§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew)
I beg to move,
That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency and Prevention of Terrorism Provisions) (Continuance) Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 18th May, be approved.
It is just over a year since the House last considered whether to renew for a further year the principal provisions in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. It was a wise measure to provide for the renewal of these temporary provisions every year if they are to survive.
I will, for the only time today, indulge in a quotation from what I said in last year's debate—it is a short one:The Act needs to achieve a balance between safeguarding the rights of the individual and providing condign measures against terrorists and the organisations that sustain them."—[Official Report, 24 May 1994; Vol. 244, c. 267.]I think it right to acknowledge at the beginning that exceptional measures of this kind, enacted in the first place in order to meet exceptional threats to life and liberty, tend to develop an adhesive quality of their own—that is to say, they are more likely to stick than to be dropped as time goes by. It is easier to react to a sudden crisis by imposing such measures than it is to acquire sufficient confidence to surrender them in response to an improvement in the scene. Members of Parliament and Ministers in particular need to remind themselves of that truth. Circumstances do change and, happily, in Northern Ireland they have, in the past 12 months, changed dramatically for the better, as I shall illustrate. So it behoves us all, I suggest, to examine carefully whether, in the new circumstances, the former balance needs adjusting or whether it still needs to be maintained.
I want it to be known in the House and outside that, in proposing the renewal of these provisions for a further year, I accept that the burden of proof rests with me. It is right to speak and to think of "the new circumstances" rather than of "today's circumstances". There is a danger, if we think only of what things are like today, that we may not give sufficient thought for what, on the basis of such objective evidence as is available, they foreseeably might be like tomorrow and what they foreseeably might be like next month. No one can be sure what will happen, of course; we can only go by outward and visible signs of other people's true intentions and then try to interpret them sensibly. In other words, like insurers, we have to assess the risks for the people for whom we are responsible. That is a concept and a duty to which I shall return.
What are the new circumstances? They are as dramatic as they are welcome—and overdue. More than nine months have now gone by since what has come to be known as the republican ceasefire and nearly eight months since its loyalist counterpart. Many factors have, doubtless, contributed to the ceasefires. Foremost among them, to which the whole House will wish to pay tribute, are the extraordinary courage and steadfastness of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the other security forces, and the staunchness of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.
We should remind ourselves, however, of the hideous terrorist crimes committed in 1994 alone, before the ceasefires occurred. For if present circumstances suggest 502 that a reversion to violence is being retained as an option, those are the kind of crimes that may again be perpetrated. Those are the crimes from which it is our duty to protect the public, as best we may. From January to June 1994, republican groups murdered 17 people and loyalists 27. I shall cite just three instances, each horrific and each leaving a trail of bereavement and pain.
On 13 May last year, the Provisional IRA murdered a civilian cleaner in his car as he was driving with his family in Lurgan. His three-year-old daughter, Emma, was blown out of the car and severely injured. On 18 June, loyalist gunmen walked into a bar in Loughinisland where people were watching the World cup on television. They sprayed automatic gunfire into the crowd, murdering six people including an 87-year-old man. In August, Mr. Telford Withers, a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldier, was murdered in his shop at Crossgar by a gunman. None of those crimes, nor any of similar character that preceded them, never mind by whom they were committed, should ever be forgotten.
Foremost among the new circumstances, however, is the fact that, since the ceasefires, terrorist activity has markedly diminished. People throughout the Province are relishing a return to what the rest of us have always called normality, yet which so very many of them have never experienced in their lives. Yet I cannot say that there has been no major terrorist atrocity since then; there has been. In November last year, Mr. Frank Kerr, a postal worker in Newry, was attacked and brutally shot dead in an armed robbery. He was fighting to prevent the theft of public money. That crime was planned and executed by the Provisional IRA organisation in South Armagh. Some £130,000 was stolen, and although central authority within the Provisional IRA denied authorising the raid—and implied disapproval of it—none of the money has been returned.
Since the ceasefires, in Enniskillen, Newry and—most recently—Belfast, a total of four viable explosive devices have been found, fortunately before they could go off. Had they done so, the toll in life, limb and property could have been terrible. In no way should the Government or the House distinguish between such crimes according to whether republicans or so-called loyalists commit them. It matters not to the victim, and we have to judge how best to protect potential victims in future by means of legislation.
It remains the case that paramilitaries on both sides, and not only the principal organisations, are still engaging in terrorist-related activity. Let us look at some examples. Both sides seek money, and they go after it by robbery, by extortion with intimidation and by the criminal extraction of money from charities, clubs and ostensibly legitimate businesses. They are involved increasingly in the drug trafficking that makes the lives of so many young people wretched. For no less political motives, they are engaged in other criminally violent activities, too. In particular, they continue to seek to impose their will on communities by threats, intimidation and brutal beatings. Indeed, from 31 August until the end of May, there were 131 horrific so-called punishment attacks. Sixty-two of them have been attributed to loyalists, including 13 shootings before the loyalist ceasefire. Sixty-nine have been attributed to republicans.
Threats and intimidation often accompany those attacks. The thugs who perpetrate those sickening crimes often use baseball bats, clubs and cudgels with protruding 503 nails to beat their victims' limbs and torsos, smashing their bones and wrecking their internal organs. The attacks are capped with threats of death if the victims tell the RUC. Additionally, people are forced to leave their homes and neighbourhoods on pain of death by shooting. Others are ordered to remain away. Some voluntary groups fear that the number of people excluded from their homes by those wicked means may run into hundreds.
Neither ought we to forget that there remain other organisations—equally deadly—which do not subscribe to the ceasefires. The INLA, which has carried out some of the most appalling atrocities of the past 25 years, has not mounted any attacks since the ceasefires commenced but has not yet declared a ceasefire of its own. The threat that the INLA poses was aptly demonstrated on 4 April, when the Gardai intercepted a van and a car north of Dublin containing four suspected senior INLA members, and recovered six automatic rifles, 20 pistols and more than 2,500 rounds of ammunition. That the arms were destined for Northern Ireland is beyond doubt. We can only speculate on whether and where they were to be used.
The INLA is not the only such group. Republican Sinn Fein has vowed to oppose the Provisional IRA ceasefire and to mount attacks in Northern Ireland. The threat that it poses is taken very seriously indeed, both by the RUC and by the Gardai. Only last month, the Gardai arrested six men and a woman following the discovery of arms in Dublin. All seven are suspected to have connections with Republican Sinn Fein, and have since been charged with firearms offences.
Consistent with all that terrorist activity, terrorist organisations on both sides continue to train teams for operations, to research improvised weapons, to identify potential targets and—crucially—to maintain undiminished their stock of weapons and explosives.
I take no perverse—or any—pleasure in telling the House about all this. Sometimes Ministers are upbraided for going on about it and spoiling the party. "Move the peace process forward," we are told. The implication is that we should ignore it all, or view it indulgently. To contrast it with the professed assurance that peace has come for good is said to be unhelpful. But what is really needed to move the peace process forward is the ending of actions that rupture or menace the peace. Otherwise, how are those who question the compatibility of those activities with professions of peace to be reassured? More immediately, how are we in the House to be reassured, who have to assess the risk to the lives of those for whom we in this United Kingdom Parliament are responsible?
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I believe that the peace process should be advanced, and the Secretary of State will no doubt accept that we all deplore the crimes to which he has referred. Violence and thuggery can never be justified under any circumstances.
Will the Secretary of State concede that the organisation that was established in 1970 with the sole aim of driving Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom through force of every kind, including violence and the terrible atrocities that were committed mainly in Northern Ireland but also in places such as Birmingham, simply did not succeed? It was the will of the House and of the country as a whole that that violence should not be 504 victorious. Therefore, when the IRA announced in August-September last year the end of its campaign of violence, it was a victory against terrorism.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
The IRA certainly did not succeed and it has not advanced very much in 25 years. However, I am afraid that many thousands of people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere look at the maintenance of weapons and explosives and see that as incompatible with the profession that peace is here for good. They hope that peace is here for good and they take note of what the hon. Gentleman and others have said, but they also take note of the activities that I itemised a few minutes ago.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
I was a very close friend of Mr. Frank Kerr and I do not like Mr. Kerr's death being used as part of a political argument. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the peace process to which he refers is one that he himself has helped to advance by removing exclusion orders as they applied to people coming into England, Scotland and Wales; that he himself has helped to advance by ordering the opening of border roads; that he himself has helped to advance by meeting with the leader of Sinn Fein; and that he himself has helped to advance through the Minister of State's entering into formal party discussions with the leader of Provisional Sinn Fein and those who represent the loyalist paramilitary groupings?
One of the problems that some of us have is: how can one be half in and half out of a peace process? Will the Secretary of State take the opportunity today to explain to those who have that difficulty how one can be half in and half out of a process that the Secretary of State has, to his credit, helped to sustain?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I can give very readily to the hon. Gentleman, who has a most worthy record in those matters, the justification that he seeks. Those matters with which he began his list resulted from the advice of the Chief Constable, my principal security adviser, that it was now possible to open the border roads and to lift exclusion orders in the light of a diminution in the threat. The same goes for a whole raft of other measures that have been taken and with which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is very willing to deal if need be at a later stage.
However, it is a very different matter if I am then asked to enter into negotiations with a party that is associated with a paramilitary organisation which is retaining its hold upon its armaments and which has used them in the past to sustain its party's political objective.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman again, but I know that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate.
§ Mr. Mallon
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way again. As an eminent lawyer, he must realise that today he is about to renew legislation that will effect the closure of border roads at the same time as he has given instructions for the opening of border roads. Does he accept the wider point that, at the same time as renewing the legislation, the Secretary of State and the Minister of State are affecting us in many ways by operating as Saatchi and Saatchi for the Provisional Sinn Fein? Since peace has been called, they have kept those people on the front pages of every newspaper and in the lead stories of 505 every news bulletin for up to nine months. Will he explain to those of us who have fought against the operations of the IRA and loyalist paramilitary groupings for more than 30 years, how that can be equated with his refusal not to renew the legislation?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
If I am allowed to continue, I shall explain to the hon. Gentleman and the House the need, as insurance, to retain the provisions. We have not formed that judgment alone and unaided, but with the benefit of the advice of an independent reviewer of the operation of the Act over the past year, Mr. John Rowe QC. Had I and the Government agreed to enter into negotiations with Sinn Fein, as we are happy to do with other parties—including the hon. Gentleman's party—which have never been tarnished with any association with paramilitary violence, that would have left his party in a dangerous position, as Sinn Fein would have been able to say, with the support of the Provisional IRA, that tactics such as they have employed actually secured political advance. That would have left the hon. Gentleman's party, which has always subjected itself to the discipline of constitutional politics, in a dangerous position and a most undeserved one.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I must continue.
I should like to outline the principal ways in which, in the past four years, the Act has delivered the greater part of Parliament's legislative response to the terrorist threat from both sides, and to view those provisions in the light of the new circumstances.
Part I of the Act creates the so-called scheduled offences, which are offences commonly committed by terrorists, requiring special treatment as regards bail, remands, trial, evidence, sentence and the remission of sentence. They are tried by judge alone in the so-called Diplock courts.
Part II makes special provision for powers to stop, to arrest, to search and to seize property. Part III creates special offences against public security and order, including directing terrorist offences and belonging to such an organisation. Part IV provides for detention by order, otherwise known as detention. That power is currently suspended.
Part VI makes special provision in respect of persons in police custody under the terrorism provisions for their management and their questioning in holding centres such as Castlereagh.
Part VII makes special provision for the confiscation of proceeds of terrorist activities and for specially authorised investigators.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I shall continue with my speech a little longer, if I may.
I do not propose to rehearse today the details of the provisions. They are well described in the latest report of the independent reviewer, Mr. Rowe, presented in May this year.
The Act represents a wide spectrum of special provisions, and it is right that its operation from year to year should be independently reviewed. In addition to Mr. 506 Rowe's report, the House has the report of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, whom I appointed two years ago as an independent commissioner to review the operation of the holding centres. I am grateful to each of those distinguished gentlemen and to the deputy commissioner for the holding centres, Dr. Bill Norris, for their work. Dr. Norris has made over 80 unannounced visits to the holding centres.
Mr. Rowe, after wide consultation and dispassionate assessment of the evidence, concludes that it is necessary to renew each section of the Act currently in force for a further year. His judgment concurs with our own. We consider that the continuing terrorist-related activity that I mentioned leaves us no prudent alternative, although the special powers that the Act provides are being used less and less, I am glad to say. The latent threat remains, and in our judgment, the Act itself remains necessary for the time being.
Mr. Rowe recommends, however, that during the coming year the Act should be kept under review with a view to using the powers in section 69 to suspend individual provisions. We are happy to accept that wholeheartedly.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
Appendix A on page 61 of the Rowe report gives the list of persons and organisations who gave assistance in discussion and representation. One is the Anglo-Irish Secretariat. As the Secretary of State knows—although this was not his doing—the secretariat was designed to be a joint instrument of the two Governments. Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman explain the basis on which the secretariat gave oral and written evidence and what it conveyed?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
That is a good question to ask Mr. Rowe, but I do not know the answer at the moment.
When, on advice, I consider that a particular provision is no longer necessary, I shall not hesitate to invite the House to approve an order suspending it. The suspension could be reversed at any time if necessary. After all, it is the Government's aim to remove those provisions altogether in due course—but Mr. Rowe concludes, and we agree, that we have not reached that time yet.
