HC Deb 09 January 1996 vol 269 cc31-115

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

4.7 pm

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

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

The purpose of the Bill is to make special provision in Northern Ireland for the maintenance of order and the rule of law. It will do so by re-enacting, with omissions and amendments, the current Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. The Bill is made necessary by the continuing character and level of cruel and criminal terrorist activity in Northern Ireland, and by the fact that the current Act expires in August.

I described the scope of this terrorist activity when the House last discussed the current Act on 12 June last year. That scope has not diminished; rather, it has increased. To the catalogue that I then listed—the preparation of explosive devices, robbery and extortion for the purpose of acquiring funds, intimidation, brutal beatings, the training of operational terrorist teams, the researching of improvised weapons, the targeting of victims and the maintenance of undiminished supplies of illegal armaments—we must now add our recent experience of murders carried out for blatantly political purposes.

Since the beginning of December alone, five men have been gunned down in public or murdered in their homes. The very dogs in the street in the communities involved know that it is the work of the IRA. Putting it more elegantly, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has described the so-called Direct Action Against Drugs group as a flag of convenience for the IRA. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) concurs. The RUC knows that they are right, and has said so. These murders were procured by the IRA.

The Government react to these killings with the deepest anger and concern. We have conveyed that in our public statements, and I have written to Senator Mitchell and the other members of the international body to draw the murders to their attention. They illustrate all too vividly the central importance of the issue of illegal arms. All the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, Church leaders and community leaders, and the Irish Government, have condemned the murders in the most forthright terms. Although the murders themselves are revolting, almost as sickening has been the evasion of leading Sinn Fein people when they, too, have been called on to condemn them.

However disappointing it is, by reason of all these matters this is not the time, I must submit to the House, when we can sensibly say that the need for special provision for Northern Ireland has passed.

Like its predecessors, the current Act has enabled the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland to function effectively and fairly, despite ferocious terrorist attacks on it. In addition, it has set up a legal framework for action by the security forces against terrorists that is proportionate and effective, while yet providing individual citizens with appropriate safeguards.

The House will be grateful to Mr. John Rowe QC for his thorough reviews of the current Act and of the prevention of terrorism legislation in recent years. With Mr. Rowe, we believe that there is a continuing need for a special provision for Northern Ireland, and in the form of a new emergency provisions Act. Nevertheless, I judge that there can be no one in the House who does not regret the necessity for retaining any of this legislation. I have long made clear my wish to see conditions established that will mean that the emergency legislation has done its job and can be repealed. I am only too mindful of how easy it is for emergency legislation, once enacted, to stick within the statute book.

There have, of course, in recent times been changes in the scene, and welcome changes for the better: the ceasefires of August and October are foremost among them. I certainly acknowledge again the efforts of all who achieved them. Especially, I pay tribute to the resilience and courage of the police, the Army and all the ordinary people of Northern Ireland in resisting terrorism over 25 years.

The Government have not been slow to respond to these changes. On security, the Government's response has been positive and wide-ranging: routine military patrolling in support of the police is down by 80 per cent.; 1,600 troops, including three battalions, have been relocated from Northern Ireland; North Howard Street Mill and other security bases have been vacated, some demolished, and a number of security installations, including the tower at the Rosemount police station in Londonderry, have been removed; closed roads at the border with the Republic of Ireland have been opened to traffic; the majority of orders under the vehicle control zone order were revoked on 1 August 1995; all Northern Ireland exclusion orders have been lifted; and the civilian search unit has been disbanded.

These measures and a range of other steps, including changes to remission rates in prisons, give the lie direct to those who accuse the Government of foot-dragging or of refusing to build on the new situation. We will go further when I am advised by the Chief Constable that we can prudently do so.

In the political field, the Government are fully committed to achieving inclusive all-party negotiations aimed at a comprehensive political settlement based on consent. We wish to see the removal of what at present disqualifies Sinn Fein in particular from participating in those negotiations. We want to see it there, in common with other parties, in right of having established a commitment to exclusively democratic and peaceful methods, as the Downing street declaration makes clear is necessary.

It is a partial peace that we have in Northern Ireland today. It is no more than that. It is sometimes referred to simply as "peace" only because of the horrors of what for so long preceded it. As I said in our last debate on the Act, what is really needed to move the peace process forward is the ending of actions that rupture or menace the peace. Since then, the opportunity to end those actions has not been taken. On the contrary, the murders that I have already mentioned illustrate how it has been cynically spurned. Therefore, in the opinion of the Government, there is little room for debate as to whether the need has gone altogether for an emergency provisions Act for Northern Ireland; the evidence is too clear that it has not.

On the contrary: in the face of today's diminished but nevertheless established threat, the debate should be about what is a prudent and proportionate response to it. Let us remember that the current Act contains power to suspend many of its provisions—a power that has been exercised in respect of detention under section 36. That power is also incorporated in the Bill, and it would be exercisable even from the outset of the new Act if circumstances then warranted it.

There is also room for wider debate. For example, Mr. Rowe recommends that the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, which applies only to Northern Ireland, and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, which applies in the main to the United Kingdom as a whole, should be consolidated in one comprehensive statute, providing all that is needed to cope with the perceived threat of terrorism anywhere in the United Kingdom.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I believe that there is much merit in that. In our debate on 12 June, I spoke of the need for a wide-ranging look at all the options for permanent counter-terrorism legislation once a lasting peace is established".—[Official Report, 12 June 1995; Vol. 261, c. 503-509.] Today I am very pleased to be able to announce that the distinguished Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, has agreed to lead such a review.

My right hon. and learned Friend and I have invited him to consider the future need for specific counter terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom, if the cessation of violence connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland leads to a lasting peace, taking into account the threat from other kinds of terrorism, and the United Kingdom's obligations under international law; and to make recommendations. These new arrangements will not affect the annual review of the way in which the prevention of terrorism Act has operated in 1995. Mr. Rowe will duly report on the Act, as he has for the past two years.

I am also very glad to announce that Lord Lloyd will be assisted by a distinguished adviser from Northern Ireland, Mr. Justice Kerr, who is a judge of the High Court there. It will not be possible for Lord Lloyd's review to be completed in time for new legislation to be enacted before the current Act expires. Accordingly, in recognition of that situation, the Bill provides for its own expiry only two years after it takes effect, and it, too, will be generally subject to the need for renewal after its first year, under the provisions of clause 60, and contrary to the terms of the Opposition's amendment.

As to there being no power to amend the Act annually, for which we are criticised in the amendment, no predecessor statute, I believe, has ever incorporated such a power, and it would not be practicable to introduce one now.

There is one other salient question to which I should refer before I come to the detail of the Bill: the holding centres and the electronic recording of interviews conducted within them. The holding centres are, of course, police offices where a person suspected of terrorist offences and who has been arrested under section 14 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 is detained for questioning, subject to substantial safeguards, which include a statutory maximum time limit of seven days for the power to detain. Like, I should think, every hon. Member, I look forward to the day when holding centres can pass into disuse, with all interviews being subject to rules under the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, but I am advised by the Chief Constable that that day has not yet come, and I accept that advice.

Meanwhile, however, I have decided—with the agreement of the Chief Constable—to introduce a system for the silent video recording of all such interviews, and I shall introduce for consultation a code of practice for that purpose in due course. The change will reflect what Lord Colville, in reviewing the Act, recommended in 1990.

I have discussed the whole difficult question at length with the Chief Constable. It is fair to remind the House that Mr. Rowe has recommended the audio recording of all such interviews, but, in the light of the Chief Constable's firm advice about the security connotations represented by the proposal, I cannot suggest to the House at this stage that it would be prudent to adopt it.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

Who is running Northern Ireland—the Secretary of State or the Chief Constable? So far, the Secretary of State has said no fewer than three times that he has simply taken the Chief Constable's advice. What reasons did the Chief Constable give for refusing to recommend tape-recorded evidence?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The hon. Gentleman's opening question was rhetorical. I take responsibility for the running of Northern Ireland, and I am accountable to the House of Commons; but, on security matters, I seek the advice of my principal security adviser, who is the Chief Constable.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office will deal with that aspect more fully when he winds up the debate, but anyone who studies these matters—certainly anyone who has studied the reports to which I have referred—must note the existence of security connotations when an audio recording is made of the words used by anyone making a statement in a holding centre. Those security connotations exist, and must be taken seriously. I am not prepared to put people in Northern Ireland at further risk of death and maiming as a result of terrorism, and in this instance I will accept the Chief Constable's advice.

Silent video recording of interviews in the holding centres would, however, enhance the safeguards already available to those detained under the terrorism provisions. It would also reduce the time taken in criminal trials on the issue of whether confession statements were truly made voluntarily. It reinforces the protection already provided by the independent commissioner for the holding centres, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, and his deputy, Dr. Norris—who, I remind the House, hold positions introduced for the first time by me. I pay tribute to their excellent work, although I regret that we cannot agree that a legal advice unit in a holding centre would be practical.

Over the past year, Sir Louis and Dr. Norris have paid almost a hundred visits to the holding centres, with the full co-operation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and have interviewed nearly 140 detainees. The number of persons now being detained has fallen considerably, and the number of complaints has dropped dramatically.

Let me deal with the detail of the Bill. As I have said, it largely re-enacts the provisions of the existing Act; those are summarised in the explanatory and financial memorandum, so I can make this part of my speech fairly quickly. I propose to outline briefly the main features of the Bill, and to concentrate on changes and other points that the House may find particularly interesting. Before I do that, however, I shall comment on two specific aspects.

As the House will know, the provisions for countering terrorist financer—acketeering—have been removed. It is intended to replace them by measures covering all crime by means of the Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order, published on 11 December 1995.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

The Secretary of State says that the anti-racketeering provisions are being removed from the emergency provisions legislation. That is appropriate, given their origins in the United States RICO—racketeer-influenced corrupt organisations—legislation, although they are narrower than that legislation. But will the legislation that the Secretary of State mentioned, which will apply to all crime, retain the same procedures with regard to authorised investigators and the same range of powers?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The provisions have proved very effective. The hon. Gentleman's question will be a matter for the reviewer; we—and no doubt others—will make representations in response to his request. I take the hon. Gentleman's point.

Part I contains provisions relating to the scheduled offences. It lists and defines them; makes arrangements for preliminary inquiries in magistrates courts; sets out the conditions for granting bail and for the holding in custody of young persons and their treatment on conviction; and provides for the setting of statutory time limits in scheduled cases. It continues to make special arrangements for the trial of scheduled offences—the continuation of the system of Diplock courts with its many associated safeguards. As I have said, this system has helped to ensure that justice has continued to be done in Northern Ireland. While the risk remains that jurors will be intimidated, we cannot return to trial by jury for cases in which terrorist offences are alleged.

I shall list the changes in part I. Certain offences have been removed from the schedule, and they are those which, in the light of experience, have proven not to be charged in terrorist cases. Other offences have been made capable of being certified out. These include section 8 and section 10 offences under the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969—robbery with violence and aggravated burglary. Mr. Rowe's advice is that often cases involving these offences could safely be tried by jury, as they are often committed without terrorist involvement.

The Government are opposed, as a matter of principle, to the idea of the Attorney-General certifying scheduled offences in a matter on which we are criticised in the Opposition's amendment. On that matter we are supported by Mr. Rowe. It is not for the Attorney-General to specify those cases that should be subjected to special treatment that falls short of the norm to which citizens are entitled. On the contrary, the Attorney-General should, where appropriate, relieve the defendant by certifying out.

New and more flexible provisions are introduced for the setting of time limits on remand proceedings. In the context of custody time limits, the House will know that, to date, we have not been in a position to implement the provisions of section 8 of the 1991 Act. When accepting the inclusion of its predecessor in the 1987 Act, the Minister said that, before it came into effect, he would have to be confident that any scheme was unlikely to have the effect of procuring the release on bail, or even the discharge, of a person indicted for serious terrorist crime.

