§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 5.3 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland confirm that it would be in order in the debate upon the motion for the Second Reading of this Bill to refer to the existing order which is the subject of the next item of business? When dealing with a Bill which amends the existing order, it is extremely difficult to draw a line between discussion of the existing status quo and the proposals in the Bill. It may well be that if the Chair were able to permit both matters to be covered in the debate, the House would be willing to come to a decision upon the second order immediately after having dealt with the motion for Second Reading.
§ Mr. Speaker
If it is on an earlier matter I cannot take it now, because we have moved on to the Northern Ireland order.
§ Mr. King
The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill seeks to amend the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. The Bill is presented against the same background as that which existed at the time of the previous legislation. It is an attempt to achieve the fairest possible system of justice in a situation where, sadly, the presence of terrorism prevents the operation of the normal system of justice that we would all like to see. Today's bomb attack on the RUC station at Lisburn road in Belfast is a sombre reminder that the situation which made necessary the introduction of the emergency provisions in the first place continues. We face a continuing terrorist threat. There is no doubt that at the moment a serious campaign is being waged by the IRA to seek to intimidate and disrupt the lives of everybody in the Province.
The whole House will share with me a feeling of outrage, not just about this latest and pointless attack just before Christmas, and the damage that it has caused to so many people from both communities, but because it follows hard on the heels of the callous murder of a creamery worker in Killen and a dangerous and appalling 1080 mortar attack in Newry. For both those attacks the IRA had the obscenity to apologise because, although the attacks caused casualties, they were not the casualties that the IRA had intended. Nothing could more clearly underline the fact that the IRA is the enemy of all decent people in Northern Ireland and that it poses a threat to both communities. It is tragic that the RUC warning given yesterday about the risk of an attempted bombing campaign before Christmas should have been so clearly confirmed.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
The House will share my right hon. Friend's condemnation of these cowardly attacks. We all welcome what he said. Have these crimes been condemned in Dublin in the same forthright manner?
§ Mr. King
I can assure my hon. Friend that there have been the most categorical condemnations of these attacks and of all the activities of the IRA. It is important to remember the situation in Northern Ireland. An attack in Newry at this season of the year carries the real prospect, as there was when the three policemen were murdered, of injury to civilians. I was told that there were probably 30,000 people from the Republic shopping in Newry at the time of that attack. That is because it is advantageous for people from the Republic to shop in Northern Ireland. There has been unequivocal condemnation by the Irish Foreign Minister, by the Minister of Justice and by the Taoiseach.
While we feel a sense of outrage at these dastardly crimes, they demonstrate all the more clearly the debt that we owe to the security forces for the work that they have done in preventing more serious attacks. It will be fresh in the minds of all hon. Members that only this weekend the RUC prevented the transfer of a bomb on the way to Newry of approximately double the size of the one detonated today. The RUC apprehended certain gentlemen who, it is believed, were possibly involved in that event. Whether it is the discovery of a bomb factory in Andersonstown or in County Cavan, or the successful interception of the van with the explosives near Newry, these events underline recent successes. Mortars have also been discovered; the last two mortars were discovered by the Garda. Those successes underline our determination to take every effective measure to fight this campaign and defeat the IRA.
§ Mr. King
I shall give way when I have completed the point that I am making. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to join other hon. Members in paying tribute to all those in the security forces—the RUC, the UDR and the regular Army—for the way in which they have stood firmly against terrorism and for their clear determination to do all that they can to protect the community during this IRA campaign.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I certainly join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the security forces, but suggest that it does little good when the Secretary of State stands at the Dispatch Box and describes those who are bringing a 1,600 pound bomb into Newry as gentleman. Would he not get his language right and refer to them as the terrorists that they are?
§ Mr. King
I was showing a proper concern that people are innocent until they are proved guilty. I have no hesitation in saying that if they are the guilty men, there is no word in the English language too low to express my condemnation of them. They are people who are prepared to inflict the sort of agony and suffering that that cargo could have inflicted if it had reached its intended destination.
My tribute to the security forces is paid in the knowledge that they have had to stand in the front line against terrorism while having often to face intimidation. At the same time they have had to try to defeat the sectarian attacks which have disfigured parts of Northern Ireland in recent months.
Security policy is a key element in our overall strategy for the improvement of the condition of the Province, but political development and economic development must march hand in hand. We must look forward to the involvement in and acceptance of a constructive political role in the Province by both communities. If we are to have a cohesive strategy, we must see the creation in the Province of more employment and more opportunities for employment. We have had excellent news in the past day in two respects. The award of the Ministry of Defence contracts to Short Brothers will be widely applauded throughout the Province. Secondly, there are encouraging prospects for further orders overseas that will offer and secure further employment. There is other encouraging news.
We are aware, of course, of the economic background against which we are working. The problems surrounding shipbuilding, the tobacco industry and North sea oil have all threatened employment in the Province and are part of the difficulties that we face.
The successful creation of a security policy does not lie merely with the provision of more policemen and soldiers. I am mindful of the tribute that I have paid to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which has grown in professionalism and skill over the years. It has become a substantially larger force. It is now better equipped, professional and highly trained, and is a credit to the Province. Over the years, and never more than in the past year, it has demonstrated its determination to police without fear or favour and impartially for both communities. In the battle that we fight against terrorism we are entitled to recognise the serious campaign that we face, to which I have drawn attention, but that must not be to ignore the RUC's achievements in forcing down the level of terrorism.
It is tragic that during this year there have been about 60 deaths from terrorist incidents, but we must remember that in 1975 there were 247. There were 503 incidents this year against 2,438 in 1975. From these figures we can measure the success that the security forces have had in reducing the level of terrorism, which is still obviously at an unacceptable level.
Along with our support for the work of the security forces must be a strategic security approach, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) has referred to the need for co-operation with the Republic. Recognising the amount of terrorism that is border-related, we shall be able to obtain great benefit if we achieve more effective co-operation. It is my determination and that of the Government continually to strive to improve co-operation. Coupled with that is a determination to deny terrorists resources and refuge, hence our efforts to improve arrangements for extradition with the 1082 Republic, our success with the supplementary treaty with the United States and the recent extradition from the Netherlands. All these activities and events are part of the growing international support and the strategic approach that are designed to make the fight against terrorism and its conquest more effective.
Our strategy is to fight terrorism within the law. We want the most effective and vigorous action, but we believe that it must be always within the law. That is morally right. Any alternative will be bound ultimately to become counter-productive. It is the responsibility of the police, who lead in the fight against terrorism, to bring people to justice before the courts. Our aim and ambition is that the laws under which the courts will operate are fair and must comply with international standards of human and civil rights. Against a background of terrorism and the difficulties that that causes, the courts must diverge as little as possible from the ordinary law. It is vital to maintain the confidence of both communities in the institution of justice and we must do all that we can to ensure equal rights and remove grievances if they are fairly demonstrated, thus further to isolate the men of violence.
I have said that there must be as little divergence as possible, but perhaps the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) will advance the argument that there should be no divergence. I do not wish to anticipate his contribution, but there may be those who say that there is no case for this legislation, which within it contains divergence from the normal law. We do not believe that that approach is sustainable. Learned papers have recently been produced suggesting the return of jury trial for all terrorist offences, but we do not believe that that is a realistic proposition at present.
If we seek to maintain certain differences under the emergency provisions, however, it is our duty regularly to scrutinise them in great detail to ensure that they are justified and that any improvements that can be made are carried out. That will be done against the background of the original work of Lord Diplock, which was reviewed by Lord Gardiner and then reviewed by Sir George Baker, and I am presenting this evening some of the conclusions and implications of the further review.
I have said that we do not believe it possible to return to full jury trials for all offences, but we wish wherever possible to see more jury trials. An improvement that has already been made in advance of this legislation and the recommendation of Sir George Baker is that power has now been obtained by order for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to certify a greater range of cases where it would be possible to opt for jury trial.
We have also considered whether two or three judges are appropriate for trials in a court of first instance. We have given these proposals the most careful thought and I believe that the House will be interested to hear why we have decided not to incorporate in the Bill any provision to change the present arrangements. In considering the issues we bore in mind the conclusions of the Gardiner committee and of Sir George Baker that no change should be made to the Diplock procedures. Equally, we took full account of the recommendation of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights that scheduled cases should be heard by three judges.
The case for establishing such courts was presented forcefully by the representatives of the Irish Government in the course of discussion during the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. All the evidence shows 1083 that the Diplock procedures, taken as a whole, successfully have maintained the highest standards of justice. In each of the past four years, acquittal rates in the Diplock courts have been within 2 percentage points of acquittal rates in the ordinary criminal courts. Despite the unfettered right of appeal from the Diplock courts, in 1985 proportionally fewer appeals were lodged against conviction for scheduled offences than in ordinary criminal cases.
The force of the safeguards often is not appreciated. When convicting, a judge must prepare a written judgment setting out his reasons. There is an unfettered right of appeal to the ordinary, three-man Court of Appeal against conviction or sentence, and on any ground. The effect of these two safeguards, taken together, is that the Court of Appeal effectively can consider issues of fact as well as issues of law. I shall not dwell on the other practical problems that suggest that a three-judge court would not necessarily produce better justice and might actually diminish the rights of the accused. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights has set them out in a detailed document. Hon. Members may wish to refer to that document to examine certain other points that the commission fairly raised.
After the most careful consideration, the Government are not presently persuaded that this would be an appropriate change to make.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
The right hon. Gentleman is running close to the wind. He almost suggests that trial without a jury approximates to trial with a jury and that there are certain safeguards that commend the former. It is nothing to do with that. It is to do with the terrible tragedy of Northern Ireland and justice—no matter whether it is 2 per cent. or whatever—is not, in the opinion of many of us, carried out in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. King
I shall have to think about what the hon. Gentleman said. I am not sure that I entirely follow his remarks.
I was seeking to explain that there had been considerable discussions, as he may know, about whether there would or would net be benefits in changing the Diplock system in the first instance from one judge to three judges. I was seeking briefly to explain why I think that there are problems in that and why, after careful consideration, we are not presently persuaded that there is justification for that change. We have made it absolutely clear—I made it clear also in my earlier remarks—that we wish to keep the procedures under the emergency provisions under close review as we do.
Whatever amendments to the law we may make, such as we make in this legislation if the House approves it, none will be effective unless it has the benefit of a good judiciary. It is appropriate for the House on this occasion, as it has in the past, to pay tribute to the standard and achievement of Northern Ireland judges. From my own observations, Northern Ireland has splendidly been served by its judiciary. In the background against which Northern Ireland judges work—the difficult, testing, complicated, but also, at times, dangerous environment in which they operate—their dedication, commitment, impartiality and courage are an example to us all.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
I echo what my right hon. Friend said about the judiciary. Is he aware that some of us believe that the McGuires and Guiseppe 1084 Conlan may have been wrongly convicted by an English jury and could possibly not have been so convicted by a Diplock court with its superior knowledge of explosives matters?
§ Mr. King
I note what my hon. Friend said. Obviously, I shall not comment on that matter in any detail, save to say that I have seen that comment made and endorsed in an article in The Irish Times. By implication, that article recognised the real achievements of the courts in Northern Ireland that operate in difficult circumstances and the way in which they seek impartially to administer justice.
§ Mr. Mallon
The Secretary of State referred to the fact that, at a later stage, defendants will have the benefit of a three-judge appeal court. He should confirm the fact that people may have to wait four to five years before they reach that appeal court.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
§ Mr. Mallon
I notice the Minister showing his disagreement. I refer him to the case of Thomas Power. He was on remand for almost four years before he was even sentenced. As yet, he has not reached the Appeal Court. That is an inordinate amount of time. In prison sentence terms, that is more than 10 years. The right hon. Gentleman's point is not valid. If any hon. Member faced serious charges tomorrow without a jury, and he had a choice of being tried by one judge or three judges, which course would he choose?
§ Mr. King
The first point that the hon. Gentleman raised is an important one. I entirely accept that the Diplock system—the phrase I used was, "taking the Diplock system as a whole"—has important safeguards. In other words, I take together the court of first instance and the Court of Appeal. Of course, an important protection for an accused is that, if he wishes to appeal against the single judge in the court of first instance, he has that automatic right of appeal without qualification—not on some point of law—if he chooses to take his case to the three-judge Court of Appeal. I accept the point that the hon. Gentleman made. Therefore, I have concerns that that right should be available without undue delay. That is an important point. There have been problems about delay. A number of the changes not contained within the legislation, although one or two will impinge on it, are changes in administration and in arrangements that I hope will help to minimise delays. It is a fair comment that that right of appeal should be exercised with reasonable dispatch.