§ Mr. Corbyn
As the Secretary of State is clearly determined to have the order approved today, will he give the House an idea of when he will suspend the section relating to Diplock courts and restore the right of trial by jury, which would be seen as a major contribution to the peace process?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
The answer is: as soon as I am advised that intimidation has diminished to such a degree that it will be safe once again in the North—it remains unsafe in the Republic—to entrust such cases to a jury that will no longer fear intimidation. The original Diplock report dealt with that matter in great thoroughness.
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and Mr. Rowe have again advocated the introduction of some kind of electronic recording of interviews with suspects held under the prevention of terrorism Act. In the past, I had to balance the strong arguments in favour of recording against the advice of the Chief Constable of the RUC that to introduce any form of electronic recording for terrorism suspects would not be in the overall interests of justice.
507 The change to the security situation clearly has a bearing on where the balance of advantage now lies. It introduces other factors, too. The number of suspects being questioned about offences connected with terrorism has, since the ceasefire, reduced by some two thirds. Assuming that the continued absence of violence will allow the downward trend to continue, there will, I hope, come a time when the need to use the more rigorous regime afforded by the holding centres will disappear entirely. That will mean that the ordinary Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 procedures will suffice for all suspects. That must be our aim, although we are not there yet.
Having consulted the Chief Constable, however, I can say that, if it still appears necessary to do so at all in the light of the developing security situation, the Government will propose introducing an electronic recording scheme. That will be in the Bill that will be required next Session to replace the present Act. Such a scheme will require statutory provision, because it remains important for arrangements to be in place to prevent tapes from being disclosed by those who might have sinister motives. The House would, of course, have ample opportunity to consider the detail during that Bill's passage.
With the decline in terrorist activity, the use of the holding centres has also diminished. It is my hope that that will continue, although the police will continue vigorously to investigate earlier terrorist crimes, no matter how old—but we are always determined to demonstrate that suspects, who may have been involved in the most horrific of crimes, can have no legitimate fears about ill-treatment. We have in place codes of practice, and since the previous debate it has been agreed that Sir Louis will be able to sit in on the interviews. That should provide another reassurance and safeguard.
Sir Louis once again touches on the material conditions of detention in the holding centres. He continues to believe that the facilities at Castlereagh should not remain in commission any longer than absolutely necessary. I am content with that. However, I believe that it is sensible in the current changing security situation for the Police Authority for Northern Ireland to pause and review its overall police building programme. It accepts the need to improve standards of accommodation, as does the RUC. The important question of a replacement for Castlereagh will therefore remain under consideration. Sir Louis makes other recommendations, with which the Minister of State will be able to deal should that be necessary later.
The context of conditions in which persons are held in custody permits me to announce, in respect of convicted prisoners, the enhancement in three respects of a compassionate leave scheme established in Northern Ireland for many years. It has enabled prisoners to maintain family contacts at times of acute domestic difficulty. The arrangements have been of particular importance to a prisoner population the majority of whom serve long sentences.
Over the years, the conditions attaching to those arrangements have been strictly adhered to by prisoners to an impressive degree—including prisoners convicted of the most serious offences—and that has contributed to a wide understanding of and support for the measures among community leaders and the general public in Northern Ireland. All such schemes, however, are capable of improvement, and in its 1995–96 business plan, the Prison Service declared its intention to develop further 508 opportunities for prisoners to maintain close family ties. A lot of changes to those arrangements have been working successfully now for almost a year and I consider that the time is now right to make further improvements, which I believe will receive widespread support in the community in Northern Ireland.
Accordingly, and with immediate effect, I intend to take three steps. First, the maximum period of compassionate leave that the Prison Service may authorise for attendance at the funeral of a parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild is currently 24 hours. In future, the Prison Service will be authorised to permit a period of absence of up to 48 hours, subject to a satisfactory assessment of risk. That will not of course apply automatically in every case. The length of absence will depend on individual circumstances.
Secondly, prisoners may apply for compassionate leave in the event of the serious illness of a parent, child, brother or sister. That may be granted if the Prison Service is satisfied as to the circumstances and the degree of risk. In future, that arrangement will extend to the serious illness of grandparents and grandchildren. It will be for the prisoner or his family to satisfy the Prison Service as to the nature and extent of the illness.
Lastly, prisoners who have served at least 10 years and who have a close relative who has been unable through medical disability to visit the prison for at least 18 months, may currently apply for a short period of compassionate leave. Two such periods may be granted in any one year provided the prisoner presents no undue risk to public safety. The value of that facility has declined with the availability of other forms of leave to prisoners who have served 11 years or more. Yet the scheme has worked well and prisoners have shown willingness to honour its conditions.
Accordingly, I intend to reduce the qualifying length of sentence from 10 years to six years. Those three changes are modest but none the less useful extensions of arrangements that had been working well for prisoners, their families and the public.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
While we are on the subject of prisoners, not least in the light of much media speculation over the past weekend, will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the situation with regard to Private Clegg?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and with the House's permission I shall do so very briefly.
There is no question of any linkage between the case of Private Clegg and any consideration of possible changes to remission rates or other regime changes for prisoners in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the United Kingdom. Those are matters solely for the British Government to decide. The Life Sentence Review Board met to consider Private Clegg's case, along with several others, on 6 June. I am considering its recommendations, and I shall consult the Lord Chief Justice and the trial judge as necessary.
That is the standard procedure, quasi-judicial in character, which is followed in all life sentence cases. As the law requires, Private Clegg's case will be treated in accordance with that established practice, solely on its 509 merits. There is no question of one law for the security forces and another for the rest, as Private Clegg's prosecution and conviction plainly demonstrated.
§ Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford, South)
I am grateful for the Secretary of State's written responses to questions that I have asked him in the past. As the case has been raised today, can he say when he is likely to make his decision on the recommendation that he says has been sent to him? I ask because of the anguish that Private Clegg and his family are undergoing.
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
The hon. Gentleman has most assiduously represented the concerns of his constituent. I am not able to give the information that he seeks. As I have said, I shall have to consult. I shall do so with all practical speed.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
All of us on the Government Benches welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's robust statement that there is to be no linkage, but will he reassure us none the less that, when it comes to Private Clegg himself, there can be no question of the consultations involving questions being asked about the impact on certain parts of the community of justice being done for this unfortunate soldier?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I hope that that is implicit in what I have said. If it is not, it should be explicit. Those matters will be dealt with not by reference to political expediency, but by reference to the merits of each individual case.
The ceasefires have met with a ready response by the Government. On advice from the Chief Constable, many important relaxations have been made in security measures. Those have already been mentioned in part by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
I must now conclude my speech. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with further matters if that is required. I shall not detain the House further now.
I hope that the trend of relaxation can continue, as it will if we are advised that the terrorist threat continues to diminish. I know that that advice will be positive. It will be measured as the gravity of our responsibilities demands.
In the second half of the year, we shall have to make decisions about the legislation that will be necessary to replace the current Act when it expires completely next year. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said, there will haveto be a wide-ranging look at all the optionsfor permanent counter-terrorism organisation once a lasting peace is established in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Mallon
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask for your advice. The Secretary of State was good enough to give way to three interventions about the Private Clegg affair. He turned down an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), who represented a person who was killed, as was proven in three courts, by Private Clegg. In the 510 circumstances, do you not feel, Madam Speaker, that the Secretary of State should reconsider his decision not to give way to my hon. Friend?
§ Dr. Hendron
Does the Secretary of State accept that my constituents and perhaps those of Greater Belfast have been deeply offended, but not so much by the campaign to free Lee Clegg? There are, of course, many campaigns to release prisoners. Instead, they have been offended by the nature of the campaign, involving former brigadiers and colonels and senior politicians. At virtually no time have those people considered in detail what happened on the night when Karen Reilly and Martin Peake were killed.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that I recognise that Lee Clegg did not set out to kill someone? But is it not a fact that the Government do not want any other charge save murder—for example, culpable homicide—to be on the statute book in case other soldiers might also find themselves behind bars? I speak as someone who has given a lifetime to opposing paramilitaries on both sides. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the nature of the Clegg campaign is deeply offensive? When he makes his decision, will he assure us that it will not be made on the basis of a campaign that has been joined by people who have never considered the detail of what happened on that fateful night?
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
The hon. Gentleman speaks eloquently for his constituents. There is nobody better to do that than him. What he has said about the Government's intentions is not consistent with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary having set up an inquiry into the law of murder. I understand that those conducting the inquiry will report within a month or two. I think that I can reject what the hon. Gentleman has said about our intentions. I do not want to say anything more about the circumstances of the Clegg case. It has been litigated in three courts up to the House of Lords and the judgments speak for themselves.
As I said, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary said in the House that there would have to be "a wide-ranging look at all the options"[Official Report, 8 March 1995; Vol. 256, c. 356.]
for permanent counter-terrorism legislation once a lasting peace is established. I can now confirm that the exercise will include a powerful, authoritative and, most importantly, an independent review of the continuing need for the order and the prevention of terrorism Act.
It is a matter for judgment when the conditions would be right to start such a process. Confidence in a lasting peace has still to be established. It is likely—and I regret this—that such a review could not sensibly be mounted in time for its conclusions to influence the successor Act. If that does prove to be the case, I undertake that next Session's Bill, some of the provisions of which may from 511 the outset be suspended, will be explicitly temporary and will have a shorter maximum lifespan than the five years of the present Act.
I profoundly hope that the time will soon come when the emergency legislation will have finally served its purpose, as I anticipated in December 1992, in a speech that I made in Coleraine. I hold to all that I said there, in a speech that was quite widely noticed. Much has been achieved, far more than a year ago seemed attainable so soon. Today, I acknowledge the contributions of all who have brought that about.
The exploratory dialogue that we are conducting with Sinn Fein and the two loyalist parties offers a means of leading to the achievement of much more, but a terrorist threat, regrettably, still remains. The Government are not going to drop their guard prematurely. There is too much at stake for that. Therefore, I commend the order to the House.
§ Ms Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)
I begin by saying that the Labour party concurs with a great deal of the analysis of the present situation that the Secretary of State has just presented. Our interpretation and judgment, however, leads us to slightly different conclusions about the future of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1989.
I welcome the steps that the Secretary of State has taken so far in response to the improvements in the security situation in Northern Ireland. In a sense, he underplayed his hand this afternoon in terms of the number of changes that he has felt able to introduce, and the dramatic improvements in security. I shall not bother the House with listing them, but he did himself a disservice by not acknowledging the steps that he has taken.
I also take this opportunity to acknowledge our agreement on the announcement that the Secretary of State made this afternoon about changes in compassionate leave for prisoners, as that is a step that we welcome very much. I was hoping to welcome with great gusto the announcement that there would be electronic recording at the holding centre in Castlereagh. I am disappointed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was able to say only that that will be put in train in the next Session. He also said that he would be looking at section 69 of the Act, to change certain powers that are already in the EPA. I am sad that electronic recordings will not be in place during the summer, when and if the holding centres are used, because they would make a difference immediately. We would have welcomed a more speedy implementation of the possible use of electronic recordings at the Castlereagh holding centre.
I shall not repeat the history that the Secretary of State went through in terms of the violence and the changes that we have seen from nine months ago, but with respect to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), I want to acknowledge—not in a political way—the death of Mr. Frank Kerr, a postal worker in Armagh, because his is the main death since the peace process was introduced. It is incumbent on us to put on record, for his family, our feelings of sorrow, which his family will have felt.
I would like to reinforce the point that was made about the appalling punishment beatings and attacks that have continued. There have been 131 since last September, and, as has been outlined, they are the result of activities by all sets of paramilitaries.
512 It is important that we remember the exact nature of those attacks, because 16-year-old Malakey Clarke cited his punishment beating in his subsequent suicide note. We should not forget Michelle Kinkead, who was driven out of Northern Ireland after her husband was killed.
We must also think of the families who are still waiting to know what happened to the bodies of loved ones who have disappeared over the years. They have not been mentioned so far. Margaret McKiney, whom I saw in Belfast last week, was still waiting for news of her son Brian, who disappeared many years ago at the age of 22. It would give her great peace of mind if she could at least bury him now: that would make a difference to her, and the same applies to many other parents, families and friends whose loved ones are still missing.
Let me emphasise that, if advances are to be made, the punishment beatings must stop. There is no justification, in a democratic, civilised society, for taking the law into one's own hands. Sixty people were killed last year, and 84 the year before that; but remarkable progress is now being made. We congratulate members of both Governments and, in particular, the communities in Northern Ireland who have shown such determination and courage in taking the peace process forward.
I also pay tribute to the Army and the police, who are adapting to the new circumstances. It is not always realised that everyone must adapt to change. We should not forget, however, that more than 297 members of the security forces have been killed and 7,000 injured. Is there any way in which the Government can introduce greater flexibility to the system of assessing compensation for members of the security forces who are injured by terrorist violence, especially when off duty? The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) raised that point in an Adjournment debate last week, and I think that the House would welcome such a change.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Is the hon. Lady prepared to include victims of the Chinook disaster in what she has said, given the Government's abominable announcement that some of the widows will not even receive a year and a half's worth of their husbands' pay in compensation?
