will not be under the special procedures which the hon. Gentleman described.
Those who have criticised the RUC this afternoon have given aid and comfort to the Provisional IRA. I remind the House of what was said by Judge Bennett in paragraph 19 of the report. He stated:We have, in the course of our inquiry, seen abundant evidence of a co-ordinated and extensive campaign to discredit the police.That has happened in Northern Ireland, and I believe that the House should understand that that is the truth of the matter. The observations which have been made from both sides of the House, criticising the RUC have been most ill merited and ill judged.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
As usual, one of the more impressive things about contributions from Conservative Members in debates such as this is their unspoken assumption that anyone wearing the uniform of the State can do no wrong, no matter what horrifying crimes they commit against individuals. If, however, they were income tax inspectors, their attitude would be quite different.
1594 Probably the only interesting comment that one can find in the Shackleton report is that which comes at the very end of it, where Lord Shackleton offers the comment that this legislation was originally intended to be temporary in character, and he hoped that it would never become permanent. He said:It would be highly regrettable if the view were to gain ground that these powers should in some way slide into part of our permanent legislation: I do not think that they should ".Neither do I, and nor do many Labour Members. We have heard from the Home Secretary and his predecessor that they do not hope so either. I am afraid that most of us feel pretty much the same as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), in that we have the awful conviction that, having got on to the statute book, this legislation will remain on it.
There is probably a simple explanation for this, which is that, having put legislation called the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act on to the statute book, taking it off would leave one open to the accusation that one was not in favour of preventing terrorism. In fact, this is a piece of public relations psychology. It seems that we are very likely to be stuck with it, since we rarely get a Home Secretary who is prepared to do anything other than the most shallow, populist things.
Contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) said, this legislation was not dreamed up in the middle of the night after the Birmingham bombings. It had been written long before by the civil servants and put on the shelf waiting for such a moment when a bunch of panic-stricken Ministers would look for something with which to convince the public that they were dealing with something outrageous that had happened. But, of course, what had happened, what had been happening for a long time and what has happened since has frequently been outrageous. People have been blown up, burned to death, tortured, beaten up until they were senseless, had their knees blown apart and so on. All of these are outrageous things.
But, notwithstanding the peculiar line of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, this is fundamentally a political conflict that is taking 1595 a military expression. Fundamentally, it is a political conflict of long standing. There is little point in hon. Members saying"Ah, yes, we can have a military solution first, and then we shall get a political solution ". I should like just one hon. Member to cite one precedent which indicates the validity of that sort of attitude. I cannot think of one, and I doubt whether any hon. Member would suggest that what was done in Europe during the Second World War settled any political questions, except the physical annihilation of Nazism in Germany. But even that has not proved to be permanent, notwithstanding the expenditure of lives and high explosives on that exercise.
It is rarely the case that military action solves any political problem at all, or that it even facilitates the resolution of a political problem. On the contrary, the use of military force invariably complicates an existing situation and creates other political problems which are as difficult as the ones that existed before the military action started.
There can be little doubt but that the kind of force that has been used during the last 10 years in the context of Ireland has not contributed constructively to the political resolution of Ireland's political problems. A lot of people have been killed, a lot of property has been destroyed, lives have been disrupted endlessly and the basest elements in human nature have been brought out. But, as yet, we are no nearer to a political resolution than we were in 1968. Indeed, my impression is that we are further away from it.
I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) that the case of the Bradley family was resolved after two and a half days and the adults were released. Having mentioned that case, the question needs to be addressed to the Home Office solemnly. This is not just a political or debating point. The Home Office must take this on board. Two babies were arrested at Heathrow airport in the interests of suppressing terrorism. They were 18 months and two and a half years old. I hope that the Minister does not try it on by saying they were not arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. They were. Technically they may have been taken into 1596 custody under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, but they were arrested because their relatives and parents were being arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We know that the photographs of those two babies will be of no interest to the police in a few years but their fingerprints will.
What this House needs to know, and what that family needs to know, as a matter of honour, is whether the fingerprints of Cathy and Gerard Bradley will be destroyed and expunged from the computer record. I hope that we receive the right answer from the Home Office tonight. But how will we prove to that family that for the rest of their lives those two babies will not appear on the police records? The Home Office will need to take a great deal of trouble to prove that they will not.
I sincerely hope that many of my hon. Friends who have some respect for human dignity will demand that some convincing proof is given to the family that those fingerprints will not be put on permanent record. When the State arrests babies, it has no justification for the authority it takes upon itself. If the State needs to arrest an 18-month-old baby and a two-and-a-half-year-old child it is surely bankrupt of any positive thinking on the political and security problems that face us. The arrest of those babies was a lunatic act as well as being inhuman.
I concentrate on this case because it sums up the hideous inhumanity in which the State is involved when it starts to go down that slippery slope. Some of us warned the Government about it in late 1974 when they put the Prevention of Terrorism Act on the statute book. It is difficult to stop the slide once it has started, because the temptation is always to believe that a degree more severity will do the trick and solve all our political problems.
Though the Conservatives do not take this in, many reports have indicated that the green light is given to police officers in the form of powers which honest officers do not want, and should not have, and which dishonest police officers welcome. They are the rogues who do a great disservice to the police and discredit it. They are, none the less, given their opportunities by legislation such as this, 1597 which allows them to take innocent citizens into custody for long periods without allowing them access to lawyers or advice.
The ratio of those taken in by the police to those subsequently charged is more than 9 to 1. I think that the ratio is 3,885 people detained to about 370 charged. A large number of those charged are charged with offences of no significance. In other words, there is a ratio of almost 10 to 1 of innocent people who are taken into custody and exposed to the risk of falling into the hands of brutal and irresponsible policemen. I remind the House that we are talking not only about the Bennett report. A series of reports dealing with such behaviour has been published since 1970.