Part I of the Bill gives the amended Act a maximum life of five years, subject to annual renewal. Clause 11 sets the first renewal date at 22 March 1988, to coincide with that of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984, which will enable Parliament to consider, at roughly the same time, all the emergency legislation that apples in Northern Ireland and help to consider the Prevention of Terrorism Act in its full United Kingdom context. That was a suggestion of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, and I am grateful for it.
Clause 1 shifts the onus in bail applications in scheduled cases from the defence to the prosecution. Clause 2 increases the maximum period for which persons accused of scheduled offences can be remanded in custody without their consent. At present, they can choose to be remanded 1085 for up to 28 days. Most persons accused of scheduled offences and who are remanded in custody have to be produced in court at weekly remand hearings. Sir George Baker pointed out that weekly remand hearings in scheduled cases were an entirely pointless waste of time, money and scarce courtroom resources.
Clause 3 confers on the Lord Chancellor a discretion to direct that a case involving a scheduled offence shall be held at a Crown court other than the Crown court sitting in Belfast. At present, all such cases are held at the Crumlin road courthouse, and this results in some congestion. That is one of the aspects that may help indirectly to meet the point raised by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).
Clause 4 deals with the admissibility of confession evidence and makes it clear that the threat of violence, as well as violence itself, if used to obtain a statement, can be a basis for declaring that statement inadmissible. Clause 5 effectively terminates the police emergency arrest power, but there are other powers upon which the RUC will be able to rely. They include section 13 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. However, we believe that the power under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act in particular is more narrowly focused and subject to closer control by the Executive, and therefore more appropriate.
Clause 5 preserves the police power to enter and search premises for the purpose of arresting a suspected terrorist. Clause 6 illustrates to the House the developments in the technology of terrorism over recent years. Very sophisticated scanning receivers are now available, which can enable terrorists to monitor security force communications, and can be used for the detonation of bombs by remote radio control. We are therefore including specialised receivers of that type in the list of items in respect of which the security forces are entitled to search dwellings and premises, and stop and search vehicles.
Clauses 7 and 9 extend to Northern Ireland provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act that apply only on the mainland. It will thus become an offence in Northern Ireland to arrange or assist in the arrangement or management of a meeting held to support a proscribed organisation, or to behave in a public place in a manner indicative of support for a proscribed organisation.
Clause 8 extends the categories of people about whom it is an offence to collect information likely to be useful to terrorists, and includes all present and former elected representatives in Northern Ireland. Clause 10 reforms the compensation provisions.
Part II contains provisions to put on a statutory basis the right of a person detained under emergency legislation to have someone notified of his arrest and whereabouts and to have access to legal advice.
Part III is a new provision, which sets out a scheme to prevent persons or companies from operating to the benefit of paramilitary organisations under the guise of offering private security guard services. As many hon. Members know, some so-called security firms are no more than a front for paramilitary extortion rackets, and that can provide a significant source of funds for certain paramilitary organisations. To prevent that, I propose a simple certification scheme. Every security firm will need 1086 to possess a certificate to be able to trade lawfully, and such certificates will be issued only to bona fide companies.
Clause 23 requires the existence of reasonable grounds for suspicion where previously the Act required only suspicion as a basis for exercising the powers in question. Clause 24 provides that the provisions of the Bill, like the temporary provisions of the 1978 Act, as amended, should lapse after five years subject to annual renewal.
The House will see from that rapid, but I hope helpful, introduction to the main elements of the Bill that it seeks to make possible the effective pursuit of terrorists and give the forces of law and order the chance to carry out their vital work. At the same time we are maintaining as effectively as we can the rule of law and ensuring that the rights of those who may be accused are protected as fully as possible.
I believe that the Bill, which builds on Lord Diplock's proposals and on the emergency provisions of the 1978 Act, strikes a fair balance between the rights of the individual and seeking to maintain the fairest possible system of justice when we face terrorism. It is our determination to pursue the campaign to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from the beautiful Province of Northern Ireland. We shall maintain our efforts in that respect. We shall seek to do so with the fullest support and commitment of all those in the Province. I believe that in that respect the Bill will be helpful. I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
You may find it difficult to believe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the House is enjoying a rare experience—indeed, one which I think is unique in the past few years. We have frequently complained that legislation for Northern Ireland is by unamendable orders. The Government present their legislation to the House on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, although we all know that there is not really an option to leave it because the Government Whips are waiting, if called upon, to eliminate that choice.
Today the Government have introduced in the Chamber a Bill—a right-down regular Bill, just like for the rest of the United Kingdom. If it receives its Second Reading, as we all expect it will, we will be able to suggest amendments. I do not know whether there is a connection between the two events, but I note that it has persuaded Members of the Official Unionist party to emulate the commendable example of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), and to attend our proceedings. I hope that they will accept a welcome back to the Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
In debates in the House, the task of a responsible Opposition is more difficult than that of the Government. When a Minister introduces a Bill, it follows that the Government approve of everything in it. It also follows that if anything is missing from the Bill the Government do not approve of it, or they believe that this is the wrong time, or the wrong occasion, or the wrong Bill to bring forward such a provision. Thus the Secretary of State can make an enthusiastic speech commending the Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman did today.
Sometimes the task of the Opposition is equally simple. They may regard every sentence in the Bill as a total disaster, and the only approach open to them is 1087 unqualified denunciation. We have seen examples enough of such Bills in the past few years. However, sometimes a Bill is a mixed bag. The Government may have earned some marks for effort. The Bill may bear witness to persistent and effective lobbying on a few selected topics, or even to a capacity among some Ministers to listen to argument, but the gold may be reposing in a deal of dross. The improvements may be few and modest, and the package may include some less attractive items. In that case, the proper response is less simple. We should encourage the Government in well-doing. We on the Opposition Benches have made it clear that when the Government have ears to hear and introduce progressive measures they will meet no unnecessary difficulties from the Opposition, even if we may wish that their response had been earlier and more enthusiastic. We shall not reject the crust because it falls short of a feast.
But we must not leave the Government or anyone else with the impression that that concludes the debate. Where their response is too little in the interests of justice and common sense, we must let it be known that we shall be asking for more. Where the Government have not responded at all, we must give them notice that there are still issues to be resolved. Where the Bill includes measures that we think are wholly misguided, we have to decide whether to oppose the Bill or seek to deal with those measures in Committee.
Let me make it clear at the outset that we shall not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill. We will take it as a payment on account, although we may promise the Government an interesting Committee, but that does not mean that our anxieties about the present Act are now resolved simply because it has undergone some improvement. It would be misleading and hypocritical if we supported the continuance order, and when the time comes we shall oppose it.
Our reaction to the Bill is mixed, and if the trumpet is not to give forth an uncertain sound, we must begin from first principles. I shall take this part of the argument fairly briefly. That is possible because we in the Opposition have set it out so often, and it is desirable because, in the House, brevity is a virtue.
We would all like to see an end to the violence and the lawlessness that overshadow the daily life of every family in Northern Ireland—lawlessness from whatever quarter and in whatever cause. We all believe that a peaceful, constitutionally oriented community can be achieved only by peaceful, constitutional politics. Perhaps I shall be permitted a commercial. Hon. Members who are not numbered among the regular readers of Tribune may consider investing in a copy of this week's issue and reading the thoughtful contribution of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume).
Even though there will be no complete normality, as the Secretary of State reminded us, until the political issues have been resolved, we all recognise the importance of security, and we all pay tribute to the work of the security services. They shoulder heavy burdens in difficult conditions, and I certainly endorse the tribute that the right hon. Gentleman paid to them. Of course, we too condemn the recent attacks. Sometimes, the security services have to take decisions on the spur of the moment, in conditions of great potential danger, without any opportunity of finding out whether someone is a law-abiding citizen and whether he means mischief. They are entitled to ask that we should take all that into account.
1088 Up to that stage, the Government and the Labour party are largely in agreement. It is at the next phase of the argument that we need to give careful thought to where we are being led. There are two issues. First, if we respond to lawlessness simply by devaluing the law, by abandoning our traditional values and by invoking Satan to cast out Satan, the law breakers will have won, because that is their objective. They will have destroyed the very way of life that it is the purpose of the law to protect. Secondly, as the Secretary of State fairly said, if a substantial number of people in both traditions feel that the law is unfair and is administered oppressively, we shall lose that public support and co-operation of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke and on which the security services depend. Every further derogation from people's rights will make the task of law enforcement more difficult, until measures which are intended to assist in promoting law and order become counter-productive.
I cannot improve on what was said by the predecessor to the Secretary of State, the present Home Secretary, in our debate on this subject on 20 December 1984. He said:Faced with the tension and the tragedies caused by terrorism, some people, naturally enough, are tempted to look for short cuts in winning the battle. But in a free, open and democratic society such as ours, terrorism is best countered by the resolute application of the criminal law."—[Official Report, 20 December, 1984; Vol. 70, c. 576.]I am content to say amen to that.
When the original Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill came before the House on 17 April 1973, the Government of the day clearly envisaged that it was an emergency measure. The then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, now Lord Whitelaw, said:It is the Government's intention that none of the provisions of the Bill, if it is passed, should continue in force a moment longer than it is needed."—[Official Report, 17 April 1973; Vol. 855, c. 278.]The then Attorney-General—now Lord Rawlinson—called the measures in the Bill "draconian". That is why the Government inserted what is now section 33, providing for a six-monthly review by each House. Since then, the House has discharged that responsibility by looking at the Act twice a year to ascertain whether this emergency legislation really continues to be justified and to consider whether and how it should be amended. I can answer the question of the Secretary of State by saying that I do not propose today to argue that none of the Bill's provisions are necessary, but if that review provision is to be reduced to an annual one, so that 12 months may elapse without a review, that is a further step towards institutionalising what was introduced as emergency legislation.
I appreciate that the quid pro quo is that the provisions of the Bill, if passed, will expire after five years—I welcome that—but I am not persuaded that it is in some way a substitute for the six-monthly reviews in the meantime. These are not, in any sense, alternatives. They are two separate safeguards to deal with two separate dangers. It is true that it was a recommendation by Sir George Baker and that it was intended in some sense as a package, but if the Government seek to urge that, they must have regard to the whole package which he proposed.
In paragraph 448 of his report Sir George recommended that the Secretary of State should provide information, largely statistical, on the working of the Act, and that information should be provided quarterly. This is information of a type which is provided in relation to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1089 1984 and which is valuable in assessing how it is operating. As that proposal is in the same chapter of the Baker report as the recommendation for annual reviews, it is clear that Sir George saw that, too, as part of the package; so if I am accused of breaking up Sir George's package, I must point out that the Government have already opened it and discarded a substantial part of the contents.
Applying all these considerations to the Bill, there are provisions which we welcome. We have waited since April 1984, when the Baker report was published, for some action on the recommendations. we have tried to encourage the Government in well doing. Whatever the processes that persuaded them to act, we applaud this outcome.
We welcome Clause 1. It is unacceptable, as Sir George Baker pointed out, that the onus of proving why bail should not be granted pending trial is on the defence, and that anomaly will be reviewed by the Bill.
We welcome the repeal of the powers of arrest without warrant in section 11 of the present Act. Sir George Baker recommended in paragraph 304 that the various powers of arrest lurking in assorted statutes should be brought together in one statutory provision. Clause 5 repeals the power in section 11, leaving the authorities to their other powers of arrest without warrant and, particularly, to section 12 of the prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. We do not take the view that the prevention of terrorism power is beyond criticism, but the repeal of section 11 is clearly a move in the right direction.
More difficult to understand is that section 12 of the present Act is left intact. It empowers the Secretary of State to detain someone without a trial. That is a draconian power, so much so that it has not been used since 1975. Sir George Baker recommended that, since it is not used and ought not to be used, it should be repealed. Indeed, sections 11 and 12 go together. The power of arrest in section 11 was clearly intended to be used as a prelude to detention under section 12, although, in fact, it was frequently used for other purposes. Section 11 is now being repealed, yet section 12 is to remain.
Why do the Government disagree with Sir George Baker and wish to retain a power which has not been used for 11 years and which, I understand, they have no intention of using? I seem to remember the predecessor of the Secretary of State, the present Home Secretary, telling the House on 20 December 1984 that he would like to retain the power in case there wasa sudden short-term crisis, which might occur when Parliament was in recess."—[Official Report, 20 December, 1984; Vol. 70, c. 581.]I do not believe that that is the proper approach to emergency legislation, which, as the Government recognised, distorts the normal processes of law and requires to be justified as exceptional. It is not good enough to say that the situation does not call for it now, but perhaps one day it will.