Evidence from the scheme of administrative time limits that is in place, which is closely modelled on section 8 and which we have been operating since 1992, has clearly demonstrated that, if a statutory scheme had been introduced, a number of potentially dangerous defendants on serious terrorist charges would have been released on bail. I acknowledge that we must look for improvement, and I shall speak about that in a moment.

Lord Colville, in his 1993 report on the EPA, and his successor, Mr. Rowe, in both his annual and five-yearly EPA reports in 1994, took a similar view of section 8. In the latter report, Mr. Rowe concluded that section 8 should not be re-enacted, as it was too rigid for Northern Ireland". He favoured a new section in a broader form with less detail, permitting regulations to set the time limits and the circumstances in which they could be extended by the court. Clauses 8 and 9 give effect to those recommendations. They are substantially, but not entirely, the same as section 8 of the current Act.

Substantial progress has already been made in reducing the time that is spent in custody on remand by those facing serious charges. Baroness Denton of Wakefield reported in a written answer in another place on 7 December on the first three years of the administrative time limits scheme. She referred to a substantial reduction in the average time that is taken to process cases from first remand to arraignment, and to a particularly impressive fall over the past year in waiting times between arraignment and start of trial.

My noble Friend also announced a further reduction of the remand to arraignment limit from 11 months to 10 months, and she promised that the Northern Ireland Office, in conjunction with the other agencies, would continue to examine further ways in which procedures might be streamlined. There will be no slackening of our efforts further to reduce the time taken to process all cases where the defendant is in custody.

I can deal with part II more quickly. It relates to powers of arrest, search and seizure, and so on. It provides for the specific circumstances in which the police and Army have power under the Bill to enter and search premises, arrest and seize without a warrant, search for ammunition and transmitters, search for and seize explosives, examine documents, stop and question, and requisition and interfere with private property and public highways.

It creates a new offence of failing to stop and be searched when required to do so by a police officer or a member of the armed forces. At present, police officers and soldiers have a power to stop and undertake a search for munitions or transmitters, but anyone failing to stop for a search does not commit an offence under the Act, and the right of arrest under section 17 of the current Act does not apply. This amendment deals with that anomaly of no offence occurring under the Act in those circumstances.

Part III and schedule 2 deal with offences against public security and public order. I can deal quickly with those. Part III continues in force the offence of directing a terrorist organisation. It lists the proscribed organisations and and it explains the offences relating to membership of or support for such organisations. The provisions make it an offence to dress in paramilitary clothing and forbid possession of any item for terrorist purposes, as well as the collecting or communicating of information likely to be of use to terrorists. They re-enact an offence in relation to training in the making or use of firearms or explosives.

We propose to strengthen the current provision in relation to proof of possession of information likely to be of use to terrorists, with evidence of proximity treated as proof unless proved otherwise. That is consistent with the onus of proof applied in the case of prohibited articles such as explosives, firearms and ammunition.

Part IV and schedule 3 deal with detention orders. Part IV contains the provisions on detention; those will be retained in their current lapsed state. Of course, those powers are and have been for some time the subject of controversy. Surely no one in the House would wish to see a situation in which the powers had to be exercised—I accept that. Nevertheless, it is the Chief Constable's advice to me, on security grounds, that those powers should be retained. Again, having considered it, I accept that advice.

Until we are satisfied that peace is permanent and irreversible, it would be irresponsible not to ask Parliament to re-enact that power. As I have said, the power of detention is one of a number of current counter-terrorist measures that the reviewer will deal with in the course of review. Mr. Rowe recommends removal of the power, but he will forgive me if I say that that derives from a judgment political in character that we do not share. It would be my intention, unless there is a substantial change in the state of affairs in relation to security, to let the provision lapse on the Bill's commencement.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Will the Secretary of State confirm that that was also Lord Colville's advice?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

Yes, that is true.

Part V deals with regulation of the provision of private security services. It continues to regulate all private security firms in Northern Ireland offering security guard services.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

The Secretary of State is being unfair to Mr. Rowe. In his report on the operation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991, Mr. Rowe made it absolutely clear that he did not want to do anything whatever to get into the political arena, and some of us would have been critical of him because he did not take into account in any way the fact that there had been ceasefires and that his review occurred during a much greater period of the troubles than we experience at present. Will the Secretary of State reconsider his statement that Mr. Rowe was acting on political grounds, rather than judging the matter as a lawyer?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

That is not a statement that I have made. I have said that, in this regard, Mr. Rowe's recommendation is political in character and represents a political judgment that we do not share. It will be found, on consulting the report, that Mr. Rowe refers to the provision being a backward step and to considerations of that sort.

It is perfectly possible for everyone, including Mr. Rowe, to hold that view. It is for me and, ultimately, for the House to decide whether the detention provision should continue and whether it is a backward or forward step. As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I hold responsibility for all these matters, and I must make the political judgment as well as the judgment on security grounds that is necessitated in this instance.

Part VI deals with people in custody under terrorism provisions. It sets out the statutory right of persons in police custody under the terrorism provisions—section 14 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. It deals with the right of a suspect to have a friend or relative informed of his detention and with the right of access to legal advice.

Part VII and schedule 4 deal with miscellaneous matters. Some changes are proposed to part VII. The discretionary power to make codes of practice in relation to the police and armed forces' powers of arrest, search and seizure has been removed. Such codes have not been issued during the lifetime of the current Act; the powers are being used less frequently, particularly the powers of stop, search and seizure, and we have no plans currently to implement those provisions. I propose instead to remit consideration of the subject of statutory codes of practice to the independent review of counter-terrorist legislation.

The basis of the appointment of the independent assessor of military complaints is changed from mandatory to discretionary. That will allow flexibility over the continuance of the post, which I instituted, in circumstances where military support to the RUC is greatly reduced or eliminated.

Part VIII and schedules 5 and 6 are supplementary. Part VIII contains the supplementary provisions, which include the change in the lifespan of the Bill to two years only. As with the current Act, on enactment the legislation must be renewed annually by both Houses of Parliament to remain in force.

Part VIII also looks forward to the time when the armed forces are no longer needed to act in support of the police. It provides for the separation of the powers of arrest, search and seizure for the police and Army, to allow the Army powers to be more easily suspended if, during the lifetime of the Act, that becomes a realistic prospect.

There are sensible and objective grounds for being very hopeful for the future of Northern Ireland and its people. I am determined that violence and the threat of violence shall not deflect us from our aims. I am equally determined that such anti-terrorism legislation as we adopt for the maintenance of order and of the rule of law shall be no more than is proportionate to the threat.

That is why I ask the House to renew the existing emergency powers, for a maximum of two years and with the appropriate amendments that I have mentioned. I greatly regret, therefore, that the Opposition are not prepared to agree to the Bill receiving a Second Reading for the wholly inadequate reasons set out in their amendment, with which I have dealt and which I ask the House to reject. I warmly commend the Bill to the House.

4.36 pm
Ms Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof, this House, whilst asserting the need to maintain confidence in the rule of law and in the administration of justice as the fundamental basis for achieving a just and stable society in Northern Ireland, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to implement the main recommendations of Mr. John Rowe's review of the current legislation by refusing to remove internment without trial from the statute book and by failing to introduce tape recording of interviews with terrorist suspects, which fails to give this House the power to amend the statute when subject to annual renewal, which fails to make the statute subject to annual review, which fails to introduce 'certifying in' of scheduled offences, and which fails to establish a full time legal advice unit at holding centres. I apologise to the House for an error in our reasoned amendment. We had little time to prepare it, as the Bill was introduced the day before the Christmas recess. Near the end, it states that the Bill fails to make the statute subject to annual review". It is obvious when one studies the Bill in detail—I did not previously have time to do so—that it, does contain such a provision.

When the Minister winds up the debate, will he clarify the Secretary of State's answer to the question the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) asked about the fraud and racketeering provisions in the Bill? The subject is important; they are among the measures in the emergency provisions Act that the Opposition have always supported.

We have studied the Northern Ireland proceeds of crime legislation, which was introduced in the House in December. It would be useful to have it on record whether that legislation provides the same powers as are in the emergency provisions Act so that we can be clear that the fraud and anti-racketeering measures in the Bill are still in statute and apply to Northern Ireland.

The emergency provisions Act was first introduced in 1973. When introducing it, the then Secretary of State said: It is the Government's intention that none of the provisions of the Bill, if it is passed, should continue in force a moment longer than it is needed."—[Official Report, 17 April 1973; Vol. 855, c. 278.] The Opposition have long argued for vigilance to ensure that temporary legislation, designed to deal with a specific emergency, does not become part of permanent law.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Home Secretary have had an opportunity in the past eight months to develop coherent anti-terrorist legislation that could be UK-wide and respond to the changing nature of terrorism, both within the UK and around the world.

In May, we offered to work with the Government to make common purpose to produce effective counter-terrorist legislation. We met Ministers in early June to discuss how we could merge the emergency provisions Act and the prevention of terrorism Act and how European provisions would fit and be considered.

Our meeting was positive and was reinforced publicly in June by the Secretary of State—as he made clear today—when he announced that he would set up an authoritative and independent review of the EPA and the PTA. It was pending—the review was going to happen.

It seemed as if, in a constructive and bipartisan manner, the recommendation of J. J. Rowe's report would he implemented and that there would be a full and independent review of all existing anti-terrorist legislation so that a new Bill could be presented to the House. It should have meant that today, on the first sitting day in 1996, we would discuss counter-terrorist measures that would be most effective in response to the changing situation in Northern Ireland and the changing nature of terrorism worldwide.

Instead, we are faced with a short-term Bill that covers two years and, later this year, we shall be faced with the renewal of the emergency provisions Act for just two months. Without that renewal, the Government's mishandling would have resulted in our being left for part of the year with no anti-terrorist legislation in Northern Ireland and the potentially ludicrous situation of certain organisations being proscribed in Britain but not in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Paul Murphy (Torfaen)

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the sorry state of affairs that she has described. Does she think that what has occurred will in any way jeopardise the bipartisan approach towards Northern Ireland by hon. Members on both sides of the House, which of course we all cherish and support?

Mr. Canavan

I do not.

Ms Mowlam

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) for his intervention. I am—he is right—being critical of the Government in terms of the past eight months and I do so with a certain sadness. I have tried to find other instances of seven to eight months elapsing between a review being announced and the chairman of the review committee—we wish Mr. Justice Kerr well—being appointed. I came up with one similar instance, but it does not help the Government. A review of professions supplementary to medicine was announced in February and did not start until June, but the reason for the delay was a requirement for competitive tender.

I shall now answer my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) directly. Our opposition to the Bill does not disturb in any way our bipartisanship with the Government over the basis of the Downing street declaration and the framework document—and the principles enshrined in it—because, by consent, the Labour party stands for the principle enshrined in one of the options in that document. As long as that principle is there, and as long as the Government act in good faith on the basis of that document, we will not change our position. I am sure that the Government will not, either.

Mr. Canavan

Surely the Opposition's job is to be constructively critical of the Government rather than just to support them supinely. Using the word "bipartisanship" is an insult to hon. Members in other parties in the House, many of whom, like me, have grave reservations about what the Government are doing and are opposed, root and branch, to such oppressive legislation.

Ms Mowlam

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that, for the past six minutes, I have been constructively critical of precisely the legislation that he finds distasteful. As I make additional points, he will realise that I share many of his doubts about its nature. We should be constructively critical—as we have been about the transfer of prisoners. We should be constructively critical about emergency legislation and policing but, in the end, if our principled stance is enshrined in one of the options in the Downing street declaration and the framework document, it would be unprincipled suddenly to oppose the Government for the sake of it simply because that is our job.

We will oppose the Government when we believe that they are making mistakes. Indeed, as I am making clear, I do not support the Government's Bill, but that in no way changes our principled stance. The attempts to gain the consent of the people, north and south, freely and concurrently given, in which the Government are indulging, are exactly what we would be doing if we were in government.