§ Ms Mowlam
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in principle, having read in the newspapers about the levels of compensation that have been offered. I am reticent, not about the principle, but only because I do not always believe everything that I read in the newspapers. As I have not been given a detailed report of exactly what those families are receiving, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a carte blanche guarantee. No one who has read the reports concerning some of the wives of folk who were in the Chinook could help agreeing with him, but we shall wait to hear what the Minister says when he replies to the debate.
Before the announcements of the ceasefires in August and October last year—there was no doubt of the progress towards a stable peace settlement, and Opposition Members welcomed that—we had always registered our opposition to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 during debates in the House. Over the years, many hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to the unfortunate ritual nature of the renewal debates.
513 Our reasons for opposing the EPA in recent years have been stated clearly and concisely, more often than not by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). Along with others, he has argued that section 34—the internment provision—gives the state, or the Executive, an unacceptable power to imprison without either charge or trial, and that the Government have ignored proposals from their own advisers for reforms in regard to such matters as access to legal advice for those in holding centres and the procedure for certifying in rather than out in the case of scheduled offences.
Our opposition has been based on the fact that numerous sections of the Act have upset the delicate balance between fighting terrorism and protecting basic civil rights. We have questioned whether in principle it works and whether the curtailment of civil rights, and the anger and suspicion that it has created for many innocent families, have been outweighed by its success as part of the fight against terrorism.
Not only Opposition Members have asked those questions. The Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), expressed worry in the debate in 1993, when he pointed out that the objectives of defeating terrorismare the same objectives as Governments of all parties have had… But the plain fact is that, despite the lengthy passage of time, the objectives have not been achieved; nor is there any sign whatever of their being achieved."—[Official Report, 8 June 1993; Vol. 226, c. 168–69.]The Secretary of State took note of those arguments and, during the debate in 1994, acknowledged exactly the argument that I am making. He acknowledged theneed to maintain the essential fairness of the law recognising, among other considerations, that unfair law, perceived to be oppressive, does not gain public acceptance and soon becomes law that works against its purpose."—[Official Report, 24 May 1994; Vol. 244, c. 263.]The situation in Northern Ireland has changed and, one hopes, will continue to change. We believe that that necessitates us looking afresh at such legislation as the EPA.
The Secretary of State acknowledged this afternoon that in Coleraine in 1992 he stated:In the event of a genuine and established cessation of violence, the whole range of responses that we have had to make to that violence could, and would, inevitably be looked at afresh … Similarly, the emergency legislation on which many of these responses are founded would have served its purpose. Normality could return.The Secretary of State quoted to us this afternoon J. J. Rowe, whose independent review of the EPA he quoted to support the position that he has adopted. One must draw attention to the fact that it was published in February 1994, so does not take into account the totality of what we have experienced in the past nine months. J. J. Rowe himself said in his report: "His recommendations do not, therefore, take full account of the new situation which these events created, nor of the Government's working assumption that the ceasefires are intended to be permanent".
Our opposition to the EPA historically could have been more fully expressed if we had been able to amend the order. It has always been a question of renewal or abandonment; as a result, we have opposed. If we could 514 have a reasoned amendment selected to abandon or suspend parts of the Bill, keep others, strengthen yet others, I believe that we would do so. That option has not been open to us.
For example, colleagues in my position in previous years have said that they wanted to keep parts of the EPA on the statute book, especially those sections, such as section 28 in conjunction with schedule 2, that proscribe certain organisations, and those sections, such as sections 53 and 54 and section 57 and schedule 5, which provide additional powers to combat racketeering and fraud associated with terrorism. We have always argued in favour of those in relation to the EPA, and have been in the difficult and problematic position that we had to accept the whole thing or abandon it.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
I am relatively new to the House and I may be naive, but I understood that the reason why the Labour party opposed the EPA was that large numbers of hon. Members on the Benches behind the hon. Lady refused to support the Labour party when it asked them either to abstain or to vote with the Government on the EPA in the early 1980s. Is that not the case?
§ Ms Mowlam
No; I am being very honest with the hon. Gentleman. I am saying directly to him that there has been an argument from the Opposition Benches because we have been confronted with a difficult position. Some Opposition Members are, and have been, opposed in principle because they consider that the EPA is a violation of civil rights, that the balance has been turned over and that innocent families are affected.
§ Dr. Godman
Will my hon. Friend give way? Ms Mowlam: May I just finish? Is that all right?
In that sense, some people have been opposed in principle and others have said, whether about proscription or about fraud and racketeering, that they would like to retain certain provisions in the Bill. Because of the way in which legislation is introduced—every year on the renewal one can either vote for or against—contradictions have been pointed out, not just from the Labour Benches but from the Liberal Democrat Benches. We have discussed the matter in the party, being the democratic party that we are, and on balance have adopted our present position. That is a clear and honest answer to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Dr. Godman
I apologise to my hon. Friend for being over-eager in intervening. Surely the implementation of a measure such as this should not encourage police officers to act in a rough-handed way at our airports when dealing with bona fide travellers from Northern Ireland? Not so very long ago at Glasgow airport, a group of Northern Ireland political party representatives were treated in a grossly discourteous manner when on their way to attend a conference in Glasgow. Among their number were a 515 certain Mr. Ian Paisley junior, Councillor McGimpsey, Brendan Mackie and David Ervine. They were treated in a disgraceful way by police officers at Glasgow airport.
§ Ms Mowlam
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. It is a good example of the point that I was trying to make, which was that the difficulty is that families or individuals who have not in any way been directly connected to terrorism have been faced with harassment at ports. It causes a great deal of anger in the Irish community, both in England and across the water, among families who are innocent and whose lives have been affected by the EPA. That is one of the difficult balancing acts that we have always had to take into account.
Having explained in detail to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) about the position with which we have been faced historically—
§ Ms Mowlam
It is not difficult. I can do it with no problems. I appreciate his sympathy but let me reassure him that it is not difficult for me. I should like now, however, clearly to acknowledge that the position has changed in the way that the Secretary of State has analysed. Our judgment on that change, however, is that a response is now possible that is more in tune with the present changing situation in Northern Ireland. Let me just give a couple of examples of how things could be responded to differently.
The Secretary of State mentioned using powers under section 69 of the Act to introduce orders to suspend—to put in reserve—different parts of the EPA which are already covered by existing criminal law. In particular, section 17 of the Act, which applies to arrest powers for scheduled offences, could now be put in reserve for the simple reason that, if so needs be, it can be reintroduced, as the Secretary of State announced, over 24 hours. There are powers under existing legislation—the Northern Ireland provisions in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—to address the powers given in section 17. That would be a positive aspect to returning to normality which would not destabilise the picture that the Secretary of State painted.
In other areas where changes cannot be made with immediate effect, we would like changes to be set in progress now. Let me give just one example. The Diplock courts were mentioned earlier. We clearly recognise the difficulties in making the transition to full-jury trials, especially while the intimidation, punishment beatings and attacks continue, but we want the transition from Diplock to a jury system to operate in parallel with effective protection measures for jurors and witnesses. An immediate and important step that would signal a commitment to change would be to move to certifying in rather than certifying out of scheduled offences.
We recognise that the use of holding centres is now limited, but it would be helpful if, as the Secretary of State mentioned, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper were able to go in on particular interviews. The establishment of an independent legal unit at the holding centres would be an important step in ensuring that everything there functioned according to the rule of law.
In his speech, the Secretary of State said that he might in the months ahead operate certain powers and schedules in the Act, such as those that I have mentioned, by using 516 schedule 69. I obviously welcome that, but it is sad that we cannot have such an announcement this afternoon in the House—an open, democratic debating forum—rather than action being taken by the Secretary of State in the months ahead. One or two steps could have been taken that would have made a difference.
§ Mr. Hunter
I was reflecting on the hon. Lady's statements about the phased reintroduction of jury trials, but is not the reality the on-going intimidation of witnesses? Does she not acknowledge that we are still a long way from being sure that jurors would not also be intimidated?
§ Ms Mowlam
I accept that intimidation of witnesses and jurors is a problem and that there is some difficulty with cases going through the courts while intimidation beatings and attacks are happening. However, we have to deal with that problem. My suggestion is that, if protection measures for jurors and witnesses are put in place in the months ahead, we could make a start on dismantling the Diplock system and extending jury trials into areas where historically they have not been available.
In the short term, like certifying in and certifying out of scheduled offences, it is a move in the right direction. I am not suggesting a great leap into the unknown, but rather starting a course of action so that in a year's time the House does not say, "Thank goodness there has been a cessation of violence for two years, but we have not put anything in place to reflect that." We want to move things along so that, if and when the cessation of violence has lasted long enough and the punishment beatings have stopped, we can begin to take a more open approach. It is both rational and common sense to begin to put something in place.
I want to set in train a fundamental and independent review of anti-terrorist legislation, responding to the changing nature of terrorism throughout the world. I want it to dovetail with proposals from Europe and the United States so that by 1996, when the EPA falls and the PTA is due to be renewed, a new Bill can be put before the House—one that is not emergency legislation specific to Northern Ireland, but rather a response to the challenge of the changing nature of terrorism.
That is a very different proposal from the one that the Secretary of State announced at the end of his speech, which I understood to be an independent review of the likely position when the EPA and the PTA come to an end. I agree that the review must be carried out in a transitional way, but I cannot understand why it cannot begin now so that in a year's time we do not have to ask, "Should the EPA continue?" It is emergency legislation which, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested in his opening remarks, has an adhesive quality. Why do we have to wait another year, not for change in response to what is happening in the real world, but just to start the preparation for the independent review?
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)
I congratulate the hon. Lady on the civilised way in which she is dealing with this matter. She referred to perception. I assume from what she said that the Labour party will again vote against the renewal of the order. Does she feel that in some quarters there is a perception that, in the peace process, Sinn Fein and others are seen to be making the running? Would not a vote against the order tonight be perceived 517 as yet another example of the running being made all on one side? Surely it is a matter of not lowering our guard, but saying, "Not yet, Mr. Adams, not yet."
§ Ms Mowlam
This is a matter for civilised response. It is a question of differing judgments between us and the Government on how to respond to the changing nature of terrorism. I believe that we should be doing more now to put the right steps in train and to use normal legislation when we can. We could do that without giving clear signs to one side or the other.
I have outlined why Labour has historically opposed the EPA on principle. Will the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) explain to me how I could now turn round and say, "We voted against emergency legislation when the violence was on the streets, but now that it is not on the streets we are going to change our position"? That would give people not only the wrong sign but a very confusing sign. As I have said, historically, we have opposed the EPA on the grounds of internment and principle, because we are not sure that it has worked, as people have argued. My hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) pointed out the impact that it has had on families and innocent people. The situation has changed and it is incumbent on us, as it is on others, to respond differently.
I have tried to outline how we would have responded and the changes that we would have introduced if we were in government. We are not in government. I am not able to make the same judgment as the Secretary of State. We shall oppose the motion because disapproving of the order would send out the right signals.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the eyes of Sinn Fein and the IRA, there cannot be any doubt whatever of our consistent opposition—over 25 years and more—to terrorism? We have denounced every crime and atrocity committed by the paramilitaries, whichever side they happen to be on.
§ Ms Mowlam
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and fully concur with his point. It is not only true that have we criticised every violent act perpetrated by whatever side, but—this is the final answer to the question of the hon. Member for Wirral, South—we have made an effort since the ceasefire to maintain a bipartisan approach with the Government, which has worked in the interests of the process. I put it on record that we shall continue to make that effort, because we share the Government's determination and commitment to keep the process moving forward.
That we can disagree over the renewal of the provisions does not jeopardise that effort, but shows the way in which discussion, negotiations and opposition can take place in the House of Commons, so that common sense 518 and rational argument may win through. We do not need to up the ante and have a problematic debate that would make things difficult.
§ Ms Mowlam
Thank you. We regret that the EPA will pass through the House in its entirety again this evening. We had hoped that the Government would take a more long-term view and announce plans for immediate changes. I hope that in any independent review that takes place—even though it may not be of the exact nature that we require—there is some bipartisan co-operation so that we may achieve a common purpose, produce effective counter-terrorist legislation and so that there is no reason to provoke unnecessary divisions. My principal desire is to ensure that from 1996, it will be possible to think of Northern Ireland without emergency powers—for the first time in 74 years.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam). Sometimes, over the years, some of my hon. Friends have challenged the commitment of the Labour party to the fight against terrorism. I have never made such an accusation. I have the highest regard for the hon. Lady's integrity in the matter, but I quarrel with her judgment: she has failed to perceive that the greatest threat to civil liberties comes not from measures such as those before us, which a democratic state may voluntarily undertake, but from terrorism itself. My serious argument with her is that over the years—and to this day—she has responded insufficiently to the threat of terrorism.
The first point that struck me from reading Mr. Rowe's report was the on-going reality of the threat of Irish terrorism. It is not over. We cannot yet assign it to history. Mr. Rowe lists some points. On many other occasions my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has said more. The structures and organisations of Irish terrorism are intact. The IRA in particular is still recruiting, training, targeting, researching improvised weapons and raising money overseas to maintain its structures. Unless and until a clear sea change has happened and IRA terrorism especially has declined, we cannot move away from the climate which leads Mr. Rowe to say that in his judgment the provisions are needed and should be renewed for a further year.