I return to the implementation of some of the Baker recommendations which we welcome. We note that schedule 1 substitutes for the word "suspects" in a number of contexts the wordshas reasonable grounds for suspecting".1090 This will enable a court to inquire not only into the subjective state of mind of the officer concerned, but into the objective question whether the suspect's behaviour really was suspicious. That is to be welcomed.
We welcome clause 4, which strengthens the criteria for excluding alleged confessions in scheduled offences. The existing Act makes a statement admissible unless the accused was subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment. That leaves statements admissible when they have been obtained by any of a range of pressures. The suspect may have been punched, spat on, made to stand for hours on end, denied sleep, abused or threatened. Sir George Baker recommended that at least the statement should be excluded if the accused was subject to violence or the threat of violence, even if it did not amount to torture. That recommendation is implemented in the Bill and is much to be welcomed.
But can the Government explained what is wrong with the test that operates elsewhere in the United Kingdom? Here, a statement is admissible if, and only if, it is made voluntarily. I have not heard it suggested that the test, as it is applied by the English courts, is too libertarian. If a person is to be convicted of an offence on the evidence of a confession, what matters is that the confession is reliable and that it was made because it was true and not to get out of a police station or to stop some kind of pressure.
In 1978, the Royal Commission on criminal procedure, chaired by Sir Cyril Philips, was established partly because of mounting concern about the way in which some confession statements were obtained. Research carried out by the commission showed that most people incarcerated in a police station, anxious and tense, whether or not they had committed an offence, and questioned for hour after hour when they were desparate to get out, were likely to end by saying almost anything.
Of course, allegations of ill treatment are easy to make and as easy to deny. The court may not believe the allegations, but we are concerned about what is to happen if the court finds as a fact that such treatment has taken place. Is it still to admit the statement? Of what probative value is a confession if it was made for some reason other than its truth? So our welcome for the provision is mingled with regret that the Government did not follow the logic of their own reasoning.
Before I leave the congratulatory part of my remarks, I welcome two provisions which do not follow from the recommendations of Sir George Baker, but which are intended to bring the Northern Ireland position broadly into line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Clause 11 provides a right for a person in custody to have someone told about what has happened so that hours of anxiety for his family can be avoided, and someone can set in train whatever is necessary to safeguard the welfare and rights of the accused.
Clause 12 provides a right of access to legal advice, but again the Government have devalued their own gift. The rights are subject to delay on a whole plethora of different grounds. In Committee we shall wish to explore whether they are all necessary. We know that these provisions will be applied differently, by different officers. There will be some who will seize on whatever excuse presents itself to nullify the right which the Bill seeks to confirm. That is not being critical of the police: like any other collection of human beings, they include the good, the bad and the 1091 passable. It would be as silly to suggest that they are all perfect as it would be to suggest that they are all part of some sinister conspiracy.
But we do not have to postulate any dishonest policemen or even any who prefer their task to be made easy. Let hon. Members imagine a conscientious, hardworking police officer who has before him someone whom he believes to be guilty of an offence. It is easy to understand whey he should want a confession in his hand before the subject sees a lawyer. If he is tempted by being supplied with a long list of exceptions where the right does not apply, he will have to be objective and fair beyond average not to seize on some of those suggestions. We know in this Chamber that that would not necessarily serve the cause of justice, and one does not fight terrorism by convicting the wrong people. Someone may say that we are not at the sharp end and that we do not share the pressures, but that is precisely why we should exercise judgment and not leave it to those who may be too deeply committed to exercise it fairly. We are speaking of a right which Sir Henry Fisher, in his report on the Confait case, regarded as so fundamental that he recommended that any confession obtained in breach of it should be automatically excluded.
Before I leave clauses 11 and 12, I shall ask the Minister a question which I hope he will answer at the end of the debate. These rights are already accorded to the rest of the United Kingdom and they are enshrined in United Kingdom legislation. In Northern Ireland they are being enacted, in a piece of legislation which is expressed to be, and I hope is intended to be, temporary, in order to respond to an emergency situation. They apply only to people arrested under emergency provisions. Is it proposed, at an early date, to re-enact them—I see that the Secretary of State is nodding—in more permanent legislation so that the citizens of Northern Ireland will have them on the same basis and for the same range of purposes as the citizens of the rest of the United Kingdom? I am grateful to the Secretary of State for indicating that that is so. Perhaps at the end of the debate the Minister will tell us the time factor involved.
I turn to some recommendations made by Sir George Baker which do not appear in the Bill. Sir George's report was a careful piece of work, to which we have all paid tribute on other occasions, but it is hardly a piece of radical libertarianism. It could scarcely be suggested that to implement it fully would be to risk a breakdown in law and order. I understand the reasons for that, and I point out only that the Government have not seen fit to implement even all of those modest recommendations.
I have already mentioned the failure to repeal section 12 and Sir George's proposal that information should be made available about the working of the Act. A further recommendation that is missing from the Bill is the proposal to limit remand in custody while awaiting trial to a period of 12 months before committal proceedings. The average period of remand in Northern Ireland is 15 months. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) pointed to the Power case, where remand has been substantially longer than that. In some cases other than the Power case, remand has been up to two years. Allowing for all the rules governing remission, the accused will have served the equivalent of a four-year sentence before it has been decided whether he is guilty.
Sir George Baker said:I find it impossible to conclude that there is no injustice.1092 His recommendation was modest enough. He suggested that anyone held in custody for 12 months before committal should be released. If, by that time, someone has not even been committed and he is likely to face a further period in custody before he is tried, he has, by any standard, some reason for complaint.
Scotland seems to find no difficulty in living with a limitation period of 110 days after committal and an overall period of 124 days. On 20 October 1985 the Home Secretary announced to the House a series of what he called "field trials" in several English towns to see how time limits could work in England. Why, then, should there be no limitation period in Northern Ireland?
The long remands are a feature, in particular, of supergrass trials, which are a development within the Diplock procedure which was never envisaged when the Act was passed in 1973. In Committee we shall want to explore the whole of that development. Indeed, one of the most controversial matters in the Act is the existence and extent of the Diplock procedure. We have often debated the reasons why, in 1973, the Government of the day decided to remove the right to jury trial for a wide range of offences, and what evidence exists about that now. I do not propose to rehearse all that, other than to remind the House that trial by jury is a very important part of our criminal procedure. It subjects lawyers, as experts everywhere should be subjected, to an element of constraint by those whose function it is to represent common sense and an uncomplicated commitment to fair play.
We on this side of the water would not lightly relinquish that entitlement, but we are prepared to countenance a different standard in Northern Ireland. That is not intended to reflect any discredit on the Northern Ireland judiciary. Indeed, I echo the tribute paid to it by the Secretary of State, but I am troubled about the burden that we cast on it, which is not borne by judges who sit with juries.
The offences in the schedule are defined by categories and not by any observable connection with terrorism in a particular case. One of those offences, for example, is armed robbery. It is true that paramilitaries sometimes commit armed robberies, but it is certainly not the case that all armed robbers are paramilitaries. Moreover, we are all familiar with the research of Mr. Dermot Walsh, which showed that 40 per cent. of those convicted in the Diplock courts had no observable connection with terrorism.
Most of those who have given thought to the question would like more cases to be channelled back into the normal jury system. I thought that I detected an assent to that in what the Secretary of State said. Several suggestions have been made about how that might be achieved. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights suggested two steps. It proposed removing a number of offences from the schedule altogether, because experience shows that, even assuming the other steps in the argument, they are not needed, and it proposed enlarging the number of offences in which the Attorney-General is empowered to certify a specific case out of the Diplock procedure. That is a proposal which commended itself to Sir George Baker, and he listed the offences that he had in mind.
In the amendment order of 1985, the Government introduced a measure empowering the Attorney-General to certify out offences of kidnapping, false imprisonment 1093 and certain other offences. We welcomed that order as spring watchers welcome the first snowdrop, but it missed the real point. The National Council for Civil Liberties illuminated the figure of 40 per cent., given by Mr. Dermot Walsh as the proportion of convictions under the Diplock procedure which appear to have had no connection with terrorism. It transpired that the majority were offences involving real or imitation firearms—that is to say robbery, aggravated burglary and the possession of firearms while committing a variety of offences.
Those are serious offences, but if in any specific case they are not connected with terrorism, the argument for the Diplock procedure disappears. In the absence of the paramilitary element, the fact that an offence is a serious offence, involving the prospect of a long sentence, reinforces the importance of having a jury trial. Sir George Baker's proposal was not that these categories should be removed from the schedule but only that the Attorney-General should have power to certify out in appropriate cases. However, the Government's measure in 1985 did not extend to the offences through which the problem arises, and the Bill does not seek to remedy the defects.
As the Secretary of State said, there have been other suggestions for moving towards a solution of the problem, for example the three-judge court to replace the single judge. We have in mind Sir George's proposals in paragraph 151 for contingent jury trial. There have been proposals by Mr. Stephen Greer and Mr. Anthony White in their thoughtful book on the subject. This is not the occasion to discuss in detail the merits of all the proposals, but it is hoped that in Committee we will demonstrate one of the advantages of legislating by Bill rather than by order. It is that it provides an opportunity to discuss thoughtful suggestions that are all too often lost because there is no opportunity for ventilating them.
The House may be relieved to hear that I do not propose today to comment on every provision in the Bill, nor to list all the matters which are missing from the Bill that we would like to have seen dealt with there. I have no doubt that someone, inside or outside the House, will profess shocked surprise that in the whole of this speech—perhaps in the whole of the debate—there has been not a single mention of some matter which is of great importance to someone. However, there will be opportunities in Committee.
I am looking forward to the Committee, whether it takes place here or upstairs, or partly here and partly upstairs. It will provide an opportunity to discuss many matters relating to security and civil liberties. No one can refuse to take part in a Standing Committee on the ground that it was brought into existence by the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Participation will not entail either an affirmation or a rejection of the agreement. All those who have painted themselves into corners where they cannot take part in a dialogue except on conditions that someone else cannot accept can come to the Committee without loss of dignity or principle.
I hope that the Government and their business managers will have two things in mind. First, I hope that there will be room in the Committee for representatives from every part of the House so that they may all take part in at least one important discussion. I hope that the Ministers will come to the Committee with open minds and listen to suggestions and arguments. We shall not 1094 resolve every disagreement, but if it is a constructive Committee, those who practise the politics of abstention will see things happening in their absence, and they may consider that they would do better to attend to represent those who sent them to the House.
Who knows, the Government may acquire a taste for legislation by Bill, and we may all come to appreciate the advantages of discussing things, of give and take, of seeking a consensus. That may prove to be a step towards resolving the political differences which gave rise to the security problems in the first place and towards restoring that constitutional process which will end all talk of an emergency.
§ 6.4 pm
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) will forgive me if I do not follow him, but I do not possess his forensic skills, so find myself in difficulties in commenting on the legislative points that he brought out in his interesting speech.
When he was introducing the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, which was updated by the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, which in turn is amended by the Bill before the House, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my noble Friend Lord Whitelaw, said:The onus must be on Her Majesty's Government to prove to the House why the special legal provisions in the Bill are necessary in the current situation in Northern Ireland. We here have a clear responsibility to the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland and for the security forces who are protecting them.Terrorism still constitutes a major threat to peace and order in Northern Ireland; a threat which, if it is allowed to go unchecked, will jeopardise all efforts to bring about peaceful political progress.In the same speech—the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West has already quoted his words—he said:
The Bill therefore provides that none of the main provisions should last for more than a year without an order being made that would have to be approved by Parliament. I believe such a procedure to be an assurance in itself that, given a cessation of violence for political ends in Northern Ireland, the Government will be only too glad to see these provisions brought to an end."—[Official Report, 17 April 1973; Vol. 855, c. 275–8.]Those words were spoken more than 13 years ago, and while we have seen considerable improvement in the internal security of the Province, the terrorism that produced the Acts of Parliament to which I have referred continues, to a point where today's legislation, albeit a refinement of the 1973 and 1978 Acts, is an obvious necessity. What is more, the "peaceful political progress" referred to by my noble Friend is not just as far away as it was in 1973, or 1978, but in some respects even further away. Not only are we facing the continued menace of the terrorist, the gunman and the bomber in their attempts to destabilise the Province, as today's bombing in Belfast underlines, but we are obliged to survey the wreckage of the political initiatives of 1974 and 1982, with their attempts to create devolved government. There is also the failure of the Northern Ireland Convention and now the uncertain start to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
To some extent, each of these initiatives has contributed to the instability in the Province and thus to the environment in which the terrorists thrive. I make that statement because it seems relevant to the Bill before us. 1095 As the late Sir George Baker asked in his report, is this legislation not based on a misnomer if it is described as an emergency provisions Bill, when the emergency has lasted 17 years, and the definition of an emergency is "a sudden or unexpected occurrence"?
