HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc41-63

'.—(1) The Secretary of State shall—

  1. (a) make a code of practice in connection with the silent video recording of interviews to which this section applies; and
  2. (b) make an order requiring the silent video recording of interviews to which this section applies in accordance with the code as it has effect for the time being.

(2) This section applies to interviews held by police officers of persons detained under section 14(1)(a) or (b) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (arrest and detention of suspected persons).

(3) In this section "police officer" means a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve.'.—[Sir John Wheeler.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government new clause 6—Codes of practice: supplementary.

Government amendments Nos. 21 and 22.

Sir John Wheeler

The new clauses and amendments give effect to the announcement, made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in the House on 9 January, that he would introduce a system for the silent video recording of all interviews taking place in holding centres, and also, for consultation, a code of practice for the purpose.

The case for introducing either video or audio recording of interviews with terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland has been mooted for some time. The Royal Ulster Constabulary has advised against the idea, because it fears that suspects would be unwilling to assist the police if they knew that their co-operation was being recorded. It had been hoped that a statutory provision could be introduced that would prevent disclosure of the tapes either by or to those who might have sinister motives for acquiring them; however, after extensive discussions with the police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, it became clear that it would not be possible to devise a satisfactory safeguard of that kind. For that reason, it was agreed that it would not be possible to introduce audio recording of interviews, but that silent video recording could be introduced without any statutory safeguards and with the RUC's agreement. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State announced his intention to do so on Second Reading.

Audio recording would provide the same protection as silent video recording. A further benefit would be that it would quickly resolve problems relating to admissibility of evidence. There are many problems, however. First, there are the concerns of the RUC. As Mr. Rowe said in his most recent review of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991: the RUC objection to taping is that the suspect will not say anything, and will be worried that his organisation will learn what he has said". The main problem, however, is one of disclosure. There are significant problems in devising a satisfactory scheme that will protect the release or disclosure of tapes. For example, the accused's lawyers would have the right to listen to the whole tape, and, once a copy had passed out of police hands, it would be impossible to ensure that it did not fall into the wrong hands and put lives at risk. Editing a tape is not the answer, for reasons that were given in detail in Lord Colville's 1990 report. I will spare the House the detail of that report, as the facts are on record.

I echo the sentiments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State when I say that the Government hope to see the end of holding centres soon. I wish that I could be sure that that would happen, in the current circumstances. The Government look forward to a time when all suspects will be interviewed under the normal criminal procedures. I say that despite the Provisional IRA's announcement of 9 February—although I acknowledge that, in the light of the announcement and the events that have followed, that time may not come quite as soon as we might have hoped.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that anyone arrested in this country will be interviewed in the normal course of events?

Sir John Wheeler

Yes, I can confirm that, but the hon. Gentleman and, I think, the House will know that—unfortunately—very different circumstances now prevail in Northern Ireland. Following the ending of the Provisional IRA's ceasefire, people's lives are once more seriously at risk.

The holding centre regime has features that are stricter than the corresponding regime under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—a point that the hon. Gentleman may also wish to acknowledge. For the time being, however, in the prevailing circumstances in Northern Ireland, those features—including the additional measures—are very necessary. The move to introduce silent video recording will add to the range of safeguards that already exist in holding centres, and will increase public confidence in the regime.

Let me now touch on the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Murray case. Murray was arrested on 7 January 1990, and taken to a police holding centre. The police denied him access to his legal adviser for the first 48 hours of his detention, under powers in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987. He remained silent both before and after seeing his solicitor; he also declined to give evidence at his trial.

In Murray's case, the European Court of Human Rights held that the European convention had been violated because Murray had been denied access to a solicitor at a point when inferences might have been drawn from his silence. The Government find that a disappointing conclusion, especially as the Court concluded, as we had argued strongly, that the proceedings against Murray were not unfair.

We are studying the Court's judgment in detail. Its full implications will take some time to assess. We need to consider carefully what changes in the law or practice may be necessary to ensure compliance with the convention. The House will also understand that we wish to avoid any change, especially in the present circumstances in Northern Ireland, that would risk impairing the operational effectiveness of the police in dealing with terrorism. We shall consider quickly what is the best way forward. That is obviously a matter of significance in the context of the present Bill. We aim to announce our conclusions as soon as possible and will try to do so when the Bill is in another place. I must make it clear to the House that it is a complex matter, which has a wide-ranging application within the United Kingdom.

I should draw the attention of the House to a point of broader significance on the Court's decision: that the Court rejected any suggestion that the law on the right to silence had by itself prejudiced Murray's right under the convention. It endorsed the view of the European Commission of Human Rights, in its earlier decision, that the legislation on silence constituted a formalised system which aims at allowing common-sense implications to play a formal part in the assessment of evidence". It concluded that the drawing of inferences had neither infringed the presumption of innocence nor shifted the burden of proof from prosecution to defence.

The view of the Court and of the Commission, that the law on inferences from silence is a matter of common sense, is exactly right. The law does not harm the innocent. It is right in principle and it is an important weapon in the army of measures to deal with serious crime. The Court's confirmation that the legislation on the right of silence had not breached the convention is welcome. The Court decided, as the Government had argued, that there should be no award of compensation, and reduced costs against the Government from the £57,000 that the applicant had claimed to £15,000, recognising that only one part of the claim had succeeded.

I commend to the House these new clauses, which will provide for the introduction of silent video recording. Any further adjustments necessary to the law on the treatment of persons in police custody under terrorism provisions as a result of further deliberation on the matters that I have described will be taken forward in another place.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

I shall deal briefly with the Murray case, to which the Minister referred, although, as the Minister knows, it is mentioned in one of our amendments.

We welcome the fact that the Government are considering urgently what measures might be necessary to bring the law and practice into line with the requirements of the convention as set down by the European Court. I understand from that that they recognise that the European Court has said that there is a disparity between our present law and the practices of the European Court, and that there needs to be some movement on that matter. I shall come back to that later.

We welcome the move, although it is too small, to silent video recording at holding centres. We believe that it is a valuable situation, in which human rights protection and effective prosecution can go together. They are not in conflict. As the Minister knows, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights—his appointed body—in Northern Ireland has pressed for silent video recording since 1984, because there it is of huge value where the suspect is unable to deny the validity of a statement that has been recorded.