The first essential point, therefore, is that, because Irish terrorism is an on-going reality, the measures are still needed.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
The hon. Gentleman should think carefully about the words that he is using. We are not talking about Irish terrorism: we are talking about terrorism—unless he is turning a blind eye to Unionist terrorism or assuming that Unionist terrorism is also Irish terrorism. The Unionists have killed more people in the past two years than the IRA. Prior to 1974, they also killed more people than the IRA. We must be careful to be even-handed: we are talking about terrorism, full stop—that is what is unacceptable, whether it be Irish or British.
§ Mr. Hunter
I do not for one moment dispute what the hon. Gentleman says. He will know from previous debates that I share those sentiments. There has never been any 519 justification for violence in Northern Ireland. Whether it has come from the loyalist—so-called—or the republican side, it has been equally reprehensible. The hon. Gentleman and I agree wholly on that.
I want to accelerate and be selective in my speech. I noted with particular interest Mr. Rowe's observations on part I of the emergency provisions, which he regarded as the kernel of the provisions. I note that he advocated that there should be no change to the system of scheduled offences. He rejected the argument of the hon. Member for Redcar that there should be certifying in rather than out. I greatly look forward to the time when we can turn—metaphorically—to Mr. Rowe and say that such a procedure is no longer necessary, but my reading of the situation is that we are not yet at that stage, although I share the hon. Lady's hope that we soon will be.
I especially welcome the fact that Mr. Rowe advises the House and the Government to keep the provisions under review throughout the year. Times may change, but I do not yet think that we are at the point where we can dilute or modify any aspect of the emergency provisions.
That sentiment also applies to the Diplock courts and the question of intimidation of juries. All the evidence which comes my way is that the intimidation of witnesses is an on-going reality in Northern Ireland. I therefore believe that it would be irresponsible of the House to do anything other than say—sadly—that, due to that on-going threat of intimidation, we have not reached the point at which the Diplock system can be changed.
My final major point relates to prisoners. I welcomed what my right hon. and learned Friend had to say about the relaxing of compassionate leave arrangements, and I understand that that will be widely and warmly welcomed. I also appreciate the comments that my right hon. and learned Friend made in response to my intervention about Private Clegg. In response to the intervention of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), I should say that I have to a certain extent played a part in the campaign for the early release of Private Clegg.
However, I wish the hon. Member for Belfast, West to have no illusions: those of us who are campaigning fully understand the tragedy which afflicted the Reilly family; we are in no way diluting or seeking to diminish that, and we understand the heartfelt grief of the family. In sound bites on the media, we answer questions about Private Clegg. I ask the hon. gentleman to accept the reassurance—and if he wishes, to convey it to his constituents—that we understand what a dreadful tragedy happened that night. Nothing that we say about Private Clegg diminishes our heartfelt sympathy for the Reilly family.
The House would be acting irresponsibly if it did not accept that the provisions must remain intact for another year. As Mr. Rowe urged, however, we should keep them under review in the hope that circumstances will soon allow us to relax and move to a more orthodox and normal regime of law and order in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I should like briefly to address the question before the House: should we, in the changed circumstances, keep on the statute book by way of renewal an Act which in many respects 520 departs from traditional civil liberties and requires a derogation from the European convention on human rights? In paragraph 30 of his report, Mr. Rowe states:The EPA cuts down some civil rights which the ordinary law provides; and I am talking of freedom from questions in the street, of freedom from searches of one's home, or the right to consult a lawyer at a police station, or trial by jury, to give only a few examples.The answer to the question is that we should do so only for so long as, and to the extent that, the powers contained in the provisions are required by the seriousness of the threat of terrorism to the safety and liberty of the citizens of Northern Ireland.
There are civil liberties issues on both sides of the argument. The test must be whether the provisions are still required for the safety and liberty of the citizens of Northern Ireland. It is not a matter of whether repeal would sweeten the peace process or whether the process of negotiation would be assisted by concessions. The question involves objective judgments about serious threats: how serious are the security threats, and how necessary are the powers to deal with them?
When one seeks to address the questions, it becomes clear that objective security assessment would currently justify some powers, but not others. Internment is clearly recognised as counter-productive and does not need to remain on the statute book. Mr. Rowe states that it should not be included in the new Act. The value of the power of extended detention is questionable, and clearly a source of great opposition and friction, although the Royal Ulster Constabulary sees it as still necessary. If it is to continue, there should be videotaping of interviews.
The Secretary of State made some welcome comments on that subject when he said that he hoped that the need for the use of powers of detention would quickly decline, but that if it did not, electronic recording should be introduced. I am disappointed that the Secretary of State does not envisage that happening until next year's Act, in whatever form it is introduced. It should be feasible to tape the more limited number of interviews that we expect. I recognise that the security of the tapes is vital, but it must be possible to protect that security. Surely, with co-operation on all sides, and if necessary in a statutory way, we can find a way of dealing with that important issue, which must be resolved.
So long as the intimidation of juries remains such a strong possibility, there remains a need for something along the lines of the Diplock courts. We would prefer three judges rather than one. With the declining number of cases, we believe that that would be feasible—more feasible than it appeared to Mr. Rowe when he made his report.
Some features of the legislation should be a permanent part of normal law. For instance, Northern Ireland is ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom on the licensing of security firms. I hope that the Home Secretary will soon indicate that he is prepared to do something on similar lines for the rest of the United Kingdom, following the report of the Select Committee. Such provisions should be part of normal law. It is arguable that the provisions on funds and money laundering for terrorism should also be part of normal rather than emergency law.
The patchwork pattern suggests the need for an urgent and fundamental review so that preparation can be made for the fact that new legislation is needed in 1996. The Secretary of State has spoken of a review, but indicated 521 that it would not be likely to be feasible in sufficient time to influence the 1996 legislation. I should like the review process to move faster than that.
Whenever it is completed, it can only take account of the security situation as it exists at that time. Change can go no faster than the security situation permits. However, that should not prevent us from taking the opportunity presented by new legislation to have a more fundamental review. The Government need to recognise that the emergency element in any new legislation could be much reduced and perhaps consolidated with a similarly reduced Prevention of Terrorism Act, as some of the provisions will not be needed and can be abandoned, and others can be included in ordinary law.
We have never been happy with the restriction on civil liberty involved in the Act, but we have recognised the overwhelming need for some of the provisions. We have also pointed to ways in which key provisions could remain effective but be subject to more civil liberty constraints. We have suggested time limits for custody on remand, which we still believe are necessary, an independent police complaints procedure, three judges for the Diplock courts and the incorporation of the European convention on human rights into United Kingdom law.
We could not accept the idea of defeating the renewal of the provisions today. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) gave an honest account of the Labour party's position, stating it clearly and frankly, but no one would be more embarrassed than the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) if the Opposition Whips succeeded in their intention and managed to defeat the order. To wipe all elements of the legislation off the statute book would not satisfy the test that we have set: that there should be a review based on an objective test of which powers are still overwhelmingly necessary and should be retained, even on a temporary basis, and how and with what safeguards such powers as are allowed to remain should appear in new legislation to operate from next year.
Clearly, our hope is that the security situation will be so much improved that most of the Act will be unnecessary. However, after all that the people of Northern Ireland have been through, the judgment must be based not on hope alone but on careful and rational assessment of the risks.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
I commend to the House the excellent and probing report of the operation of the EPA in 1994, drawn up by John Rowe. I think that the Government have considered it carefully and I welcome the fact that they have not dodged facing up to the terrorism currently being carried out in Northern Ireland.
We have witnessed—as have all right-thinking people in Northern Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic—the concern when concessions are made to IRA/Sinn Fein. It is all right for a member of the Conservative party to criticise the Labour Front-Bench team, but the Secretary of State has shaken hands with the leader of IRA/Sinn Fein. A few months ago, the Secretary of State was loudly protesting to President Clinton that the same man should not be allowed into America. A few weeks later, he flew 522 to America and shook hands with him. There is no difference between the situation then and now as regards the leader of IRA/Sinn Fein. He has not said that he will give up his arms; he has not said that he will give up anything—he holds on to the largest killing machine in western Europe.
It has been widely circulated in the press that one of the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office met and shook hands with Mr. Gallagher, a leader of the Irish Republican Socialist party, the political wing of the Irish National Liberation Army, which has not called a ceasefire. I should like to know if that report is right or wrong.
I commend Mr. Rowe's report, because he paints a clear picture, even for this year. He states that proscribed organisations have retained their structures fully intact and the internal management processes are as complete as ever. Those organisations exercise influence over individuals and communities and run an illegal system of punishments. We have heard of a number of those punishments. In one police division, there have been 30 such punishments. There has been organised intimidation. Witnesses are driven and intimidated to forget that they have seen the things that they previously testified to having seen. Contractors have been forced off building sites and a local association of schoolchildren's parents has had to abandon some of its plans. Let me make it clear that such activities take place on both sides.
No one is more sharply at the receiving end of the so-called Unionist paramilitaries than me. One has only to read their monthly magazine. Every month, my wife's husband is described as the evil man who must be removed from Northern Ireland politics. I have had bullets fired through my bedroom windows not by the IRA but by so-called Protestant paramilitaries. A home that I bought was bombed by Protestant paramilitaries, so I speak with practical experience about both sides.
The proscribed organisations on both sides are recruiting at this very moment. They are carrying on training; they are researching and refining techniques and technology; arms and weapons are being obtained and moved about, as Mr. Rowe underscores. Targeting is continuing and, on the financial side, funds are being raised by collection, robberies, extortion, racketeering and fraud. They are now threatening certain banks. Of course, when they rob those banks, they use the pound notes. However, an attack has been made on the Northern bank by a front organisation of the IRA calling itself the Equality—the Campaign for Economic Equality. It tells us that we must not accept Northern bank notes and asksWhy does your School, your Parish, your Club, your Credit Unionreceive them? It gives a whole list of so-called facts, a jaundiced list in my view, as reasons why that should be done.
There is a campaign to destroy the economy. Is that peace? If those people robbed the Northern bank, they would be happy to use all the pound notes they could get for their own ends.
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
Bearing in mind the fact that no hon. Members are saying that the structures of the IRA have changed or that recruitment to the IRA has stopped and that no one has challenged the fact that the training of the IRA is continuing and that intimidation by the IRA is prevalent, perhaps my hon. Friend could suggest an answer to me and my constituents 523 as to why the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland went to the United States of America to take the bloody hand of a cold-blooded terrorist like Gerry Adams and thereby insult the people who have faced terrorism for 25 years?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The Secretary of State should answer that. My views are well known. It is wrong for Ministers to shake hands with those who have not repudiated terrorism, as Gerry Adams certainly has not.
Mr. Rowe says that, in February 1995, an explosive device, which was clearly intended to kill or injure the RUC or armed forces officers who attended to it, was defused. He states that there have been 233 armed robberies, most of which were committed by or on behalf of proscribed organisations, and that the total that has been taken so far is £1.2 million. No one can say that terrorism and acts of terrorism are not going on in Northern Ireland.
If we had a true peace process, it would not need bolstering by concessions to the IRA. The IRA would not exist; it would be finished, over and done with. We are told that, if we speak about those facts, we are the enemy of peace. If there was a just peace, we would not need publicity stunts, fancy packaging, hyped-up gestures or public handshakes. Violence and all the associated criminality would end once and for all. Nothing could upset a pure and meaningful peace.
However, we are not dealing with a pure and meaningful peace process. We are dealing with a strategy that the IRA is using very successfully to achieve its eventual end. It has made it clear in its newspapers that this is just another phase of the struggle to obtain those ends. The troubles are, alas, not over. As I have said, all sorts of other attacks are being made, even on our economy.
Sinn Fein/IRA recently attacked the Prime Minister. When he visited Londonderry, he needed the support of the security forces to get him out of what could have been a very nasty situation, yet we were told that there was to have been a friendly handshake.
At the Sinn Fein conference, we were told about angry voices and marching feet and we will have them during the coming days.
§ Rev. William McCrea
Surely my hon. Friend appreciates that there is a mighty difference between angry voices and marching feet and beating people practically to death, destroying the hopes and dreams of the people of Northern Ireland and intimidating people—members of the security forces were forced out of their homes the other day—in my constituency right to the very present moment. We hear angry voices in the House and we have heard marching feet on many occasions and will again, but there is a great difference between that and the intimidation and slaughter of innocent people.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Yes, but the marching feet are marching towards violence and the angry voices are inciting violence, as we have seen in Belfast recently. That is going on now.
A remarkable statement was made by a well-known Roman Catholic priest, Dennis Faul of Dungannon, who recently said at a conference that the IRA must retain its weapons to defend itself from extreme Protestants. My experience in Antrim, North, and as a member for the whole of Northern Ireland in the European Parliament, is that the IRA has intimidated Roman Catholic people. It 524 has been vicious in terrorising Roman Catholic people, but the priest tells us that it should keep its guns. It should give up its Semtex and explosive devices, but it should keep its guns. That is the message that is going out to the IRA.
The Prime Minister in answering me the other night parroted a well-known republican and nationalist cliché: let us take the gun out of Irish politics. What needs to be said is: let us take the guns out of the hands of murderers. That is the real message that should go from the House.