I prefer his suggestion that the legislation should be called the Protection of the Peoples Bill, because it frees us from the unreality of believing that we are likely to see the end of this legislation within the five years written into the Bill and that if we get rid of the terrorist, "peaceful political progress" will automatically follow. That is not necessarily a consequence of getting rid of the terrorist, and until we recognise that we have two problems to resolve, both of which to some extent create instability in the Province, we do not come to the root of the problem. I see a certain contradiction in an emergency provisions Bill which is to be renewed annually rather than every six months as is the case now.
Someone in the Northern Ireland Department seems to to be agreeing with my assessment of the likely duration of the present situation, as well they may, for the Provos and INLA publicly state their determination to continue their campaign of violence indefinitely. Judging by the figures for the past year, the first year of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we have still some way to go to prove that the security situation has radically changed as a result of the new arrangements with the Republic of Ireland.
I have before me figures given to me by the Library on 15 December. I see that in the 12 months till 4 December 1986, there were 60 deaths, and in the 12 months ending October 1985, there were 54 deaths. There were 282 deaths through shootings in the 12 months to November 1986 and 197 in the 12 months ending October 1985. There were 237 deaths as a result of bombings in the 12 months ending November 1986 and 201 in the 12 months ending October 1985. Whatever we may hope to get from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, we have to admit that, for the moment at least, there is no proof that it is producing better security in the Province. As a result, I suggest that one of the premises on which the Bill is based is flawed. It should be regarded not as something transitory but as something semi-permanent while normal democratic procedures cease to exist or are positively spurned and derided by a section of the community.
On page 4 of his review of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provision) Act 1978, which forms the basis of the Bill, the late Sir George Baker wrote:the political process has no real chance of developing until terrorism is eliminated but terrorism cannot be eliminated until there is a political solution.Those are wise words—even more so today than when they were written in 1984, because the situation in the Province has entered a new phase with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement a year ago.
The Bill must now be judged against the new circumstances that prevail in the Province. A section of the community has taken up arms against the Government and a large part of the population feel left out of the political process, not because they refuse to recognise this Parliament as their Parliament but because, in its search for peace, stability and reconciliation, Parliament has chosen to ignore their entreaties.
I suggest that we have an infinitely more dangerous situation than we had even in 1973 or 1978, and until we 1096 have resolved the political centre of that new problem, we will not get anywhere near making the provisions the emergency ones that we claim them to be.
In 1973 and 1978, Northern Ireland Members of Parliament from Unionist and other parties came to the House and, until one year ago, attended the Northern Ireland Assembly. They played their part in the governance of their Province. Now we see an alienation from Parliament of most of their representatives, with the exception of the four hon. Members who are sitting on the other side of the House.
If this Bill, or any other relating to the Province, is to be accepted and made workable, it must be debated and accepted by the parliamentary representatives of all of the people of Northern Ireland. That is why I am convinced that, however well intentioned the Anglo-Irish Agreement may be, it is a stumbling block to peace and better relationships between the communities in the North and, dare I say it, between the two parts of Ireland, because it undermines the basis on which the people of Northern Ireland are governed and accept the laws that we make for them.
If the agreement is to remain, it must follow that leaders of the three main political parties in Northern Ireland should be included in the intergovernmental conference. Only by doing that can the people of Northern Ireland feel that their elected representatives are having a say in whatever is discussed about their Province and its security.
Fortunately, the changes from the 1978 Act which are encompassed in the Bill would not in their generality seem likely to create much hostility to the Bill in the Province, and I suspect that many of the amended parts of the Bill will make the new Act a better piece of legislation than anything which has gone before.
I should like to refer to one important addition to the Bill—the section about security companies—and to one omission from the Baker report—a new definition of the proscription of political organisations. I welcome the intention to bring security companies in the Province under some form of legislative restraint, bearing in mind the work that they carry out.
It is right to create certain criteria for the establishment of such companies and to ensure, as far as one can, that those who work for them are bona fide employees. That suggests to me that, of necessity, the police will be asked to give personal details about people who are being considered for employment. Otherwise, I do not see how the conditions in clause 16 can be met in any meaningful way.
When, in the past, there has been talk of statutory controls on security companies on this side of the Irish sea, it has always been asked whether it is reasonable for people who run security companies to seek from the police the potential employee's personal file to discover whether he has been involved in crime. It has usually been argued that making such information available would infringe the civil liberties of the individual.
I recognise that, in Northern Ireland, we are dealing with different circumstances, but if we are anxious to bring the law of Northern Ireland and that in the rest of the United Kingdom into line, if the Bill allows the Secretary of State to expect of an employer that he has been to the police to check out his prospective employee in Northern Ireland, I find it extremely difficult to see any reason why we should not do the same on this side of the Irish sea. I believe that that would be a step forward in the security 1097 industry. I am aware that we are concerned with paramilitaries in Northern Ireland but, bearing in mind the amount of violence that is to be found generally today, it would be helpful if everybody who ran a security company could vouch for his employees as persons of absolutely honourable and honest character.
Finally, I want to consider proscription. Sir George Baker went to some trouble to discuss proscribing Sinn Fein and the Ulster Defence Associaton. He made it clear that, despite the arguments that can be used for proscription, he did not feel able to make a recommendation. In paragraph 424, however, he refers to a suggestion made to him by Professor Wilkinson of Aberdeen university, an international authority on terrorism, who suggested that political parties which refuse to renounce violence should be disqualified by statute from parliamentary and other elections. I think that that is an excellent suggestion and I am sorry that it has not been included in the Bill.
It seems natural justice to argue that those who think that they can pursue their political ends with the ballot paper in one hand and an Armalite in the other should be made to decide which option they intend to pursue. I do not believe that the political process is helped by the present equivocation, and I can see no reason why Professor Wilkinson's suggestion should not be written into the Bill in Committee or on Report. His suggestion for what would in effect add up to a description of that which would proscribe an organisation would bear most careful consideration by the House.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
I know that when I speak about the Bill I speak against a background of great violence and threats of violence in Northern Ireland. I appreciate the difficulty of speaking about a humane and compassionate regime or process of law in the face of such problems, but, unfortunately, that is the minefield through which we have to tread.
I remind the Minister of State, whom I am glad to see present, of his perceptive and accurate remarks in Munich when he spoke recently about security and terrorism. He said:Democracies should seek to derogate as little as possible from the standards of justice and Government which would normally apply".I agree, and take these words as a touchstone against which the Bill should be judged. Unfortunately, the Minister's task is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Amending legislation such as the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 is, one could argue, impossible. It is somewhat like writing a travelogue for Siberia. No matter how well the photographs look, how glossy the presentation is or how well scripted it is, Siberia will remain Siberia, unchanged and unchangeable. This is akin to that.
I note the points made by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) in relation to this measure being a Bill. But is it in essence a Bill, or is it amendments to existing legislation? Making that distinction presents difficulties for me and, I presume, for many others. If those changes were to stand of themselves I would be pleased to varying degrees about them, but the fact that they are changes to repressive legislation causes 1098 me great problems. I have difficulty deciding whether we have lamb, or mutton dressed up as lamb. Perhaps that may be teased out in Committee. I seek the repeal of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. That should be our objective and every step taken should work towards it.
In his speech in Munich the Minister also said:Repressive policies, without regard to moderation, civilisation and restraint could actually feed terrorism.How right he is. He put his finger on the classic Northern Irish dilemma. Since 1922, when the state was formed, there has never been a period when we did not have derogation from the normal standards of justice. We have always had emergency repressive legislation. That has given a potent propaganda weapon to the men of violence, which they have used successfully, and it has alienated large sections of the community, especially young people. As a result, confidence in and respect for the law has diminished to a frightening degree.
To paraphase the Minister's words again, to what extent has terrorism fed off this repressive legislation and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act during the past 16 years? How much has that legislation encouraged people to resort to violence? Will these changes help to win the battle for the hearts and minds of people to support a proper system of justice and a proper impartial system of law? That is the battle that must be won. If these changes can help us move in that direction, they are of themselves good.
Unfortunately, the tone of the Bill—I shall call it a Bill until I seek and get further clarification—is set by the failure to remove from it the power of internment. It gives an insight into Government thinking and signposts their fundamental attitude, which could read—I hope that they do not find this too harsh—"Amend some peripheral matters, take a small step forward in others, but do not ever get to the heart of the problem." Later I hope to show where the Bill has avoided getting to the heart of the problem.
Internment without trial is the most serious derogation in any democratic society. We have had it in Northern Ireland every decade since 1922, but it has never defeated violence. It simply fuels it, recruits for it and passes on the ethic and subculture of violence to future generations. It should never be used again. The retention of this power is essentially a vote of no confidence in the future and a clear negation of the Minister's perceptive conclusions about repressive policies. I regret that internment has not been removed from the statute book once and for all.
Some of the Bill presents a small step forward, but other parts are scratching the surface. There is one other glaring, regrettable omission, and that is any change, or sign of change, in the Diplock court system. That omission is like a cloud hanging over the Bill, casting a shadow on provisions which may be worth while and questioning the Government's will to get to the heart of the matter.
I noted that the Secretary of State said that the Government were not "presently" persuaded about the need for change in the Diplock system. I take some heart from that and look forward in future to finding out what the word "presently" means. If those changes are not made, some good provisions in the Bill will lose their impact and conviction.
There is an overwhelming need to change the Diplock system by introducing a three-judge collegiate system. It is not merely a question of obtaining a better system of 1099 justice; nor is it a question of doubting the attitudes or abilities of individual judges. Rather it is that it would be seen publicly as a fairer system of trial, given that juries have had to be removed. The Government-appointed Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights stated:
The wider interest of the administration of justice would be better served if there was a system of trial which inspired greater public confidence than the present method.Of overriding importance is the ultimate protection of the accused. The judicial process is not merely for lawyers, but for lay people also. The judiciary is the final arbiter—the only agency standing between you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, me, all of us, and a prison cell. When Parliament removed the protection of the jury from us as individuals, it had a right to try to replace it, but it has not done that. The only system that goes some way towards doing that is the introduction of a three-judge collegiate system.
I keep asking a simple question of myself: if I had to face serious charges tomorrow without a jury and I had the choice between being tried by three judges or one, what choice would I make? I have no doubt what my answer would be. I would have much greater faith in the experience, wisdom and judgment of three judges acting together than in the experience, wisdom and judgment of one man. Those accused of scheduled offences in Northern Ireland have a right to that protection, and the community has a right to a system in which it can have confidence and to which it can give full support.
The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights stated:The introduction of three judge courts is one of the amendments to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act which could be made without reducing the effectiveness of the legislation but which nonetheless might lead to a wider acceptability of a system which inevitably has to derogate from the ordinary principles on which criminal justice is administered.I am afraid that the Government have fluffed it. It is a sorry mistake that the introduction of a collegiate trial system is not included in the Bill. That will cast a cloud on some of the improvements in the Bill
I welcome some changes as a small step forward, but they do not bridge the derogation gap. Section 2 of the 1978 Act will be amended to give judges wider discretion in granting bail. I welcome that and commend the Minister for it. It will bring the law into line with the judges' practice and go some way towards eliminating the suspicion that often a refusal to grant bail has been used as a form of internment. However, it would be much better if there were a statutory presumption in favour of bail.
The Bail Act 1976, which applies to England and Wales, states:A person shall be granted bail unless,whereas this Bill states:A judge may, in his discretion, admit to bail".Reading that as a layman, I understand it to mean that the judge still has a residual discretion to reject bail even after the prosecution has failed to show why it should not be granted. That is a fundamental weakness. We must reconsider that point and try to apply the same conditions as apply in England and Wales.
The changes in the Bill in relation to the admissibility of evidence are also a step in the right direction. Under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 as it stands, the present grounds for non-admissibility are a bare minimum compared with article 3 of the European convention on human rights, under which
1100no one shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.That lowest minimum or lowest common denomination factor has led to problems. It has been iniquitous, open to abuse and the rule of the lowest common denominator. It has been a temptation for interrogating officers, because they have always felt that the law was on their side, that there was a sufficient gap, and that if only they took a little step further they might obtain the confession.