I see no way—I am being absolutely straight with the Secretary of State—in which I and my colleagues could have behaved differently over the efforts made by him and his colleagues during the past couple of months. If and when I believe that the Government are acting in bad faith, I shall certainly say so. When I want to be critical, as I do this afternoon, I shall be very critical, but that does not mean that, in terms of the peace process, we will criticise the Government when they are not acting in bad faith. It is central to the proceedings of the House in the coming months that we must be straight and honest with each other and do not allow arithmetic to play a role in the peace process. That is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I am sure that all hon. Members will be very pleased to hear the hon. Lady's reassurance on the bipartisan approach to the peace process. Will she be equally clear on whether there is still a bipartisan approach to the effective response to continuing terrorism, since we are discussing that, rather than the peace process, today?

Ms Mowlam

I would argue that there is a very clear and effective response to the continuing intimidation and violence on the streets of Northern Ireland. I am arguing very clearly that it was essential not to be caught in the position that we are in today. If, as I am arguing, the Secretary of State and the shadow Home Secretary had started a review eight months ago, they could have finished it by now. We would not be starting it; we would be finishing it. If that had happened, we would not hear, as some will say, that the Bill should not be introduced, or, as others will say, that it should be reinforced or stay as it is.

We could have been discussing a Bill that was not temporary and provisions that were not emergency provisions. We could have had a permanent Bill which responded to changing terrorism—new technology has become part of the terrorists' armoury. The Bill could have responded not only to terrorism in the United Kingdom, but to changing terrorism worldwide. That would have been an effective counter-terrorist response rather than a rehash of the 1991 Act.

I shall give a couple of examples to illustrate why I say that the Bill is a rehash of the 1991 Act. Clause 9—this is a minor point, but it demonstrates the slipshod approach and the apparent decision to regurgitate, in part, the 1991 Act—refers to section 8. The subsections of section 8 to which clause 9 refers are from the 1991 Act. They have been pasted into the Bill. I do not think that that is defensible; it is slipshod. It is not as if the Government have a large legislative programme—it is rather slim. One would think that, as it deals with important matters that are central to the future stability and maintenance of the rule of law in Northern Ireland, the Bill would have been drafted with much more care.

Clause 15 is another minor example of the slipshod approach. It refers to the remission of prisoners, which was discussed during the passage of the Northern Ireland (Remission of Sentences) Act 1995. It, too, has been pasted in from the 1991 Act, leading to a slipshod and messy schedule 5. Those two examples show that not only did we not need such a Bill, but that it is unacceptable because it is shoddily put together.

Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

The hon. Lady is giving her view straightforwardly and it is quite clear from what she has said that she believes that emergency provisions powers are still needed. If that is the case, why is she proposing to advise the Labour party to vote in a way which would remove emergency powers legislation? It is incomprehensible as a political approach.

Ms Mowlam

I am arguing that there must be effective counter-terrorist legislation. I do not believe that—

Mr. Carlile


Ms Mowlam

Let me finish my point.

I do not believe, as was argued even by the Secretary of State in his Coleraine speech in 1992 and again today, that we need to keep emergency powers on the statute book when we do not have an emergency all the time. I am arguing a different point. Britain lacks effective counter-terrorist legislation. We have lived with a mish-mash of annual renewals of the EPA and the PTA, but it could have been different.

Another point which the Liberal Democrats always raise relates to the way in which the Opposition vote on counter-terrorist legislation. I shall give the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) a straight answer and allow him to intervene later. I should like to continue to develop the arguments and to give the reasons why we find the Bill unacceptable.

I am not alone in criticising the eight-month delay in starting the review. Hon. Members will bear in mind the comments of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) that the Government were always difficult to get on the dance floor—that they were reticent and always hung back. In the debate in June, the hon. Member for Upper Bann said that he saw no reason for the delay in the review.

The Opposition would like to see new and innovative laws, but we face a Bill that we feel unable to support. I shall give some of the reasons. In answer to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, I have made it clear that we would support sensible new legislation in response to terrorism. We do not oppose counter-terrorism legislation; we oppose the nature of the Bill.

We recognise that, while violence and intimidation continue on the streets of Northern Ireland, certain procedures under the existing system cannot be changed overnight or without introducing new legislation. That is a criticism that the Liberal Democrats always make of us. They say that we vote against a measure because we disagree with it in principle, but that in practice we do not leave anything on the books. If a review had been carried out during the past eight months, we could have had before us different legislation that we might have felt able to support.

We have consistently maintained that the EPA is unacceptable. Our opposition to one of its central tenets—the power of imprisonment without trial—is well established, yet it remains in the Bill.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

Is not the hon. Lady just a mite worried about the signal that she and her party may be sending over the water to Northern Ireland? I have news for her. I do not believe that many people in Northern Ireland, certainly in terrorist organisations, will read the details of the Opposition's reasoned amendment, even with the errors put right. The headline will be, "Labour party votes against anti-terrorist legislation". If that does not worry her, it should.

Ms Mowlam

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have a clear message for any member of the IRA or any Loyalist paramilitary group. Perhaps, if they do not hear the debate, they will read it. My message is that they should not doubt that a Labour Government would act as strongly to bring to justice those involved in acts of terror as the present Government. I have made it clear on numerous occasions in the past 12 months that no paramilitary group on either side would receive succour from the Opposition. That is straightforward.

We have stated time and time again the importance of working under the rule of law. That is paramount. Whether it be people who say they are taking direct action—whatever that means—or anyone else, it is unacceptable in a democratic, civilised society to act outside the rule of law. I hope that the hon. Gentlemen hears that message clearly. That does not mean that there are not parts of the EPA, such as internment, which do not work. It is not only the Opposition who say that. It is not as if the issue has simply arisen today.

Lord Colville, Mr. Baker and Mr. John Rowe have objected to the power of internment. They have all specifically advocated the removal of the power from the statute book. The message is not new. The reviews that have taken place have been ignored every time. We argue that they should not be ignored, and our amendment takes into account the sound and proper advice that has been given.

Mr. Wilshire

The hon. Lady fairly makes the point that the fact the Labour party is against internment without trial is not a new message, but are there not new circumstances which ought to be considered? Can the hon. Lady not conceive of the possibility that, if things got worse, internment without trial could be an inevitable response to execution without trial?

Ms Mowlam

If the hon. Gentleman wants execution or internment without trial, fine. If the hon. Gentleman ever forgets the difference between terrorists and us, he is not a member of a democratic institution such as the House of Commons. The difference, and the reason why we want to see the power of internment taken out of the Bill, is that we are a democratic institution. It is the role of the House of Commons to debate and expose to parliamentary scrutiny an exceptional power such as internment or any other power that the hon. Gentleman cares to dream up.

Unless we believe that parliamentary scrutiny works, we do a disservice to exactly the democratic institutions and procedures that we as a Parliament seek to develop in Northern Ireland. That is why we believe that internment should not be included in the Bill. If the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) or any other hon. Member wanted to seek to introduce such a power, an amendment could be debated in Parliament, and the decision would be for Parliament.

On the issue of remission of prison sentences, the House acted quickly and efficiently last year. If the hon. Member for Spelthorne sees a need for internment, it is surely the role of Parliament to discuss whether the Government should have the power to intern. Such a power should not lie dormant on the statute book for 25 years. We should have the guts to debate internment in the House of Commons if hon. Members express a desire to give the Government such a power. Our objection to the power of internment has been one of our main objections to the EPA for many years.

The Opposition also have doubts about the EPA because we have always argued for safeguards within the legislation. One such safeguard, to which the Secretary of State referred this afternoon, is electronic recording at holding centres. We believe that there should be video or audio taping, or some other such check, for no other reason than to protect both suspects and the police from accusations. Electronic recording would make a real difference to the problem of accusations about what has happened in holding centres.

The Secretary of State has announced this afternoon that there will be video taping without sound. The Opposition would like to see written into the Bill the checks and balances that Mr. Rowe and others have advocated for some time. Even the Secretary of State said back in June that the time had come to write checks and balances into the Bill. We were disappointed that that did not happen. We believe that the time has come for electronic recording. The reviewers believe that its time has come, and I thought that the Secretary of State had got to the point at which he believed that it was necessary. Checks and balances in the Bill would make a difference at the holding centres.

The main argument that has been made against electronic recording is that recordings could get into the wrong hands and create problems. I have read Sir Louis Blom-Cooper's detailed report on the checks and balances that could prevent that problem. The report is sufficient to allow the Government to go ahead with greater safeguards than video without sound would provide. I welcome the introduction of video recording. It is a move in the right direction, but it indicates a degree of indecision and confusion. I see no reason why we should not have gone the whole way and provided the same checks and balances that exist in other legislation such as the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1988.

Another reason why the Opposition have doubts about the EPA is, as the Secretary of State mentioned, the Diplock courts. In our reasoned amendment, we have made proposals which we hope will gain support across the House. We have argued for progressive change because—as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery implied—one cannot abandon the existing procedures overnight. We cannot just flip from Diplock courts back to jury courts.

We accept that the imperfect so-called Diplock trial procedures cannot be abandoned overnight. We have advocated certifying in rather than certifying out, as that would be another crucial safeguard. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate those judges in Northern Ireland who have for many years operated a very difficult and contentious system with great professionalism and courage. That should be acknowledged in the House of Commons this afternoon.

I said in June that, if the current level of intimidation made an automatic shift to jury trials unacceptable—the Secretary of State said this afternoon that his security advice is that it does—we should begin to introduce measures to protect jurors and witnesses from intimidation. We could then begin to return to normality without making the move to jury trials until a material difference had occurred.

Trial by jury is a defining part of our criminal procedures. We are often surrounded by lawyers in the House, and it is important that lawyers are subject—as experts on every subject are—to an element of constraint by common sense and by those who have an uncomplicated commitment to fair play. That is why I consider it important that we return to jury trials.

Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

Does the hon. Lady agree that perhaps the greatest travesties of justice in terrorist trials have occurred not in Diplock trials but in jury trials, and in jury trials held not in Northern Ireland but on the mainland?

Ms Mowlam

The hon. and learned Member is an example of the kind of lawyer to whom I was referring, and he has a detailed knowledge of the facts. I would argue that juries provide an element of fair play and common sense. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman arguing today that he thinks that there should be Diplock trials in terrorist cases on the mainland? If so, I look forward to his sharing that with the House. That suggestion could perhaps be discussed among the legal brethren, of whom I am not a member.

Mr. McNamara

Is not the point about the jury trials in England to which the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) referred that the evidence upon which the juries reached their decisions was contaminated?

Ms Mowlam

My hon. Friend is right. If the House will indulge me, I shall leave this matter where it is. From what I have heard from the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), it is clear that we will return to this issue at some point.

I would not wish to leave the House in any doubt that, despite the paramilitary ceasefires in the past 16 months, the Opposition do not deny that killings have occurred. The House will remember the death of the post office worker Frank Kerr; others, such as William Elliot and Michael Harley, have died in the past 16 months. In addition, there were 167 punishment beatings last year. These must stop. The beatings cannot continue if we are to move the democratic peace process forward.

It should also be put on record that the punishment beatings have resulted in two suicides. Eddy McCloskey and Malachy Clarke committed suicide following punishment beatings, and their cases—particularly the latter—were discussed in the House in June.

The links between extortion, robberies and intimidation are becoming clearer day by day, particularly in drug trafficking—a subject that the Secretary of State touched on. Drug trafficking is a tragedy that makes many young lives a misery. To the families of Michael Mooney, Tony Kane, Paul Devine, Francis Collins, Christopher Johnson, Ian Lyons and Martin McCrory—all of whom have been murdered since last April—the professed motive becomes immaterial. For their families and loved ones, the loss is the same and the grief as great.

It is not acceptable to ignore the rule of law and to try to rule communities by fear. The persistence of brutality and intimidation on this level and the terrorising of local communities is especially repugnant when so many are engaged in a genuine search for a lasting peace. Democratic organisations do not use fear and intimidation to gain support, nor do they use pressure to discourage people from taking part in initiatives designed to promote reconciliation between divided communities. In a bipartisan way, the Opposition agree with the Secretary of State on the matter and call on the IRA to stop the murders of alleged drug dealers.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I am sorry to refer to an earlier part of the hon. Lady's speech, but she took me by surprise when she abandoned her references to "checks and balances" in terms of video recording and the endorsement and advocacy of audio recording. The hon. Lady kept referring to the checks and balances that would prevent such recordings being used for the benefit of terrorists. Will she elaborate on what those checks and balances might be?