We must also consider the infamous cases which were brought before the European Court of Human Rights. It is not enough for the Opposition to suggest that the judges in that court and the people who sat on the investigating committees which have been set up since 1969 were all agents of the Provos or the Communist Party. The Hunt report was the earliest such report and it investigated the sectarian character of the RUC. It is silly for the Conservatives to adopt that attitude.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North showed a healthy respect and a healthy regard for the integrity of the institutions which he knows are absolutely essential for the integrity of his society and the peace of mind of his constituents. That is an important advance. But, unfortunately, that attitude is not shared by the majority of those who call themselves Ulster Unionists or, even more sadly, by the majority in the Conservative Party. They believe that anybody in uniform can do anything to anybody. That is tragic and very dangerous.
The arguments against the Act are the same as they were in 1974. The only difference is that since then the evidence has accumulated to vindicate the original arguments. That is all that has happened. The horrors that we predicted have happened. They were already happening in Ulster before this legislation was passed, as even the Ulster Unionists know. It was easy to predict what would happen. We argued then, as we must argue now, that the powers which existed in law before 1598 November 1974 were sufficient to cope with the problems of terrorism. The extended powers of the police encourage fishing expeditions by policemen who simply dragnet innocent civilians into police stations for questioning. Thereby the police and the law are brought into disrepute. The ratio of 10 to 1 of detentions and subsequent charges is extremely unhealthy. Innocent detainees, however briefly they are detained in police stations, are irreversibly stigmatised by having been taken into a police station. The vast majority of those so detained are innocent.
The fingerprint and photographic evidence collected by police is held permanently on record. Unfortunately and inevitably that evidence dogs the individual for the rest of his life. I have been involved in negotiations—I say that sceptically—with the police about my own constituents who properly demand proof that the fingerprints and photographs of them after they have been held in police stations for several hours have been destroyed. It is difficult for the police to prove that they have destroyed them. We know that they have an unfortunate penchant for keeping information. Perhaps next week we shall discover that there are interesting police records of many hon. Members. Watch this space.
The public steadily have gained the impression, as a result of legislation such as this, that the police have the right to pick them up on any and each occasion. They believe that they have no right to object. On several occasions I have had to rescue people from police stations to tell them about their rights. They were not aware of them. They believed that the police had a right to take them in. That is a hideous step towards a police state. I hope that we are afraid of that.
The extended period of detention is a violation of a citizen's rights. The extended period of detention which is allowed under the Act means that the police can keep people incommunicado. It prevents lawyers from doing their job in defence of the citizen. Given the ratio of detentions to subsequent charges, it brings the police and the law into disrepute.
I thought that one the saddest points in the Home Secretary's speech was his promise—at least, I think that it was 1599 a promise—that he would do something on behalf of the relatives of people who had been deported and he would agree to review the sentences, for that is what they are, the sentences of deportation inflicted on people who were subject to exclusion orders.
There was an unconscious irony in my right hon. Friend's remarks at that point in his speech. He was saying"We shall no longer "—that is, when he has made up his mind—" sentence people to indefinite deportation. We shall review their position after three years ". How liberal that is! The Home Secretary, who is, after all, just Home Secretary and not a judicial authority, having deported someone, will after three years, he says, reconsider that person's position.
If hon. Members are curious about these matters, they can look up the Russian penal code, where they will discover that even in the USSR no one is deported for an indefinite period. It is true that the Russian State plays cat and mouse with its prisoners in that, quite commonly, it deports people after they have served a prison sentence. But what have we heard today? Precisely that. We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Barking of a prisoner who in fact turned out to be innocent and, having been found to be innocent, was released from a British prison and on the instant was deported.
There is no difference at all there between our behaviour towards these people and the behaviour of the Russian State. The Home Secretary's claimed advance in his promise to consider indefinite deportation after three years was merely a pathetic confession that we have reduced ourselves to the same level as we have for years accused the Government of the USSR of maintaining in the way it treats its citizens and in its disregard for its citizens' civil liberties.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
Last year when the Home Secretary sought the extension of the powers under the 1976 Act for a further 12 months, he did so, as he said on the day in question, after a year which had been free of terrorist attacks—that is, free of such attacks in England, Scotland and Wales. But he went on to warn the 1600 House that this did not mean that people in Great Britain were free from the danger of Provisional IRA attack, and he reminded the House of the way in which the Provisional IRA operates, with small groups of terrorists hidden away in flats and rooms in the larger cities of Great Britain, perhaps quietly building up supplies of arms and explosives and surveying their targets. Without doubt, that is the way in which the Provisional IRA operates.
In this country we want liberty for the citizens—that is, liberty under the rule of law—and what we do not want but could easily have, if we put into effect what is preached by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick), is a country soon taken over by the terrorists, who would trample on every right of the citizen and replace the rule of law with the gun.
We have seen this in Northern Ireland, where young children have been murdered without compunction by the Provisional IRA. We have had other obscene offences in Northern Ireland, and we have witnessed such evil behaviour in this country, too.
Last year was a year of peace in Great Britain. I doubt whether that will be the case this year. We saw what happened before Christmas. Someone sent me a copy of the Republican News. I understand that it is the newspaper of the Provisional IRA. It is fairly old, being dated 23 December of last year. But it is worth mentioning that across the front page is the banner headline:"IRA Bomb England ". I shall read only a small extract, just to remind the House what we are up against with this vicious enemy. The article states:The Republican people feel the growing political power of resurgent IRA activity, given the recent raising of the struggle at home, and now the re-opening up of a war front in England. Whether the enemy "—that is, the people whom the hon. Member for Selly Oak represents, and all the rest of the people in the United Kingdom—Whether the enemy likes it or not, international attention is being focused on the British occupation of Ireland.The article goes on to say that the Irish Republican Army declared to the English 1601 people—not to the people in Northern Ireland, but the English people:We were responsible for the widespread bombing attacks in your country on Sunday and Monday morning. Don't remain complacent because of the nature of these attacks. We deliberately choose the time and the targets. Your intelligence will continue to give us logistical problems, which, however, we believe we can overcome. We now give due warning to you, the English people, that in future both the targets and the timing might be changed.The threat is quite clear. If this Act was not continued for a further 12 months, if these people could operate quite freely without any hindrance placed upon them, the lives of many people, young children as well as adults, would be put in jeopardy and property would be destroyed.