In Committee, reference was made to the Ballymurphy case, which I think provided the most powerful case for audio recording. Of that case, Mr. Justice Kerr, who, as hon. Members will be aware, has been appointed with the noble Lord Lloyd to head the review into the workings of the anti-terrorist legislation, said: The trial started in August 1993 and did not end until December 1994. He said that a huge amount of time on that case was taken up with what are referred to as voir dire proceedings, and that, if audio recording had been available, the trial could have been completed comfortably within a few weeks instead of the sixteen months that it occupied. If that case had not been in court, and if he had been available, Mr. Justice Kerr could have heard it and many other cases in that period. That is the opinion not only of Mr. Justice Kerr but of many other members of the judiciary. It is the opinion not just of SACHR but of John Rowe, the Government's reviewer of the legislation, who in February 1995, with regard to audio recording—not silent video recording—said That is the very least that should be provided. If there is a video recording as well, so much the better. That comes from a man who is the essence of caution. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said earlier, all that we ask is that the Northern Irish experience is brought into line with what occurs in England and Wales.

It is our belief that Sir Louis Blom-Cooper and others have examined very carefully disclosability, which is at the essence of the Royal Ulster Constabulary's concern. There are, obviously, security risks, but we must face the fact that, by definition, police stations are secure establishments. Their whole raison d'être is to be secure. The main threat to the security of police stations is always through human beings rather than machinery. If we were to proceed on the assumption that police stations are not secure, where would we go with regard to any prosecution of the law? Sir Louis Blom-Cooper came forward with what he described as a closely prescribed procedure for the disclosure of tape recording only to those detainees who are charged with terrorist offences and who at trial challenge the admissibility of a statement. The suspect who has been recorded can decide the extent to which the interview is made more generally available. Clearly, if the suspect is concerned about the risk to himself, he will not take a step that makes that video or audio recording more generally available.

I have a number of questions for the Minister about the new clauses. My first, simple question is whether it is his intention that all the holding centres should, as quickly as possible, install silent video recording. Secondly, what time scale is the Minister setting for the installation of silent video recording? My third question, which I raised in Committee, has not been taken account of in the drafting of the new clause; perhaps the Minister can help. Would it be possible for the new clause to be worded in such a way, if the holding centres unfortunately continue, as to allow the easy extension from silent video recording to audio recording and full video recording without the need for primary legislation? As I read the new clause, it is strictly limited to silent video recording and it would not be possible to change that without primary legislation.

5 pm

My next questions concern the Minister's thoughts on the technical issues involved. Again, we referred to those issues in Committee. Silent video recording has its limits; how useful it is depends on how it is used. If a video camera is installed in the ceiling and simply looks down on the police officer and the suspect, it will reveal, for example—I put it gently—that the people do not get too close to each other. It will not reveal very much about body language and it will reveal little about gestures. It will not allow lip-reading, as ground-level cameras would. How useful the device is will very much depend on the technical issues.

As the Minister knows, closed circuit television recording of interviews exists, but it has proved not to be valuable as it seems not to be taken note of by the police officers who watch the interviews taking place. How useful the extension to silent video recording will be very much depends on the way in which the technical issues about the deployment of video cameras are dealt with. I invite the Minister to reply to those points.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

What a wonderful world it would be if everything was perfect. Unfortunately, the past few hours have shown us that we live in a far from perfect world. We live in a world where we are bound, at times, to travel along a route that we know, in our heart of hearts, is full of pitfalls. However, if we fail to travel along that route, we run the risk of being labelled dogs of war. That is what we have experienced in Northern Ireland and throughout the kingdom over the past 17 months.

The Prime Minister and others were persuaded of a certain hypothesis—a hypothesis that IRA-Sinn Fein wished to move from a mode of violence to a mode of democracy. If the Prime Minister and the Government had not explored that hypothesis, there would have been cries that there on the Government Benches were the dogs of war.

When we consider the Bill, we must bear in mind the reality and the lessons of the past 18 months. The facts are that IRA-Sinn Fein is an organisation that is well tutored in every aspect of guerilla warfare and in every aspect of terrorism. To introduce the video recording of interviews with terrorists at this time is to lessen the benefit that those interviews will have in terms of the police bringing people to justice and garnering high-grade intelligence which is necessary to protect our society.

I assure the House that the IRA is not composed of hawks and doves. It is not composed of those who wish to pursue a course of violence and those who are against such a course. It is composed of those who carry out ruthless killings and those who are efficient as members of a propaganda corps in confusing international opinion and, I am sad to say, opinion at home about the extent and brutality of the horrors.

Unfortunately, there are elements within the press and media who have believed for years that Gerry Adams will lead the IRA out of violence and into the democratic mode. That is not so. The same people have persuaded the Government, through their advisers, that it will be a good thing to have video recordings in the holding centres. That will not be a good thing.

The House needs to understand how terrorists behave when they are taken into the holding centres. They are not innocent people who are brought in off the streets for no good reason. The people who are brought to the holding centres are, by and large, those who are involved in terrorism. It is not always possible to get the evidence of that involvement so that they can be brought through the courts and convicted. However, I know of few people in recent times—I am talking about the past decade—who have been brought into holding centres who have been totally innocent of involvement in terrorist activity.

When those people come into the holding centres, they are already conditioned about how they should behave when questioned by detectives. They indulge in the most bizarre activities. Those activities may be anything from concentrating on the cracks in the wall, counting them and double-checking again, again and again, to stripping off their clothes entirely and lying naked on the floor of the room in which they are being questioned. That is done to distract and embarrass those who have the responsibility for finding out what is happening among the terrorist gangs who have roamed not only Northern Ireland but Great Britain over the past 25 years.

If we now introduce video cameras, they will be used in exactly the same way to embarrass and distract the officers who are responsible for ensuring that the people who threaten our society are removed from the streets.

In the past 10 months, the Chief Constable of the RUC has decided that the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 should not be used in the arrest and holding of suspected terrorists and has required policemen to use the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989. That has left us with a huge gap in the intelligence that is available to the police and, to a large extent, is responsible for the fact that there have now been two explosions and other attempted explosions for which no one has been made accountable.

