HC Deb 06 March 1991 vol 187 cc424-30

5. In Article 2(4)(b) of the Criminal Justice (Confiscation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990 after "1989" there shall be inserted the words "or a relevant offence within the meaning of Part (Confiscation of proceeds of terrorist-related activities) of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991".' —[Mr. Brooke.]

Order for Third Reading read.

12.49 am
Dr. Mawhinney

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Today we have had serious and constructive debates on the important issues relevant to the Bill. In the past four months, the House has given most careful consideration to the proposals. I recognise the strength of feeling that hon. Members have brought to that consideration of the Bill. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House accept that, where they have been unable to accept the arguments advanced by the Government, the Government have nevertheless listened carefully to what has been said and have sought to respond with genuine argument.

I acknowledge and thank those outside the House who have played their role in our consideration, who have taken an active interest and made contributions. I have particularly in mind the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, the Committee for the Administration of Justice, the Northern Ireland Law Society and the Bar Council. I hope that those organisations feel that their contributions have been taken seriously and have added to our considerations.

It would be wrong if I did not refer again to the crucial contribution made by Lord Colville. His report formed the backbone of our debates and I know that I speak for the whole House when I say that his report did us all a service. Lord Colville, through his skilled and penetrating analyses, laid out clearly for us the various issues that needed to be addressed.

The Bill has benefited from the consideration that right hon. and hon. Members have given it, here and in Committee. I am grateful to all those who took part for the spirit in which they have contributed to the debate. I also thank and pay tribute to all those who have advised and worked with Ministers as we have studied the issues involved in the Bill.

Those who served on the Committee will appreciate that the Bill has sought to find a balance, which is always a matter of judgment. That important balance is between the need for effective security legislation that offers protection to the people of Northern Ireland against those who would kill and maim and use the bomb and bullet because their arguments are not persuasive at the ballot box and the powers that are given to the security forces and police. When granting such powers, we must be aware of the rights of individuals and the fact that they too require protection in a democratic society. The Government have been conscious of that need for balance throughout the proceedings on the Bill. We believe that we have achieved that balance.

We believe that the Bill will be a valuable and important contribution to security in Northern Ireland. On that basis, I commend it to the House.

12.53 am
Mr. McNamara

The Opposition do not intend to divide on Third Reading, nor on the order that follows.

We have already demonstrated our hostility to the Bill on Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. Because of the situation in Northern Ireland, we recognise that paramilitary campaigns of violence require emergency legislation. We do not believe, however, that the Bill represents the best instrument to meet that threat.

We have tried to adopt a rational approach to the Bill. Terrorism arouses understandable emotions, but we cannot allow those emotions to override the necessity for a rational response to the threat posed. After all, terrorism represents a failure of reason. Democracies cannot surrender reason.

All of us who have given serious consideration to the Bill are mindful of the fact that it has serious consequences for those who are charged with operating it on our behalf. The members of the security forces have to live and work with the legislation, so the House must be careful not to place them in positions which make their task more difficult, nor which condemn them to further decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. Too many elements of the Bill would do so.

In Committee and on Report, the Minister of State often referred to the need for balance within this legislation. We accept that the Government have had to use their judgment in choosing between sometimes conflicting demands. Our objection is that they have systematically and continuously come down on the wrong side of the argument. Nowhere is that more clearly seen than in the Government's treatment of Lord Colville's careful and thorough reports. Glowing tributes have been paid to his work; then most of it has been ignored.

Lord Colville's reviews have provided a focus for reasoned argument over the logic and nature of emergency legislation. If devolved institutions emerge in Northern Ireland, and when perhaps security powers are transferred, the people of Northern Ireland will be able to ensure proper democratic scrutiny of much of this legislation.

Too many of Lord Colville's recommendations have been travestied or ignored by the Government. For instance, clause 30 on the possession of items connected with terrorism contains a completely distorted version of a proposal by Lord Colville. Similarly, Lord Colville proposed a switch to the certifying in of scheduled offences rather than scheduling out. This modest reform, which would have helped to ensure that the Diplock courts were employed for the purpose for which they were designed —trials involving terrorist offences—was completely ignored.

Worst of all has been the Government's decision to pay no attention to Lord Colville's eloquent plea for the removal of the power of internment from the statute book. The Opposition are convinced that that is a serious mistake which undermines the credibility of efforts to create a normal and democratic society in Northern Ireland. It represents a commitment by the Government to cling to every last ounce of arbitrary executive authority. It is a hangover from the special powers Act. It reveals a state of mind which is not conducive to a focused, rational and intelligent security policy.