I conclude my reference to the Republican News by quoting the last paragraph of the statement which refers to the campaign of vilification of the security forces and the police. It talks about the"restraint"which the Provisional IRA has shown. Is there anything more sickening than that remark, when one has seen bits of bodies littered over the ground as a result of a Provisional IRA bomb?
The article says:Politicians who call for increased repression as a counter-measure to our struggle for national liberation "—and what they want, of course, is a Marxist Ireland—should be aware that they gamble with English lives. We want peace but there will be no end to violence until the English people exercise a bit of humanity.Is it not high time that the Provisional IRA exercised a bit of humanity? This debate would not be taking place tonight if the Provisional IRA had ceased its operations. The hon. Member for Selly Oak could quite easily say to the Provisional IRA "Stop your violence, and stop your murder and mutilations; then we shall have no more of the suspension of civil rights or legal rights which is contained in the order before the House of Commons."
But, of course, we have the declaration—we heard it from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery)—that IRA violence was spawned by 50 years of Unionist rule in Northern Ireland. What the hon. Member for Hillsborough and other Labour Members 1602 seem to forget is that this IRA activity is going on in the Irish Republic. Are Labour Members suggesting that there is Unionist rule in Eire which causes the Provisional IRA to murder and to rob banks, and so on, in Eire? That is utter nonsense. What Labour Members have been talking about tonight is utter nonsense.
As a result of the criminal activities of the Provisional IRA in the Irish Republic, the Dublin Government introduced special courts, without juries, to deal with members of the Provisional IRA, those charged with terrorism or membership of that organisation. That was the only way in which the Dublin Government felt that they could deal with this threat to civil liberties in the Republic.
To put this matter in its proper perspective, it was as long ago as the 1940s that the Eire Government—a Republican Government brought into being as a result of IRA activity against British rule in 1916 and up to the 1920s—introduced military courts to try IRA prisoners. Some were executed without the normal rights of appeal. I do not approve of that situation. But it shows the risk to which the Eire Government, a Republican Government sympathetic to the Republican cause, felt they were exposed by allowing the IRA to function and to murder in the Republic.
I give that as an example of what we face in Northern Ireland. This has not been born because of Unionist rule over the past 50 years or even the past 10 years. It has been endemic in Irish life. The gun has never been laid down. Until the Provisional IRA relinquishes its ambition of creating an all-Ireland Marxist Republic, there will not be peace in Northern Ireland and we shall not be able to get rid of this temporary legislation.
§ Mr. Litterick
I agree with virtually everything the hon. Gentleman has said during the past five minutes except his rather dark comment about the IRA's Marxist ambitions. That is not my understanding of the situation. Notwithstanding the draconian measures—I think that was Roy Jenkins' phrase—taken by the Republican Government against the IRA all those years ago, the problems are still there. They have not gone away. In other words, the draconian response 1603 to the use of armed violence in political issues has not succeeded. Surely, after all this time, we can recognise that it has not been effective.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The hon. Gentleman should accept that the measures he describes as draconian, using the words of the then Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins, are effective only to a limited extent. Perhaps, until one gets rid of all the liberties granted to people and until one has created a police society, terrorism cannot be completely and swiftly eradicated. How is this dealt with in Russia? There they use the forces of the State to get rid of people whom they would describe, though we would not, as antisocial. There, such people are put into a lunatic asylum. In our case, we put people into the Maze prison, following due processes of the law.
We have heard a great deal about the blanket protest at the Maze prison. It has received a great deal of publicity. The Provisional IRA has embarked deliberately on this prison protest to win support abroad and to undermine morale at home, by which I mean the whole of the United Kingdom. The aim of the protest is to get people to say"Give in to the IRA ". That is what the hon. Member for Selly Oak is saying. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that the alternative is to get rid of these laws and to hand over Northern Ireland to the IRA and the rule of the gun.
The blanket protest in H block at the Maze prison is not the first protest of this kind that the IRA has used. It was used against de Valera, the then Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. When he detained people without trial, there was a blanket protest in the 1930s and the early 1940s. Did Mr. de Valera give in? Did he say"All right. We shall recognise you as political prisoners?"Of course, he did not. Although he had fought side by side with them in 1916 he let them, according to one Eire politician's description, rot in their detention and continue with their blanket protest. Eventually, they had to succumb.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
It certainly solved the problem, because the IRA ceased to operate after that in the Irish Republic. 1604 It has been brought to life again only because it has been allowed a freer hand in Northern Ireland than it would have been allowed if the problem had existed in the Republic.
I deal with the allegations made against the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I have the greatest regard for the RUC. I admire the way that, day after day and night after night, with other members of the security forces, it guards our homes and guards the citizens of Northern Ireland against the Provisional IRA or any other terrorist. It does not matter to me what label a terrorist bears, but we must remember that the Provisional IRA started the campaign, sustains it and threatens to continue it. It threatens to continue the violence until it has its way. I admire the RUC and I hope that we shall get more support for it in the House.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bennett report, which is referred to in the Shackleton report, exonerates the Royal Ulster Constabulary, as I said in my speech, from any accusation of misdemeanour? Does he agree that any reference made in the report to the RUC concerns a small number of officers who, as yet, remain untried? It is unfair for the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) to conclude that anybody who mentions these matters is against the RUC. That is an unfair insinuation.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I agree with the hon. Gentleman. He has paid tribute to the RUC.