Two years ago, the level of intelligence was so high that we could have introduced internment—I would have had no qualms about that—to take out those who command and control the IRA throughout the whole of this kingdom. We can no longer do that, as there is a gap in the intelligence. We have been naive in believing that the terrorists were somehow sincere in their desire to move towards the democratic process.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

The hon. Gentleman referred at one stage to video recording, the subject of the new clause. How will the video recording of interviews embarrass those who carry out the interviews if they have acted according to all regulations and procedures?

Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman must not be as familiar as I thought with the part of the kingdom from which I come. As soon as such video recordings are made available, every sharp lawyer in the country will want to see them to discover not so much the attitude of the policeman who is behaving properly, but the terrorist suspect who has been brought in for questioning. Therein lies the meat of the matter.

Mr. Mallon


Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman asked me a question, and I shall explain my reply. I would not wish him to leave here in ignorance. When a suspect is taken in for questioning, he will be conditioned, as I have explained—

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

He or she.

Mr. Maginnis

He or she will have been conditioned in the past to adopt a certain pose or mode of behaviour. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said that a camera could be mounted in the ceiling. If a camera were to be mounted there, I imagine that a suspect would be told to look at it in a fixed manner without speaking. Any evidence that he has given in response to police questions will be deemed to be an offence against the IRA code, and if he is released, he will be punished for so doing. If he is brought to court and acquitted, he will also be punished for so doing.

5.15 pm

The camera may motivate a person who is peripherally involved—let us leave the hardest of the hard men for the time being. A person who is peripherally involved and is brought in for questioning may, in the interests of his own future or that of his family, wish to co-operate with the police. But he will be prevented from doing so because he knows that his every move will be recorded and that the recording can be asked for. If he is never brought before court and is released from custody, he could be forced to make allegations of ill-treatment. Cases will then be brought against the authorities, and the recording will be sought to see whether he infringed the IRA code. That is the danger of introducing video recordings.

Such a move would be the thin end of the wedge. The next question—as was articulated by the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie—would be, "How quickly can we move to have audio recordings added to video recordings?"

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

When accusations are made about what went on in an interview room, there is no real way for a police officer to refute them. If such recordings were available, would not they give the police an opportunity to say, "That man was never attacked or struck, and he did not have his head banged on the wall"? That argument has been put to me forcefully by police officers, who have said that they would rather have an opportunity to refute such allegations.

Mr. Maginnis

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but he is harking back to a time some years ago, before the introduction of the regular medical checks that are available to suspects when they arrive at the police station and after every session of interview. A suspect could remove his clothes, rush blindly at the wall and injure himself. If that occurred, any interviewing officer should immediately bring the interviewing session to a close and should ensure that the matter is properly recorded not only by himself, but by those who were observing the—[Interruption.]

Mr. Mallon

The video?

Mr. Maginnis

Those who were observing the closed circuit television—not the video, I assure the hon. Gentleman. The officer would have an opportunity to call in a doctor immediately to ensure that a proper record of the self-inflicted injury was made. We could deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) in that way.

The difficulty for Special Branch is that it must do more than try to bring terrorists to justice. It must also try to build up a picture of the overall activity and involvement of individuals in terrorism to a level that gives us high-grade intelligence, and we will sacrifice that if we introduce video recordings.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I refer to the man who may strip off his clothes and bang his head against a wall while being interrogated. In such a case, the interviewing officer should stop the questioning, go to those looking on and say what has happened. When such a case is revealed to the public, the argument always is that the police made the final decision. Surely if one had it on video that the man stripped off his clothes and banged his head against the wall, one would have concrete evidence that it had nothing to do with the police. We are all aware that every time these things happen, the police are the scapegoat and people say, "That is just another policeman packing up his felon."

Mr. Maginnis

I hear what the hon. Member for North Antrim says. The policemen whom I know have never been afraid to put themselves between the terrorists—and all the machinations of the terrorists—and the good of society. It should be left to the discretion of our police service. I know that the greater number of police would wish for the ability to glean high-grade intelligence rather than seek their own security. The argument exists, which is why we are having this debate today and why it has taken the Government so long to capitulate on the question of video recordings.

This issue relates to the long-term good of society. Today we have seen our very efficient police service virtually neutered in the collection and collation of intelligence, because this is not a nice thing to do. Well, what the terrorists have done to society for the past 25 years is not very nice; and what they have done over the past few weeks is not very nice.

Gerry Adams is telling us that he is "holding out his hand to John Major" and that he would like to be friendly. However, at the same time, he is telling us that he will not condemn the acts of terrorism that have occurred, and he is asking gullible people not to deliver the terrorists to the due process of law. With that sort of influence pervading part of our society, why on earth should we put restrictions on ourselves in relation to the video recording amendment?

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

We are dealing with a serious matter. We are considering the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill at a time when the IRA has resumed its onslaught on the mainland. We have had a continuing threat to the people of Northern Ireland—the members of the security forces, the elected Members of this House and society in general. As was suggested in Committee, it would be folly to dismantle this legislation—it ought not to have been considered—when there is such a terrorist threat to the whole of the United Kingdom. I believe that we have been proved right: the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland need the legislation that we are debating at the moment.

The solemn responsibility of Her Majesty's Government—indeed, their primary duty—is to defend the citizens of the United Kingdom. This legislation is not a threat to innocent, decent and law-abiding citizens. However, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we ought to have legislation that is a threat to those who endeavour to make our community a slaughterhouse—as we have seen in recent days on the mainland.

On behalf of my colleagues, I express our sympathy to the innocent people who have lost their lives since the renewal of the IRA's campaign of murder and destruction. We should also think of those who are in hospital because, while they may still be alive, they will carry the scars of these dastardly deeds upon their bodies for the rest of their days. We should not forget the families of those who are left with the scars—no one but those who have been through such an ordeal will understand how they feel.

We are not dealing with mindless villains; we are dealing with cold-blooded terrorists. We are in an emergency situation—this is emergency legislation. I think that every hon. Member would have been delighted if the Minister had been able to say with hand on heart that the United Kingdom and every part of it is at peace—that there is no more war, slaughter, threat or danger to the citizens of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately and sadly, that is not reality.