Hegel may be alive and well in Craigavon, and he is also active in Hillsborough, but Belfast and Northern Ireland in the 1990s should not be confused with Berlin in the 1820s. To the Opposition, order and freedom do not appear as conflicting alternatives. We believe that political order is best guaranteed by freedom.

Lord Colville's recommendations provided the Government with an opportunity to make a fresh start in a difficult and sensitive field. They came down on the side of coercion rather than reason. Eventually the Government will have to accept that reason alone is the main weapon to defeat terrorism in all its forms.

12.57 am
Mr. Mallon

After 44 hours of debate on the Bill, which has twice been in the House, and in Committee, concluding in the week in which we had to deal with a motion on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, we should not prolong the agony. I thank the Minister and officials for their courtesy during our consideration of the Bill. I also thank the Chairman of the Committee for his unfailing help and courtesy at all times.

12.58 am
Mr. Canavan

I am not in favour of giving the Bill an unopposed Third Reading, and I shall briefly explain why.

The Bill is indicative of the hypocrisy and double standards of the British Government and the whole British establishment. The Government claim to believe in the unity of the United Kingdom and they say that Northern Ireland is and should remain a part of the United Kingdom. If the unity of the United Kingdom means anything, the Government should be consistent and ensure that equal standards of justice apply to all parts of the United Kingdom.

The Bill reinforces and continues inferior standards of justice in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom. The people there are subjected to powers of arrest, search and detention, and, above all, are deprived of the opportunity of a fair trial according to the principles and standards of justice which apply elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

The Government's excuse for that is the emergency situation in Northern Ireland. How long will the emergency last? An emergency, by its very nature, should be temporary. When this legislation was first introduced in the early 1970s, it was considered to be a temporary measure. Then it was renewed and now we are getting further measures, albeit with some amendments.

The Government have lamentably failed to solve the problems of Northern Ireland. Their cure is clearly not working. People are still being killed almost daily in Northern Ireland. To imagine that those problems will be solved by more and more repressive legislation is naive, or worse, it is to try to fool the people inside and outside the House. Those problems will never be solved simply by repressive legislation. It is about time that the Government started to look more seriously at the underlying political reasons for the insecurity and instability in Northern Ireland.

It could be argued that Northern Ireland has been an unstable entity since its inception. It has been unstable politically, economically and socially. That instability is inherent within the system and the constitution of the Province. The sooner that the Government recognise that problem and address it and work towards the peaceful reunification of Ireland the better.

1.2 am

Mr. Harry Barnes

My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) suggested that the Bill is inadequate. I agree, but I do not agree with much of the rest of his analysis about how to begin to solve the problems of Northern Ireland. It is oversimple to suggest that a move to a united Ireland would in some way solve the problems.

Measures which allow the use of extra force to establish the authority of the state begin to make the state less acceptable to minorities which might be disenchanted and see their loyalties as lying elsewhere. We need serious measures to improve economic and social welfare in Northern Ireland. The Government's enterprise culture in Northern Ireland and the unemployment there have not assisted in that.

We need to tackle the basis of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Emergency powers may be necessary in certain periods, but other factors are more important.

Next week, the House will debate Northern Ireland appropriations—which will be like discussing Northern Ireland's budget. We can debate then matters of significance, rather than problems such as whether windows need to be fitted correctly in the Divis flats and other issues that, unfortunately, hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies sometimes choose to raise rather than bread-and-butter matters.

Democracy is difficult to achieve in the circumstances because of the need for people to share and to interconnect. Democracy in Northern Ireland in terms of a devolved Government could be possible with a Bill of Rights that guaranteed minority rights. In certain circumstances, Protestants can find themselves in the minority and feel oppressed, just as Catholics do—although their experience in that respect may be greater. That is why we must introduce measures such as fair employment legislation.

Even more important is the need to encourage all those brave people in Northern Ireland who take a stand against terrorism and try to take the ground from under it. Earlier, I mentioned Nancy Gracey and the movement comprised of families who campaign against intimidation and terror techniques such as knee-capping. I must refer also to those who run the peace trains between Belfast and Dublin, who attempt to ensure that the line is not disrupted by IRA terrorism of the kind that we are now experiencing to some extent in this country. We should aim to share to some degree our responses with the people in Ireland.