I fear the result of the campaign of vilification of the RUC. I fear that it may have an effect on the morale of the RUC. I fear, especially, that it will make Roman Catholics who are gallantly serving in the RUC think twice about staying in it. That would be dreadful. I should like to see the minority community represented as strongly as possible in the RUC.
It may have been the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) who suggested that it is clear that the RUC is not worthy of support because some of its members have been guilty of certain offences. I expect praise from the community of Northern Ireland—no matter whether they are Protestants or Roman Catholics—for the RUC for investigating offences 1605 and arresting and charging members of its own force. Surely that proves that the RUC is a completely impartial body and exists to serve the whole community. Instead of that, the opponents of Northern Ireland and of the RUC use that process of investigation, arresting and charging in an extraordinary way as an example that there is something wrong with the RUC.
I condemn the sustained campaign that was started by the Provisional IRA in an attempt to discredit the RUC. I appeal again to the hon. Member for Belfast, West to call on Roman Catholics to join the RUC so that we may soon bring to an end the campaign of violence in Northern Ireland, so that we may all return to peace and prosperity and all work for the betterment of each other. I hope that that day is not far off. However, it will be delayed unless we all unite in supporting the security forces in Northern Ireland and support the restoration of the rule of law. I hope that to-night all hon. Members will demonstrate to the people of Northern Ireland, to the soldiers and to the police that they are fully behind them in their defence of the rights of citizens of this country.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Maynard (Sheffield, Brightside)
The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) seemed to believe that it was possible to stop the violence of the Provisionals by means of this Act, other repressive laws, or the actions of the police or the Army. I do not believe that those means will ever offer a solution to the violence of the Provisionals. The only solution will be a political solution. Until we get round to that, we shall never end the violence in Northern Ireland, in the Republic and here.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the hon. Lady elaborate a little and say what political solution will set at rest the Provisional IRA?
§ Miss Maynard
Yes. Later on I shall say what I think is the solution.
Tonight we are discussing the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Unfortunately, I do not think that the Act prevents terrorism. Regrettably, the Act has not proved to be temporary. The Shackleton committee was set up to recommend, so we are told, whether we 1606 should continue with this Act. Its terms of reference excluded an examination of the need for this Act. There are only two recommendations of substance in the report. One is to reduce the period of detention from 12 days to seven. The other recommends the lapsing of section 2 of the Act. No one can say that those are earth-shattering recommendations.
The police have sufficient powers without the Act. Let us look at the Guildford bombings and the Balcombe Street incident. Arrests could have been made in both these cases under section 2 of the Criminal Law Act 1967. The police had sufficient evidence to proceed under that Act. The Prevention of Terrorism Act has not prevented terrorism and it has not even been effective in detecting it. Its real effect and purpose have been to deter legitimate political activity and discussion on Ireland and the British role there. Sinn Fein, the main Republican political organisation, which was active in Britain, has practically been destroyed through arrests, exclusion and harassment. In fact, Shackleton refers in his report to the deterrent effect of the Act. People such as trade unionists have been arrested and detained on their way home to Ireland. This is a form of intimidation to curb political activity and to restrict debate on the question of Britain's involvement in Ireland.
We heard a great deal of talk tonight about liberty and freedom. This Act is a serious threat to freedom of speech and civil liberties. There is a danger of this Act becoming permanent and of its provisions being extended.
§ Mr. David Howell
The hon. Lady mentioned my constituency. I hope that she will forgive me if I intervene. She suggested that this Act was not necessary for the arrests following the Guildford bombings. If she checks her facts, she will find that the arrests were made under the provisions of this Act. The police view was that the Act was of direct assistance in enabling the arrests to be made. I advise the hon. Lady to check her facts on that point.
§ Miss Maynard
I do not say that the Act gave no assistance in the arrests. However, there were sufficient powers to make the arrests without this Act. That is my information.
1607 I turn to the subject of exclusion orders. I refer to the case of Mr. Brian Morgan, who set off to return to Belfast on 25 February. He was arrested on the way back and detained for six days. By a strange coincidence he was bringing civil actions for assault against the RUC and the Ministery of Defence on 27 and 28 February. As a result of being detained for six days, he missed both those court cases.
My view is that the police have sufficient powers to arrest those suspected of terrorism. I feel very strongly that those arrested suffer a serious stigma. It is particularly serious in the case of those who are innocent, and most of those arrested have been proved to be innocent. As some of my hon. Friends have said, there is the taking of photographs and fingerprints, which are retained. That is a serious infringement of privacy and freedom for innocent people.
The power to detain for seven days violates a section of the European human rights convention, and the National Council for Civil Liberties is at the moment taking six cases to the European Court of Human Rights.
I am sure that everyone in this House is opposed to terrorism because of the murder and death which result from it. It threatens everybody's life. Also, as I have tried to point out, it curtails our freedom. We need to look at what causes terrorism and try to eradicate the cause rather than try to deal all the time with the effects.
The Act is used, I believe, for intelligence gathering. One detainee was asked not only about his Irish origin but about whom he had met at Grunwick. The British working class ought to appreciate the dangers to it arising from this Act, and also from many of the things which take place in Northern Ireland.
It is my view—and history supports me—that we have denied freedom for many years to the minority population of Northern Ireland.
§ Miss Maynard
That is my view, and history bears me out. We have never been able to maintain the State of Northern Ireland except by repression from Stormont or by direct rule from this House. We have always maintained it 1608 by some form of repressive legislation. Now the chickens are coming home to roost, because our liberty is being curtailed by this Act. We cannot deny freedom to others and continue to retain it for ourselves.
Our history in Ireland is, I believe, a shocking one. The repression which has gone on there for so many years goes on, I believe, to this day.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Could the hon. Lady please give examples of the repression that she says is going on at the present time in Northern Ireland? She referred earlier to the political solution which the Provisional IRA proposes. Will she bear in mind that it put forward candidates, under its political name, in the Assembly election and received little support from the minority community?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. I remind the House that the combined debate on the motion and order must finish at 10 p.m. There seems to be some misunderstanding on that point.