That lowest common denominator has been, and is still, a corrosive influence on the whole process of justice. Indeed, it might act as an encouragement to interrogators to treat an accused person in somewhat less than the way in which he should expect to be treated. I believe that the proposal should go further. I welcome the fact that it now includes the threat of violence and not just actual violence. Clause 4 also gives the judge the power to exclude statements or evidence on the ground that not to do so would be unfair to the accused or contrary to the interests of justice. That is a strengthening of the power to make dubious evidence non-admissible. That is a step forward and I welcome it. However, it should go further and exclude all statements obtained by any threat, inducement or oppressive treatment.
Changes are also proposed to sections 11 and 12 of the 1978 Act. I welcome those changes. Since 1922 an unqualified suspicion has been the only requirement for search, seizure and arrest. Is it any wonder that a member of the South African Government is on record as envying those draconian powers? For the past 65 years in the North of Ireland, anyone's house could be searched, anyone could have property seized and a person could be seized under arrest simply on the suspicion of an officer of the police or the Army. That is now to be changed to reasonable suspicion.
That may not seem a very substantial step forward. However, the legal people believe that it is. If I may make the distinction in the words of Sir George Baker:
The test for Section 11 is a subjective one: Did the arrestor suspect? If his suspicion is an honest genuine suspicion that the person being arrested is a terrorist, a court cannot inquire further into the exercise of the powers. But where the requirement is reasonable suspicion it is for the court to decide the reasonableness of the suspicion. It is an objective standard.That surely must be an advance on the situation that pertained until now, and at least it removes the unfettered form of arrest from the arresting officer. I commend that change and it is long overdue. However, I do not think that it goes far enough, because section 18 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 has not been touched. There may be a legal provision for that which I cannot find.
I recognise that schedule 1 to the Bill restricts the powers of arrest of the Army or UDR personnel. However, section 18 of the 1978 Act—the power to stop, search and interrogate people on the streets on an almost unlimited basis—does not appear to have been changed at all. This is one of the great bones of contention in the North of Ireland—and I know that the Minister knows that it is one of the great bones of contention—and it is one of the main alienating factors.
While we are making this series of changes and amending what we know to be an unsatisfactory piece of legislation, we leave section 18 untouched. In other words, we give to an 18-year-old private or to a UDR person who 1101 may not be well disposed to the person with whom he is dealing — a power which we do not even give to the Chief Constable of the RUC. This is ludicrous and should be changed, in the interests of young people and those who are being alienated in the clash between the security forces and the paramilitary groups. Young people are suffering under section 18 of the 1978 Act. They are being squeezed and alienated into the arms of the men of violence. We must do something about section 18.
Clause 12 is a slight improvement. I do not consider this in the way others have considered it, because I believe that the seven-day detention period is much too long. Any officer of the law would say that the vast majority of cases are made to stick within the first 12 to 14 hours. Detention from five to seven days is not required. The whole of this clause should be re-thought, because there is a practice at present—which no one would deny—of detention for up to 72 hours or for seven days, literally for the purpose of information gathering rather than on suspicion — not even reasonable suspicion—of that person's involvement.
I deal with such problems almost on a daily basis, and I dealt with six such problems last week. I know the difficulties that it causes for people, their families and for the areas in which they live. However, I recognise that there are occasions when someone is involved in a serious crime and there must be a provision whereby that person can be properly interviewed. However, there must be cast-iron guarantees against having information gathering used under the guise of detention. There can be no justification for removing any man' or woman's freedom for one hour, 48 hours, 72 hours or seven days, simply to fit together the pieces of a jigsaw about an event or a crime which that person was not a part of but which he may have witnessed as he was in the vicinity and about which he may be able to provide information.
The authority placed in the hands of the police not to inform relatives within 48 hours or to obtain a solicitor for the person being held is wide open to abuse. I can understand the position of a policeman who believes that if he does not inform a person's relatives or provide a solicitor he can obtain information, but we are placing a serious temptation before that policeman. We will condemn it when abuses take place, but at the end of the day it is our responsibility to provide the legislation within which the police officer can work safely. I cannot see any circumstances where that will not be seriously abused, and that provision must be reconsidered in great detail during further discussion in Committee.
I should like to consider the provisions in relation to the so-called security firms. I give these provisions the warmest possible welcome. It is tragic to witness the way in which paramilitary groups, be they loyalist or republican, or whatever they care to call themselves, have abused the position. They have put small firms out of business and have hived off millions of pounds worth of public funds, ordinary people's money and mine, into their organisations through these so-called security firms. They have put thousands of people out of work by their demands and threats. I welcome the provisions to deal with them and suggest that they should be stringently enforced, because these firms are a blight on the face of Northern Ireland and should be removed as quickly as possible.
1102 Another section of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 deals with the power arbitrarily to take over a person's land or property. Nothing rankles or annoys people more than to wake up some fine morning to see other people in possession of what one owns, be it land or one's house. There must be some provisions where at least people will be told that that terrible thing is going to happen, so that they can bring their solicitor in and make provisions for compensation and where, at least, they can bring in their assessor.
I refer the Minister of State to problems which he knows I have and to others which he has in relation to what has happened in parts of south Armagh. I do not think that any Government should have the unfettered power to take what does not belong to them in such an arbitary way without making any provision for the rights of individuals.
I do not know what my views will be at the end of the discussions on this piece of legislation. I do not know whether I will regard it as a Bill or as an indication of the Government's future thinking. I do not know whether I shall regard it as a set of changes or as a way of trying to dress up mutton to look like lamb. I hope that the changes suggested will improve the situation, both for the individual and for the community in the North of Ireland. I hope that in Committee we can get some of the provisions changed radically. I hope that we can look at the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and deal with the omissions. I hope, too, that at that stage of the Bill we will be able to get to grips with some of the problems which I have tried to identify.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you seek evidence for the truth of the proposition that the subject of Northern Ireland does not excite the keen interest of the House of Commons you have only to note that, with the distinguished exception of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), there has not been any Back Bench Member of the Labour party present during the debate. I hope that the—
§ Mr. Archer
In fairness, the hon. Gentleman would add that there are six Back Bench Members of the Conservative party present.
§ Mr. Gow
Six is a considerably higher proportion than one
I hope that the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) will not think that it is in any way presumptuous or patronising, because it is certainly expected to be neither, to say that I for one, and I think that I speak for many of my hon. Friends, very much welcome their presence in the Chamber. Ever since 15 November 1985 I have believed that those who represent Northern Ireland constituencies in the interests of the Ulster Unionist party, should bring their fight, which is my fight, against the Anglo-Irish Agreement to the Floor of the House. I believe that the best interests of the Union and the Ulster Unionist party will be served by them being the most active of the parliamentary activists and I believe that the justified complaint that the Unionist people of Northern Ireland have against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, could and should be expressed most forcefully and continuously on the Floor of the House.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
I appreciate the kindly welcome and I acknowledge that it is not patronising. The hon. Gentleman mentioned 15 November. Does he share my feeling about the fact that that was the anniversary on which my predecessor, Rev. Robert Bradford, was murdered by the enemies of this nation in the performance of his duty and that it was on that day in a subsequent year that the great betrayal was perpetrated on our people? Today, I am in the House when south Belfast has again suffered lamentably, to my mind, at the hands of the enemies of the nation. This Bill deals with that and I would like to think that the Government would be explicit in performing their duties to defend the people of south Belfast and Ulster.
§ Mr. Gow
The predecessor of the hon. Gentleman was a friend of many of us in the House. We have the most respectful memories of him. Everyone who has heard what the hon. Gentleman has just said will understand the reasons that prompted him to say it.
In moving the Second Reading of the Bill my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to the intergovernmental conference and to the representations that have been made by Ministers in the Irish Republic about the administration of justice in one part of this kingdom. My right hon. Friend did not remind the House, but I shall, of the provisions of article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is headed:Legal matters, including the administration of justice.I want to remind the House of two sentences that state:The two Governments agree on the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice. The Conference shall seek, with the help of advice from experts as appropriate, measures which would give substantial expression to this aim, considering inter alia the possibility of mixed courts in both jurisdictions for the trial of certain offences.My right hon. Friend told the House that the Government have decided not to accede to the representations that have been made by Ministers of a foreign power—
§ Mr. Gow
I shall deal with the point made by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell). I too, noted and wrote down the words of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Like the right hon. Member for South Down I intend to be vigilant about the words that fall from the lips of my right hon. Friend.
My right hon. Friend referred to the refusal of the Government, at any rate at this stage, to accede to the requests made by Ministers from the Irish Republic about the composition of courts in that part of the United Kingdom known as Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend did not confirm but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will when he replies, that no further discussions are taking place at meetings of the intergovernmental conference at ministerial level and that no discussions are taking place among the secretariat or elsewhere on the really preposterous suggestion that there should be mixed courts in both jurisdictions for the trial of certain offences. Any such proposal would be deeply resented by the judiciary and that is something of which my hon. Friend must be well aware.
I shall now turn to the words that I wrote down. The Official Report will tell us tomorrow whether I wrote them down correctly. My right hon. Friend said:We are not presently persuaded that there should be three judges in the Diplock courts rather than one.1104 He said, "not presently persuaded." I wish to ask my hon. friend the Minister what new factors there could be that would lead the Government to a conclusion different from that they have reached already.
We all know what was behind the suggestion put forward by the Irish Government. The suggestion was not simply that there should be three judges instead of one, but was that one of those judges should be a Roman Catholic. I certainly hope that the appointment of judges to the bench will not depend on whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will make it crystal clear that the criteria for appointing those to the bench, whether it is the High Court of the court of appeal, will rest solely on their suitability to act as judges.
The speech of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) was deeply critical of my right on. Friend's decision, which I support, although I do not like his use of the word "presently" and seek clarification of its use. I am wondering whether the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has studied the excellent report of Sir George Baker and whether he has noticed that in paragraph 119 on page 35 of that report Sir George said:The single judge in Northern Ireland always writes his judgment and gives his reasons, stating the law as he has applied it to the facts that he has found.Does the hon. Gentleman believe that it would be possible to have a three-judge court in Northern Ireland with, say a majority of two in favour of a conviction and one against, or the other way round? Separate judgments would have to be written by each judge, the very point to which Sir George Baker addressed his mind. He asked:Are there to be three judgments from which it will be obvious that there has been some disagreement, or only one? Two judges would have to be unanimous for a guilty verdict but what of three? Suppose two consider there is a prima facie case or that a statement is admissible, the third does not: what then?On the grounds of jurisprudence and of justice, there is no reason for the Government to weaken the decision that they and their advisers have consistently taken. We must never yield to political pressure, notably political pressure from foreign Governments about how to fashion our own system of justice.
Sir George Baker's report is most compelling. In the same paragraph he said:Of one thing I am certain: in Northern Ireland a plural court be it with judges or assessors would be subject to as much if not more criticism than the trial by judge alone. No judge is in favour as far as I am aware and most counsel and other colleagues with whom I have spoken are against. One has described any such change as 'a recipe for disaster'.When my hon. Friend the Minister of State replies to the debate I hope that he will endorse Sir George Baker's words. I hope that he will explain exactly what his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State meant when he said that the Government "are not presently persuaded" of the wisdom to move to three judges at the request of the Government of the Irish Republic.
My right hon. Friend rightly referred to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and to the intergovernmental conference at ministerial level. I hope that when he replies to the debate my hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with article 7 of the joint communiqué that was issued immediately after the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
My hon. Friend is well aware that the Taoiseach has said that it is the intention of his Government to accede as soon as possible to the European convention on the 1105 suppression of terrorism. Yesterday marked the expiration of the 13th month since the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. What do the words "as soon as possible" mean?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows that legislation is now before the Irish Parliament on this subject. However, to repeat a question that I have asked my right hon. Friend on previous occasions; does he expect that legislation to reach the statute book? That is an essential precondition if the Republic of Ireland is to accede to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. My right hon. Friend also knows that the Government of the Irish Republic have sought to link three judges in the Diplock courts to the Irish Government's accession to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. I fear that that will be the peg upon which the Irish Government will seek to hang their refusal to accede to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. I believe that my right hon. Friend has rightly resisted the Irish Government's attempt to secure three judges instead of one in the Diplock courts.
Many months ago I predicted—although my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State disagreed with me—that the Republic of Ireland would not ratify the European convention on the suppression of terrorism during 1986. There is another fortnight to go before my prediction, with which my right hon. Friend disagrees, comes true.
I do not say that the Bill is incapable of improvement. I believe that it can be, and that it will be, improved. I hope very much that I shall have the opportunity to serve on the Standing Committee that is to consider the Bill. Should there be a Division tonight I shall vote in favour of it. I look forward to the reply of my hon. Friend the Minister of State.