§ Mr. Mallon
I was not at that conference and I cannot comment on what Father Faul did or did not say, but I find it incredible that a man with his record of opposition to violence through the years—especially against the IRA—would have made that statement. I note the alacrity with which the hon. Gentleman will attribute points of view to people in what would generally be called the nationalist community. I think if he started to listen to some of those voices in the House, he might get a more accurate view.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
All that I am going to say is that no denial was made by the person concerned in respect of what was said, which was recorded publicly. Editorials were written by the Belfast Telegraph, which is no friend of my party, and not a very good friend of the hon. Gentleman's party either. The editorial stated what was said and criticised the man concerned. There was no denial. That is a very important matter.
§ Rev. William McCrea
My hon. Friend can take it from me that many of my Roman Catholic constituents who have come under the heel of IRA terrorism find such a statement repugnant. They certainly do not want to hear such views.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I accept that point entirely. Social Democratic and Labour party Members, especially the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), have expressed their criticism of the IRA and its tactics. I shall be interested to hear what he says to the House. I now turn to prisoners—
§ Mr. Barry Porter
I am sorry to interfere in the political duet going on behind me; I speak only for myself. I am mildly puzzled. I may have reservations about some of the tactics being used by my right hon. and hon. Friends in this process. However, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the commitment to a renewal of the order tonight is an indication that the Government have not accepted that Sinn Fein/IRA or any other paramilitary organisation should have its way? Tonight, we are maintaining this legislation for the purpose of ensuring that it is made clear to all these people that the end has not yet come. It is pointless to make futile, pin-pricking gestures at the Government when, clearly, they have not yet given up.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I can only say, "Physician, heal thyself." What the hon. Gentleman says about me should be said about his remarks to Labour Front-Bench Members. The hon. Gentleman judges me because I state the facts, yet he taunts Labour Members by saying, "Look at your attitude to the IRA", while his own Ministers shake hands with the leader of Sinn Fein-IRA. The people of Northern Ireland have noticed that.
525 I do not see why the whole of the people of Northern Ireland should be held to ransom by the tiniest of minorities—the prison population of 1,800 people. Why should their interests be put first in terms of the concessions that have been called for?
I have a humanitarian interest in prisons and I visit them. From a humanitarian point of view, I welcome what the Secretary of State has said today. I have tried to get people out of prison in bitter home circumstances, but because they have not served a certain time, they cannot get out.
I welcome what the Secretary of State has said. I am not against remembering the families of the prisoners because it is they who have suffered the most. It is the mother who has a continually aching heart. It is the wife who has a continually aching heart and it is the children who have a continually aching heart. I do not want anybody to say in the House, "Ian Paisley is opposed to granting special leave in serious home circumstances." The House knows that I voted against doing away with juries. The House should read the debates because it would see that the change was agreed by means of the Roman Catholic vote in the Committee. The Roman Catholic Attorney-General pleaded with one of his Roman Catholic colleagues to ensure that he would come from the side of jury trials to the side of Diplock courts. The Protestants in the debate were indicted for not having done their duty. Hon. Members should read the reports. In addition, from day one, I was opposed to internment. I do not need any lessons about the practicalities in Northern Ireland.
The Ulster Volunteer Force has 110 paramilitary prisoners, the Ulster Defence Association has 110 and the IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army have 365 prisoners. Some 20 per cent. are serving life sentences. The whole of Northern Ireland is being held to ransom because of that small minority in our prisons. Danny Morrison, who is just out of prison himself, having committed a serious offence, has the cheek to say to the people of Northern Ireland that, if a private of the British Army is released, we must let all the prisoners out. Everyone, even the hon. Member for Belfast, West—I know how he feels for his constituents—agrees on this point. I had a similar case at Clogh Mills in North Antrim. No one could point the finger at my representation, because the victim happened to be a Roman Catholic who was shot by a member of the British Army.
Private Clegg did not go out that night to murder that young girl. The IRA and the Protestant paramilitaries went out deliberately to kill, to set the bomb, to put the bullet in the rifle, to aim the shot and to kill. Private Clegg did not do that. Perhaps the Minister, when he winds up, will comment on the further evidence that is alleged to have come to light. I would also like him to tell us whether he can refer the case back to a further Court of Appeal.
§ Dr. Hendron
I have a point to make to the hon. Gentleman about all the prisoners in Northern Ireland, both loyalist and republican. We know that many of them have committed the most horrific crimes and that they have slaughtered people in both communities and members of the security forces. Will the hon. Gentleman accept from me, however, that there are people from both communities in prison who, because of the environment 526 in which they grew up, whether the Falls road, the Shankill road, Newry or anywhere else, followed an inevitable course? It was almost inevitable that, in a family of three or four boys, at least one and possibly two might get involved in paramilitary activity. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the whole question of prisoners should be looked at with some generosity? I am not talking about an amnesty, but about a spirit of generosity as part of the peace process.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am afraid to say that I take a different view from the hon. Gentleman, as he knows. One could argue in the same way about ordinary criminals. Ordinary criminals in Crumlin road have argued to me that they were brought up in poor circumstances, that they had difficulties and that, therefore, they stole money or even killed. The same law must apply to all. We are talking about criminals who took guns in their hands and shot or killed people; they know that.
When visiting prisons and speaking to prisoners on Sunday mornings, face to face, I have debated this point. I have pointed out to them that they have a price to pay for the crimes they have committed and that the best way in which to pay it is for them to do their prison term without having hanging over their head every day the idea that they might get out early. That idea brings unrest to prisons; this whole debate is bringing unrest among prisoners.
The sooner that the Government say that a tiny minority of 1,800 cannot hold the whole of the Northern Irish people to ransom, the better. That must be said loudly and clearly. That view does not make me popular with the loyalist side of the camp—it is no wonder that the loyalists attack me—and it certainly does not make me popular with my Roman Catholic constituents, especially those in the glens of Antrim who are strongly pro-republican. However, I have to say what I believe is right. I believe that that point must be said loudly and clearly so that we are on a proper basis.
§ Rev. William McCrea
Perhaps my hon. Friend would ask those who are campaigning strongly to consider the likes of a young man in Magherafelt who is sitting in a wheelchair with both his legs blown off. What hope, consideration and generosity will be given to his future or to two young—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. Historically, interventions have been kept to one question.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I understand how my hon. Friend feels. He himself has been under attack, and it is only by the mercy of God that he and his family have survived that. I understand how he feels. Everyone in the district, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, knows of his genuine humanity. I understand how he feels about the matter.
I ask the Secretary of State to tell us that those who were robbed of their husbands in the Chinook disaster will get favourable treatment. In that way, justice will be seen to be done. I am not speaking with regard to newspaper reports, but to a briefing which I received from the solicitor representing one of the families concerned. I feel strongly about this matter and while I know that it is a matter for the Ministry of Defence, I hope that those on the Government Front Bench today will hear what I say and will make representations.
527 The House will do right to endorse the legislation. I trust that Labour Members will recognise from those in Northern Ireland that there is still a big problem with terrorism.
§ Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)
Some remarkable statements were made in the opening speeches from the Front Benches. The first came from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) asked him on what basis the Anglo-Irish Secretariat gave evidence and advice to J. J. Rowe's review, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he did not know. He is supposed to have responsibility for that group of civil servants, but he is apparently unaware, or unwilling to tell the House, what has been going on. It is remarkable he can disclaim any knowledge, yet cannot disclaim responsibility for what happens in the secretariat.
Some remarkable statements were made by the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), but I am not sure whether they were recorded by Hansard. She said at one point that there seemed little point in her continuing with her speech, and that was an accurate reflection on it.
The hon. Lady stated that the legislation curtails civil rights. J. J. Rowe accurately states on page 6 of his report that the legislation involves no breach of the United Kingdom's international human rights obligations. It is important to remember and to put on record the fact that the legislation involves no breach of our obligations under the European convention or the UN covenant on civil rights.
Another remarkable comment from the hon. Member for Redcar was her proposal that we should drop the present legislation on scheduling in favour of some form of certifying in. Again, J. J. Rowe's report states that certifying in is practicably unworkable unless the decision to certify in is to be taken at the moment of arrest.
The scheduling of the legislation has implications for the admission of statements and the burden of proof; the legislation does not relate simply to the mode of trial. If a decision is made to certify in, how can that decision be operated retrospectively?
J. J. Rowe's report states that, since 31 August 1994, there have been some 51 shootings, and eight explosive devices have been used. Those figures were accurate at the beginning of May, when the report was produced. There have been incidents since then—for example, the unfortunate and highly regrettable incident, which must be condemned, on the Shankhill road the other week, when some people—perhaps loyalist paramilitaries—fired on the police.
There have been other shooting incidents and murders. In addition to the murder in Newry to which hon. Members have referred, there was the murder in Belfast of a person said to be a prominent drug dealer. Everyone knows that that murder was committed by the IRA, although it has neither admitted nor claimed responsibility for it—no doubt in order not to embarrass Ministers who are now embracing the IRA in one place or another.
The IRA is continuing not only the beatings but other devices. It has murdered two people since the ceasefire, but Ministers will not want to dwell on those murders. Those facts underline the continuing need for this legislation.
528 Reference has been made to the way in which the IRA continues targeting. Targeting is conducted in an obvious way, but it is not just a matter of a person knowing that he is being followed. Policemen out shopping have noticed that a person is observing them. That person goes further and bumps into the policeman, saying "If it wasn't for the ceasefire, you would be dead now." Terrorists have gone up to a policeman in the street and said, "Bang, bang." That sort of terrorism and intimidation continues.
We have reason to believe that persons acting on behalf of the IRA are continuing to access records that would enable people to be targeted. Computer records from the Housing Executive and Inland Revenue records have been accessed. I hope that someone within the Northern Ireland Office is trying to think of counter-measures.
The intimidation of witnesses continues. J. J. Rowe says in his report:The RUC have provided me with many examples, and prosecutions have been abandoned because of the fact that a witness has 'reconsidered' his evidence.This has continued since the ceasefire, as I know from my personal experience of a case in which witnesses were intimidated.
I am referring to a murder in Lurgan, which took place around the corner from my constituency office. Some local residents were able to give evidence that helped to identify the person concerned, but they were subject to intimidation. This occurred since the ceasefire. Unfortunately, that case was not assisted by an unfortunate lapse that resulted in the names of the witnesses being disclosed to the defence lawyers. Consequently, the names came into the possession of the IRA.
Pending cases, of which we are told there are some 250, must also be handled under the legislation. There will be further cases, because one trusts that the police will not cease their investigations of previous cases where people have not been amenable. One trusts that the Northern Ireland Office has not instructed the police to lay off with regard to old cases. Therefore, there will be scores of cases that the police had not been able to clear up in the past but which, hopefully, they will be able to solve in the future.
We saw a clear example of such cases on a television programme a few weeks ago that featured Mr. Eammon Collins. In it, Mr. Collins boasted of his work in setting people up for murder when he was active on behalf of the IRA. The programme went into detail of the incident where Collins set up the then Lord Chief Justice—now Lord Lowry—for an attack.
Unfortunately, the programme—which identified not only Eammon Collins but a former academic colleague of mine, David Ewings, as being responsible for that attack—did not go on to refer to other incidents in which Mr. Ewings was involved, including the murder of my political and academic colleague Edgar Graham. Although Ewings is an Englishman, he is now domiciled in Dublin, and it is not hard to see why. One hopes that both he and Eammon Collins will be further investigated at some stage.
Thinking of the present whereabouts of those men in Dublin makes one think about extradition—an issue that seems to have gone quiet recently. The Northern Ireland Office has not tried to extradite people from the Republic of Ireland recently. I notice that there has been no such 529 default by Strathclyde police, who are seeking the extradition from Dublin of two alleged members of the Scottish National Liberation Army in connection with explosive offences. Interest in this matter extends beyond Northern Ireland.
Reference has been made to the Clegg case, but I do not wish to go into it in any detail. I am sure that the Secretary of State was right to say that normal procedures will be followed. The difficulty with the Clegg case stems from the existence of the mandatory life sentence. Had the court been able to reflect the case's extenuating circumstances in its sentence—circumstances to which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred—I am quite sure that the sentence imposed on Private Clegg would have ensured his release by now. I suspect that Clegg's term of imprisonment has been extended by the political considerations that may be at work at present. His release has certainly not been expedited by any political considerations.
There has been a quite improper attempt to link the Clegg case with prisoners generally. Those who represent the interests of paramilitaries in Northern Ireland have called for the early release of prisoners, which could be disguised by an increase in remissions. They suggest that the remission of sentences should be increased by 50 per cent. in the first instance, with a further increase after that. The case in favour of remission is sometimes presented in terms of bringing the law of Northern Ireland into line with that of England. It is worth examining the facts, because the position in England is not that simple.
In England, when a long-term prisoner has served 50 per cent. of his or her sentence, the Home Secretary has the discretion to release that prisoner on licence if that is recommended by the parole board. It is possible for the parole board to recommend that prisoners be released on licence, with the potential for recall should the terms of the licence not be complied with. Under English law, there is no provision for blanket releases after prisoners have served 50 per cent. of their sentences.
The Home Office's attitude to serious terrorist cases may be judged from its concern to ensure that any prisoners who are transferred from England to Northern Ireland remain Home Office cases rather than become Northern Ireland Office cases, in order that such prisoners do not benefit from any relaxation of the regulations in Northern Ireland. The Home Office's concern that prisoners who are transferred from England to Northern Ireland should remain under Home Office regime represents a clear vote of no confidence in the Northern Ireland Office and its policy. However, that is a side issue at the moment.