§ Miss Maynard
I am sure that the hon. Member for Down, North knows very well that there are many freedoms not enjoyed by the minority population in Northern Ireland but which the Unionists and the Protestants enjoy. Let us consider the allocation of housing, jobs, education and many other issues. We did away with internment without trial. Now we detain people for 16 months and then try them, and some of them are found innocent.
§ Miss Maynard
I am quite sure that the majority of those detained for long periods, and in many cases subsequently found to be innocent, are from the minority population.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Before the hon. Lady concludes, will she apply herself to the question that she promised to answer? We are all waiting eagerly to hear her answer. We want to know from her how there can be a political solution which will get the guns out of the hands of the IRA.
§ Miss Maynard
I shall reach that point if I am allowed to. It is my view, and 1609 history supports me, that Northern Ireland as at present structured has been maintained by repressive laws. It still is, even under a Labour Government, but the lid has been prised open and it will not stay on for much longer.
§ Mr. Fitt
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) was trying to say that persons charged under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 and other emergency legislation are kept on remand for up to two years before being brought before a court. In Northern Ireland that is seen as an extension of detention or internment, because of those lengthy periods.
§ Miss Maynard
That is exactly what I was trying to say, though perhaps not so effectively. The Home Secretary disagrees with that, which is extraordinary. If a person is held on remand for between 16 months and two years, subsequently tried and found innocent, that must be a substitute for internment without trial.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I brought to an end internment without trial because I felt strongly about it, and that was right. Delays are one thing, but to equate remand and internment is to falsify the position in Northern Ireland.
§ Miss Maynard
No one would be held on remand for that length of time in England, Scotland or Wales and subsequently be found innocent. It is a substitution for internment without trial.
There is only one solution to the problems of Ireland, and that is a united Ireland. Ireland is one country. The intractable problems and the hell in Northern Ireland that has spread to other parts of Britain were created by the way that we divided Ireland. That trouble will continue until we consider one day having a united Ireland.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)
There are one or two statistics which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) should know. The indications of so-called discrimination in Northern Ireland do not accord with the facts.
Since 1945 the minority community has received 58.2 per cent. of all public sector 1610 housing built in the Province, even though they comprise less than 40 per cent. of the population. The first Lord Chief Justice was a Roman Catholic. At the inception of the State one-third of the places in the security forces were offered to members of the minority community. That was not taken up because the Roman Catholic hierarchy did not recognise the State and would not allow Roman Catholics to serve in the RUC. Southern politicians did not want them to serve in the forces of a foreign State. From 1921 until 1971 that was why so few places were taken up in the RUC by Roman Catholics. History and statistics will not substantiate the nonsense that has been talked.
I shall join my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Lobby tonight to vote for the extension of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Act has proved its worth in the past, it is still required now, and it will be required for some time to come. Those are the three simple and basic reasons for voting for the order.
No one in his right mind could argue that the Prevention of Terrorism Act has not made an impact on the situation in Northern Ireland. So far 150 people have been charged and found guilty of terrorist offences. In Northern Ireland we recognise how much damage one person can do. If 150 people have been taken out of action in Great Britain by the application of the Act, the whole of the United Kingdom has been done a great service.
The order is certainly required now. It is required for two reasons. First, we need special powers because of the way in which the security forces in Northern Ireland are inhibited by the attitude adopted by political leaders and other representatives of the minority community. If the security forces cannot obtain full support and co-operation from the whole community, they certainly require the maximum support of the law.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), in a broadcast this week, unfortunately so allied the Ulster Defence Regiment with the Shankill Road butcher group that he implied overtly that the UDR was an unreliable force and that many of its members were ex-B Specials who hated the minority community. By that irresponsible statement the hon. 1611 Member will be responsible for the deaths of members of the UDR—
§ Mr. Fitt rose—
§ Mr. Bradford
On numerous occasions the hon. Member for Belfast, West has vilified the security forces. He will not be found on the side of the security forces on this side of the water when the crunch comes. Special powers are needed as long as we have irresponsible leaders in Northern Ireland who will withhold from the security forces the support that they warrant.
Secondly, there is the problem of the security forces in the South. It is quite apparent that since the present Administration assumed office in the South we have not had the same co-operation between the security forces in the North and South as we had during the last Administration.
§ Mr. Bradford
That is the case as I see it, and it will be substantiated by senior officers in Northern Ireland. Hon. Members opposite repose in blissful ignorance, but we face the reality of life in Northern Ireland and we know what will happen here as well if the stupidity of Labour Members becomes the rule in Britain.
I turn to the future. I believe that, although these are temporary provisions, they will be with us for some time, for a very good reason. Terrorism and violence in Northern Ireland will not so much disappear as be absorbed into a much wider conflict which will embrace the whole kingdom. Terrorism is endemic in most European countries. Unfortunately, to date, neither major party has had the courage to recognise that unless a political and militaristic foe is dealt with in a way that will put the terrorist out of business, repercussions will be felt more clearly on this side of the water.
We believe that there is only one solution to violence—to use the agencies of the Crown that are trained to meet violence. Of course there is a political 1612 solution. The hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) was quite right when he said that there are two dimensions to the problem—the military and political dimensions. With one stroke, the House could remove the objective from the IRA—or at least its hopes of attaining the objective. The House could return to the people of Northern Ireland a devolved Government.
§ Mr. Bradford
The hon. Gentleman is well qualified to speak about rubbish. He is more familiar with it than are most of us.
If we had our own devolved Government, I believe that the IRA would be beaten. We would have the support of the community, who would recognise that the lies and nonsense which were accepted by the House prior to 1969 would be removed and that reality would be brought into play.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Stockport, North)
I shall be brief so that my colleagues—at least—are able to make their speeches.