The amendment relates to video recording. I understand some of the points that were raised by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis). However, it is important that we do nothing that will damage gaining the high-grade intelligence that has been mentioned, because it is vital. It is essential that the best intelligence is gathered against this organisation, which is inflicting a reign of terror on our people.

The Government have considered a number of views over the years that the legislation has been on the statute book. The Government believe that now is the time to step forward regarding video recording. My colleagues and I do not want to put any impediment in the path of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security forces in bringing to justice those who have carried out these dastardly crimes, because they deserve to face justice and prison. In fact, I believe that those who are guilty of murder deserve more—I believe in capital punishment, and I believe that they deserve death. However, we are not debating that issue at the moment, so my comments must be restricted to the amendment.

Having listened to the matters that were debated in Committee and having listened to the debate today, we feel that it is necessary to protect the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the members of the security forces against false charges. Unfortunately, it is not easy to gain high-level intelligence if impediments are put in the path of the security forces. However, knowing the border area as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone does, it hurts the community whenever known criminals and murderers are taken to court and they get off on a technicality. It grieves the loved ones and the families of those who have been bereaved. Therefore, it is important that we do not give an inch. We must provide the necessary means so that terrorists cannot get out of court, continue their dastardly deeds and terrorise the community.

The new clause aids the security forces and protects them against false charge. I genuinely believe that, after banging his head against a wall, the terrorist has only to claim in court how he got the injury. A doctor examines his head, sees the split and writes down what he sees. The doctor cannot ask, "How exactly did it happen?" And, therefore, the character and integrity of a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is taken from him when he goes to court. He is lambasted for causing the known terrorist that injury.

5.30 pm
Mr. Maginnis

Is not the hon. Member exaggerating? Let us consider the number of people who have been involved in terrorism, the number who have been questioned and the number who have been involved in the questioning. Say a terrorist injures himself and a policeman takes the steps open to him immediately. One does not split one's head open unless one is hit. If one hits someone hard enough to open his head, more often than not one injures oneself. There are ways around that, without placing constraints on the police, which will inhibit the collection of high-grade intelligence. I would rather one guilty man walked away from court every now and again than the police being perpetually inhibited in the collection of information and intelligence.

Rev. William McCrea

Surely the hon. Gentleman has to be very careful in going down that road. Why should we allow one guilty terrorist to walk out of court? What if that terrorist happened to murder the hon. Gentleman's loved ones after he walked out? How would he regard the fact that he had been able to get out? The measure is a protection for members of the security forces. We should not give terrorists any corner to crawl out of any judgment. If they are guilty, they should be found guilty. They should not be able to grasp at some straw and claim that they were unjustly treated in police custody.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I am sure my hon. Friend has heard what has been said. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said that, if the person doing the interrogating attacked and injured the suspect, evidence could be found on the attacker. Surely, the man carrying out the interview could throw the prisoner against the wall and split his head. How does the hon. Gentleman answer that accusation? I do not know where he has been living, but I have been studying the court cases. Such charges are trotted out in nearly every case that comes to court. It is said that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is at it again—beating people up in Castlereagh.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but interventions should by their nature be short. He should contribute later rather than lengthen his intervention now.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. I got carried away.

Rev. William McCrea

I would rather my hon. Friend got carried away than the terrorist got carried away in his act of terrorism. Unfortunately, a great tragedy is happening in the United Kingdom. Terrorists are killing our people. We are talking about serious matters. In my opinion, we are talking about the protection of the Royal Ulster Constabulary against false charge. If that means that we have to wear the videoing of such proceedings, it is important. The people of Northern Ireland want to ensure that the guilty are found guilty and that they do not get out of going to court.

Mr. Mallon

I thank the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), first, for giving way to me and, secondly, for the clarity of his exposition of what may or may not happen in interrogation centres. As I listened to the stories about people taking off their clothes, banging their heads against the wall and cameras coming down from the ceiling, I thought of a remarkable short story by Franz Kafka, called "The Trial", and I began to wonder whether we had got to the stage of surreality and literally lost sight of the new clause.

The new clause is simple. There is one difficulty about it—it is couched in terms of a code of practice. I am not in total ignorance of this type of legislation. Of course, I am not so learned and experienced as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone in these matters. I do not have his sources of intelligence or information, thanks be to heaven, but I have certain experiences. I have lived 60 years of my life in south Armagh and I am not altogether naive about what happens.

When I see the term codes of practice in relation to any emergency legislation, I say to myself, "That is the long finger"—the euphemism for never doing something or for doing it so much later that the needs and requirements may well have overtaken it long ago. How often I have stood here, in debate after debate on new clauses about the making of codes of practice? How often, in Committee, both on the emergency provisions Acts and on the prevention of terrorism Acts, I have seen new clauses of this kind. In reality, making a code of practice is a euphemism for never doing anything.

That is the reality and the surreality of the type of debate that we are having. We must add to that the situation that we are in, both politically and in terms of everyone's safety. We are talking about people throwing off their clothes and hitting their heads against a wall with a camera either above or below them. That puts the new clause into some perspective.

I have spoken in Committee in favour of audio and video recording not once but five times, I believe, for very simple reasons—not least the reason given by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley). When one considers the hundreds of thousands of pounds that have been paid out in claims for injuries alleged to have occurred in interrogation centres, it would make good sense in financial terms alone to ensure that there is a record against which allegations can be judged.

One has also to consider the percentage of allegations settled out of court and not even tested in court. I am talking not about small amounts of money, but about hundreds of thousands of pounds. I do not know the exact figure. So far as I can remember, I believe that we are talking about well over £1 million, £2 million or perhaps even more. That is a substantial amount of money. However, that is not the main point.

Like the hon. Member for North Antrim, I believe that video recording is a protection for the members of the police service who carry out the interviews. It is a protection and a record which can prevent allegations of that kind from being made and, if interrogating officers have acted irregularly, a way in which they can be dealt with properly.

Mr. Maginnis


Mr. Mallon

I will show the hon. Member the same courtesy as he showed me.

Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman has to some extent revealed his hand. He talked about the officer who has behaved improperly, but at the same time poured scorn on the idea that a person being questioned might strip off his clothes—that he might have repeatedly resorted to that tactic—and lie down on the floor or seek to injure himself against the wall of the room in which he is being questioned. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot get away with the implication that the police behave improperly while terrorists, who are involved in the most ghastly crimes, behave properly.

Mr. Mallon

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not want to have it both ways. If we had audio and video recordings and someone stripped off his or her clothes, took a mad dash at the wall, hit his or her head against it and fell to the floor, that would be on record and could not be used to make a false allegation. Similarly, if an interrogating officer did not work according to proper procedures, that would also be on record. In my view, that would protect both the person being interrogated and the interrogator.

I am not making a case, as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone implied, against those who carry out the interrogations. However, a decision of the European Court of Human Rights stated that such incidents occurred and Lord Bennett's report, which was commissioned by the House, clearly stated that that happened. Have we or have we not a duty to protect both the interrogating officer and the person being interrogated, and to add to the evidence and material that can be brought to court? I believe that we have.

The greater the security problems that we face—such as the horrendous attacks that have occurred in recent days because of the political uncertainty—the more we must seek to retain the integrity of the process of law and public confidence in justice. New clause 5 is one way to do that.

Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)

In the light of the speech made by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who seemed to be very worried about the existence of the videos and what might flow from them, perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) can reassure me. As I understand it, video recordings of suspects' interrogations would be treated like any other information that is gathered by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and they would be secure.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone seems to think that the videos would be shown at the local cinema or on the Bravo channel of Sky television. Who else would have access to videos made in Castlereagh apart from the RUC? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh and also—I suspect for the first time ever—with the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) that this is a very sensible provision. I am sure that the video recordings will not be readily available to the general public.

Mr. Mallon

My hon. Friend gives me the onerous task of attempting to define the position taken by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. I will give the hon. Gentleman a further opportunity to clarify his position if he would like to do so.

5.45 pm
Mr. Maginnis

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he is slightly embarrassed, as all hon. Members should be embarrassed, by the glibness of the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) in referring to the Bravo channel. His experience of Northern Ireland should have led him to understand how lawyers for accused persons have the right of access to available information. I assume that that is at least a possibility. If it is not a possibility, I am sure that the Minister will greatly reassure me by telling me that that information will never be available to lawyers in court and will therefore not enter the public domain in that way. The carelessness and glibness of the hon. Member for Wigan is out of place when one considers the extent to which terrorism pervades our society.

Mr. Mallon

I shall simply say that I hope that the position has been clarified for my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott). When he makes that assessment, perhaps he will clarify it for me and for the rest of the House. I have no doubt that the Minister will give the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone every assurance that he seeks because we are talking about a code of practice and it probably will never become a reality. There is almost a bounden duty to give such reassurances, and I have no doubt that the Minister will fall into line. I shall be awaiting those assurances with great interest. I see that the Minister is nodding already.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone is right about one thing: we are in a very difficult, dangerous and tense period. There is no question or doubt about that. No one can underestimate the difficulties that we all face. However, we must all hang on to one thing: the integrity of the law, not only in its enforcement but in its ability to defend the individual. Ultimately, that is the only barrier between the type of anarchy that the terrorist groups want to create and the type of society that we wish to create. That is the acid test, and we should never forget it in this debate.

This debate is very difficult from my perspective; it is not easy and it will not be easy. There will be gloating. There will be those who tell us, almost with a great sense of self-justification, "Didn't we tell you so?" What did they tell us—that it is wrong to try to work for peace? Is anyone telling me that it is wrong to try to work for a system of justice that will protect society and the individual? It is not as if the new clause is remarkably radical—the hon. Member for North Antrim and I agree about some of it—but it goes to the core of the entire debate, and it concerns more than the video recording of interrogations or the audio recording of investigations. It deals with the key question: how do an informed Government deal with terrorism and at the same time protect the highest standards of law? That is what the whole debate is about, and not the peripheral matters that we have been discussing.

In conclusion, it is seldom that the hon. Member for North Antrim gets carried away, but by coincidence I was watching a video recently and I saw him being carried away quite literally and not just metaphorically.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

I shall endeavour to be mercifully brief.

The debate is essentially about two issues. First, how far are people to be protected, in a democratic society, by the laws that are necessary in an emergency? Secondly, in those circumstances, how far are the rights of the individual to be catered for? There is no doubt that if the protection, as a Government may regard it, of society at all costs is to be the only criterion, one could easily end up in a police state. On the other hand, if the protection of individual rights is to be ensured, regardless of the needs of society as a whole, we end up with anarchy. In a democratic society, the Government must strive, in dealing with an emergency such as that which we face, to achieve what Horace described as the golden mean—the balance between the competing interests. The use of video is an attempt by the Government to find, in microcosm, a balance.

The ordinary rules of law for the protection of an individual in this society have been created to cater for normal circumstances: the right to silence, the right to have representation, the right to have a case heard properly and the right to be assisted by a legal representative when one may, through ignorance or inexperience, be unable to protect one's own rights. They were all created in circumstances in which many of the accused were illiterate or overwhelmed by the dignity, and sometimes the pomposity, of the legal process. They were frightened and needed to be protected. That is one end of the balance.

The other end of the balance is frequently seen in Northern Ireland. We are faced with an organised, highly intelligent, well-trained, violent and criminal conspiracy. The people involved are not bumpkins who do not know what is going on. They have been briefed in the latest anti-interrogation techniques, some of which my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) has mentioned. There are well-established techniques for frustrating interrogations and inquiries which would be straightforward in a normal society. In such circumstances, the normal rules for an ordinary society have to be modified in some degree if society is to be protected.

At the same time, emergency legislation and abnormal circumstances provide opportunities for various sorts of malpractice by over-zealous police officers and by people who are privy to information, which although it is not evidence acceptable in court nevertheless shows in the strongest possible terms that the people being interrogated are guilty of the most hideous crimes. Eye witnesses may have made statements that the person being interrogated is the perpetrator of a murder but have also said that in no circumstances will they give such evidence in court because of the need to protect not only their lives but those of their families and children.