Ms Mowlam

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for using the expression "checks and balances" in a misleading way. What I meant was that accusations of brutality—as have been made at the holding centre at Castlereagh—do no good either for the people who make the accusations or for the people who are accused and who have no way of proving whether they are innocent or guilty. By "checks and balances", I meant that audio and video recording would allow us to see what is happening. That would be to the benefit of everybody. People such as Lord Colville and Mr. Baker have argued for such recordings to be introduced at Castlereagh and at the Strand, and we would like to see that happen. If I did not make that clear or if I misled the hon. Gentleman, I apologise.

The Secretary of State has announced the introduction of video recording without sound. My point is that, if we are to have such a system, we should do it properly. I welcome that minor change, but it will be interesting to see whether the system will be continued following Sir Louis Blom-Cooper's next review. Does that answer the hon. Gentleman's question?

Mr. Maginnis

indicated dissent.

Ms Mowlam

Okay, I will give up on that one.

The rule of law is paramount, and we have given a clear message—even though some hon. Members have questioned it—to terrorists on both sides that the Opposition will give no succour to anyone who breaches it. I should like to acknowledge the work of the security forces, because they have responded well and adapted to a new role. Their courage and determination to prevent criminal activity and to prosecute those involved continue unabated. I wish to commend in particular the recent efforts of the new drug unit in Belfast, which has been increased in size to try to respond to increasing drug trafficking in Northern Ireland.

The Opposition would have liked to have a common purpose with the Government on anti-terrorist legislation. If the Government had acted with alacrity in conducting a review, that could have been possible this afternoon. It is a matter of regret that it is not possible. We have tabled a reasoned amendment, which we hope will be accepted. In Committee, we will continue to try to make the desired changes to the Bill.

Mr. Alex Carlile

If the hon. Lady's view is accepted, there will be no Committee.

Ms Mowlam

There will be a Committee stage between Second and Third Reading. In answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's barracking, I should like to make it clear that we will vote for our reasoned amendment. I had hoped that we would have had from the Secretary of State this afternoon some statement which would have permitted us to abstain on the substantive motion.

Some hon. Members worry that the powers in section 69 of the Act, which is now clause 60 of the Bill, will be needed if things deteriorate in the months ahead. We had hoped, as the Secretary of State said last June, that those powers could be put in reserve. That would have been some movement in relation to the past 16 months. We would have liked greater movement not only in relation to section 69, but in relation to the argument we have put this afternoon—that, if the Government had not acted so tardily, we would not have needed this debate.

Little has been proposed by the Secretary of State today. I make it clear that we are not asking for the powers to be removed from the Bill completely, but for them to be put into reserve. That could have been done with many of the powers, and it would have given an important signal to the people of Northern Ireland about the efforts being made to keep the peace process moving. It would also have given a clear signal to the terrorists that the powers were not being taken out of the Bill completely and that they could be used if the situation deteriorated.

We will vote twice against the legislation today, as we did in 1991. It is important to be consistent. In 1991, because of our objections to powers such as the power of internment, we voted against. It would be ironic if we were to change our position between 1991, when the troubles were rife, and now, after 16 months of ceasefire—although there is a lot of intimidation and violence on the streets.

In direct answer to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, we do not want to have no anti-terrorist legislation on the statute book. We will fight hard in Committee to get some of the changes we want, but we will not vote against the Bill on Third Reading. Our position is logical and consistent. It is important that we do not leave the people of Northern Ireland without any emergency legislation.

My principal desire this afternoon has been to ensure that it will soon be possible not to have the emergency legislation, which we have had for 74 years. The peace process is at yet another crucial stage, as the Secretary of State said this afternoon. It might be at its most sensitive stage. We wish Senator Mitchell and his colleagues well in their work, and we look forward to their report. Working with the commission's report will be the best way forward.

No one is engaged in a zero sum game. It is only by co-operating that the peace process can be moved forward. If we think and act in terms of winners and losers, we shall all lose. I hope that the shifts in political arithmetic in the House will not encourage hon. Members to play a numbers game. That would betray the democratic future for Northern Ireland, towards which we are all working and on which the hopes of the people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere rest.

5.13 pm
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)

It is a matter of great regret that the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) adopts the position towards the Bill that she has just announced. I strongly support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) that the Labour party's position will send out entirely the wrong signals. It would have been far better if the House had been able to unite behind the Bill at this stage and not merely on Third Reading.

Some of the hon. Members who have been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in previous debates on the emergency provisions and who have become seasoned participants may agree that, on occasion, our deliberations have been characterised by some. repetition. Although that does not detract from the validity of the arguments, over the years the salient features have been well rehearsed.

Over the years, we have heard strong arguments from Opposition Members against the emergency provisions. They have argued that the emergency provisions abuse civil liberties, and are therefore inherently unjust. They have argued at times that, domestically, the provisions erode the integrity of the state and have a corrupting influence and that, overseas, they lower the standing of the United Kingdom in the eyes of other countries. We have heard the argument that it would be far better to counter terrorism through ordinary law and the ordinary criminal justice system. We have also heard it suggested that emergency provisions are counter-productive in so far as they provoke animosity and disaffection, and can arguably promote the terrorists' cause. All those arguments have been taken seriously, and they have been debated many times. The simple truth is that, in the judgment of Conservative Members, those arguments have failed to convince.

At best, the Opposition's arguments are over-simplistic; at worst, they are irresponsible. Conservatives have consistently maintained, first, that those who oppose the emergency provisions have failed to appreciate that the greatest threat to civil liberties comes from terrorism and not from emergency powers. Secondly, we have argued that those who have opposed the emergency provisions have failed to take account of the universal experience of democratic countries—that, when a democracy is challenged internally by those who do not share democratic values, additional powers are needed.

We believe that those who oppose the emergency provisions, which are still in place, have failed to perceive that they are not wholly draconian. They seek to maintain a balance, safeguarding the interests of the individual and producing effective methods of counter-terrorism. Above all, we believe that those who oppose the emergency provisions have failed to pay sufficient heed to those in the front line of the fight against terrorism. Over the years, the consistent message from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and from the Army has been that the powers are needed. The Government have therefore been right to maintain emergency provisions and they are right to look to do so again in future.

We now hear a second argument—a different argument—against the emergency provisions. We began to hear it when we debated the prevention of terrorism Act last March. We heard it a little more clearly when we debated the emergency provisions in June, and we are hearing it much more clearly today. I am sure that I was not the only Member of Parliament to receive a letter from the Committee on the Administration of Justice, which is based in Belfast. I quote selectively. The letter says: there is no emergency in Northern Ireland and therefore there should be no emergency law. In our view emergency legislation is both unnecessary and counterproductive. The same argument comes in the paper "Northern Ireland: An Emergency Ended?", which is produced by the international human rights working party of the Law Society of England and Wales. On page 42, it is argued that the emergency legislation is no longer appropriate". The working party refers to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and its recommendation 'that further concrete steps be taken so as…to dismantle the apparatus of laws infringing civil liberties'". The body of lawyers writes: We agree. There is no compelling reason for delay. The emergency legislation should go as soon as possible. I contend that the Government are entirely right to reject those arguments. With the demise of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 imminent, the Government are right to reinstate emergency provisions, duly amended. I do not believe that there is any need to rehearse the argument or the evidence in great detail. The facts speak for themselves. In Northern Ireland, the terrorists continue to terrorise, and the murderers continue to murder. It is reasonable to believe that a significant number of terrorists keep open the possibility of returning to full-scale violence. It would therefore be not merely irresponsible but insane of the Government not to proceed with this measure; hence there is the strongest possible support on the Conservative Benches for the Bill.

More specifically, I wish to refer briefly to three aspects of the debate. First, I welcome the announcement of my right. hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State about the establishment of the review of counter-terrorist legislation. That, of course, was anticipated last June and we have already had a taste that, from some circles, there will be criticism that that has been late in coming and that the commission is long overdue. I reject that argument. I think that the Secretary of State's judgment has been right. It was all a question of timing. There had to be the right developments to enable the climate to exist for that work to he done effectively. Nevertheless, one looks forward to the findings of that review.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Redcar made much of the internment theme. I believe that the Opposition are wrong to condemn the retention of the detention powers of internment. I have consistently argued that there can be circumstances in which the reintroduction of internment is the lesser of evils. At a time of heightened terrorist activity, or anticipated heightened terrorist activity, internment can disrupt the command and communication structures of terrorists, prevent them from operating as they had planned and save lives. In such circumstances, it would be wholly wrong to eliminate the possibility of internment being reintroduced.

The suggestion that there should be a full-scale debate in Parliament, and perhaps a vote taken, prior to the reintroduction of internment is wholly counter-productive because it would destroy the effectiveness of the practice. The Government are right to retain in the present Bill the potential for the reintroduction of internment.

I hope that it will never be the case, but were it to be necessary for internment to return on a short-term basis, we would find it more acceptable than was the case in the 1970s. The anticipation of permanent peace and the taste of relative peace in Northern Ireland that is now being experienced will have the effect of ensuring that anyone who decided to return to full-scale violence would be unlikely to enjoy the level of community support that has hitherto existed.

Thirdly, on the introduction of electronic recordings in the holding centres, I give a cautious welcome to what my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said. The clamour for electronic recordings has increased over the years. There has always been, and there remains, the strong argument that recording would deter co-operation, and that fear of retribution—of what terrorist organisations might do if they discovered how much or what information had been given—would silence detainees. That remains a valid argument, and the Government have been right to listen to it.

The introduction of silent video recordings is an acceptable way. forward. It would deal with the real fear, or accusations, that violent physical assault can or does take place from time to time. The videos would demonstrate whether that was the case. The fact that they were silent would remove the fear that terrorist organisations might learn what had been said.

I applaud the decision to renew the emergency provisions. I believe that it was right, and I anticipate that my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree. Nevertheless, one looks forward to the time when such provisions will no longer be necessary. I therefore welcome the fact that the Government seek to reflect in the Bill the changing circumstances in Northern Ireland and the progress that has been made towards achieving permanent peace. That is evident from the reduction of the lifespan of the Act to two years; the transfer of the powers to deal with the confiscation of proceeds of terrorist-related activities to the ordinary criminal law; making it possible for the provisions to apply only to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and not to the Army as well; and establishing a major independent review of counter-terrorist legislation.

Nevertheless, while terrorist organisations remain in being, while their structures are in place and their weaponry is intact, the Government are surely right to consider that the time has not yet come to dispense with the emergency provisions.

5.24 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Today we are starting to renew legislation that had its origins in the Special Powers Acts of the former Northern Ireland establishment. The imposition of direct rule has led to the introduction of the legislation that we are considering. The original legislation had won the admiration of the supporters of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

This legislation has taken out many of the reprehensible parts of the Special Powers Acts but, over the past 20 years, it has been widened in its scope and powers, and many of its provisions are as reprehensible as the powers that existed in the Special Powers Acts. Indeed, when we first discussed this legislation in the House, so revolutionary were its provisions and so far-reaching its changes to what was then Great Britain law that the first Standing Committee on the Bill was largely composed of QCs and barristers, past, present and future Attorneys-General and Solicitors-General and at least one future Lord Chancellor. It was a Committee, I am told, that would not have disgraced a Benchers' dining-in night at one of the Inns of Court.

Indeed, the membership of the Committee was so important, distinguished and heavyweight that the learned members insisted—and the Government of the day acquiesced—that we sat only in the late afternoons, so that my learned friends could attend their business and other interests in the mornings and early afternoons. In retrospect, I am not at all certain that the distinguished legal gentry greatly added to the sum of human knowledge.

What was significant about the membership of the Committee was that the House realised then, as I hope it does now, the enormity of its actions in bringing in legislation that would limit important civil liberties: retarding and restraining of the scope of jury trials; bending the rules of evidence; indefinite internment without trial. Those were only a few of the measures that were new to United Kingdom legislation—

Mr. Maginnis

No, that is not right.