One of the ironies of the debate is that there is a common link between the two sides of the House—the opposition to terrorism. However, when we vote we shall divide and appear to be disunited. It should be stressed that every hon. Member who votes tonight is voting against the terrorist. The argument is whether the order helps or hinders the attack against the terrorist.
I do not believe that the order helps. Three matters spring to mind when looking at the order. The first is whether it takes us any further towards finding a political solution. I do not believe that it does. There is no easy political solution, but if we are looking to defeat the terrorist we should look, in the first place, for a political solution.
Secondly, how far does the order encourage ordinary people to set out to beat the terrorist and give information to help the police? In my view, the order does not help one bit to encourage people, particularly the Irish community in this country, to come forward and help in the fight against the terrorist.
1613 Thirdly, how far does the order help the police? I do not believe that it helps them. The police feel that the limited extra powers provided by the Act are of some help. But in my discussions with senior police officers in the North of England I have found that they do not believe that the Act makes the slightest difference to their practices. They are concerned about the number of men that they have on the ground, the amount of equipment, and matters of that sort. They believe those matters to be more significant as an attack upon the terrorist.
The worst aspect of the Act is that it means that many Irish people in this country, particularly those travelling between Great Britain and Ireland, feel harassed by the provisions of the Act. That harassment is counter-productive.
The Home Secretary suggested that the easiest way to get rid of this temporary measure was for the terrorists to stop their bombing campaign. In fact, the terrorists want to keep the measure because it aids them in trying to convince people that there are injustices that can be put right only by their methods. We should be trying to show that those methods will not put anything right. We should be ensuring that citizens enjoy the same rights throughout the whole of the United Kingdom.
The Act is coming up for its fourth renewal and we are getting to the stage where it ceases to be easy to say that it is a temporary measure. It is becoming a lasting measure on the statute book.
I am particularly worried by the fact that in British law we have always had two categories—guilty and innocent. We now have a third category. A person who is deported to another part of the United Kingdom or excluded from entry is a suspect and is neither innocent nor guilty. He is in limbo, and it is unfortunate that we should keep such a provision in English law for any time.
Section 11 of the Act is the hindsight provision. It was dangerous for us to have put it into the Bill at all. At the beginning of our debate, we could have predicted its course in the light of Mr. Speaker's ruling about the way in which we should discuss the Bennett report. With hindsight, we can see that the course of the debate has been different from what many people would have predicted 1614 following Mr. Speaker's ruling. The main problem with section 11 is the danger of looking afterwards at a piece of information which it seems obvious that a person should have supplied. At the time that the information first becomes known, it may be difficult to see that it is necessary for it to be supplied.
The Home Secretary has said that he will review exclusion and deportation cases after three years. He has a backlog of more than four years and it was obviously difficult for him to provide a short review period. However, I press him to consider carefully whether he could not at least have moved towards reviewing cases after two years rather than after three years and whether cases can be reviewed more than once.
Such cases involve someone being suspected of having done something and not having been proved to have done it. The decisions must be marginal, and three years is a long time to wait for a review. In addition, given that decisions are marginal, it is unsatisfactory that someone should have to wait another three years after the first review before his case can be considered again.
I welcome the Home Secretary's commitment to make it easier for relatives to visit those who have been excluded or deported from one part of the United Kingdom. However, may I ask him to consider the position of a person who has been expelled, perhaps after having lived in this country for up to 19 years? He finds it impossible to go back to the events that people want, or feel that they have, to attend, such as funerals, weddings and so on. Those who are deported are unable to make the sort of journeys that the rest of us take for granted. If my right hon. Friend is allowing relatives to visit them more easily, I hope that he will consider whether there ought not to be a provision to allow those who are deported to return for certain family occasions.
The Shackleton report made clear that there was much concern about interviewing techniques. I hope that the Home Secretary will look at the use of tape recorders or video recorders when some interviews are taking place. There is already pressure for the Royal Commission on pre-trial procedure to carry out at least a limited experiment. It might be a good idea for it to consider whether, at 1615 some of the interviews which take place at ports, an opportunity can be taken to conduct this technique on an experimental basis.
Those of us who vote against the order tonight will do so because we believe that without the order we have a better chance of beating terrorists than we would with the order.
§ Mr. Speaker: May I remind the House that the Secretary of State's speech will begin at 9.45 p.m. I do not know whether the next hon. Gentleman to speak can take five minutes and leave five minutes. Otherwise, we shall have only one more speaker.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Tony Newton (Braintree)
I speak mainly because, apart from Northern Ireland Members, I probably have more constituents than any other Member who are either detained or charged under, or in connection with, this Act following the raids which took place in Braintree early in January.
Many hon. Members have concentrated on their acceptance of the need for these provisions and, indeed, ultimately I accept the need for them. My own emphasis is on my intense dislike of the fact that we have these provisions before us and that we are faced with the distasteful need to continue them.
Not all of us could by any means agree with everything that has been said by Labour Members below the Gangway. However, I hope that they will at least accept that our distaste for these provisions is no less than theirs, even if in the end we come to a different conclusion.
In my experience, the effect on the Irish community of Braintree has been severe in terms of the anxiety and, at times, the fear they have experienced. It is particularly saddening because there is no reason whatever to believe that the vast majority of the Irish community in my constituency is not as law-abiding and hostile to terrorism as any other section of our society.
The only thing which can be said is that had there been a bomb attack which could have been traced back to Brain-tree, the effects on our Irish community would have been as severe as anything arising from the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act.
1616 Some hon. Members have concentrated entirely on the criticisms which can be made of the Act and, in so doing, have missed the essential nature of the very difficult decision that we must take tonight. I hate this Act and I should like to see it removed as soon as possible. At the same time, I also hate terrorism and what it can do. What we must do tonight is to ask ourselves which of those threats to liberty is the greater in this society at this time.
In making that judgment, many of us, in all honesty, ought to face the fact that we are, to a substantial extent, reliant on our view of the good faith, integrity and judgment of the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I for my part am prepared, at this moment, to accept their integrity, good faith and judgment on the basis of the information available to them.