Such circumstances offer to an over-zealous police officer an enormous temptation to secure an admission or confession. However, a well-trained police officer knows that if he oversteps the bounds, he defeats the object that he seeks. It is for that reason that I endorse the midway point—the balanced judgment—of the Government in this particular case. They suggest that there should be a silent video recording. That would undoubtedly provide evidence that there had been no overwhelming, oppressive behaviour and no resorting, if not to physical violence, to degrading conduct or behaviour towards the accused. That is a balance in favour of the accused.

At the same time, I oppose the suggestion that such video recordings should be accompanied by audio recordings of statements. From my experience, I believe that that would cause a diminution in the quality and range of the admissions, confessions or statements that are likely to be made by the accused.

We must face the real word. Many of the people who are picked up and interrogated by the police, and who agree to participate in a dialogue with them, are minor figures. However they can give evidence that may be helpful in tracing those who have been involved in shooting, murder or other serious crime.

When people who make such statements go back to custody in the cells, they are debriefed by the senior IRA or terrorist commander in the prison. Often they then decide to go back on their confessions and suggest that they have been obtained by improper or violent means. Recorded video evidence would be of great assistance in refuting that. At least then a person who made such a statement could still suggest that the statement was not his own. If, however, it is audio recorded and he is heard to make it, he may well fear that it will be treated as evidence given by him in circumstances where he was not terrorised or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment but where he volunteered the evidence because he was a peripheral figure who was frightened and possibly even did not know the degree to which he had been involved in a violent terrorist crime.

I believe that if audio evidence were admitted, it would be a serious brake on or obstacle to the police in obtaining information vital in the war against terrorism. I therefore endorse the view that the Government have taken a balanced and proper step in suggesting that silent video recording be used, but drawing the line at that point. It represents a balance between protecting the individual—which we should all seek to do in a democratic society—and not affording such protection to the individual in all circumstances as would cause this country to descend into uncontrolled anarchy.

6 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley

I put it on record in the House that people on both sides of the divide make complaints against the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I should not like hon. Members to think that only the nationalists and the republicans make complaints against the police—Unionists also make similar complaints.

I hold surgeries throughout the country and I hear many complaints against the RUC. I refer people to the complaints board and I assist them in putting their complaints before it. On many occasions, the police are wrong in their attitudes and in their actions against my constituents who happen to be Unionists—and they are found to be wrong. Let the House not think that all the Unionists are silent and that they are quite happy, because they are not. Hon. Members should know that people on both sides are not happy about the actions of some police officers.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the cases of great injustice in Northern Ireland—that of the Ulster Defence Regiment Four—has its roots in what occurred at Castlereagh holding centre?

Rev. Ian Paisley

That is an absolute fact, which cannot be denied. I worry a great deal about the statement made by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who said that the police should not be inhibited in performing their duties. Is a police officer inhibited if he knows that his actions in an interview chamber are being recorded by silent video? I do not believe that he is.

I agree fully with the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney): we must strike a balance. I do not support the introduction of audio videos. I understand that all sorts of matters are raised and all sorts of people are named during interviews. It would be unfair to place on record the names of people who were not in the interview chamber and do not have the right of reply. I am totally opposed to that concept.

I know people who have been dragged before the police at Castlereagh and the first question they are asked is, "Do you attend Mr. Paisley's church?" I could detain the House for three or four hours repeating the things that are said in interviews. I have no right of reply to such comments, and it would be totally unfair if those remarks were to go on the record.

It is reasonable to comply with the Government's suggestion today. We are striking a balance and the House should realise that, in so doing, it is not indicting the RUC entirely. I have always defended the RUC as a police force and a police service. I have also defended the Ulster Special Constabulary in this place. My first speech in its defence in the House caused the blood pressure of some hon. Members who sit on the Opposition Benches to rise.

Individuals must be kept under control and no police officer is entitled to behave in a less than proper manner. That is all that I am saying. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) tried to give me the kiss of death in this debate. As I sit between my two hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) and for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), I shall survive that and live a little longer.

I believe that the House is striking a balance tonight. In my day, I have picked up many newspapers and read how so and so was abused, kicked and compelled to make a statement while in Castlereagh. People were told that, if they did not make a statement, they would be the worse for it. We must strike a balance and do what is right—which is what we are doing tonight. We have a right to protect police officers and to protect the innocent until proven guilty. In doing that tonight, we are advancing the cause rather than putting it back.

Mr. McNamara

When we last discussed renewing the legislation, I initiated a debate in this place on the Ulster Defence Regiment Four. We had a very interesting debate on that occasion, but that would not have been necessary if there had been, first, a video recording and, secondly, an audio recording of the interrogations. The essence of the defence and the successful appeal in that case was that statements had been altered. The electro-static document analysis test was applied and it showed that the defendants had not made statements that they were alleged to have made. On that basis, three of the four defendants were eventually acquitted. That case would not have come before the courts if there had been audio recordings of the interrogations. Therefore, I have always argued in favour of such recordings.

It seems to me that hon. Members are making a false distinction between physical violence inflicted upon the person being interrogated and the power of psychological violence and verbal threats. People may be told, "We will give your name to so and so. Your children will not be safe. We know where you work and what you do. We can pass on information about you." As the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) remarked, such things are said to people during interrogation—whether they are from the nationalist or the loyalist side; the threats are the same.

By passing new clause 5 today—and I welcome it—we are eliminating only one sort of threat. Over time, we have sought to protect people in interrogation centres bit by bit. Before the Bennett inquiry, people from both communities made accusations about the treatment that they received at Castlereagh and at Gough. It was said that there was not one word of truth in those complaints; they could not possibly be true. However, the Bennett inquiry took place and new protections were suddenly introduced.

Television screens were installed. However, interrogations could not be videotaped because that would cast aspersions on those who were watching the screens. Nothing could occur if someone was watching a video screen—even though that person was not independent. We again heard tales from both communities of coats being hung over cameras in the rooms and allegations about what occurred when supervisors were not watching a particular screen or were concentrating on a different interrogation. As a result, we have advanced to the position of introducing silent videos. I believe that the time will come when the position in Northern Ireland will be the same as in the United Kingdom.