Mr. McNamara

Those were only a few of the powers that were new to Great Britain legislation, certainly in the sphere with which we were then dealing.

Over the years, the powers have been systematically extended and widened. Even now, after 16 months of a cold peace, at least one fresh offence has been created—a further extension of powers. Again, the Government have done it in the most cavalier fashion by ignoring their own statutory body, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, all of whose members are appointees of the Secretary of State. Its opinion of what the Government were doing was worth nothing.

It is not the first time that successive Secretaries of State have acted in such a cavalier fashion in respect of SACHR. Indeed, its press notice strongly criticised the Government's failure to consult it in advance of the decision to renew the powers. The commission considered that the failure to consult was extremely disturbing as, not only was SACHR established under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 to advise the Secretary of State, but the Commission has, in the recent past, received specific assurances from the Government that it would be consulted on such matters. SACHR was deeply concerned that the Government apparently intended to renew the emergency provisions legislation, without substantive change, for a further two years. It then made several other complaints.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) pointed out, I believe that the Government have lost a great opportunity to put before the House fresh legislation to deal with terrorism in the United Kingdom. It is a matter for debate whether there should be specific legislation that applies only to Northern Ireland. The chairman of SACHR, Mr. Michael Lavery, said: With sustained peace for some 16 months now, a significant opportunity exists to enhance the protection of individual human rights and civil liberties". In its report of July 1995, the United Nations Human Rights Committee described the emergency provisions as "excessive" and called for the dismantling of the apparatus of laws infringing civil liberties which were designed for periods of emergency. Regrettably, the Government have not accepted even the modest proposals in my hon. Friend's amendment. It is important for the Government to show some confidence in the peace process, but I believe that they have failed to do so.

SACHR proposed some interim measures. It said that internment, which has not been used for 20 years, should not be re-enacted; that jury trial should be restored for scheduled offences at the earliest opportunity; that the standard for admissibility of confessions should be raised to that applied to non-terrorist offences; and that the special powers under the EPA to stop, question and search people should be repealed. Instead, those powers have been extended.

It is the continuing presence of the internment power, that should make the House step back from re-enacting the legislation. During the recent troubles, the Provisional IRA had three great recruiting sergeants—internment without trial, Bloody Sunday and the deaths arising from the hunger strikes. We cannot bring the dead back to life, but the Government can, and should, apologise for Bloody Sunday—particularly as we now know, courtesy of the No. 10 minute which is in the Public Record Office, that, following the shootings in Deny, the Prime Minister warned the tribunal chairman, Lord Widgery. The minute states: It had to be remembered that we were in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war". The Widgery tribunal was intended to be part of that propaganda war, and it was used as such. The Lord Chief Justice sought to restrict his own terms of reference, which was a most unusual approach. The minute states: The Lord Chief Justice said that he saw the exercise as a fact-finding exercise. The Tribunal would be asked to inquire into what happened, not into motives. It would help if the Inquiry could be restricted to what actually happened in those few minutes when men were shot and killed; this would enable the Tribunal to confine evidence to eye witnesses". The decision not to examine "motives"—that is, the policy objectives—or those responsible for the policy set an unhappy precedent for all future inquiries, whether Stalker or the inquiry into the Gibraltar killings.

Of the three issues that I have raised, the House can do something about internment. The power has not been used since my right hon. Friends the noble Lord Merlyn-Rees and the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) phased it out, but it exists on the statute book in the form of clause 36. The explanatory and financial memorandum helpfully points out that, having granted the power, it is immediately suspended. But I suggest to the House that that is a legal fiction; it is a sleight of hand.

Clause 60(3) states: The Secretary of State may by order provide— (c) that all or any of those provisions which are not for the time being in force shall come into force again and remain in force for a period not exceeding twelve months from the coming into operation of the order. The Secretary of State may introduce the provision by order. Therefore, people may think that Parliament must approve that decision when it is taken, but that is not the case. Clause 58(2)(b) states: it is declared in the order or regulations that it appears to the Secretary of State that by reason of urgency it is necessary to make the order or regulations without a draft having been so approved. The Secretary of State can introduce internment simply by signing an order and there is nothing that Parliament can do about it. We may have an opportunity to debate it 40 days later, but the power will be in force. The power of internment is alive and well and on the statute book.

Mr. Trimble

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to subsection (3) of clause 58, which provides that, in the event of an order being made to reactivate the power in clause 36 at a time of emergency, the opportunity exists for the House to debate the matter. It is not an unusual provision in any way, and it is used in many analogous situations in the House. Therefore, I believe that it is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that Parliament has no control over the reactivation of clause 36, as it clearly has that power.

Mr. McNamara

I am making the point that parliamentary control will come 40 days after people have been interned. It is a load of legal nonsense to suggest that somehow the power has been removed from the statute book by virtue of its being abrogated and assuming that an order has been made. The power is there in all its glory the moment the Secretary of State wants to use it.

We have seen how counter-productive the use of the power of internment has been in the past. It was seen as being aimed entirely at one community. It is still talked about and the events of Bloody Sunday were a protest against the introduction of internment powers.

We should refer also to other issues that are not in the Act. There has been no attempt to grapple with the problem of lethal force in so far as it applies to the security forces. It was very fashionable to talk about the issue at the time of Private Clegg's release, and the Opposition have urged action in the area for some time. When speaking for the Opposition about the matter, my right hon. Friend Lord Archer stressed the need to introduce a penalty between manslaughter and murder for the security forces. The issue was hotly debated when Private Clegg was released, but it has now been forgotten. At the time of the McAnespie killing, it was intended to discuss the issue at the intergovernmental conference. Both Governments promised to do something about it, but little has been done.

As a consequence of Private Clegg's release, I would like to see provision in the Bill for an automatic Parole Board review of all life sentence prisoners after they have served the same time in prison as Private Clegg. I would also like to see some mention in legislation of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the right to life and the way in which those involved in the Gibraltar killings were treated. That matter is yet to be debated in the House.

We must also know whether there are any other cases or proceedings pending to which the provision may apply and to which the Government may be a party. Those matters are of the utmost importance. There are also matters that come under different legislation but of which the EPA is the linchpin. They include the right of relatives of witnesses in coroners courts to receive witness statements before the inquest starts, and the right to cross-examination of members of the security forces at coroners' courts. All those matters need consideration.

The Bill should also contain some curtailing of the extension of the common law doctrine of common purpose, especially after the way in which it was used in some of the cases arising out of the disgraceful murder of two corporals in Casement park.

The legislation that we are being asked to renew does not relate to all the matters that I have raised, but they are part of the background of the situation. I agree with my hon. Friends that a great opportunity has been lost to try to use the situation to impart confidence and impetus to the peace process. My right hon. and hon. Friends will be quite right to oppose the Bill, if the reasoned amendment is not accepted.

5.40 pm
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Supporting the Bill gives me no pleasure whatever. I wish I did not have to, but I do so for one clear and simple reason—the conditions that originally made the emergency powers necessary have still not gone away. There is still no permanent return to normality. In Northern Ireland, there is still no universal renouncement of violence for political ends; there is still no decommissioning of weapons and explosives; and there is still no end to beatings, torture and exile.

Not only do those conditions continue, but there is now at least one extra reason for keeping up our guard and voting for the Bill. That reason is the lynch-mob killings in the nationalist community, by members of that community. Even if the five people recently murdered were guilty of a crime, there is no crime known to mankind that could ever justify summary execution as we have seen it on the streets of Northern Ireland in the past five weeks.

I applaud the Government—I again record my pleasure at hearing qualified continuing support from the Opposition—because they are striking a note of optimism. The Government show optimism by seeking only a two-year, not a five-year, extension. They show optimism by excluding some of the current provisions, and by promising to keep all other powers under review.

The Government show optimism, which the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) has not noticed or is not prepared to give them credit for. The thrust of her speech, if I understand it correctly, was that the Bill shows no response to changes in circumstances in Northern Ireland, or too little. I refer the hon. Lady, and anybody tempted to agree with her, to the ever-growing list of responses to the changing security position. I refer her to the comment by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State that the Bill itself is a response.

There are changes in the Bill which will alter the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. I do not believe that those changes are too few—perhaps they are too many. However, I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt. Even this afternoon, my right hon. Friend's speech showed a response. The idea that there has been no response, or too little, can he dismissed out of hand.

Although not many people attend these debates, those who do so will be well aware that I am much less optimistic than my colleagues on the Front Bench. Nevertheless, I salute unreservedly the progress that they have made. I applaud the determination to keep the peace process on track shown by both the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. I rejoice with the people of the Province at the huge improvements in their way of life. I wish, as I am sure the House wishes, only that the improvements had been even greater in the past year.

Sadly, I have little doubt that there will be those in the Province, in the Republic and in the United States who will portray the Bill as proof that the House wishes to repress the nationalist community. They will claim that it is proof that we wish to deny democracy to the Province, and they will see the Bill as proof that we wish to undermine the rule of law. That is total and utter nonsense.

The true purpose of the Bill is the exact opposite of what is claimed by Sinn Fein-IRA. It is the inevitable response to the continuing terrorism of Sinn Fein-IRA. Sinn Fein-IRA, not the Government, is now the real repressor of the nationalist community. Sinn Fein-IRA is bludgeoning into cowed silence the community that it claims to represent, but it can get only 10 per cent. support in a secret ballot when the guns are not to be seen. Sinn Fein-IRA, not the Government, is the real denier of democracy in the Province. Sinn Fein threatens to resume the use of the bullet and the bomb if it does not get its way.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)

Does the hon. Member accept that suspicions are very strong in Northern Ireland that Sinn Fein has not done enough to curtail the current spate of drug-related murders, attributed to the IRA?

Mr. Wilshire

The hon. Gentleman is being rather generous in saying that Sinn Fein-IRA has not done enough. Perhaps somebody could tell me what Sinn Fein-IRA has done to try to stop those foul murders. If somebody knows something, I look forward to being told. However, I expect that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me that it has done absolutely nothing, and that is despicable.

Sinn Fein-IRA, not the Government, is busily trying to undermine the rule of law in the Province. It has taken unto itself the role of investigator, of prosecutor, of judge and—worst of all—of executioner. While each continuing manifestation of terrorism is enough to justify support for the Bill, the five recent murders make the case utterly overwhelming.

Over the past five weeks, five nationalists have been murdered by members of their own community. The House must ask why that has happened. In my judgment, the answer is that a small number of evil psychopaths believe that their wish for a united Ireland entitles them to play God—or perhaps Satan. Their approach is stark. There is no need in their world for formal investigation; no need to test anything that they consider to be evidence; no need to allow anybody whom they consider guilty to defend himself; and no need to provide for any appeal. In their world, in their ideology and in their twisted minds, all that is necessary is to blow men's faces away with a shotgun, and not even to say sorry.

The House must ask another question—who are the evil people who perpetrate those acts on the streets of Northern Ireland? I have no doubt that they are members of Sinn Fein-IRA. If I understood the speech by the hon. Member for Redcar, she too believes that that is the case. I think that she is right, and I am convinced that I am, too. Those who have been charged with investigating those murders say so; it does not pay to sneer at the RUC or at the security services just because they are what they are. They say that the evidence is clear. Furthermore, the leading members of all the democratic parties in the Province say so too. I am particularly impressed by the comments made by leading members of the SDLP. My experience of Northern Ireland affairs tells me that, when the SDLP speaks about the nationalist community, the House does well to listen, and the SDLP confirms what the hon. Member for Redcar said this afternoon.

The reason why I am certain that the murders are the work of Sinn Fein-IRA is that Sinn Fein spokesmen will not condemn them. Their evasiveness and twisting and turning on radio and television have been sickening. If those killings are not the work of the IRA, why do not Adams and McGuinness condemn them? The only reason I can think of is that they are clear in their minds that the killings are the work of the IRA, and they are not allowed by their godfathers to condemn them.