One factor which I believe we can judge for ourselves, and to which Labour Members have not given sufficient weight, concerns the risk of what would happen if we declined to renew these powers and there appeared to follow, whether or not a connection could be proved, a resurgence of bombing activity in Great Britain which caused heavy loss of life. The public backlash against Parliament and the Irish community, and the demand for powers far more severe than anything contained in the Act, would be very difficult to resist.
Having been one of those people who voted against the restoration of capital punishment for terrorist offences, I well recall the intense public demand for it to be restored at the time of the worst events which lie behind what we are discussing tonight. We could very easily see a resurgence of that kind of demand, which I believe we were right to resist at the time, and of a demand for powers beyond those in the present Act, unless we are very careful indeed. I do not believe that we should take that risk.
I come down on the side of keeping the Act but moderating it in every possible way which is felt to be right at present. I am glad that the Home Secretary indicated that he goes along with many of the proposals contained in the Shackleton report.
1617 I should like to make two brief points. First, in the light of the concern that I know was caused to some of those who were arrested in Braintree and detained for seven days, I hope that the Home Secretary will weigh very carefully indeed what Lord Shackleton said in paragraph 148 about access to solicitors. I quote only one sentence:It would be quite exceptional, in my view, for there to be sufficient grounds to deny a person in custody the right of access to a solicitor throughout a seven day period.I believe that that must be right, and I hope that the Secretary of State will do everything possible to ensure that its implication is carried into practice.
Secondly, it is very important that the greatest possible care should be taken to avoid any impression whatever that the provisions of this Act are being used to cover matters beyond the issue of terrorism itself. There is one aspect of the raids in Braintree that has given me considerable concern and which I feel it right to mention. This is the fact that on one of the raids I understand that at the request of the police four Inland Revenue inspectors were also in attendance. As a net result of the raids, not only has the constituent in question been charged under section 11 of the Act, and with a number of other offences, but he has also lost his 714 certificate, which, as hon. Members know, is virtually a licence to work in the building industry.
I am still making inquiries about this matter, and I am not in a position to make a full judgment tonight. I cannot judge, nor would it be proper for me to do so, whether the charges that have been made, but which have not yet been heard, will stick, or whether the justification for withdrawing the 714 certificate was adequate. Those are matters which still must be inquired into.
However, on the face of it, it is extremely unfortunate that the issues of Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act offences and tax offences in relation to the 714 certificate system—a system which in itself is seen by many people as conflicting with the normal provisions of civil liberty—should have become linked. I ask the Home Secretary to take this point on board and to do his utmost to make sure that the linking of issues in this way is not allowed to happen unless there is full justification 1618 indeed of a kind which, at any rate, is not at present available to me.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ovenden (Gravesend)
The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act was first introduced in the aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. Unlike most of my hon. Friends who have spoken, I voted for the Act on the basis that it was an emergency piece of legislation, justified by the extreme situation which the country faced at that time. I believe that it was on that basis that the majority of hon. Members accepted that legislation. It was with the greatest reluctance and the gravest misgivings that we did so. When we voted in that manner, we accepted that we were voting for the restriction of civil liberties and for the granting of arbitrary powers to the Home Secretary and the police. The drastic nature of the step we then took was recognised by every hon. Member, and especially by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins.
But that was four and a half years ago, and still this legislation remains on the statute book. There is a very grave danger—nothing I have heard today has dispelled it; if anything, it has reinforced my view—of that legislation becoming a permanent part of our legal code. Indeed, it is very difficult to imagine under what circumstances the Act would be repealed.
I should like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to tell us how he envisages repeal coming about. In the debate in 1977, he said that there was no question of ending this legislation while the Provisional IRA was engaged in violence. Therefore, if the violence continues the Act continues. But I assume that if the violence diminishes, certain hon. Members will argue that it is because of the success of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Therefore, there will be an argument that the Act should be continued on the statute book. In the light of today's debate, it is difficult to envisage how this Act will be repealed.
There is a real difference between what some of us are prepared to accept as temporary emergency measures and what we are prepared to accept as long-term legislation. That is why I voted with the Government when the Act was first introduced and why I voted on a couple of 1619 occasions to renew it. But that is why I voted last year against renewal, and that is why I shall go into the Lobby tonight again to vote against renewal. The onus is upon the Government to justify the continuation of the legislation. If the Bill were introduced today, I doubt whether many hon. Members would consider that the situation justified such legislation. Just because the Act is on the statute book, the status quo does not remove from the Government the onus of justifying the necessity for it.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The Minister has not said a word yet, and he may well answer the hon. Member's question.
§ Mr. Fitt
Will the Home Secretary refer to the security forces—as has already been done by several hon. Members—and particularly to the report published last Sunday by the British Army in Northern Ireland in which it was said that five members of the Ulster Defence Regiment have been found guilty of murder, five of manslaughter, 10 of explosives offences, and 24 have been dismissed—
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
With the permission of the House, I wish to answer some of the points made today. At the same time, I ask the House to take note of the Shackleton report. That report, of course, left with the Government and the House of Commons the policy decision whether we need the legislation. The report examined the workings of the Act which operates against terrorists, whether they be members of the Provisional IRA or the UVF. I found it odd to hear that members of the Provisional IRA were Marxists. That is the last thing to be said of them.
I though it right to have a fresh mind on the working of the Act and to ask for an extension of the Act itself incorporating some of the changes recommended by Lord Shackleton. 1620 I shall not be able to deal with all the points raised. I know why my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) rose, but anything said by the Ministry of Defence must be left to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I have no knowledge of the matter raised by my hon. Friend, though I take his word that the report he spoke of was issued by the Ministry of Defence.
The hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Newton) asked about the activities of the Board of Inland Revenue. That is not a matter for me, though I think that he was absolutely right in what he said. However, this issue is better left to the courts.