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
It is over 12 months since I was estranged from the House because of the behaviour towards me of those who govern Northern Ireland, namely, those who occupy the Northern Ireland Office. Despite the sincere comments of the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), I am in no way reconciled.
This debate has followed much the same pattern as previous debates since I entered Parliament in 1983. The Secretary of State's presentation of the Bill did not reassure me. He was quick to climb on the backs of the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security forces. He tried to engender goodwill by paying compliments to them. If his comments were sincere, the Secretary of State would not have allowed one of his senior officials, Mr. Brian Blackwell, to try to bring political pressure to bear on senior members of the RUC.
The Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir John Hermon, has always asserted that his force is free of political interference, that it is bound only by the law and that he would not tolerate it otherwise. Yet the Secretary of State permitted a senior official in the Northern Ireland Office to encourage and to try to place an onus on an assistant chief constable to enter into some sort of political liaison in order to defeat the intention of the majority of the community in the Province.
1106 The Secretary of State allowed that to happen, but he also created or helped to create circumstances in which that professional police force which he has mentioned and for which I have great respect could not carry out its duties as it wished. In my constituency, policemen are constantly having to withdraw from the area where they live because the resources—the resources of the law which we are debating tonight—are inadequate to deal with terrorism. During the past few days, two more policemen have had to move house because of the threat of IRA terrorism. They moved because of terrorism from the people for whom the Secretary of State tonight used the euphemism "gentlemen" and then tried to explain it away by saying, "Of course, they are innocent until they are proved guilty."
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, who is sitting beside the Secretary of State, was very quick during the riots, which I deplore and condemn, to label those who participated as thugs. They were thugs. I called them thugs, but I have a right to call them thugs. Those who have indulged in political thuggery in the Northern Ireland Office use that term with less justification. They use such a term about one group of people and then use the euphemism "gentlemen" for the terrorists who continue to kill the citizens of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has a political system of which I am no part, nor am I permitted to be a part. Those professional policemen, whom the Secretary of State mentioned tonight, must now, if they hope to gain promotion, give a political opinion about their attitude to the Anglo-Irish diktat. The Secretary of State and his hon. Friends do the members of the RUC little justice in the way they treat them.
Of course, the Secretary of State is not alone. His co-chairman of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which sits from time to time behind barbed wire in Stormont Castle, was induced on 13 November to suggest that members of the Roman Catholic community should join the RUC. Immediately, members of the party of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) were quick to refute that advice. The chairman of the SDLP, the party's spokesman on legal affairs, the party leader and, indeed, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh all suggested that it was not yet time for the Roman Catholic community to join the RUC. We did not hear the Secretary of State allude to that this evening, nor did we hear him allude to the declaration of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh on 3 December 1985:we are not going to have during the rest of this century a situation in Nationalist areas where there will be support for the RUC.
§ Mr. Mallon
Perhaps the Minister of State will confirm when he replies that in the North of Ireland only two parties have no truck whatsoever with paramilitary groupings, do not join them in marches on the streets, have no association with those political parties which form armies almost on a monthly basis, have not caused any trouble whatsoever for the RUC through street demonstrations and have not attacked the police on the street during the summer as members of the party of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone have done. They have not been a party to the sort of ethics which has resulted in RUC men being burned out of their houses.
We should confirm that there are only two parties in the north of Ireland which fall into that category. I have the honour of belonging to one of them — the SDLP. The 1107 other is the Alliance party. I look forward to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) stating his party position and explaining to the House, seeing that he has raised this matter, how he can justify his association with people who run and organise paramilitary armies in marches on the streets in public, and who associate with someone like the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) who forms armies every time anything happens in the North of Ireland.
Could I ask him to justify—
§ Mr. Maginnis
I shall have considerable difficulty answering the speech of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. It is misleading the House for him to suggest that his party knows nothing about street politics. His party was born on the streets. His party has successfully over the years managed to ride on the back of violence which was more intense than mere street violence. He has of course notably failed to answer the point that he and his party will support the minority Roman Catholic community joining the RUC.
§ Mr. Mallon
I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman cannot attack me on the one hand for not answering his point and on the other hand not give way for me to do so. Our party position is very clear. We support the police in impartially enforcing the law. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting for one moment that we should support any police service that partially enforces the law?
§ Mr. Maginnis
I am constantly told that the best way to put anything right, is from the inside. The hon. Gentleman has not answered his assertion that during the rest of this century there will not be support for the RUC in nationalist areas. However, I rest my case there.
The Bill is intended to provide better justice for the people of Northern Ireland—better justice in the face of terrorism, the facts of which are often misrepresented and on which the House has been misled by none other than the Secretary of State as recently as 23 October. On that occasion the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh asked the Secretary of State if he would confirm that of 37 people who were not members of the security forces or the provisional IRA and who were killed in the period since the signing of the Anglo-Irish diktat, the majority were killed by loyalist paramilitary groupings. The Secretary of State replied that he could confirm those figures. That was misleading to the House.
During that period, there were 56 terrorist murders and 28 of those were civilians, to which the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh was alluding, not 37. Of the 28 who were killed, 16 had been killed by Roman Catholic and 12 by Protestant terror groups. It is deplorable that the Secretary of State should mislead the House in that manner.
I have tried to break down the figures to find a way in which the Secretary of State could be justified. I thought 1108 that the best thing to do was to look at the Roman Catholic victims of terror during that period. There were 21 of them, compared with 35 Protestant victims. Of the 21 Roman Catholic victims, 11 had been killed by Roman Catholic terror groups and 10 by Protestant terror groups.
§ Mr. Tom King
The hon. Gentleman has made a serious charge that I misled the House and he has tried to work out how that could be. It would have been a courtesy to the House if he had read out the whole of the question asked by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) to which I was responding. I am sure that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) did not intend to mislead the House about the answer I gave.
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the question to which I was replying, he will see that when I said that the figures were correct, I was referring to the first part of the question. The question referred to the number of deaths in the first year of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the first year after the signing of the Sunningdale agreement. The hon. Gentleman has made a serious charge and has made rather heavy weather of it. I am obviously anxious not to mislead the House in any way. I said that the first figures were correct. I gave a separate answer to the second part of the question, but I did not confirm what the hon. Gentleman said in that part. I hope that it will satisfy honour on all sides when I say that the figures in the first part of the question put by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh were correct, but the hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is not true to say that the second part is correct. I checked the figures subsequently. I was referring to the first part of the question, which the hon. Gentleman left out in his misleading statement.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I accept what the Secretary of State has said at the Dispatch Box today. However, whether intentionally or otherwise, it is misleading for him to be selective in the way in which he answers the question. If he looks at his answer I think that he will agree with me that he did not say that he confirmed the figures in relation to the initial comparison. He just confirmed the figures. However, I shall let the matter rest there. I am glad that he has borne out the facts that I have related to the House this evening.
It is in the light of such figures that we must review the Bill, which is meant to help to bring about a system of justice, whereby the people whom I represent, who feel that they have been denied their democratic rights, can at least expect protection under the law.
I shall not examine the Bill in detail because that will be done in Committee, but I want to convey to the House the extent to which that protection under the law is missing. Again, that was not dealt with this evening by the Secretary of State, when he indulged in a serious series of clichés and platitudes to establish a platform on which to try to sell the Bill to the House.
Since 1971, there have been 178 terrorist murders in my constituency. Of those, three were committed, I am sad to say, by the Regular Army. But two of those murders by the Regular Army have been solved and soldiers are serving life sentences for them. Twenty-two of the murders were committed by Protestant terror groups. Eleven of those murders — 50 per cent. — have been solved. The House might consider that to be an encouraging figure, but, compared with the 153 murders by Roman Catholic 1109 terror groups, of which 139 are as yet unsolved—91 per cent.—one will understand my assertion that there is no protection under the law for the people whom I represent.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
The hon. Gentleman referred to Protestant paramilitary groups and Roman Catholic paramilitary groups as if we were talking about a religious war. Surely he is using the wrong sort of definitions.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I should like to be able to express my point differently. But if I referred to the IRA, the common terminology used for the Roman Catholic republican terror groups, and then referred to Protestant loyalist terror groups, the common parlance that one reads in the press, I am in many ways removing from the Roman Catholic community the responsibility of recognising that it is from within that community that a lot of the terrorism emanates. By using the term "Protestant terror group" I am recognising the terror that emanates from the community of which I am a member. I wish that I could give the hon. Gentleman a more euphemistic account of the harsh facts that I am presenting to the House this evening.
If we are to have any change—none has emanated from the Anglo-Irish diktat—in the condition that prevails in Northern Ireland of law and justice, we should bear in mind, as we examine the Bill, Sir George Baker's comments:
In my analysis of the powers I try to be as objective as possible remembering, when striking the balance that my terms of reference require, that there are human duties as well as human liberties on the one hand to equate with powers needed in a civilized community to protect its members on the other.From what has been said, I get the impression that we may fall into the trap of examining the Bill in terms of how we can in some way make things easier for those who commit crimes, or perhaps if not easier for them, easier for their families. I heard one hon. Member allude to the tragedy that terrorism presented for the families of those who perpetrated the terrorism.
The real crux of the matter is that we are living in a Province which, for 17 years, has not had protection under the law, let alone democracy. There appear to be vast gaps in the Bill and those gaps must be filled before we can feel that it can serve the purpose for which it is intended.
Broadly, we in the Ulster Unionist party favour the Baker recommendations. We will not oppose the Second Reading, but in co-operation with the Opposition and other hon. Members we will seek to improve the measure in Committee. I am disappointed to learn that the Committee stage is not to be taken on the Floor of the House. I noted what the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West said. He said that hon. Members will have the opportunity to examine and debate the Bill in Committee. That will not happen if the Committee stage is taken upstairs. It should be taken on the Floor of the House.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
The hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) will forgive me if I do not follow too closely the line of their arguments. They presented those arguments in great detail and were a great 1110 help to the debate. I should like to speak about a matter mentioned by several hon. Members and especially by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer). They spoke about where the Committee stage of the Bill will be taken. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone said that it ought to be taken on the Floor of the House.
This is a major Northern Ireland Bill of great importance. Because of that there could be a case for considering it not upstairs in Committee on Tuesday and Thursday or on the Floor of the House but in Northern Ireland itself on a couple of days a week. I gather that Stormont is empty and virtually unused. We could meet there on two successive days, say Wednesday and Thursday or Tuesday and Wednesday, and make good progress. Indeed, by doing that we would be following the example already put to good use by the Scottish Grand Committee.
As I have said, this is an important measure and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we owe a lot to the late Sir George Baker for his work. The Bill confers certain rights on detained persons and emphasises that these are to apply in Northern Ireland. Those rights are detailed in part II of the Bill clauses 13 and 14 and I shall shortly say why I am interested in those rights. I am also interested in part I, clause 4 which deals with:Admissions by persons charged with scheduled offences".Under clause 4 statements will be disallowed if there is a hint of force. Part II is about the rights of persons detained in police custody under terrorism provisions. Clause 12provides that such a person has a right to have someone informed that he is being detained".Clause 13 provides a right of access to legal advice and clause 14 is an interpretation of the terms used in part II.
This is a wide-ranging Bill and in these four clauses big steps are taken to protect somebody who has been detained under the terrorism provisions; they try as far as possible to make sure that any confessions which a prisoner may be alleged to have made were made voluntarily and without the use of force by those who have detained him and who have interviewed him. That applies to the police or whoever may be involved in the arrests, placing in custody and interviewing of a prisoner who is to be sentenced. These four clauses strengthen the panoply of protections for a prisoner who may be falsely accused. In that respect they go some way towards the House making certain that as far as possible and at any rate in Northern Ireland, nobody will be brutalised or ill-treated while in the hands of the police.
However, the Bill goes further than the four modest clauses about which I have spoken—clause 4 in part I and clauses 12, 13 and 14 in part II. I should like to see included in the Bill something which would be a major step in protecting prisoners who may not be ready to make a confession from brutalisation by the police in Northern Ireland or anywhere else. 1 should like to see the large-scale use of video cameras. We do not use video cameras much in Great Britain and do not use them at all in the handling of prisoners in police custody in Northern Ireland. I see no reason why we should not use them, because modern technology and the low cost of video cameras make it possible to set up a system of video camera protection by right for all accused persons, certainly in Northern Ireland but later I should like to see that take place in Great Britain.