Before the House decides later tonight how to vote, I urge it to think through the reasons for those killings. I offer three possible reasons: first, using the twisted logic of Sinn Fein-IRA, those foul murders provide a bargaining chip ahead of Senator Mitchell's report. Secondly, Sinn Fein-IRA appears to need the profits from drug dealing; and thirdly, it is losing control of those it calls "its people". History teaches that Sinn Fein-IRA is perfectly willing to kill its own people to strengthen its hand. If Senator Mitchell confirms what I believe to be true—that Sinn Fein-IRA needs to do more to convince us that it is committed to permanent peace and democratic change—it will be very handy for it to use the bargaining chip of offering to stop the killings, the beatings and the torture. That is the sickening logic of people of this sort.

The evidence about the IRA's finances which is stacking up suggests to me that its funds are drying up. Inside the Province and in the United Kingdom generally, the police crackdown has been singularly successful. The IRA's ill-gotten gains are now much harder to come by. The international funds that used to be surreptitiously sent to the terrorists are now going to legitimate economic development projects. That being so, any criminal mind—not just the mind of a terrorist—will turn to other ways of filling the coffers. Unfortunately, drugs are becoming as much as a problem throughout the island of Ireland as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom, and I think it inevitable that both terrorist camps will see them as a source of easy money to replace the funds that they have lost.

I see Sinn Fein-IRA's loss of control as the key reason for the dreadful murders. The other reasons certainly contribute, but it is the loss of control above all else that begins to explain what has been going on. In recent months, I have seen for myself what the peace process has done to boost a return to what other parts of the United Kingdom consider normal policing and the normal rule of law. I have also seen the huge popularity of that return among people of both traditions in the Province.

I have been to places such as Newry, Crossmaglen and west Belfast; an English Conservative of my views would not formerly have been seen in such places. The fact that I can go there and move about freely is certainly a sign of progress. I have seen for myself that the RUC has changed—if indeed it ever was like the image portrayed by the nationalist community. It is being accepted now.

I commend to the House an example of that, which I learned in Newry. It has become possible to hold careers exhibitions for recruitment to the British Army and the RUC even in places along the border with the Republic. It has even got to the point where young people will visit the recruiting stands despite the fact that they are picketed by Sinn Fein-IRA.

Small wonder, then, that the latter is worried. Its spokesmen go on television and radio to claim that policing and the rule of law do not exist in the nationalist areas, but I and others have seen the people of such areas turning to the RUC for help and protection. It is that which Sinn Fein-IRA finds utterly unacceptable, which is why it is still prepared to kill, threaten and intimidate.

Despite the hard-won progress with the peace process, I believe that we continue to face a threat and a new set of evils. The continuing beatings and torture, and the latest murders, all produce fear. Fear in turn produces silence. In such circumstances, every democratic society has to contemplate drastic measures. My hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) put his finger on it: some of the measures in the Bill may be the lesser of two evils, but any democratic society must defend itself and its people against those who do not uphold the standards to which we subscribe.

I really wish that Northern Ireland was a place that did not need these emergency provisions, but it is Sinn Fein-IRA, not the Government, which continues to make them necessary. They will remain necessary until all political violence is permanently over; until all parties are committed solely to democratic means of working for change; and until illegal weapons and explosives are decommissioned.

I do not believe that the House or the Government have any choice if we are properly to defend democracy and protect the people of all the United Kingdom. Our only choice at this stage is to support the Bill. Like all hon. Members, like all the people of the United Kingdom and like everyone in the Province, however, I hope and pray that this is the last time the House will ever be asked to support this legislation.

5.57 pm
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

A few weeks ago, when President Clinton came to Northern Ireland, he reflected in what he had to say publicly that which his Administration and officials had said privately to Ulster Unionists during the past couple of years—that there was no place in a democracy for violence and murder. He added: You must stand firm against terror. You must say to those who still use violence for political objectives—you are the past; your day is over. Violence has no place at the table of democracy; and no role in the future of this land. How I wish that those who try to tell us that the emergency legislation is redundant, or partly so, could be persuaded to examine the situation in Northern Ireland in the light of the Clinton criteria—the same criteria as those set out time and again by our Prime Minister.

Lest there be any misconception in the House about what is happening in Northern Ireland, I must take this opportunity to put the record straight.

The joint British and Irish Downing street declaration was agreed in December 1993 and was, with helpful intentions, unequivocally endorsed by the United States Administration. It obliges all concerned, including the terrorist organisations within both traditions, to accept that the constitutional future of Northern Ireland can be decided only with the consent of its people, given through the ballot box. However, even now, Sinn Fein-IRA has not accepted the Downing street declaration or the principle of democratic consent. Of course, Sinn Fein-IRA has continued to refuse to commit itself to a permanent cessation of violence. Instead, it has used the 31 August 1994 ceasefire to negate the spirit of the Downing street declaration and as the basis for a series of political demands. There is certainly no evidence of any principle eschewal of violence or concern for the greater good of society and all Government attempts to accommodate a series of supposed IRA concerns have been met by negative and threatening responses.

I refer to Sinn Fein in particular, not because I am unaware of the terror and suffering which has been inflicted by loyalist terror groups but because loyalist organisations have at least accepted, albeit conditionally, that there is a need to decommission illegal weapons and explosives and they have pledged themselves to observe a "no first strike" policy.

One of the co-founders of Families Against Intimidation and Terror, or FAIT, recently listed the reality of IRA activity as experienced at grass-roots level in republican areas. Henry Robinson, himself a reformed republican terrorist, points out that terrorist organisations are still intact with their command structures in place, illegal activity is still on-going and fear and intimidation are commonplace. He is also right to say that Northern Ireland paramilitaries have never renounced violence in the way that was required of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the African National Congress, for example.

Despite concessions by the British and Irish Governments, the IRA has given no quarter to the people who run foul of its code, nor has it accepted the democratic view that brutal and summary justice and capital punishment are not options. The IRA has been responsible for 169 of the 261 barbaric beatings and the eight murders that have occurred in the past 16 months. How can anyone who is genuinely concerned with the welfare and security of ordinary law-abiding citizens in Northern Ireland seriously suggest that there is no need for the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act?

When I speak of the ordinary citizen in Northern Ireland I am talking about more than 90 per cent. of the community. Those who view terrorism from afar may not realise that Sinn Fein-IRA achieved the support of only 4.4 and 4.8 per cent. of the total Northern Ireland electorate in the European elections in 1989 and 1994. Even in the last two local government elections in 1989 and 1993, where well-known local candidates would have tended to maximise the potential vote, Sinn Fein gained the support of only 6.3 and 6.8 per cent. respectively of the electorate.

Herein lies the Sinn Fein-IRA dilemma. How to adapt to the political role of being a small minority of a minority is never quite obvious when logic is clouded by the debris of a Semtex bomb or distorted by the crack of an AK47 assault rifle. That is why there is an absolute necessity to remove the deadly influence of illegal weapons from the Northern Ireland equation.

It is generally believed that the IRA holds 80 to 100 tonnes of modern sophisticated weaponry, while loyalist terrorists have another seven or eight tonnes. The IRA also possesses the capability to compound an efficient home-made explosive, or HME, which, when boosted by a small amount of commercial explosive such as Semtex, has the devastating power that was seen at Oklahoma and at the Baltic exchange in the City. With about 2.5 tonnes of Semtex, the IRA has the potential—using mainly HME with a 1 kg Semtex catalyst—to detonate an Oklahoma-type bomb every day for the next seven years.

In addition to their bomb-making ability, the Provos can boast enough high-velocity assault rifles to equip two Army battalions. It has more than a dozen Duska half-inch heavy machine guns capable of shooting down helicopters, numerous 7.62 mm general-purpose machine guns, up to a dozen SAM 7s—surface-to-air missiles—and a significant number of RPG7 anti-armour rockets. The armoury also includes snipers' rifles and ammunition and a multitude of submachine guns, small arms and flame-throwers. Those resources are adequate to keep a terrorist campaign going for at least the next 15 to 20 years.

Against that background, the House should try to make a considered and balanced judgment when evaluating the need to renew the emergency provisions legislation. There is a great deal of talk about infringing the human rights of the individual, but, coming from Northern Ireland, perhaps one has a keener perception of where the real denial of rights occurs and who are the chief offenders.

The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act is but part of a very complex package that is necessary to safeguard the community to which I belong. In the face of the IRA's present rolling resumption of violence, it has been and remains an essential element in the armoury of the police. I believe that it will remain so until there is disarmament by terrorists and disbandment of their murderous organisations.

That is why the Ulster Unionist party has advocated and supported the establishment of a disarmament commission comprising people of international repute. I regret that events led to the commission being obliged to commence its work so close to the Christmas recess and now having to work to an impossible schedule.

The members of the commission, coming from Finland, Canada and the United States, barely had time to read themselves into the complex circumstances of Northern Ireland before the holiday break disrupted their endeavours. They are planning to resume work this week—seven or eight days before the report is expected. A good idea has become mission impossible because of the holidays, because of the snow in Washington which has prevented some people from flying out, and especially in the light of the existing level of violence which, in the month of December, when five people were murdered by terrorists, was higher than the terrorist violence in 1984, 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1994.

I appeal to the Government, and my party will do all that it can to co-operate in the matter, immediately to extend the time scale for the commission by up to six weeks. The adjustment for which I ask is minor when taken against the background of 26 years of terror and uncertainty. The commission having committed itself to examine disarmament, it is important that it is able to do its work properly and to present before the eyes of the world—we all recognise the importance of international opinion—the real picture of what ordinary, decent people in Northern Ireland and in the rest of the United Kingdom must face and fear at the hands of 5 per cent. of the Northern Ireland community.

The Secretary of State and the Minister of State must know that I am right. I hope that they will advise the Prime Minister of the need for patience and perseverance. Unless there is disarmament, there will be no opportunity to move the present tenuous ceasefire, which belongs exclusively to the terrorists—it is held like the sword of Damocles over all our heads—into a proper peace process, which can be the possession of the entire community.

I thank the Minister with responsibility for security matters in Northern Ireland for the sensitive and sympathetic manner in which he has sought to reassure the security services and, especially, the police during what has been a difficult period for them. They have welcomed the ceasefire, as we all have, but they are bombarded with thoughtless and foolish rumours about the future of the RUC. Members of that service realise the importance of remaining alert, being properly equipped and of being supported by the strength of the law. Those are reasons why the EPA must be renewed.

We would be negligent if we left our police service vulnerable to the potential for violence. There are so many reasons for doubt among the members of the RUC. Having stood for so long between the terrorist and the law-abiding community, it is imperative that the House endorses the good work that the Minister of State has been doing in seeking to sustain the morale of the RUC. I am concerned that consultations and the inevitable rumours that surround them may have a debilitating effect that the worst onslaught of terrorist violence has never been able to achieve.

We have had the police authority inquiry, the RUC's own internal examination and the two-pronged study of the Northern Ireland Office, one prong dealing with the administration of the service and the other with its future and size. There is genuine concern among those who have done so much to enable a high degree of normality to be maintained, even during the worst of the violence. We cannot let these people down. When it comes to their future, there must not be a little adjusting here and a little tampering there. There must be no surprises. There must he a package produced after full and meaningful consultation.

We should not seek to isolate the EPA from the need to ensure that the complex issues pertaining to peace in Northern Ireland are seen in their broadest perspective. Of course my party would welcome changes that heralded normality, but it would be more than concerned if the devious devices of the 5 per cent. of the population who posture and threaten with bomb and bullet were allowed to erode the interests of society.

The Secretary of State has promised that interrogations will be video recorded. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) has argued that the process should be extended to include audio recording. I was a little sorry for the hon. Lady today because she appeared to be rather like Janus, looking forward to reality in the sense that the EPA is essential while looking back and pretending that it might be tampered with to an extent that would make it entirely ineffective. I felt that a Labour party tactic was being portrayed as a principle. It is especially disappointing that that should be so when we may well be moving into an election phase.

We do not know which party will form the next Government. Northern Ireland cannot afford indecision over the years. That has been proved.