I hope that we capture the people who are responsible for the crimes that have taken place in London recently. If we get them and they are interrogated in the United Kingdom, their every word will be audio recorded. Suddenly, I am asked to believe that there is a world of difference between a terrorist who explodes a bomb in London and a person accused of a similar crime in Ireland. I do not accept that. What a person does is as bad in Ireland as in England, and people should be treated similarly.

Recording protects members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and members of the police forces in this country. One of the easiest defences that a person accused of a terrorist offence has is to say that he was abused and that a confession was produced from him by threats, verbal or otherwise—and he will seek to defend his position before his operational commanders and so on on that basis.

Some people argue, "But we want, not to convict people, but to obtain high-grade intelligence from them." Many people from both communities have been picked up, interrogated and released without charge because the security forces had been on fishing expeditions. That is a dangerous thing to do because it alienates generations, especially of young men, in both communities, from the concept of supporting the police and the rule of law.

Although I welcome the small, tentative step that has been taken, until we have full audio recording, sadly, the police in Northern Ireland will always be subject to questioning from both communities as to the nature and content of interrogations.

Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West)

I know that the House will accept that holding centres such as Castlereagh or Gough barracks in Armagh would be unnecessary if there were no paramilitary organisations.

I am probably the only Member of the House—with the possible exception of the Secretary of State-who has been in Castlereagh many times over the years, although not recently. Since 1970, I have probably written hundreds of medical reports on people who have been to Castlereagh.

Like all hon. Members, I support all measures taken within reason and within the law to get rid of terrorism, of the IRA and of loyalist paramilitaries.

I accept most of the arguments of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) about protection for individuals, and definitely those about protection for the police.

I shall discuss Castlereagh because it is the main holding centre in the north of Ireland. It is a fact that the vast majority of young people who have been brought there for questioning have not been charged. I do not say that therefore they should not have been brought in. In the early years of holding centres such as Castlereagh, many people received injuries that, to use the words of the Bennett report, were "not self-inflicted".

I recall that report clearly because there had been great frustration for someone such as myself. As a medical practitioner, I went into Castlereagh and was in no doubt that some people had received injuries—people who were guilty of horrific crimes, whom one hoped would be found guilty. I believe that, as some hon. Members have said, many had received injuries, so their confessions or statements did not stand up in a court of law.

One case stands out from the many hundreds of reports that I wrote over the years—the Fullerton case, which occurred before the official IRA called a ceasefire. It was an odd case. I do not say that the person who was injured was a member of the official IRA, but he was linked to that tradition; he was not a "provo". The "provos" had said that they had committed the crime, and with such things, what they say is usually fairly accurate, yet that man was accused of that crime. As I said, he was not a "provo"; he was an official. He got a terrible beating.

The case went to court and the judge accepted that, unquestionably, the man had received a terrible beating. There were policemen A, B, C and D. Who was innocent? Who was guilty? As the judge said, we shall never know the truth. Policemen, who do a good job and whose work is difficult, are no different from people in various professions—one tends to support another.

6.15 pm

One thing must not happen in Castlereagh and similar places—the forces of law and order must not act as recruiting sergeants for the Provisional IRA, the Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force or similar organisations. I do not imply that any of those police officers have done that, but it has happened. I have often seen young people who definitely were not IRA—young people in west Belfast—who had been injured. One may call it ill-treatment or whatever one likes. Such measures are counter-productive.

The new clause is about protection for police officers and for those who are interviewed. Above all, it is intended to ensure that interrogation methods do not drive young people into the arms of the paramilitaries. God only knows that there are enough people in communities such as the Falls road and Shankill road in my constituency who will try to influence young people and drive them into the arms of the godfathers.

Proper video and audio recording would be the answer. It would protect the average policeman in Castlereagh and the person questioned.

Sir John Wheeler

The debate has ping-ponged across the Chamber as hon. Members have exposed the Government's dilemma in their attempt to reach, as the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) said, the midway point-to do what is right in the interests of justice and in the interests of recognising the reality of the present position in Northern Ireland.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for North Down for his intervention. The House would do well to listen to his wisdom and experience, and to that of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis). I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's arguments and why he makes them, and I pay a warm tribute to his steadfast stance in support of the security forces in Northern Ireland. He was right to make the arguments he did, to reflect on the recent security developments, and to probe the provision. If I had believed that the Royal Ulster Constabulary would be damaged by what the Government propose tonight, I should not have moved the new clause; I give the hon. Gentleman that sincere assurance.

Introducing the debate, the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) cited all the various vehicles that pray in aid an improvement in arrangements in the holding centres. Mr. Justice Kerr was once again exhibited for what he said in the case of Crown v. McLoughlin, Beck and Garland on 3 March 1995. It may help the House if I give the whole of Mr. Justice Kerr's view: I feel constrained to say that the task of resolving the conflict would have been immeasurably easier, even at the prosaic level of reducing considerably the number of witnesses who require to be called, if audio equipment had been installed to record the exchanges at interview. But he went on to say: I hasten to acknowledge that there may be strong practical arguments of which I am not fully aware and on which I am not in a position to make a sound judgment which militate against the introduction of audio equipment in a case such as this. That is the crux of the matter.

I entirely agree with Mr. Justice Kerr, as do other speakers in this debate, about the merit of the desirability of both video and audio recording. It is a question of judgment, and of taking into account all the other factors. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie cited the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, the learned John Rowe and the experience in England and Wales. All that is correct, but the balance that must be struck came out in debate—and the House should acknowledge the Government's dilemma in ensuring that justice is done, and that holding centres have the right facilities.

Against the arguments of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone was the advice of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), who said that such recordings would be a way of protecting the police. He was absolutely right. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that complaints are made about the way that the police conduct matters, and he was right about that. However, we boast in Northern Ireland the most stringent scrutiny of the Royal Ulster Constabulary through the independent complaints mechanism.

The Government recently announced a review of that mechanism, to test whether it is meeting our objective of bringing confidence into the way that the RUC works. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be reassured.

Mr. Mallon

The Minister makes an important point about the police complaints procedure. In how many instances has a police officer been found guilty of a transgression? The House would be interested to have the Minister's guidance.