My party normally finds arguments for uniformity in the laws of Northern Ireland and Great Britain attractive. Consequently, there is a serious argument for extending the English provisions for remission and parole to Northern Ireland. If that were to happen, it would apply to all criminal cases, not just to those who are convicted of so-called terrorist or political offences. One could not draw a distinction between those who were convicted of armed robbery on behalf of a terrorist organisation and those who were convicted of that crime on their own account; nor could one draw a distinction between those who were convicted of murder and those who were convicted of rape.
530 We would argue for uniformity in the laws of Northern Ireland and Great Britain in this situation if it were not for the well-founded suspicion that any discretion to release prisoners would be influenced by political considerations. We would support such a change if we could be satisfied that decisions would be taken purely on sentencing grounds.
A Northern Ireland parole board would have to be established, but its creation would not in itself satisfy us as to the probity of decision making in view of the likely composition of such a board and the improper influences that would be brought to bear on its operations. I refer to the Anglo-Irish Secretariat in that regard. It goes without saying that a crude halving of sentences, as suggested by the Irish Government, is as unwelcome as their intervention in the Clegg case.
In conclusion, I look to the future, as that is the most important consideration. On page 21 of his report, Mr. Rowe says that the present legislation can be dropped only when the terrorist organisationshave lost their structure, and influence, and their activity has diminished, so that even if offenders are detected for past terrorist acts, and brought to court, and plead not guilty, a jury can try the case fearlessly and without interference".Unfortunately, it will be a long time before that can happen. However, a decision must be taken—and taken soon—about the future of the legislation. That decision goes beyond the issue of renewing the order tonight, which of course we shall support.
As Mr. Rowe points out, the prevention of terrorism Act falls for annual renewal in March next year and the current emergency provisions Act expires in August next year. Anti-terrorist legislation cannot be allowed to disappear altogether. Even if a complete and perfect peace were to come to Northern Ireland, if the current Acts were allowed to lapse we would have no port and entry control powers, we would lose the fraud powers and the powers to investigate financing and we would have no measures to deal with international terrorism. We must have provision to deal with those matters, and that provision should contain powers to deal with any continuing or renewed threat in Northern Ireland.
As the prevention of terrorism Act and the emergency provisions Act are so closely interlocked, Mr. Rowe recognises in his review published in February the very strong case for consolidating the two statutes and incorporating the amendments made by the Criminal Justice Act 1993. He states:The time has come to put together all the provisions which concern terrorism whether it is terrorism affecting Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom, or international terrorism".It will come as no surprise to hon. Members to learn that we endorse that view entirely. Therefore, we believe that it would be sensible to plan for a single Act to replace the present legislation which, ideally, should be on the statute book by March 1996 or August 1996 at the latest. Such an Act must have a flexible structure so that parts of it could be enforced at different times and even in different parts of the United Kingdom.
I believe that the approach outlined by the Secretary of State this afternoon is too dilatory. I am not sure exactly what he proposes with regard to a review. I will study his remarks in Hansard. He seemed to envisage a slower and much more relaxed approach to the matter, but I do not see any reason for delay. I do not see any difficulty in proceeding to put together a consolidated 531 Act which could be used to cover the continuing situation in Northern Ireland as well as international terrorism. Crucial decisions should be taken in the course of this year so that the legislation could be on the statute book early next year.
I urged that course early in the year when debating the renewal of the prevention of terrorism Act. It does not seem as though anything has happened, but perhaps it has—perhaps the civil servants have been at work and we can move more quickly in that direction. We urged the Government to move on the issue months ago, and we repeat our plea tonight. If the Secretary of State proceeds in the slow manner that he has indicated, the Government will end up looking foolish, and we do not want that to happen on this issue.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)
Like all those in the House and outside it, I am deeply disappointed that the renewal of the order is necessary. However, I think that it is necessary for three very clear and straightforward reasons.
First, the threat of renewed killings remains as great as it was eight or nine months ago. Thousands of guns are still in circulation, tonnes of explosives remain stockpiled and the INLA has yet to declare any sort of ceasefire. Unlike the Government, I am afraid that I am not persuaded that it is safe to assume that the ceasefires declared so far are permanent. If they are permanent, why keep the guns? They are not kept for reasons of self-defence, as was argued by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley), because missiles and machine guns are not needed for self-defence. Why keep the Semtex? I cannot think of anyone who could give a sensible explanation of how Semtex could be used for self-defence purposes. The parties are keeping guns and explosives just in case they need them when they cannot get their own way through negotiation. Until those arms are surrendered, the orders are necessary because the threat is as great as it ever was.
The second clear and simple reason why we should renew the order is that terrorism continues. It is perfectly true that the killings have stopped bar one, or was it two, or perhaps three—who knows? Most of the killings have stopped. We are enormously grateful for that, but the violence and intimidation has not stopped and the extortion continues. The violence and intimidation are almost always of the most foul and brutal variety. People are forced to leave their homes, often on pain of great brutality or even death.
The third clear and simple reason why the order must remain on the statute book is that terrorists are still at large. The perpetrators of the evil killings to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State referred are still in circulation. The perpetrators of the beatings to which a number of right hon. and hon. Members have referred still roam the streets. The terrorists are still armed, they are still training, targeting victims and raising funds, and, above all, many of them are still dedicated to a united Ireland. I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the order is a necessary response to all these factors in case any terrorist group, on whichever side of the sectarian divide, returns to shootings and bombings.
532 Over and above those three reasons is another much more depressing and disturbing one. There is a growing prospect of a violent Unionist backlash in the Province.
I comment on Unionist matters with a great deal of trepidation. After all, I freely admit that I was not elected to represent Unionist opinion in Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland is part of my country and I cannot help but report to the House what I hear, whoever elected me and whoever I represent.
My regular visits to Northern Ireland persuade me that a large and growing number of people in the Province believe that the framework documents are a green agenda leading inevitably to a united Ireland and that the Government's neutrality is designed to persuade people in the Province to accept the inevitable. I note with some horror that a large and growing number of people in the Province believe that the Government's repeated failure to stand by their stated position proves that they are on a course for peace at any price.
Finally, I keep hearing that people in the Province believe that it is only a matter of time before terrorists are released from prisons in yet another futile attempt to buy off the IRA. I am in no doubt at all that many Unionists feel betrayed. If we show them that the gun and the bomb achieve results, they may, God forbid, take the point.
Before I leave the issue of prisoners, I should underline what I have said before in the House: I am not interested in why somebody blows up young children or guns down innocent people in a pub. They are horrendous crimes committed by evil people. Patriotism is no defence and, with the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), one's home background is no excuse for such evil. The assumption that they will not do it again if peace breaks out is, in my judgment, no justification for deciding that punishment is not necessary or richly deserved. Let me once again make it clear to my right hon. and learned Friend that I cannot and will not support any early releases or special paroles, or any amnesties which are not available to all convicted criminals throughout the United Kingdom.
It is a great pity that renewing the order is again necessary, but I have no doubt that it is what we have to do. I consider it a great pity that the Labour party will again divide the House. Lest they misunderstand me, I repeat that I do not for a moment doubt that the Labour party loathes terrorism, just as we loathe it, but voting against the order sends terrorists the wrong signals because they thrive on division and are experts at exploiting weakness. If we divide the House, that signal will go out tonight.
Terrorism is still rampant in Northern Ireland. Only the killing—or most of it—has stopped. If there are those in the Province who believe and claim that the order harms the peace process, we can send them a very simple message. All they have to do to make the order unnecessary is hand in their guns, surrender their Semtex and stop the beatings. If they do that, the order is unnecessary, and until they do that it has my full support.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
Let me initially refer to some points made by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). I look forward to reading the Hansard record of his speech. I make no apology in the House or anywhere else for wanting to create and be 533 part of a united Ireland by peaceful democratic means, and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman respects that political view. If I am misinterpreting what he said, I shall most certainly adjust my opinion.
§ Mr. Wilshire
If the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great deal of respect, believes that I was denying him the right by democratic means to fight for what he passionately believes, I apologise to him. It was not what I intended to say and I trust that it is not what I said.
§ Mr. Mallon
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification.
Let me start by clarifying some points concerning the case of Private Clegg. I no more wish or desire to keep that young man in gaol than I desire to keep any young person in prison in Northern Ireland for one day longer than is absolutely necessary. I take no pleasure whatsoever from the fact that young people, whoever they may be or from wherever they come, are in gaol as a result of the past 25 years and what our antecedents have left us. Unless we get it right, we shall leave to posterity the trap in which many young people find themselves and which has resulted in their presence in gaol.
Private Clegg is in the same position as many young people that I know personally and have visited. It is from that point of view that I make my remarks, but I should like the case to be dealt with as part of a wider approach to the problem of young people in prison and not as a one-off incident that can and will be interpreted—rightly or wrongly—as one law for British soldiers in Northern Ireland and another for young people from the Shankhill road, the Falls road or South Armagh. Therein lies the danger in the controversy and the debate and therein lies the problem that will continue to crop up until a decision is made.
We should recall Lord Denning's remark:Be you ever so high, the law is above you".We cannot have one law for one group of people and a different law for another. I ask the Secretary of State and the Government to ensure that we consider all those young people in gaol for whatever reason because it is partly our fault. It was partly the fault of the House and those who preceded us here. We gave that generation of people a dud hand and when they had to play that dud hand, many of them were prey to influences that we hope our own families would never have to face.
If we were all in that position, we might not be so high and mighty when we judge other people. It is easy to carry one's rectitude like a banner and salute it as often as possible. That is much more difficult if one is sitting in a trap on a large estate in Belfast or South Armagh and knows the peer pressures, pressures on the community and the difficulties into which one's children are getting—and that there is nothing that one can do about it. Against that background, I ask the Secretary of State carefully to study the context.
From the remarks by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), it almost seems that to comment on the Clegg affair constitutes an interference with due process. That attitude has prevailed in the House for some time. If a view contrary to that held on the Tory Benches is expressed, that is seen as interference with due process. Let us put that into perspective. The Secretary of State 534 is considering a submission from a committee of public servants chaired by Department's permanent secretary. That will be an Executive act. Due process has taken place in three courts, including the House of Lords, which upheld the conviction. One will be an Executive act, decided by a politician on the advice of civil servants. The other was the due process of law, decided by three courts.
We must ask who is upholding the primacy of the law and the principle of equality before the law in the Clegg case. We should answer that question honestly for ourselves. However we answer, we should do so with the compassion to which Private Clegg is entitled—as is anyone who gets themselves into bother in the north of Ireland because of the political, social and economic mess that earlier generations left behind.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire). The Prime Minister, Secretary of State and Minister of State have been most courageous in probably the most difficult set of circumstances that any Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has ever handled. Mistakes have been made, but I put on record my appreciation of and admiration for the Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Minister of State and other Ministers.
My one fear is that, in their reticence, they have had to be dragged on to the dance floor far too often in the last nine months, instead of taking the initiative. They should have got it all over with in the first week—getting the handshakes out of the way. If that had been done, the Secretary of State, Minister and everybody else would have been saved a lot of problems. That would have prevented Sinn Fein from mounting its public relations exercise of the past nine months, in which the unwitting players have been the Secretary of State, the Minister and the rest of us—and I include myself.
I shall give another piece of advice that will not be listened to—it concerns dealing with the realities, not theories, of my life, the lives of people who live around me and the lives of all the young people in prison. The Government should not build up decommissioning as something that they can deliver, because they cannot and would not. It is a climb-down issue. [Interruption.] Hon. Members can laugh to their hearts' content but anybody who knows anything about Irish history—be it the history behind the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) or the one of which I speak—knows that decommissioning will not happen according to expectations.
I am prepared to face the hecklers across the Chamber in one year's time and ask them whether I was right on that climbdown issue. I say that because I do not want the good work of the Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Minister of State and others devoted to something that they cannot fully deliver. I believe that they know that for themselves.
Whatever noises are made in the background, and whatever platitudes we hear, the reality is that the peace that has been created will last. Nothing of the scepticism that has entered the debate with certain implications will deflect anyone from maintaining that peace. Nobody in this debate should detract from that peace, which is tangible on the ground in the north of Ireland, among the people I represent and throughout the north of Ireland.
If there are individuals whose sourness of heart is such that they cannot conceive lasting peace, they should examine not just their political analyses but their consciences and ask themselves why they are so sour at 535 the prospect of lasting peace. The people who have suffered deeply from the absence of peace will say that it is here now because the people of the north of Ireland made it clear to the paramilitary groups and everybody else that 25 years of hell was enough. That is why the peace will last.
I say to the hon. Member for Spelthorne that peace is more important than his academic arguments or political heckling, or any point that he or I make in the House. That lasting peace means lasting lives. British soldiers, my neighbours and members of other communities would otherwise be dead. Hon. Members should think before they make argumentative points about a matter that goes to the heart of a situation that we have been dealing with for a long time. As Yeats wrote:Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.The hon. Member for Spelthorne is far enough from the problems to be argumentative about them.
The assumption has been made that the legislation is required and that if it did not exist, there would be a terrible collapse of the entire system. John Rowe QC has been used as the authority. We read his report on the prevention of terrorism, and my opinion of that assessment has not changed. He said then that he was not part of the peace process, and he confirmed that in his latest reports. What does the measure do that could not be achieved by ordinary legislation?
