§ 2. Mr. Bennett
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will introduce the videoing of interrogation procedures in Northern Ireland holding centres for a trial period.
§ Mr. Bennett
Will the Minister accept that, in agreeing to appoint an independent commissioner, the Government accept that they have a problem? Will he agree that it can be extremely difficult for an independent commissioner to move round without some security clearance, and that therefore it will still be known when visits will be made to interrogation centres? Would it not be far simpler to have lay visitors and video recording of all interviews?
§ Mr. Mates
The position is as it was as a result of the Bennett report, the name of which at least should be familiar to the hon. Gentleman, which recommended that there should be silent video monitoring of all interrogations at the holding centres, which is now in place, and recommended against the video recording of such interviews, for some very good reasons. The hon. Gentleman is right. We are proposing to introduce an independent commissioner for the holding centres and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and I hope to be in a position to make an announcement about that shortly.
§ Mr. Hunter
I strongly support my hon. Friend on the undesirability of video recording interrogations, but may I ask him again to take the opportunity to stress what importance he attaches to the need to restore confidence in the process so that confidence in the police and the Royal Ulster Constabulary is high and out-of-court settlements are avoided? Will he assure us that he will make that a major point for his consideration?
§ Mr. Mates
I agree with my hon. Friend. The security forces, the Government and I are satisfied that safeguards exist against any form of abuse of the proper process. Everybody is clear that the interrogations must be carried out fully within the law and the regulations. Like my hon. Friend, I hope that there will be no further cases where compensation is paid for anything that has gone wrong, but I would point out that often what has gone wrong is of a minor administrative nature and nothing to do with the sort of ill-treatment that is alleged and for which there is no evidence.
§ Mr. Maginnis
We are all agreed about safeguards for suspects, which have been greatly improved during the past five or six years, but will the Minister remember that we are dealing with totally ruthless terrorists in our holding centres and that we must think about our 370 obligations to our vulnerable police service and the law-abiding community? Will he ensure, on the question of video-taping, that no unnecessary initiative is handed back to the terrorist?
§ Mr. Mates
I shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's point. I repeat that the monitoring of all interviews at all time by a uniformed police inspector, who is no part of the interrogation process, is a safeguard against the ill-treatment of any suspect who has been detained for questioning, and the appointment, when it comes, of an independent commissioner to oversee the procedure independently, separate from the Government, will merely confirm that.