Sir John Wheeler

Proceedings in Standing Committee were sustained by a natural quest for statistical information. Hon. Members who were privileged to serve on that Committee will know that I endeavoured on every conceivable occasion to give such information. Later, I will return to the hon. Gentleman's point, when I hope that the information I provide will assist him.

The questions of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie were echoed by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who is concerned about the code of practice. The Government have established a joint working group with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and work has begun on the code of practice, technical aspects and setting up the scheme.

As the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie suggested, the siting of the camera or cameras and how or what they may record is a complicated issue, but I give him the assurance that a study will be made. The scheme would apply to all interviews in holding centres, and thus to all holding centres available for that exercise. It is not possible to say when the scheme will come into effect, because that will depend on how much work must be done on the technical aspects and on agreeing the code.

I acknowledge that, in the circumstances of the Murray case, there was a disparity between the operation of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 and the European convention on human rights. The deferral of access to a solicitor is not itself in breach of the convention, and we are looking at what must be done to avoid such a disparity recurring. I know that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that assurance.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, in a wise and helpful speech, set out the case for not doing as the Government propose, but the police are in the vanguard of the fight against terrorism. They have a variety of powers at their disposal under emergency legislation and ordinary criminal law. I have no reason to believe that the emergency legislation is not being fully used by the police to deal with the present violence.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh cynically pondered whether the code of practice would come into being, but I assure him that it will. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, who is in his place, will be under a duty to make a code of practice and an order that will introduce the silent video recording in the way that the House has discussed. I hope that that assurance will give the hon. Gentleman the comfort he seeks.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the number of compensation cases. One hundred and fifty-two cases resulted in payment in respect of persons in a holding centre. In only eight cases was unreasonable force one of the grounds on which payment was made—the remaining cases related to faulty procedure. The total payment was £34,600 in respect of unreasonable force, and the total payment in all other cases was just over £237,000.

Why not go to full audio recording? The case for it was made by the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron). The Government, and the House this afternoon, must balance the genuine effort to protect the rights of interviewers and interviewees, and to increase the efficiency of the courts, against not rendering impossible the acquisition of information from interviews in holding centres.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North perhaps disparaged the collection of intelligence. On this evening of all evenings, in light of what has occurred in London during the past few days and last night, any intelligence acquired as a result of a holding centre interview that preserved the life of one citizen would have been well worth it. The Government have an absolute duty to balance the interests of the preservation of life, and the safety and security of the citizens of this country, against the conduct of the police and of interviews.

Mr. McNamara

The Minister has made an outrageous statement. Nobody is denying the right of the police to interview people and to gain information from them, provided that it is done properly and within the law, a record is made of it, and that record is available to both sides. However, the Minister endorsed the right to go on fishing expeditions.

To use what happened last night or last week in London as an excuse for what the Minister is doing is absolutely disgusting, because no one in Britain will undergo the procedures that apply in Northern Ireland. The Minister should listen very carefully to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), who knows from experience that those expeditions have been a prime recruiting ground for extremists from both communities.

6.30 pm
Sir John Wheeler

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman and I are too far apart. I did not endorse the concept of fishing expeditions. My point about the work of the holding centres is that if, in the course of an interview, intelligence information is collected which prevents outrage, the House should rejoice. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North is correct to say that those centres should operate within the rule of law and against the criteria of codes of practice. No one in the debate, least of all myself, would suggest otherwise.

Mr. Mallon

The Minister has kindly given us the figures relating to compensation. Will he clarify whether the settlements in relation to cases that were found in the European Court of Human Rights and any compensation paid in the case of the UDR Four were included in those figures? Before he finishes, will the Minister tell us how many police officers have been brought to court and found guilty under the procedure of the Police Complaints Commission? The House has the right to that information, because the Minister has made an important point in that regard.

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was just drawing the attention of the PPS to the Dispatch Box.

Sir John Wheeler

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh is seeking detailed information. I cannot provide him with that information as I stand at the Dispatch Box. It is not lodged in my mind, but I shall write to him with the information, and, of course, a copy of the letter will be placed in the Library so that Members may have access to it.

The case for the Government's position is a midway point, as the hon. and learned Member for North Down said. It is a balance. It seeks to preserve the rights of an individual being interviewed, but it seeks to balance that with the reality in Northern Ireland as it sadly is today. It seeks to protect the Royal Ulster Constabulary, as the hon. Members for North Antrim and for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) said so cogently. It is a fine line. The Government maintain that, in the present circumstances, the House should be invited to agree with the Government's position.

Mr. Mallon

I again thank the Minister for giving way, and beg the indulgence of the House for pressing the matter, but he raises a crucial point when he says that individuals in interrogation centres can be protected by the police complaints procedure. Will the Minister confirm that, since that legislation was introduced, not one police officer has been brought to court and convicted in terms of what may or may not have happened within the interrogation centres? Will he compare the figures with those for England and Wales, give some reason for that disparity and explain how that protection is operating in the way he says it is?

Sir John Wheeler

It could be said that, if there were no prosecutions of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, that is a tribute to them for following the procedures in the holding centres with such integrity and conviction. If I can give the hon. Gentleman any further information on that, I shall do so.

I conclude by referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster about the loss of life, the injuries and the outrages that have occurred in London. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will address the House later, but it is right in this early part of the debate to acknowledge what the hon. Gentleman said, and to tell the House that the cruelty and outrages that have occurred have nothing to do with democracy, peace or resolving the conflicts of Northern Ireland. I am grateful to him for bringing his observation to the notice of the House.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I thank the Minister for giving way, as I know that he was concluding his speech. A question was raised about to whom the tapes would be available. Will he address that?

Sir John Wheeler

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point when he asks to whom the tapes would be available. Herein lies the difficulty that the Government and the Royal Ulster Constabulary may encounter. It is conceivable that the tapes would find their way into the hands of those who would then make a judgment about the life of the person who was being interviewed. I know that some Members share the Government's concern and understand the possible consequences of that.

That is why the Government believe that silent video recording meets the interests of the moment and is as far as we can reasonably and honestly go in all the circumstances; and why, for the moment, we cannot go down the further road, as has been pressed by others, to include audio recording. Those are the reasons why I urge the House to support the Government new clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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