1111 I can see no reason why a prisoner's statement which he has to sign cannot finally be recorded on video; nor can I see any reason why, when the whole of the session at which the charge is read out to the prisoner cannot be recorded on video and made available for the courts to study. It may not happen under the terms of this Bill, but certainly within five to 10 years all prisoners in police custody for terrorist offences will have the whole of their interrogation in custody covered on video. That will come because the system is cheap and available now.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to take a forward step in that direction. Why cannot one police station in Belfast, in parallel with one on the mainland, be used for the introduction of video screening of all interviews of this nature next year? My hon. Friend the Minister of State may not even bother to reply to my remarks, but I know that generally he is courteous and diligent. If he takes up this issue, he may say that the cost would be excessive and that it cannot be considered, if that is his position, I remind him that many of the fastest growing businesses are video shops. Video cameras and films are available to everyone in Britain and the cost of a pilot scheme in one named police station for one year in Belfast and one in London would not be excessive.
§ Mr. Scott
All interrogations in Northern Ireland take place in front of video cameras. They are monitored by senior officers. Video cameras are available for the protection of prisoners following the recommendation of the Bennett report on interrogation by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There is a distinction to be drawn between having videos for the protection of prisoners and using videos for the presentation of evidence in court. There are real differences on that score and my hon. Friend knows that they are being addressed, at least in the context of some offences in Great Britain.
§ Sir John Farr
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for saying that he has seen the value of video equipment for the protection of innocent people who may be accused of crimes for which they are not responsible. I do not want to detain the House, and with those few words I shall resume my place, having said that I support the Bill.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is about time we had cameras to assist with cricket umpiring decisions, with the provision of immediate replays. That would be a useful facility when a batsman is declared to be out somewhat suspiciously for being caught behind or lbw.
The Bill has been a long time coming, but we can at least thank the Government for honouring the undertakings that they have given over the past couple of years to introduce this legislation in the lifetime of this Parliament. I welcome the announcement of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) that the Official Unionists intend to table amendments to the Bill and to argue their case in Committee. Indeed, I have been given copies of the amendments that they intend to table. I think that everyone in the House will welcome their participation. It is only right that they should play a major part in the deliberations of the Bill in Committee and on Report.
I am disappointed by the limited nature of the Bill. It is good as far as it goes but it does not go far enough. The 1112 publication of Sir George Baker's report was way back in April 1984, long before the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) is not in his place. At that time my right hon. and hon. Friends made it clear that we thought that Sir George could have been bolder. We regretted that he had not felt able to recommend the return of jury trials wherever practicable. We regretted, too, that he had not insisted on independent corroboration of supergrass evidence and had not recommended that Northern Ireland should be brought into line with Scottish practice, with the introduction of the 124-day rule. This he explained in his report at page 52. Another disappointment was that he did not recommend that the number of defendants should be restricted to 10 or fewer per trial. If he did not make a recommendation, he suggested that there should not be more than 20 defendants per trial. We wanted the maximum number of defendants to be reduced to as few as six, which may have been asking too much.
Having scrutinised the Bill, we find that Sir George's recommendation of automatic bail after 12 months if a defendant has not been committed for trial by that stage has not been included. Similarly, the Bill does not include the removal from the Diplock courts of trials for less serious offences or of any offence not connected with a paramilitary force. Sir George went into some detail on these matters and I refer the House to recommendations 12 and 13 at the end of his report.
I accept that for the time being at least the series of supergrass or accomplice cases is almost over. A substantial number of these cases have been thrown out, or earlier convictions have been reversed on appeal. Is this really the end? Surely the Bill should provide some protection for those implicated by the often dubious claims of those admitting guilt and deciding to turn Queen's evidence.
My right hon. and hon. Friends have supported consistently the proposal emanating from many sources that non-jury trials should be conducted by three judges rather than one. This has nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish Agreement or pressure from south of the border. I recognise that this issue was taken up by Sir George Baker and argued cogently. The present system places an enormous burden on the individual judge and I pay my tribute to the judges of Northern Ireland, in company with the Secretary of State. I have enormous respect for them. They are mostly brave and honest men and I am sure that they do the best job that they can. The statistics that have been presented to us bear that out.
I readily appreciate the difficulties of implementing the three-judge proposal when Northern Ireland has a limited judiciary, because the statistics were set out in some detail in the report which appeared in 1984. I recognise that appeals are heard before three judges, and we know from the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) that appeals often take an extremely long time to be heard. The hon. Gentleman mentioned three to four years. There have been options suggested if the three-judge proposal is not acceptable, and the Northern Ireland Alliance party has suggested that there should be two judges instead of three. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), before he became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland way back in 1973, succeeded in having an alternative approved by the House, which did not necessarily involve all judges. I am disappointed that the 1113 three-judge proposal has not been taken on board, and I am aware that it has been argued cogently in the context of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
It is accepted by the Dublin Government that the British Government do not wish to be committed, and they are not making any fuss about that. That should be put on record.
The time that defendants may be held in custody in Northern Ireland without a trial is a serious matter and one that should be tackled without further delay. That comment applies also to the rest of the United Kingdom. The figures that were given to Sir George Baker by the Northern Ireland Alliance party showed that at that time the average remand without bail before trial in 1979, 1980 and 1981 was no fewer than 370, 301 and 306 days respectively. Those were the averages and some remands were much longer than that. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) has produced some more statistics.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Would it be possible to clarify the number of postponements that take place because an accused has chosen a certain barrister to represent him and not because a judge is not available to hear the trial? I have found as a representative of defendants that postponements are the result of an individual having selected a particular barrister to defend him and not because judges are not available to hear cases. If a certain barrister has been selected, a defendant will have to wait his time in the queue.
§ Mr. Ross
I am sure that that is a pertinent point. I do not know whether the Minister can provide some up-to-date statistics on this matter. I am not a qualified lawyer, but when I have attended courts in the past as an expert witness I have been staggered by the practices of the law in Great Britain. I remember attending Winchester assizes on behalf of a lady who had a strong case. She was told that Mr. Justice Brown was not available and that the case would not be heard before Mr. Justice White because her advisers thought that he would not come to the right decision. We had to wait for Mr. Justice Blue. The lady did not want to change her barrister but a new one was suddenly introduced to her, as the original one had been called to another case. If the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) is saying that the selection of a certain barrister can lead to delays, I understand his argument. Delays are far too long, however, and it is up to us to try to reduce them. It is for the Law Society in Great Britain and its equivalent in Northern Ireland to try to do so and to put their houses in order.
I suspect that evidence was given to Sir George Baker that the conditions in which prisoners are held for long periods left a great deal to be desired. My inspections of prisons in Northern Ireland led me to think that they tended to be better there than in Britain, and substantially so. I do not know whether that still applies but I suspect that it probably does.
My right hon. and hon. Friends and I welcome clauses 1 to 11 which, seem to be much in line with Sir George's recommendations. Clauses 12 and 13 are also a limited improvement on current practices and bring Northern Ireland into line with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.I suspect that part III, although welcome, is not only too late but will prove to be inadequate to deal with 1114 the problem that is now rife, particularly in Belfast. In a recent article in The Irish Times — I hope that it is acceptable to the House—Mr. Jim Cusack wrote:A retired professional from Belfast this week said that he had visited a friend who was still in business and who told him that he had encountered a group of Protestant and Catholic paramilitaries involved in discussions across the street from the entrance to his site. He believes they were arguing over the division of spoils from his business. It appears that the two sides reached agreement as both Catholic and Protestant workmen remain on the site and although the cost of this was not mentioned the going rate for protecting a building site is between £500 and £2,000 a week.In the same article Mr. Cusack said:Some four years ago, the RUC set up a special anti-extortion squad to see to this business. It is understood that it remains a tiny group which, although it has had some signal successes in stopping tax evasion frauds on building sites, is just not big enough to even begin to tackle the problems posed by the paramilitaries' alternative economics.The Minister is aware of that article. I suspect that the clauses, which are welcome, will not deal with that situation. It is important that we try to co-operate.
Neither the Minister nor the Secretary of State will accuse me of not being supportive of recent Government policies in Northern Ireland. I often find myself almost alone during these debates. Although Bills went through the House by a colossal majority, Government Members who assiduously attend always opposed the matter under debate and tried to bring it into line with something that had gone wrong with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There are times when the Minister puts that support at risk. My party will not oppose the Second Reading, but we do beg the Minister to be more forthcoming in Committee. We also support the renewal of the existing order under the 1978 Act for another six months. I welcome the fact that it will be an annual event from now on—after the six months have passed, one hopes—and that the Bill will terminate after five years.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
The last words in the Bill are:This Act extends to Northern Ireland only.One might just as well see the words
This Act extends only to Northern Ireland.This legislation is designed to deal with a difficult situation that applies to a part of the United Kingdom. I welcome the Bill and the fact that it is a Bill. It provides an opportunity to consider these questions in Parliament, with the co-operation and assistance of Opposition Members whom I welcome to the debate.
In the past I have advocated the idea that Bills of this type—if such a Bill were ever to come before the House during the recent troubles—should be referred to a Special Standing Committee. Further investigation into the reasons why these provisions should be dealt with in the House and in Committee could usefully and fruitfully be carried out by a Special Standing Committee. The Bill is for all citizens of Northern Ireland. A Bill such as this will be able to alleviate much bigotry and prejudice. I welcome the Bill and wish it every speed in Committee.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
The remarks of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) were brief. I shall not seek to follow him, but will refer to the substance of the Second Reading.
In a sense, this is the third Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill in the past 15 years. It is 1115 pleasing to see in the House the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). Both hon. Members were in the House in 1973 when the first emergency provisions Bill was introduced. All the measures since 1973, including the present Bill, will end up by being institutionalised and a part of our legal system.
The noble Lord, Lord Whitelaw, when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, introduced the first emergency provisions Bill in 1973. He declared:none of the provisions of the Bill, if it is passed, should continue in force a moment longer than it is needed."—[Official Report, 17 April 1973; Vol. 855, c. 278.]Through no fault of the noble Lord, those words may be billed as famous last words, certainly in relation to Northern Ireland and the emergency provisions. It is a measure of implied defeat to find political settlements and solutions for Northern Ireland that, rather than renew the emergency provisions legislation on a six-monthly basis, we are talking of renewing it on a yearly basis. The Secretary of State was kind enough to tell the House that the next debate on this subject would be in March 1988, to coincide with the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. As he rightly said, we shall all be here. Of course, at that time Labour Members will be on the Government Benches, not on the Opposition Benches.
It was, strangely enough, Miss Bernadette Devlin, now Mrs. McAlisky, the then hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, who foresaw the consequences of the first emergency provisions legislation. She warned that it would lead to a gradual erosion of civil liberties and traditions. She considered that the Diplock Commission's report, on which the legislation was built, was "conviction oriented" and she wondered what had happened to the sense of British justice in which all men were innocent until proven guilty. Bernadette McAlisky saw in the 1973 Bill an erosion of the respect and a respect for democracy. She was not far wrong.
§ Mr. Bell
The Secretary of State, from a sedentary position, seeks to contradict me. The first casualty was that of trial by jury, that time-honoured right of a man charged with serious criminal offences to be delivered up to his fellow citizens who would ascertain the facts of the matters held against him. This last bastion of a man's personal liberty and individual freedom was the first casualty of the bomb and the bullet which, of course, deprived the victim of the most important, fundamental human right of all, the right to life.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) referred to a former colleague, a Member of the House, Mr. Robert Bradford, who lost his life in the service of the House while conducting a surgery on the morning of Saturday 15 November.
In her speech of 1973, Bernadette McAlisky quoted her namesake, Lord Devlin, who wrote in a book entitled "Trial by Jury":Trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than one wheel of the constitution: it is the lamp that shows that freedom lives.The text is none the worse for a collision of metaphors, but if it is true that a jury trial is the lamp that shows that freedom lives, it has been extinguished for many people in Northern Ireland.
The Government perceived this to be the case. Twenty-one months after the late Sir George Baker issued his 1116 review of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, the Government introduced in 1985 the limited but nevertheless important reform of allowing the Attorney-General to certify out of the Diplock courts, and therefore back to jury trials, a list of so-called scheduled offences to include kidnapping, false imprisonment, intimidation, damage to railways and some firearms offences. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) said that it did not go far enough. It did not mean, nor does it mean now, that all the cases tried before the Diplock courts are directly associated with terrorist crime.
Since 1973, in addition to non-jury trials, plastic bullets have been imported on to the mainland to be stored against eventual use. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 has been placed upon the statute book. It was based, in part, on Northern Ireland policing experience. There have been allegations of a shoot-to-kill policy. This has not attracted the attention of the House tonight, but it has certainly claimed one innocent life. Our common law has been contorted to make way for confessions made other than with the full consent of the accused. Prisoners have been held on remand for more than a year prior to committal for trial. The onus for bail has been moved from the prosecution to the defence, and now, thanks to the Bill, it is moved back again.