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, to whom the Secretary of State referred, said in his report:I think that the provisions of the criminal justice system are well capable of exercising effective powers to deal with terrorist crime, at the same time maintaining in a civilised society the important safeguards for the individual.Thus speaks the Government's appointee as commissioner for the holding centres, giving his informed opinion as an eminent lawyer—that the criminal law as it stands, without emergency legislation, can cope. We should respect his view.
The foregoing statement can be looked at more objectively in the light of some statistics on convictions obtained under the emergency provisions. They are most informative. Of all the convictions obtained under the emergency provisions in 1992, 228 were for motoring offences; 184 were for unattended parking in a controlled zone; 25 were for leaving a vehicle unsecured; and 16 were for failing to render a vehicle incapable of being driven off. In the same year, there was precisely one conviction for failing to stop for members of the security forces, and there were two for failing to answer security forces' questions.
We have been told for the past three hours that this legislation is essential to our future safety. In 1993, 237 convictions had to do with motoring offences, and 179 were to do with cars being left in security zones. Thirty were for unsecured vehicles. There was one conviction for attempting to illicit information useful to terrorists, and there was one for wearing hoods in public places. There were six convictions for possession of information useful to terrorists. For 1994, there were 171 convictions of the motoring type, but there was just one for recording information useful to terrorists, and one for collecting such information. This information is recorded in Hansard, in the form of replies to questions by the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam).
536 I remind the House that we are being told that the whole fabric of society would crumble without these provisions—
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
The hon. Gentleman will find, at paragraph 26 of Mr. Rowe's report, the observation that, if it is thought that the police need the support of the Army and the other armed forces to help them carry out their policing responsibilities, part II of the Act, at any rate, needs renewing, because it is the part that gives the Army the jurisdiction to carry out its supportive role.
The hon. Gentleman will know that, in South Armagh, there is—regrettably, by reason of the enhanced terrorist threat as compared with the rest of the Province—a greater need for the Army to continue to patrol in support of the police than there is elsewhere. Is he seriously telling his constituents to second-guess the police and to tell them that they do not really need the support of the Army, so the whole Act, including part II, can go?
§ Mr. Mallon
No. I am delighted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gives me this opportunity to clarify what I am saying. My point about Mr. Rowe is that he does not see the need for any change in the whole legislation—not a single iota. Secondly, for as long as we have emergency legislation and the police in South Armagh depend on the Army, we will not be able to break the cycle. I suggest that the police service starts to operate some form of normality in South Armagh during this period of peace, however long hon. Members think it may last. Personally, I believe that it is permanent. That is how to reach the stage where part II of the Act is not needed: that will be the test. I happen to think that my feelings about South Armagh are more closely related to the facts than are Mr. Rowe's.
I do not wish to discuss the Diplock courts in detail. I do, however, think it unfortunate that they have come to be known as Diplock courts at all. When establishing them, Lord Diplock stated unequivocally that any court that did not comply with the minimum requirements of the European convention on human rights was not worthy of the name of a court of law; should not form part of the ordinary criminal jurisdiction system; and should not be staffed by ordinary judges who sit in other criminal courts. The rationale behind that remark was that, otherwise, the judiciary would risk losing the respect and trust that are of paramount importance to the functioning of the judicial system in Northern Ireland. I am quite sure that Lord Diplock has often had cause to regret the fact that his name has been associated with this system of courts.
We must realise the damage that emergency legislation has done over the years. I tell the Secretary of State that we have a chance now to start to redress that damage, not by giving way to terrorism or by allowing the creation of a lawless society, but by creating, for the first time since the state was founded, a system of justice, of policing and of law that the entire community can be part of, can support and can defend. That will in itself prevent a repetition of the events of the past 25 years.
It is easy enough for John Rowe QC to say that he is not part of the peace process. Fortunately, the Secretary of State is part of it. As such, he has a responsibility to show the community in the north of Ireland that he is confident of the peace process and will move on it—
§ Sir Patrick Mayhew
The hon. Gentleman interrupted me a couple of times, so I do not feel too diffident about inviting him to give way. I ask him to reflect on what he 537 has just said about the Diplock courts. He clearly implied that the so-called Diplock courts are incompatible with the provisions of the European convention on human rights. That is not so. Their legitimacy, in terms of the convention, has been upheld time and again by the European Court of Human Rights. The hon. Gentleman is casting imputations against the High Court and senior county court judges who sit in those courts. I hope, therefore, that he will reflect that what he has said gives rise to a most unjust and unwarranted implication.
§ Mr. Mallon
I made no such implication. I was not referring to the judges who man the courts or to how they are handled. I was referring to what Lord Diplock said in the context of the European Court of Human Rights. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must recognise that some of the cases that arrived before the courts followed arrests and detentions that represented a derogation from the provisions of the European convention on human rights. That is why I recommend re-reading what Lord Diplock said when he set up the courts.
I end with a plea to the Secretary of State. Whether he likes it or not, history has made him a main player in what is going to happen at the turn of the century. He will certainly have my support for doing all that he can to ensure the peace. Together with the Minister of State, he has a major role to play in moving towards the real negotiations which alone will solve this problem. I beg him not to be dragged on to the dance floor but to go out there and take a lead. Only in that way will he be able to advance on the considerable role that he has played hitherto.
§ 6.9 pm
§ Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen)
I shall be exceptionally brief because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak.
I am disappointed that the Secretary of State has not taken the opportunity to move forward along the lines that my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) urged while speaking from the Opposition Front Bench. We are part of the peace process, as is the Secretary of State. I feel that he should be more progressive. I understand that there are quandaries and difficulties, but I would have liked to see him move forward more quickly.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I, too, shall be brief. I know that the debate is coming to an end.
I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for his opening words. He drew attention to the dangers that we face when emergency legislation seemingly becomes permanent—legislation that was produced as a temporary measure. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognises that there are dangers. That has been the force of my argument over the years. I have argued that there is a danger to democracy.
An additional factor should be taken on board. We are permitted to use emergency legislation in terms of international law only when there is an emergency. If Britain has been a vast contributor to international law, we have a duty to live up to it. It is possible to argue that there is still an emergency in Northern Ireland. I think 538 that the Secretary of State will agree with me, however, that it is becoming more and more difficult to argue that that is the position in legal terms. That being so, we need to start phasing out emergency legislation. The sooner we say so clearly, the better.
On that ground, I think that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is wrong to say that we should vote for the motion because we want some of the legislation. If the Government were still taking the tough, hard line that was taken when the paramilitarists were functioning as military groups, the right hon. Gentleman would still have to support the Government because he wants some provisions of the emergency provisions legislation.
We must vote against legislation when we are against it—this answers the point raised by the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire)—and similarly when we are against parts of it that we cannot amend which we consider to be important. We should never make an apology for that. The message that we send out by adopting that approach is that we are not divided but we believe in a democratic process. I know of no more powerful argument than that.
I agree entirely with the Secretary of State that the profoundly important issue of prisoners should not be linked with the Private Clegg case. We all know, however, that it is seen in that way, inevitably, in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) told us that he is campaigning for the release of Private Clegg and that in so doing he means no insult to the victim or the victim's family. He made the point well. Those of us who campaigned for the release of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four faced a similar problem, even though we were arguing that those who had committed those offences were still going free. These are complex arguments.
I make no complaint that Army officers are involved in trying to secure the release of Private Clegg. I understand their involvement because they come from the same group. However, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) has said, the community that he represents in part has strong feelings about the Clegg case. It has a right to ask why there is one rule for British service personnel and another for the people of Northern Ireland. That is the way in which that community sees the issue.
It is important for newspapers to recognise that one of the reasons for some to say that there are double standards is that some areas of the press, such as the Daily Mail, campaigned to keep the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four in prison and are now campaigning to get Private Clegg out of prison. If there is a miscarriage of justice involving a British soldier or someone accused of a terrorist offence in Great Britain or in Northern Ireland, Unionist or Republican, it remains a miscarriage of justice. No other approach is acceptable.
Paratroopers form an elite group. They are selected and trained in a specific way. They are trained to be aggressive and to react quickly. That is what is needed to be a paratrooper, and that is right. That means that paratroopers are not the best group to use in what is essentially a peacekeeping role. Private Clegg might not be in his present position if he had been in one of the ordinary regiments, the members of which are not trained in the way of paratroopers. I make that point as much for paratroopers as for anyone else. They are aggressive 539 attacking troops. Other troops have better training for a peacekeeping role. That is why it is a mistake to use paratroopers in Northern Ireland.
When it comes to the release of prisoners, we have always had to make a judgment on parole, life sentences and conditional release schemes, for example. If someone is no longer regarded as a danger to the public, that is one of the factors to be taken into account when considering early release. A feature that has been missing in the debate, especially on the part of representatives of the Unionist parties, is acceptance of the peace process. We have all made strides, but it must be recognised that the leadership of the Unionist paramilitarists and that of the Republican paramilitarists have made a giant step. That should be said. It is in our interests that the leaderships of the two groups stay intact.
I saw the leaders of the Unionist parties linked to the terrorist campaign of the past only a few months ago. They recognised, just as do the leaders of Sinn Fein, that if their troops decide to return to violence they, the leaders, will be swept aside. It is in our interests and those of everyone else that the two groups continue the peace process. That is why I argue strongly that we should start to phase out emergency legislation.
The Secretary of State has made quite a good start but there are issues to which I should love to refer. They were taken up ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar. We could go much further in terms of the Diplock courts. We must get the message over that we believe in the peace process and that we are proceeding as rapidly as possible.
§ Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)
There is no dispute in the House about the need for anti-terrorist legislation. The question is whether it should be the present legislation and whether it is needed now. The issue was well covered by my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) and for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley).
We welcome some parts of the Secretary of State's approach. For example, we welcome what he said about introducing an electronic recording system in holding centres. I hope that the Minister of State will tell us why it cannot be introduced now. That is something that has become lost, as it were. It would be an important message. We welcome the relaxation of prison rules on compassionate leave. There was a welcome for it throughout the House.
The mystery deepens slightly when we come to consider what is to succeed the current legislation and the Government's approach. It seems that the Government intend to introduce a short-term emergency provisions Bill next year. What does "short-term" mean? The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who is not now in his place, said that such an approach was too dilatory. As I understand it, the legislation that the Government propose would need to be ready for the Queen's Speech in November. The Government must have a clear idea now about what they are intending to do by means of the new measure. Not one word has crossed the Secretary of State's lips about how he will amend the EPA.
From the Opposition's point of view, it would be intolerable for a new EPA to include internment powers. Surely it would be easy for the Government to say that 540 any new EPA will not include such powers. Many hon. Members have talked about the limitations of the Diplock courts. Some have said that with the current legislation it is difficult to phase out those courts. It would have been handy for the Secretary of State to say that that is his intention in introducing a new EPA.
What mystified me most about the Secretary of State's approach is that he said that there would be a new short-term EPA. How short-term? He also said that, at some stage in future—he could not say when—he would start an independent review of the legislation, that it would attempt to put together the EPA and prevention of terrorism Act and, even more idealistically, that he would be hoping to do that on a United Kingdom basis. That is not a short job. If the Secretary of State does not intend to start that review this Session, how long will it take? How long will the short-term EPA be in existence?
I am rather worried, as was the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), that the wrong messages would be sent, and that, no matter how long the peace process lasted and was developing, there would not be solid messages going out about changes in the legislation by the Government.
§ Mr. Robathan
The hon. Gentleman is making sensible and reasonable points, but Conservative Members understand that the Labour party will vote against the measure, because some Opposition Members are more concerned about civil rights than they are about the rights of victims. The hon. Gentleman speaks of messages. The message that he and the Labour party are sending today by voting against the prevention of terrorism Act, I regret to say, is that the Labour party is soft on terrorism and soft on the causes of terrorism.
§ Mr. Worthington
That matter was raised earlier by the hon. Gentleman, and he did not understand a perfectly simple reply then. I have no optimism that my teaching powers are greater than those of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar, so I shall ignore his point, because it has been dealt with.
Since we last debated the EPA, there have been two ceasefires. We should point out the difference that they have made to the quality of life in Northern Ireland, and pay tribute to all the people who have contributed to them. Labour Members—this is a partial answer to the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan)—accepted that there has not been a complete end to terrorism. While there are punishment beatings, there is terrorism. Terrorism is the use of violent and intimidating tactics to achieve political ends. That is how it is defined in the Act.
When parties with links to paramilitary organisations say that they do all they can to prevent beatings, they lack credibility. They have to realise—this applies to both sets of paramilitaries—that they would become credible as democratic organisations and totally remove any case for these powers if they used their influence to stop the beatings. When organisations use intimidation and terror to control areas, to promote crime and racketeering, they undermine the rule of law. They also undermine those of us who want to stimulate the Government to maintain the momentum to normality in law enforcement. We are undermined by the actions of those who have influence on the paramilitaries.
For their part, the Government must press on with all possible safe measures to normalise policing. We welcome the withdrawal of the Army from policing 541 matters, and the many small steps that have been taken by the Chief Constable to move towards the ideal of a police service, not a police force. We welcome the recent substantial increases in the number applying to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary from the Catholic community. We wish to support the RUC in all its moves to build trust and confidence across the communities.