I am disappointed that the Secretary of State has decided to implement the recommendation that video cameras should be introduced. I believe that the system will not work. At least it will not work for the forces of law and order. Instead, it will work for the terrorist. In this instance, the hon. Member for Redcar has become slightly confused. There is no check or balance when a lawyer demands in court to see the video recording, as he or she would be obliged to do. The recording will be seen by the public or conveyed to the public by a member of the court service.

It is not realistic to say, "Put the cameras up there above his head and we shall not know what the terrorist is saying. We shall not be able to elicit that from a view of the top of his head." The IRA will know how to counter that approach. Every IRA man going into the holding centre will be told, "You do not strip off your clothes and lie on the floor any more. You don't crawl under the table. You sit on the chair, you look at the ceiling and you keep your mouth tight shut. If you don't do that, we shall know that you are co-operating with your interrogators." There goes a vital source of information for the police, which will bear on our hope to enforce law and order in the most difficult circumstances.

The Secretary of State has talked about the element of the Act that will deal with those sanctioning and directing terrorism. I welcome that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been assured, and so have I, that the present killings are being sanctioned at the highest level by the army council. We know who has replaced Martin McGuinness as officer commanding northern command of the Provisional IRA. Will that gentleman be brought in for questioning and, I hope, charged with an offence? The Minister of State will give great reassurance if he is able to tell me that that will happen.

The Government have a difficult job. By their minor adjustments, they are trying to elicit a modicum of decency from those who are members of illegal organisations. They must know by now, after 16 months of bending over backwards to make accommodations, that those people are not to be influenced.

I am disappointed with the Opposition amendment, because it seems to suggest that they expect that terrorists are basically decent chaps who are motivated to barbaric acts of violence and murder only because the Government meet their responsibility to society to try to prevent them from doing so.

Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen)

Can the hon. Gentleman be helpful to the House and tell us the specific wording in the amendment that led him to make those comments?

Mr. Maginnis

I was just about to do that and to suggest that all the hoo-ha about internment was verging on the hypocritical, because on enactment, if I read the Bill correctly, internment will be put into cold storage, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) indicated.

Mr. McNamara

The whole point of that part of my speech was that internment was not in cold storage and that the Secretary of State could introduce it tomorrow if he wanted to.

Mr. Maginnis

That is strange logic from the hon. Gentleman. Internment is in cold storage until such time as the Secretary of State introduces it, and then within 40 days—not after 40 days, as the hon. Gentleman suggested—the matter will be debated in the House.

Is there no understanding among Opposition Members who have railed against it that there could be an occasion when the 5 per cent., the terrorists who have 100 tonnes of weapons, go back to full-scale violence, and—perhaps I say this more in hope than in expectation—not only this Government but the Irish Government find that unacceptable? As was pointed out by a Conservative Member, what better way would there be to disrupt the command and control structure of IRA-Sinn Fein, or any other terrorist organisation, than to take into internment quickly and effectively those who command the operation?

In July 1994, seven weeks before the IRA ceasefire, my party prepared a paper, which, I believe, was given to the Prime Minister. We predicted a ceasefire and cautioned that the moment the Government got into debate or meetings with IRA-Sinn Fein, they would be tied to that process: Sinn Fein could walk away, but the Government would be unable to do so, because they would be accused of abandoning the so-called peace process. Now we find that a very clear division is being manufactured, which we predicted, between Sinn Fein and the IRA. It does not really exist. Martin McGuinness may, nominally, no longer be head of northern command of the IRA, but we know that in practice he is still the same powerful, ruthless killer he always was.

Can hon. Members see the situation that is being manufactured? More and more we shall hear people, like Mitchel McLaughlin, on television saying, "Of course we do not control the IRA. We do not have any say over what it does." Again, we predicted that in our paper of 11 July 1994, in which we pointed out that Sinn Fein would employ the tactic of regretting, while understanding, the violence of the IRA. That is happening now.

On 28 June 1995, we said that Martin McGuinness had ordered an end to the ceasefire—not an immediate end but a rolling resumption of violence. We were criticized for doing so, because, apparently, if one tells the truth, one does not want the peace to succeed. What a load of rubbish. Look at what has happened since. Every effort was made to provoke people on to the streets in July and August to create confrontation. When, by and large, the people of the Ormeau road would not listen to the blandishments of people like Brian Gillan, who came across the city to try to provoke them, the next tactic was tried, which resulted in a spate of burnings and arson that was greater in intensity than has occurred for quite a number of years. When ordinary people refused to be provoked by such desecration to their churches, schools and homes, the killings started. They started in a way that is meant to be acceptable, because, allegedly, drug dealers were killed, and none of us likes drug dealers, but shall we see not eight but 80 or 100 of those petty criminals who have been labelled as drug dealers killed? It will not stop that trade—we all know that.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary has increased its efforts to bring the drugs trade under control, and I am sure that the Minister will be able to tell us that it is succeeding. It is a very difficult job to get the big players, but the amount of drugs that have been captured and the number of people who have been charged have risen dramatically over the past year. That is what the people on the ground want. They want the police, and they accept the police doing their job. What hypocrisy for Sinn Fein-IRA to say that part of the reason for the killing is that the police are not acceptable in certain areas in Northern Ireland. A fairly recent public opinion poll showed that the RUC is acceptable to more than 80 per cent. of the population, and, indeed, to 75 per cent. of the Roman Catholic population, in carrying out its day-to-day duties. I think that there is not a constabulary throughout the whole of the United Kingdom and, indeed, the Irish Republic that would not be proud of and pleased with that degree of acceptability.

From where does the criticism come? It comes from those who would put themselves in the place of the police and who are acceptable to only 5 per cent. of the entire population. It is no wonder that Mr. Gerry Adams has disappeared from our television screens. Perhaps he has gone to his holiday home—one, I assume, he purchased out of the savings from his social security benefits—down in Cooley in the Irish Republic.

I have described the reality of life in Northern Ireland as it is now, as experienced by my colleagues, by me and by society as a whole. We need no tinkering or tampering with the law or the security services at this stage. Show us normality, and we will show imagination in accepting change; but let us not, by a thousand cuts, inflict death and destruction on the people of Northern Ireland.

6.30 pm
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

I hope that the House will excuse me if I drag the debate back to what it is supposed to be about—whether we need the Bill.

I am disappointed and perplexed by some of the opposition to the legislation. It seems to be common ground—certainly between Conservative Members, and, I understand, among Official Unionists, Liberal Democrats and others—that an Act of this nature is required. I had thought that the fresh, fragrant new Labour party held the same view, and, having read the amendment, I hoped that the presence of a new team of Northern Ireland spokesmen might produce a fragrant new approach; but it did not.

Apparently, we are expected to accept the view that it is possible to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill—against the principle of it—on specious grounds. If she examines her conscience, the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) may agree that, although there may be an argument for it, the "certifying in" of scheduled offences is hardly fundamental to the Bill; nor, I should have thought, is the establishment of a full-time legal advice unit at holding centres. Again, there may be arguments for such a unit: it may be a splendid idea, although I have not yet thought of any such arguments. Surely, however, both proposals should be contained in amendments or new clauses tabled in Committee or on Report.

I assume that the "annual review" business has now disappeared from sight. What remains, in an allegedly reasoned amendment, is the question of internment without trial. I have never doubted the integrity of Labour's new Northern Ireland spokesman, and never will, but she justifies the view that such a review is fundamental on the basis that it was considered fundamental by the old, less fresh Labour party some years ago. She may wish to bear it in mind that a number of Labour politicians—the same is true of the Labour party as a whole—have moved away from more fundamental positions than that.

I understand that, at one stage, the Labour party was rather in favour of socialism, and other jolly ideas. Over the past year or so, it has moved rather rapidly away from such ideas. If the Labour party can drop something as fundamental as the belief that created the party itself, surely it can re-examine its view that internment without trial, although a benefit to the Act, should be put into cold storage.

The Opposition Members who had a slight argument about the meaning of "cold storage" were not really in dispute. If we want something to remain fresh and available, we put it into the refrigerator and take it out when we need it. That is exactly what would happen in this instance. Can any hon. Member imagine a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland waking up one morning and saying, "What shall I do today? I think that I will introduce internment without trial." The idea is ludicrous: the circumstances would have to be dire and dangerous. I hope that the Opposition will now realise that, far from being reasoned, their amendment is entirely unreasonable.

I do not want to engage in tedious repetition, but anyone who doubts the need for the Act had only to listen—at some length, if I may say so—to the speech of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who speaks on security matters for the Ulster Unionists. He gave all the details that the House needed to hear about the armaments that exist, the murders that have been committed and the potential for further murders. Of course we need the Act, and of course we need a fundamental review of anti-terrorist legislation. That review should be carried out carefully. I am sure that everyone will have an opportunity to express his views, and I hope that the legislation will eventually apply to the whole of the United Kingdom.

In the meantime, however, no one with good will or any common sense could say that we do not need the Act. I am not saying that the Bill is perfect—no Bill that I have discussed in the House has ever turned out to be perfect—but points and cases can be argued in Committee and on Report. I believe that signals from over the water would now be much more promising if the House expressed a concerted view, and supported a Bill that is certainly necessary.

6.35 pm
Mr. Alex Carlile (Montgomery)

It is some years since I last spoke on behalf of my party in a debate on security in Northern Ireland. I believe that, on the last such occasion, our safety on the mainland—and, indeed, in the House—was being continually threatened: the situation was extremely dangerous. I welcome the progress that has been made recently—the fact that there is peace in Northern Ireland, and the degree of optimism that has been expressed on all sides. The road to a permanent peace is treacherous, however. We see a forest full of trees, rocks and other obstacles, and we would be foolhardy to assume that all the obstacles have been circumvented.

I also welcome the fact that, in the years since I last spoke in a debate such as this, the multi-partisan policy approach has continued. It is multi-partisan not just because of my party but, in particular, because of the multiplicity of Northern Ireland parties that are represented in the House.

The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) is known—rightly; I emphasise that—both for her skill as a politician and for the cogency of her arguments on almost every occasion. With great respect to the hon. Lady, I must say that this has not been one of those occasions. I urge her to read the report of her speech with care; it was—I say this is a constructive spirit—a bit of a muddle.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) told us in the clearest possible terms what we all knew: that the issue of Northern Ireland might determine the timing of the next general election, because his party's attitude might be crucial. I believe that it may also affect the result of the next election more than some anticipate: Northern Ireland is an important political issue, which affects not only the people of Northern Ireland but the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.

The policy must be right. I believe that the Labour party policy may be right, or very nearly right, although I do not want to argue about the details of Labour's policy on this occasion. The message must also be right, however. Let me say to the hon. Member for Redcar that I believe that the message from Labour in today's debate seems less multi-partisan than I think she wants it to be. In the interests of producing perhaps the best possible Government for this country, I urge the Labour party to ensure that the message is not muddled by the wish to reach a compromise with the views of those such as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). The hon. Gentleman spoke in the debate and, plainly, his views are not entirely in accord with those of the hon. Member for Redcar.

Mr. Maginnis

I should like to make it clear that the hon. and learned Member was expressing his own view and not mine when he alluded to me and mentioned the possibility of an election. I hope that he will acknowledge that, throughout the life of this Parliament, the Ulster Unionists have acted in the best interests of the United Kingdom in general and Northern Ireland in particular, and have not been guilty of any behind-backs dealing or dishonourable behaviour in terms of trying to help the peace process forward.

Mr. Carlile

I am happy to say that I make absolutely no suggestion of any underhand dealing by the hon. Gentleman and his party. I said that the hon. Gentleman was quite open in what he said. We can all take it from his speech that the timing of the next general election may be affected by the views of his party. If we were members of his party, we would take precisely that view, and no one can blame the hon. Gentleman for taking it.

Ms Mowlam

The Opposition's first priority is not the response of any minority Northern Ireland party, in terms of its size in the House. We put the peace process first and foremost. That is why, up to now, we have adopted a bipartisan approach to the framework document. I have not changed our position in a craven response to my hon. Friends, or to other parties, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. I read the Bill in the hour that I was given to read it before we broke up for the Christmas recess, and we tabled a reasoned amendment. That was the basis of our response.