There also exist three New Consensus groups. One operates from Northern Ireland, another from Ireland, and the third from this country. They stand for the principles of devolved government, a Bill of Rights, and integrated education. The latter should start with teacher training colleges. It is an obscenity that one such college is Protestant-controlled and that another is Catholic-controlled, and that the only integrated teacher training is at Belfast university.

There is a trade union movement that says, "Hands off my mate", which seeks to defend people against oppression. There is much that is good in Northern Ireland, and it should be promoted more.

The failure in Northern Ireland is the failure of the Northern Ireland politicians on all sides— —

Rev. William McCrea


Mr. Barnes

—one of whom is trying to intervene, who in essence represent sectarian divisions and do not do enough to gain support from other groups.

We should be seeing from the Democratic Unionists and the Ulster Unionists an attempt to alter their stance and gain support from the Catholic community, while the SDLP should try to gain support from the Protestant community. Only two Northern Ireland parties are attempting to do anything of that kind, but they are finding it difficult to get any grounding. I refer to the Workers party and the Alliance party, which at least try to have a broader appeal.

Rev. William McCrea

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. The hon. Member said that there is in Northern Ireland one Catholic-controlled university and one Protestant-controlled university. I have lived in Northern Ireland all my life, and I should like the hon. Gentleman to name the university that he says is Protestant-controlled.

Mr. Barnes


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. I remind the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) that we are dealing with the Third Reading of the Bill and that he must relate his remarks to the contents of the Bill.

Mr. Barnes

our agreement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall briefly respond to that intervention. I understand that there are two teacher training colleges, one which is essentially Catholic-influenced and the other which is Protestant-influenced—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members may correct me on the details. I understand that a third avenue for teacher training exists in the university, and is more clearly integrated. I know that some Protestants go to the Catholic-dominated teacher training college and vice versa. I know that some Protestant Members of Parliament have been to the Catholic-dominated college. Nevertheless, that influence needs to be broken down. If we are to get integration in education, it needs to begin with teacher training. Perhaps I am a little short of detailed information— —

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is again straying from the Bill.

Mr. Barnes

I shall conclude my speech now. I was trying to argue that the emergency provisions could have been different if Lord Colville's full recommendations had been taken into account and that they would then have been more acceptable. Such provisions, even if they are in an ideal form, can be acceptable only if economic and social welfare, democracy, devolved government, a Bill of Rights and community involvement are taking place at the same time, because they are what takes away the grounding for terrorism and, in the end, they are more important than emergency provisions, although I realise the significance of this legislation.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 103, Noes 3.

Division No. 92] [1.12 am
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Arbuthnot, James
Amess, David Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Amos, Alan Arnold, Sir Thomas
Ashby, David Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Beggs, Roy Moate, Roger
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Mudd, David
Bevan, David Gilroy Neubert, Sir Michael
Boswell, Tim Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Norris, Steve
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Paice, James
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Paisley, Rev Ian
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Pawsey, James
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Chapman, Sydney Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Chope, Christopher Ross, William (Londonderry E)
Cope, Rt Hon John Sackville, Hon Tom
Davis, David (Boothferry) Sayeed, Jonathan
Day, Stephen Shelton, Sir William
Fallon, Michael Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Franks, Cecil Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Freeman, Roger Soames, Hon Nicholas
Gale, Roger Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Goodhart, Sir Philip Stanbrook, Ivor
Goodlad, Alastair Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Stern, Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Stevens, Lewis
Gregory, Conal Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Hague, William Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Hannam, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Harris, David Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Hawkins, Christopher Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Hayes, Jerry Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Thurnham, Peter
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Trimble, David
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Twinn, Dr Ian
Hunter, Andrew Viggers, Peter
Irvine, Michael Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Janman, Tim Wallace, James
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Waller, Gary
Kilfedder, James Ward, John
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Kirkhope, Timothy Watts, John
Kirkwood, Archy Wells, Bowen
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Wheeler, Sir John
Knowles, Michael Widdecombe, Ann
Leigh, Edward (Galnsbor'gh) Wood, Timothy
Lord, Michael Yeo, Tim
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Young, Sir George (Acton)
McCrea, Rev William
Maclean, David Tellers for the Ayes:
McLoughlin, Patrick Mr. Irvine Patnick and Mr. Neil Hamilton.
Malins, Humfrey
Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Cryer, Bob Tellers for the Noes:
Nellist, Dave Mr. Dennis Canavan and Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.
Skinner, Dennis

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.