I should like to say a final word on the Diplock courts. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) made a cogent and interesting speech. He drew the attention of the House to the prospect of three judges disagreeing among themselves. However, the significance of the three judges is in the context of Northern Ireland and the atmosphere there. I shall come back to this in a moment.
It is a matter of regret for the Opposition that the Law Officers of the Crown have reportedly advised the Prime Minister against three judges sitting in the Diplock courts. It is true, of course, that there is an automatic appeal to an appeal court that has three judges, but that hardly assists a person convicted by a single judge without a jury when delays to the appeal court appear interminable and when his conviction is quashed because it was unsafe in the first place. One can understand the concern of civil rights organisations, but equally, in political terms, one can understand the ripples of legitimate grievance that manifest themselves in further alienation and moroseness on the part of the Nationalist community.
The truth is that over the past 15 years the administration of justice has become intermingled with the political, economic and security situation in Northern Ireland. It is to political and economic development that we must look if we wish to see an alleviation in the principles of the administration of justice as they apply to Northern Ireland.
The situation has not changed too much since the right hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior), the then Secretary of State, stood at the Dispatch Box and declared that in broad terms the people in Northern Ireland still require special protection from terrorism
and exceptional powers are therefore necessary".—[Official Report, 5 July 1984; Vol. 63, c. 559.]Today again, sadly and tragically, we have seen the Provisional IRA launch its pre-Christmas onslaught on fellow Irish men and Irish women with a 1,000 1b bomb on a Belfast police station, with seven people injured. Regrettably and tragically, there may be more to come. We ally ourselves with the statement by the Secretary of 1117 State, supported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West, that we wish to give full support to the security forces. We give them that support in the execution of their duties, to prevent the death and injury of those who live in Northern Ireland at this time of festivity and peace among men.
The IRA has no peace in its heart, only murder in its mind and soul, and this will darken the holiday period to which we are coming. No future Labour Government will ever let up in their pursuit of terrorists, of whatever paramilitary ilk. I agreed with the intervention by the hon. Member for Newbury that it is the wrong designation to list those people in a religious fashion. They are paramilitaries, men committed to violence. Nor will the future Labour Government shirk the political and economic initiatives to lessen the conditions in which violence breeds and the attraction of young people towards men of violence. That point was touched on by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who said that young people were alienated from the society in which they live and were attracted towards violence.
We have had a short but interesting debate on the Second Reading of the Bill. I do not wish to prolong it unduly. The Government have said that the Bill will be repealed in five years' time. That repeal will be contingent, in the Government's mind, on the political situation becoming normal in Northern Ireland. That must be a matter for those who seek to resolve their identity in the island of Ireland—whether they can live in peace and whether a will to peace can be brought within the political framework that would make such peace durable.
A future Labour Government will look at all prospects and possibilities of bringing a form of local government back to the people of Northern Ireland, without gerrymandered boundaries fixed to give one party an inbuilt majority, and which is widely acceptable to the people who live there, whether Unionist or Nationalist. Thus, local power could be given back to local people and the great cloud of bewilderment and depression could be lifted from the lives of ordinary people.
Only a political solution acceptable to all can bring the criminal law in Northern Ireland back into its proper focus, without Diplock courts, without supergrass trials, without long periods on remand, in custody and without trial, and without intervening court appearances. Thus, the long assault on civil and human rights in Northern Ireland could be brought to an end.
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) said that the Bill did not go far enough. In fact, the Baker report made about 72 recommendations. In Committee we shall seek to further and advance the cause left to us by the late Sir George Baker, by improving and modifying the Bill.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
It is clear from our debate that we can look forward to a busy Committee. It is certainly not for me to make any decision about the form that those proceedings might take, but other ways of making representations about that are open to hon. Members.
Some hon. Members mentioned the need to derogate as little as possible from what we regard as normal practice in terms of the administration of justice in our necessary 1118 attempts in Northern Ireland to combat terrorism. Others have said that the Bill may be going too far; it may make life too easy for the terrorist. Those two clear views emerged during the debate. My judgment, subject to what is said in Committee, is that we have the balance about right.
Our policy on terrorism in Northern Ireland has two aims. The first is continually to search for new ways to erode the effectiveness of the terrorist's campaign, to deny him the free movement of men, the money, explosives and weapons that he uses for his work, and increasingly to be able to deny him the opportunity to use the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as a weapon in his armoury. At the same time we seek to win the confidence of the public in Northern Ireland across both communities for the activities of the security forces and the administration of justice. It is a balance that has to be held, but, as Sir George Baker said eloquently in his report, we must never forget that the first and principal right that we have as citizens in a liberal democratic society is the right to life itself.
I know the feelings of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and how he feels about the toll of terrorism that has been wrought in his part of Northern Ireland. We need to make sure that we provide the resources in terms of money and legislation to enable the battle against terrorism to continue.
I am grateful for the welcome given by several hon. Members to the measures that we intend to take against firms that masquerade as security firms simply to run protection rackets in Northern Ireland. I believe that we have an effective way of tackling that problem.
The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) mentioned statistics on the working of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. A parliamentary question has been answered today giving such information as we have about the operation of the Act since 1973. I am afraid that it has taken longer than I should have wished to organise the statistical basis to produce the statistics that would be meaningful and helpful to hon. Members. They are being assembled from several different sources. In future the statistics will be published regularly, as they are for the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act.
In the context of certifying out, the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the Cobden Trust study on the number of defendants appearing before Diplock courts who have no connection with terrorism. I do not intend to go into the detail of that argument, but I say simply, as I have said on the Floor of the House before in more detail, that the Government do not accept the methodology that led the authors of the Cobden Trust study to come to that conclusion. It is unsound. We do not accept the 40 per cent. figure.
Clauses 12 and 13 are equivalent to provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. I think that the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West understood from the reaction of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and me that the Bill only confers these rights on people detained under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. Just as the terrorism provisions are temporary, so these rights are temporary. As for the ordinary law of Northern Ireland, we are giving consideration to enacting legislation for Northern Ireland which is equivalent to the provisions in 1119 the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. I hope that we shall be able to publish proposals for a draft order within the next year or, indeed, beat that deadline.
The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West mentioned the admissibility of confessions and asked what was wrong in relying on the ordinary test of voluntariness which applies on this side of the water. I refer him to the Diplock report, especially paragraphs 73 to 92, which set out the difficulties of that approach in Northern Ireland. The Diplock commission found, in brief, that the common law test of voluntariness had been interpreted particularly strictly by the Northern Ireland courts in a manner that could render almost any statement inadmissible. The proposed new section 8 of the 1978 Act seeks to prevent that happening so that such evidence can at least be considered by the courts.
In addition to the points raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I draw attention to the conclusion of clause 4 which gives general discretion to the court to take any of the steps mentioned earlier in that clauseif it appears to the court that it is appropriate to do so in order to avoid unfairness to the accused or otherwise in the interests of justice.That blanket discretion to set aside or to disregard a statement is extremely widely based.
I should like to respond to three points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson). He criticised the terminology of the Bill's title and asked why it is still called "emergency provisions" legislation. I think that it is right to bring home to the House and to the public in the Bill's title that we are dealing with what is essentially an exceptional state of affairs, which we are anxious to bring to an end as soon as possible. But exceptional cases need exceptional measures. It is important, at least in the five years before the legislation is repealed, that there is a moment when we again look fundamentally, apart from any annual reviews, at the emergency legislation needed to deal with the position in Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury expressed the hope that elected representatives from Northern Ireland could play some part in the working of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. It is an intergovernmental conference, but, if elected representatives from Northern Ireland wish to be involved, consulted and informed about the conference's affairs, I do not have the slightest doubt that appropriate arrangements could be made to allow that to happen. Earlier this year when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister saw the leaders of the two Unionist parties, she made the offer to talk to them about their worries. That offer remains open. I urge the leaders of those parties, if they wish to be involved, to take up my right hon. Friend's offer, discuss their worries with her and together find out what arrangements we might make to involve them in that process.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury referred to the proscription of Sinn Fein or the need for political parties, or perhaps individuals, to make a declaration of non-violence before taking part in the democratic process. That is not an unattractive idea but, before going down either road, we should have to be absolutely clear that we were taking steps that would work in practice and not doing something that, in the end, could be exploited by Sinn Fein and other organisations which support 1120 paramilitary action. The idea merits careful consideration and is not something that the Government have ruled out in all circumstances.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) raised a number of points. He referred to three-judge courts, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Sir I. Gow). The hon. Gentleman asked especially about the requisition of land in his constituency, and I understand his point. I do not believe that it would be practical to give prior notice of the intention of the security forces to requisition lands, not least because of the risk that that would pose to them. But I can assure the House that, when an act of requisition takes place, the Government and their agencies make the most strenuous efforts to provide prompt and adequate compensation. No land or property which has been requisitioned remains in the Government's hands any longer than is absolutely necessary in the interests of security. Such measures are regrettable—I understand the feelings that they arouse—but they are necessary in dealing with the vicious campaign of terrorism that Northern Ireland has had to endure.
I should like to assure my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne of two points. First, mixed courts are not on the agenda for discussion in the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Secondly, the appointment of judges in Northern Ireland has taken place, and will take place, entirely and simply on the basis of the merits of individuals available for those posts irrespective of religious, political or any other affiliation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne asked why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that we were not presently persuaded by the arguments in favour of three-judge courts. We have heard both sides of the arguments. Some hon. Members favour three-judge courts and some are against them. I think that the arguments are finely balanced. The Government's position is clear. We are not presently persuaded that the advantages of going down that road outweigh the disadvantages. But nothing is for ever. One does not make commitments about matters when the arguments are finely balanced. We have made our position absolutely clear, and I understand that my hon. Friend agrees with the Government's view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne referred also to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism and the Irish accession to it. The Irish Government have signed the convention. The Committee stage of the Bill to ratify the convention is taking place in the Dail today. I know of the Irish Government's determination to see this legislation through the Dail before Christmas.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone raised a number of points, and I wish to respond clearly and unequivocally to one in particular. There is no political interference with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its operations. The Chief Constable and the police authority for Northern Ireland would not tolerate it for one moment and Ministers would not seek to have any such influence.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone asked why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had not responded clearly to the lack of support expressed by the Social Democratic and Labour party for the RUC. The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) may well remember the last oral questions on Northern Ireland when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he very much welcomed Mr. Barry's statement and said: 1121as I made clear in an earlier answer, I very much hope that the SDLP will support it as well."—[Official Report, 27 November 1986; Vol. 106, c. 426.]It is unfair to criticise my right hon. Friend on those grounds.
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) asked about automatic bail after one year on remand. The Government are absolutely committed to the elimination of avoidable delays in the judicial process in Northern Ireland. By the appointment of an additional judge, by a considerable number of additional senior counsel and by speeding up the processes of the RUC in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, we want to do our best to reduce those delays to the minimum. That is in the interests of everyone as well as of the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. We are monitoring the field trials being conducted in England and Wales with a view to ascertaining whether they have any relevance to the very different circumstances in Northern Ireland.
In my view, Sir George Baker's proposal would be a rather crude weapon, which might give defendants an incentive to slow down or delay progress in their cases coming to trial. It is worth remembering that some of the most difficult cases involve the most serious terrorist input. We are anxious to cut delays, and we shall monitor those trials. We have not ruled out the possibility that it has some relevance to the situation in Northern Ireland.
In an intervention the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) asked whether we had any statistics on delays or postponements caused by the non-availability of defence counsel. The short answer is no, but I well know that that is a considerable factor in delays in cases coming to trial in Northern Ireland.
At the conclusion of this debate the House will be invited to consider a money resolution. The expenditure required by the Bill arises under part 3, in that the Northern Ireland Office will probably be required to employ an extra executive officer at a global cost of about £15,000 a year in order to administer the certification scheme for the private security industry. Nobody is in the business of empire building, and no other provision in the Bill will have any significant effect on public expenditure. In the light of that brief explanation, I hope that it will be possible for the money resolution to be taken on the nod.
We shall also be asking the House to renew the continuance order for the temporary provisions of the 1978 Act. I believe that we have made a case for retaining a framework of emergency powers. We are, in this Bill, reforming them and making them more in tune with Northern Ireland's present needs. But we need to have the continuance order so that there is no gap between the existing provisions and those proposed in the Bill. I hope that the order will also be dealt with formally.
§ I commend the Bill to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).