The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) raised a wide issue when he asked whether police forces were of sufficient strength to deal with this problem. I have obtained the figures for the size of police forces in England and Wales. On 31 December 1974, there were about 102,000. There were about 109,000 at the end of last year. Between 1 July 1978 and 31 December 1978, the total strength of the police forces in England and Wales increased by 1,276, including a gain of 330 in the Metropolitan Police.
In the first months of this year, there was an increase in police strength in England and Wales of 869, including 116 in the Metropolitan Police. I do not say that the position could not be better, but it is a great deal better than it was four years ago. I hope that in the election campaign later in the year we shall not hear anything about the size of police forces or indeed about the figures that I published last week which showed a fall in the number of indictable offences—the first fall since 1973. Generally, of course, the press took no notice of that, I hope that Messrs. Saatchi & Saatchi will take notice of it because the figures are very good indeed.
§ Mr. Rees
That is not a matter for me. It would be better to leave it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but I know that the same increase in recruitment is taking place.
Reference has also been made to the changes that I propose to make in the 1621 powers of the police. It has been suggested that they may endanger the country. That is not right. I have already explained what the powers are, and I do not believe that they will endanger the country. The important substance of the power at the ports will be preserved. The changes will involve my right hon. Friend and me and give us more control over detention at the ports. That is right.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West asked about matters which concern Northern Ireland in general, the Bennett report and Castlereagh. These are matters for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) asked about statistics for the use of the Act in Northern Ireland.
A total of five exclusion orders have been made—three since 1 March 1978. No representations were made and all five men were removed to the Republic. That also deals with the question raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). No one has been excluded from Northern Ireland and removed to Great Britain.
At midnight on 28 February, a total of 586 people had been detained in Northern Ireland under section 12, including 146 during the last year. In 486 cases—134 of them during the last year—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland authorised extensions of detention. Three applications for extension by the RUC have been refused and four withdrawn.
A total of 33 people, including 12 since 1 March 1978, have been charged with offences under the Act in Northern Ireland. A total of 290 people—and 67 since 1 March 1978—have been charged with offences following arrest and detention under the Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West talked about the uniformed branch. I am glad that he said what he did say. It related to what has been said by a number of others and what I know to be true. If any policeman, of whatever rank, breaks the law or does wrong in the eyes of the police, the police are as glad as anyone that they should be dealt with either by disciplinary action or the law. Some policemen transgress 1622 and it is right that we should deal with them. But it is equally right that we should praise the vast majority who do a job of which we have every right to be proud.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West asked about papers seen by the advisers. All the papers that I see as Home Secretary and on which I take decisions are also available to the adviser. It is up to the adviser to decide whether he examines these papers before or after he interviews a person.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) asked about the Bradley case when I was absent from the Chamber. I understand that he said that two small children had been detained in custody and had had their fingerprints taken.
§ Miss Richardson
I raised this case. I said that the mother and some members of the family were arrested and amongst those who were taken to Paddington Green police station were two small children under three years of age. I did not say that they had been arrested. I simply asked whether they had been fingerprinted.
§ Mr. Litterick
My right hon. Friend has not, I think, understood what I was getting at. I certainly did not mean to suggest that they had been fingerprinted.
§ Mr. Litterick
But how will the Home Office prove that they have not been fingerprinted—or footprinted, for that matter?
§ Mr. Rees
They were taken to the police station until the relatives could be found. They were not fingerprinted. Does anyone believe that the fingerprints of children under the age of two would be of any use? That is the only answer that I can give to my hon. Friend. [AN HON. MEMBER:"Disgraceful."] No, I must say to my hon. Friend that it is not disgraceful. They were not fingerprinted, and neither were they arrested.
1623 What was said—as reported to me—by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) highlights the way in which we can best build safeguards into and around this legislation. I do not agree with my hon. Friend's implications regarding the Shackleton report.
I regard the Shackleton report as of great value. Moreover, I must tell my hon. Friend that the ministerial surveillance of this legislation is constant. I believe this to be extremely important. Nothing is ever done without my permission. If there is anything right, I take the credit, and if there is anything wrong it is my fault. It is not a matter for civil servants. It is a matter for me. I watch it all the time wherever I go. But I thought that to have the Shackleton report was important, and, as my hon. Friend knows, section 62 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 applies to all people who are detained under the prevention of terrorism legislation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland Exchange (Mr. Parry) spoke also about fingerprinting. It is a fact that the fingerprints and photographs of all persons detained are retained centrally while the Act remains in force. I understand that this is exceptional, but when there is a bombing or weapons offence those fingerprints are checked against what is found at the scene of the crime.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) asked me about seamen. I understand his point, and he came to see me about it. If a seaman fails to arrive home when expected, his family will undoubtedly experience some concern. This applies to others, of course, apart from seamen, but there is a special case here, and there are two ways in which the problem has been eased.
First, the provisions of section 62 of the Criminal Law Act deal with notification to friends and relatives of people detained, and those provisions apply to people detained
§ under this legislation as well as under normal legislation. Second, I have announced today my intention to amend the powers of police at ports to reduce the period of detention and to involve my right hon. Friends and myself at an early stage in considering an extension. This, I believe, will be an additional safeguard.
§ I turn now to the general question before the House. Until the end of last year there had been a period of quiet. Recently there were bombs. As I said earlier, we do not know when these things will happen again.
§ The Provisional IRA is not supported by the people of Northern Ireland. It is not supported by the people of the South. Neither the men of the IRA nor the men of the UVF are the sort of people who can talk in support of democracy or support of what should happen to Ireland. People who bomb and kill to get their political ends have the support of no one in the House. I accept that from all that has been said today.
§ My judgment and the Government's judgment is that we need the Act. I ask the House to approve its continuance, and I ask it also to take note of the Shackleton report.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ That this House takes note of the Shackleton Report on the Review of the Operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Acts 1974 and 1976 (Command Paper No. 7324).