We hope that the present tense relationship between the RUC and the Police Authority can be repaired and then strengthened. The challenge to help the police to become welcome to all in both traditions who want a law-abiding and peaceful community must not be weakened by division between those at the top of the RUC and those at the top of the Police Authority. A new relationship must be worked out, and it needs their joint co-operation.
There are damaging effects from unfair law when there is armed warfare in the country. Even more damaging is unfair law when there is a ceasefire. It is crucial, with all due prudence, to keep the momentum going. It is disturbing that the Government do not seem ready to commit themselves to a full replacement for the EPA ready for the Queen's Speech. That would have been the right way ahead. There has to be a new Act of Parliament, and to move to short-term expediency seems to be the wrong way of going about that. Opposition Members have said that there need to be powers on fraud and racketeering, proscription of paramilitary organisations and the threat of international terrorism. We want that to be done in the context of the United Kingdom as a whole and with all-party support. That may be idealistic, but it has to be the target that we set ourselves.
We believe that more could be done now. It is a pity that the Secretary of State has not felt able to come here with a promise from the Chief Constable that, as a matter of policy, he would always, where possible, use the powers that are available to him under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Northern Ireland) rather than the EPA powers. I realise that that is a matter not for the Secretary of State but for the Chief Constable, but it would have been handy to have that assurance.
We would have preferred to suspend EPA powers covered by existing criminal law, but a declaration, by the Chief Constable, of the intention of using ordinary criminal law where possible would be welcome. It is clear that the Diplock courts cannot be stopped overnight, but we have heard nothing from the Government about how those courts are to be phased out and jury trials phased in. We heard earlier that that cannot be done easily within the present EPA, but jury trials have to be phased in at some time, and the Government have to tackle that, because, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said, many of the Diplock court cases have been for offences that have had nothing to do with political violence.
It is disappointing that the Government have not felt able to come to the House with a promise to give access to legal advice in holding centres. We are not asking for anything that endangers anybody. We simply want to go forward prudently with amendments to these laws. We have offered a bipartisan approach to the Government, for which they have expressed some appreciation. But will the Government take up our offer of talks so that, when the successor legislation to the EPA and PTA is proposed, it will have the support of the whole House? Will the Minister accept that offer?
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler)
I welcome the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) to his duties on the Opposition Front Bench, and at the outset say to him that of course the Government would welcome talks with him and his colleagues about the future of the legislation. If we can proceed with a wide measure of agreement, that would indeed be most welcome to the House, the country as a whole and, of course, to all others who may have an interest in the subject.
We have made a very firm commitment indeed to the review of the legislation. It will be an independent review. It will be a review that must take place having regard to the prevailing security situation, which must clarify itself in the time ahead before we can firmly decide when that review should start. I am very glad to make that response to the hon. Gentleman at the outset of my remarks.
I think that one would agree that this has been a very good debate. It has also been an unusual one, given that we are now more than nine months into the Provisional IRA ceasefire and eight into that declared by the so-called loyalists. The intervening period has, thankfully, been free from major terrorist atrocities, but, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State told the House earlier, terrorist organisations on both sides remain all too capable of returning to violence. That has been a theme of the debate.
The renewal of the legislation has been supported by a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) and for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and the hon. Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). They too have referred to the state of readiness of the various terrorist organisations and their ability to return to violence, and it is against that backcloth that I invite the House to support the Government.
We hope that what I have described will not happen, and our efforts are directed towards that end; but our considered judgment is that it is not yet time to dispense with any of the powers conferred by the Act. They still have a role to play. Military activity in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is down to some 25 per cent. of previous levels, and two major units have been relocated from Northern Ireland. For the first time since 1969, no soldiers regularly patrol the streets of Belfast. Policemen and policewomen are increasingly able to devote their efforts to protecting all communities from ordinary crime.
The Government have responded to the new situation in other ways. In October, all the closure orders on cross-border roads were revoked, and the physical work to reinstate the crossings is now largely complete. It has been welcomed. Patrol bases and vehicle checkpoints no longer cause extensive delays to the motoring public, disrupting everyday life. The security forces have decided to remove the vehicle checkpoint at Clady, on the Tyrone-Donegal border, and work will begin shortly. That is an operational decision by the security forces to rationalise the network of border patrol bases—those that must remain.
The civilian search unit in Belfast, which has existed since 1972 to protect the city and other centres of population—two of whose members were murdered in the late 1970s—will be stood down from the end of this 543 month; we owe it our deep gratitude for its services over the years. I can also announce that, from 1 August, the great majority of restrictions under the vehicle control zone order—which is made under the Act, and which restricts parking and access at many locations throughout Northern Ireland—will be lifted. I am sure that many hon. Members, in particular, will welcome that announcement. It will represent a significant return to normality, and I believe that it will be greatly welcomed by the wider public in Northern Ireland.
Some valuable points have been made in the debate; I shall deal with as many as I can. A number of hon. Members referred to the Clegg case. The hon. Member for Antrim, North asked whether any further evidence had been received. None has been received, but I can tell the House that, if my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State received any new evidence, he would of course consider it—as is his bounden duty—and ensure that it went before the appropriate judicial authorities.
My right hon. and learned Friend and I will consider the report of the Life Sentence Review Board objectively. We will not be influenced from any quarter or by any lobby or political consideration; we will reach our view on the basis of the facts and circumstances of the case. It could not be otherwise.
The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) referred to flexible compensation for RUC members who have been injured, and for the families of those who have been killed. She was present last week when the hon. Member for Upper Bann introduced an Adjournment debate on the issue. In my reply to that debate, I undertook to examine any details of cases that the hon. Gentleman chose to supply; I stand by my word, and will attempt to establish what further compensation or assistance may be properly available.
The report of the inquiry into the Chinook helicopter disaster will be published shortly. Copies will go to the dependants—to family members who have a right to receive them. It will be a matter for the Ministry of Defence, in accordance with usual law and custom, to decide the level of compensation; that is not a matter with which I can deal directly this evening.
I particularly welcomed the reference by the hon. Member for Redcar to knowledge of, and the return of, the bodies of those who have been murdered by terrorist gangs in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years. She struck an important chord: that would bring immense relief to the families of those who still yearn to grieve in the knowledge of where their loved ones have been disposed of. I hope that the hon. Lady's words—and, indeed, the sympathy of the House—will be conveyed to those who may have influence in the matter, and may be able to convey any appropriate information to the authorities to enable that to be done.
I hope very much that we shall see the establishment of lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Let it not be forgotten that successive emergency provisions Acts have played their part in enabling us to reach this stage. The necessary amendments that they have made to the judicial process, and the powers that they have conferred on the security forces, have provided the legal framework for firm and resolute action against the terrorist gangs in Northern Ireland.
544 I believe, however, that we now stand poised on the brink of new opportunity, and look forward to the day when the 1991 Act will no longer be necessary. Many of the comments made in today's debate—
It being three hours after the commencement of the debate, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [6 June].
§ The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 190.547
|Division No. 162]||[6.37 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Cormack, Sir Patrick|
|Alexander, Richard||Couchman, James|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Cran, James|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)|
|Alton, David||Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)|
|Amess, David||Day, Stephen|
|Ancram, Michael||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Arbuthnot, James||Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Dover, Den|
|Ashby, David||Duncan, Alan|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Duncan-Smith, Iain|
|Atkins, Robert||Dunn, Bob|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Dykes, Hugh|
|Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)||Eggar, Rt Hon Tim|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Elletson, Harold|
|Baldry, Tony||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Bates, Michael||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Evennett, David|
|Bellingham, Henry||Faber, David|
|Bendall, Vivian||Fabricant, Michael|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Booth, Hartley||Fishburn, Dudley|
|Boswell, Tim||Forman, Nigel|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Forth, Eric|
|Bowden, Sir Andrew||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Bowis, John||Freeman, Rt Hon Roger|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||French, Douglas|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Fry, Sir Peter|
|Brazier, Julian||Gale, Roger|
|Bright, Sir Graham||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Garnier, Edward|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Gill, Christopher|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset)||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Burns, Simon||Gorst, Sir John|
|Burt, Alistair||Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)|
|Butler, Peter||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Hague, William|
|Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hannam, Sir John|
|Clappison, James||Hargreaves, Andrew|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Harris, David|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ru'clif)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Hawksley, Warren|
|Coe, Sebastian||Hayes, Jerry|
|Colvin, Michael||Heald, Oliver|
|Congdon, David||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Conway, Derek||Hendry, Charles|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hicks, Robert|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Horam, John||Pawsey, James|
|Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Pickles, Eric|
|Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Jack, Michael||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Jessel, Toby||Rendel, David|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Richards, Rod|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Riddick, Graham|
|Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Kellet-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Knapman Roger||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Knight, Dame Jill||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Knox, Sir David||Sackville, Tom|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Legg, Barry||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Leigh, Edward||Sims, Roger|
|Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Lidington, David||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lightbown, David||Smyth, The Reverend Martin|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Soames, Nicholas|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Lord, Michael||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Luff, Peter||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lynne, Ms Liz||Spink, Dr Robert|
|McCrea, The Reverend William||Spring, Richard|
|MacKay, Andrew||Sproat, Iain|
|Maclean, David||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Steen, Anthony|
|Maddock, Diana||Stern, Michael|
|Madel, Sir David||Streeter, Gary|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Sumberg, David|
|Malone, Gerald||Sweeney, Walter|
|Mans, Keith||Sykes, John|
|Marland, Paul||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick||Thomason, Roy|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Merchant, Piers||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Mills, Iain||Thumham, Peter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)||Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Tracey, Richard|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Tredinnick, David|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Trend, Michael|
|Moss, Malcolm||Trimble, David|
|Needham, Rt Hon Richard||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Nelson, Anthony||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Walden, George|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Waller, Gary|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Wardle. Charles (Bexhill)|
|Norris, Steve||Waterson, Nigel|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley||Watts, John|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Wells, Bowen|
|Ottaway, Richard||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Page, Richard||Whitney, Ray|
|Paisley, The Reverend Ian||Whittingdale, John|
|Patntick, Sir Irvine||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Wiggin, Sir Jerry||Wood, Timothy|
|Wilkinson, John||Yeo, Tim|
|Willetts, David||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)||Mr. Sydney Chapman and|
|Wolfson, Mark||Dr. Liam Fox.|
|Ainger, Nick||Godman, Dr Norman A|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Godsiff, Roger|
|Allen, Graham||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Austin-Walker, John||Grocott, Bruce|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Gunnell, John|
|Barnes, Harry||Hain, Peter|
|Barron, Kevin||Hall, Mike|
|Battle, John||Hanson, David|
|Bayley, Hugh||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Henderson, Doug|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Hendron, Dr Joe|
|Benton, Joe||Heppell, John|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Berry, Roger||Hinchliffe, David|
|Betts, Clive||Hoon, Geoffrey|
|Blunkett, David||Howarth, George (Knowsley North)|
|Boateng, Paul||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)||Hutton, John|
|Burden, Richard||Illsley, Eric|
|Byers, Stephen||Ingram, Adam|
|Caborn, Richard||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Jackson, Helen (Shef' ld, H)|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Jamieson, David|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Campbell-Savours, D N||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S 0)|
|Cann, Jamie||Jones, Martyn (Crwyd, SW)|
|Clapham, Michael||Jowell, Tessa|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Keen, Alan|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Clelland, David||Khabra, Piara S|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Liddell, Mrs Helen|
|Corbett, Robin||Livingstone, Ken|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Corston, Jean||Llyd, Elfyn|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||McAllion, John|
|Dalyell, Tam||Macdonald, Calum|
|Darling, Alistair||McFall, John|
|Davidson, Ian||McGrady, Eddie|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||McLeish, Henry|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||McMaster, Gordon|
|Denham, John||McNamara, Kevin|
|Dewar, Donald||MacShane, Denis|
|Dixon, Don||Madden, Max|
|Dobson, Frank||Mahon, Alice|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Mallon, Seamus|
|Dowd, Jim||Maxton, John|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Meacher, Michael|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||Michael, Alun|
|Enright, Derek||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Etherington, Bill||Milburn, Alan|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Miller, Andrew|
|Fatchett, Derek||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Flynn, Paul||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Foulkes, George||Morley, Elliot|
|Fyfe, Maria||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe)|
|Galloway, George||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Gapes, Mike||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Garrett, John||Mudie, George|
|George, Bruce||Mullin, Chris|
|Gerrard, Neil||Murphy, Paul|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)||Soley, Clive|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Spellar, John|
|O'Hara, Edward||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Olner, Bill||Stevenson, George|
|O'Neill, Martin||Stott, Roger|
|Pearson, Ian||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Pickthall, Colin||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Pike, Peter L||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Pope, Greg||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Tipping, Paddy|
|Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)||Touhig, Don|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Tumer, Dennis|
|Prescott, Rt Hon John||Vaz, Keith|
|Purchase, Ken||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Wardell Gareth (Gower)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Wareing, Robert N|
|Raynsford, Nick||Watson, Mike|
|Reid, Dr John||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (SW'n W)|
|Rooker, Jeff||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Rooney, Terry||Winnick, David|
|Ross, Emie (Dundee W)||Worthington, Tony|
|Ruddock, Joan||Wray, Jimmy|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Short, Clare||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Simpson, Alan||Mr. John Cummings and|
|Skinner, Dennis||Mrs. Barbara Roche.|
|Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency and Prevention of Terrorism Provisions) (Continuance) Order 1995, which was laid before this House on 18th May, be approved.