Mr. Carlile

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention, but I emphasise that, if one does what many of us do every day, which is to read the important parts of the Order Paper, one sees a reasoned amendment that includes the words declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill. That is strange, because Labour's Front-Bench spokesman has told the House, "Well, we do not mind at all giving the Bill a Second Reading and we are relying on our reasoned amendment being defeated so that we can abstain on the substantive vote." The hon. Lady shakes her head, but that is the impression that she has given the House. [Interruption.] I am reminded that eventually she said that Labour would vote against Second Reading. The hon. Member for Redcar brought the word "dancing" to the debate. At an early stage, she appeared to be dancing on the head of a pin, but by the end of her speech it looked as if she was sitting on the pin. No doubt she will make her own judgment about Labour's position.

The nub of the issue is whether conditions in Northern Ireland are now such that the legal processes that apply in other parts of the United Kingdom will suffice. If the answer to that question is yes, we do not need the Bill. If the answer is no, we need the Bill or an amended version of it, and we should give it a Second Reading. There are three basic reasons for the answer to that question being no. Therefore, the Bill should be given a Second Reading.

The first reason is the often publicly stated political position of Sinn Fein. I speak simply of Sinn Fein as a political party, and I take it—perhaps foolishly for this purpose—at face value as a political party. It is quite clear that political Sinn Fein does not yet accept the renunciation of violence—nor does it renounce terrorism, which remains part of its political armoury. The second reason was given by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone when he specified a terrifying list of weapons which I shall not repeat. The IRA is holding a terrible stockpile of hugely lethal weapons. Why are they being held by the IRA? That rhetorical question answers itself. The third reason that makes it inevitable that we support the continuation of a Bill of this broad kind, which is subject to the processes of the House, is the murders in recent weeks, which have been committed under the entirely bogus guise of a campaign against drugs.

Justice is generally depicted holding scales and blindfolded. As recent evidence has shown, the sort of justice that is meted out by the IRA is far from blindfold. It is very carefully targeted, and no justiciable issues are weighed in any scale. It is the sort of justice that equals the worst excesses of the Stalinist approach. That reason is as powerful as either of the other two for rejecting the view that we can do without emergency provisions at this time.

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I will support the Government and vote against Labour in the Lobby. However, that is not to say that we totally agree with the Government or with their approach. I share the view that was expressed by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North that it is highly regrettable that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, which was specifically assured by the Government that it would be consulted about any legislation of this sort, was not consulted. I do not understand why the Government had to present the legislation in such a hurry. Apparently they were in too much of a hurry to fulfil that promise to the commission.

I and my party are concerned, too, that the full-scale policy review that was promised in May 1995 was not brought into being until it was announced by the Secretary of State in the speech that opened this debate. A splendid chairman has been appointed to that body. Lord Lloyd of Berwick has a first-class legal mind and is extremely analytical. I am sure that he will produce an excellent report, but it would have been much better for that report to be available today rather than after Royal Assent to whatever Act emerges has been given.

I am concerned that the Government seem unprepared to amend the operation of the Diplock courts. Although it is some time ago, I took the trouble to go to Northern Ireland to watch the Diplock courts in operation, to sit with the judge and to get the flavour of what happens in those courts. I share the view expressed earlier, that the justice dispensed by those courts with a single judge is second to none. No criticism of the quality of that justice is possible.

As a lawyer, I think that Diplock courts have one great advantage over a jury court, in that, when the judge returns a verdict of guilty, he has to give reasons. It is awfully helpful to find out what those reasons are. That discipline should be applied to magistrates courts in England and Wales, where decisions are often made by judges effectively sitting alone, stipendiary magistrates in particular. Diplock courts have worked well and, above all, justly. I join the hon. Member for Redcar in paying tribute to the judges, who have done a sometimes fearful job in difficult conditions, with great courage and enormous objectivity. They are all too rarely mentioned in the roll of honour of Northern Ireland.

However, the time has not yet come to return to jury trials in all cases—it would not be realistic to do that now. We should not only widen the scope of jury trials, but make a gesture that would include having more than one judge in the Diplock court, to stage the return to normality and to send out a sign that we are returning to a form of justice that involves the sort of collegiate decision that ultimately occurs in a jury trial. It used to be said that there were not enough judges to do that—the Government have presented that argument—but that is not so now: there are enough judges because there are fewer Diplock trials. It could be achieved.

Similarly, I urge the Government to accept that there should be custody time limits for all persons who face remand for indictable offences. In addition, my party urges that police disciplinary procedures should be brought into line with those in England and Wales.

We welcome the rationale behind the introduction of silent video taping of interviews. That is progress, ostensibly at least, although it has taken a long time to get there: about two years. I share, however, some of the concerns and misgivings of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone as to the way in which that might be abused.

As someone who over many years has practised in the criminal courts, both prosecuting and defending, I believe that the guarantee that one has in a court in England and Wales against tampering or against false accusations in relation to an audio-taped interview is the second soundtrack. I do not see how one can give such a guarantee in relation to a video-taped interview. It will be much easier not only to act as the hon. Gentleman suggested, but for people to play-act and to fake allegations of oral oppression.

I have reservations about the assertion that audio tapes cannot be made secure. Audio taping can be arranged in such a way—this has been shown to be the case by experience in England and Wales—that the interviewee soon acquires confidence in the interviewing procedure and forgets, if the room is suitably constructed, that audio taping is taking place. Nevertheless, I recognise that these are difficult issues and involve questions of judgment.

The Liberal Democrats have consistently urged the introduction of the European convention on human rights into United Kingdom law. Starting with Northern Ireland might be a good idea. It would certainly boost confidence in Northern Ireland. After all, the Government accept that, in any event, the standards contained in that convention and its terms must be applied in Northern Ireland. Why not introduce the convention there and make it enforceable in local courts?

Those are just some thoughts and some glosses that my party wants to put on the Bill. It is not perfect. It is capable of amendment, but we have the opportunity to amend it. It is in that spirit that I shall urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote with the Government tonight.

6.53 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

I am delighted to follow the Liberal Democrats' spokesman, and I am happy to hear that he takes the position that his party has outlined, especially as that means taking a separate view from its sister party in Northern Ireland, the Alliance party, which today attacked the Government for this measure. I think that his position is much more understandable and will be much better understood by Northern Ireland's people.

The hon. and learned Gentleman and other hon. Members have rightly put their finger on the key issue that the House is considering: the necessity for the Bill. The predecessor of this measure was introduced because of the dire emergency in Northern Ireland. It was clear that the normal processes could not cope with the circumstances with which they were faced. The House therefore thought it proper to introduce measures to take into account the emergency that arose because of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

We must consider whether circumstances have changed so much that the measure is no longer necessary. It is right that every one of us will be delighted that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of killings and injuries of people in Northern Ireland, but it falls short of being peace. If one accepts the term "a peace process", by its very nature, that process may ultimately lead to peace but, at this stage, it is certainly not peace. Some of us believe that it is more of a tactical process for the Provisional IRA. We consider first its ceasefire statement, which says that it is not a permanent cessation of violence, but that is intended to be a complete cessation of military operations.

I remember that, for some weeks, perhaps months, everyone debated the difference between "complete" and "permanent". It was probably best put by the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney), who said that, while his car came to a complete standstill at traffic lights, it did not stay there permanently. Of course, the IRA retains the ability to start the violence again if it should so desire.

Over the past weeks and months, we have seen that the Provisional IRA has started that violence again. None of us is impressed that it uses the drugs issue as the excuse for removing from its community people whom it has a gripe against, and not because of drugs but because of many other issues in its community. We must therefore consider whether the present circumstances need an emergency provisions Bill.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) dealt at some length with the Provisional IRA's weapons stockpile. Apart from that considerable stockpile, its representatives have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of handing those weapons in. I am not sure whether an arms commission can sweet-talk the guns out of the Provisional IRA's hands. I doubt it very much, but the fact that, when we are taking a decision on the Bill, the IRA is saying that it has those guns and is not handing them over, leads everyone to believe that it has some future use for those weapons.

I feel uncomfortable with the fact that, in many other areas, the state has been prepared to dismantle its apparatus of defence of our community while the terrorist organisations still keep intact their apparatus to attack the community. Some months ago, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told the House that the IRA was still recruiting, still developing new weapons, still fund-raising, still training and still targeting. No doubt he obtains his information from intelligence sources, and few of us will question it. If all of those things are going on in the paramilitary organisations, it is clear that the IRA is still capable of carrying out the same sort of heinous crimes that it has carried out for a generation. Those circumstances make our decision relatively easy.

I agree with the hon Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone that there is a distinction between the Provisional IRA's position and that of the loyalist paramilitary organisations. The first distinction appeared in their ceasefire statements. The Provisional IRA could not bring itself to end its violence permanently. The loyalist organisations were prepared to do so on condition that the Provisional IRA did so. The IRA could not bring itself to say there would be no further violence, but the loyalist organisations said that they would not start any violence provided that the Provisional IRA did not either.

Those loyalist organisations have not gone as far as anyone in the House would want, but they have moved further than the Provisional IRA, and they deserve whatever credit can possibly be given to such organisations. However, they still retain weapons that have killed in the past, and could kill in the future, innocent people in Northern Ireland. Those loyalist organisations must be included in the equation in the same way as the Provisional IRA.

The equipment exists to carry out and continue a terrorist campaign. There are almost daily threats from Sinn Fein leaders who tell us that the peace process is in danger and about to collapse, leaving everyone to conclude that that is the case and that the Provisional IRA intends to pick up its weapons and start placing its bombs once again. In those circumstances, there is only one decision that the House can take.

The events of the past weeks, including the many beatings that have taken place—the numbers have increased since before the ceasefire—and the recent killings, are all breaches of the ceasefire. We should not be reluctant to state that clearly. If the Provisional IRA's ceasefire requires its military operations to come to a complete standstill, sending its gunmen out to kill people—no matter which cause it claims as justification—is a breach of that ceasefire. Constitutional politicians should not pretend that those crimes are not taking place. We must establish clearly that the IRA's ceasefire is being breached; the Government are duty bound to deliver that message clearly and publicly.

I find it difficult to reach the same conclusion as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone—that the arms commission has been given an impossible timetable. I believe that it has been given an impossible task, given that the Provisional IRA is not disposed to handing over its weapons. It would be helpful if, when replying to the debate, the Minister could state whether the arms commission has requested an extension of time, whether it faces difficulties because of the circumstances outlined earlier and whether, if the timetable were extended, it might be able to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Those issues show that there is still a very real threat from the Provisional IRA and other terrorist organisations, so I reluctantly support the Government as they renew the legislation. I do not believe that any hon. Member would want the legislation to remain on the statute book for one minute longer than necessary. I shall join the Government in the Lobby tonight, and I hope that all other hon. Members will do so.

7.3 pm

Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West)

I oppose the Bill because I believe that the oppressive legislation that we have had for the past 25 years has been counter-productive and has helped paramilitary organisations. I pose two questions to the House. Have we a ceasefire? Have we a peace process? I shall answer those questions shortly.

A Protestant lady, Miss Margaret Wright, who was thought to be a Catholic, was brutally murdered shortly before the IRA and loyalist ceasefires. But I shall now tell the House of the recent murders committed by the Provisional IRA, most of which have occurred in the city of Belfast—some of the victims were either from, or had lived in, my constituency.

Mickey Mooney, aged 34, was murdered by the IRA on 20 April last year—before the ceasefire. Tony Kane, aged 29, was murdered by the IRA on 5 September last. He was shot dead as he sat behind the wheel of his car outside a Catholic church in west Belfast. Paul Devine was murdered by the IRA on 8 December and Francis Collins was also murdered by the IRA on 18 December.

Christopher Johnston, also known as Syd, was murdered by the IRA on 19 December. Martin McCrory was murdered at Turf Lodge in the heart of my constituency just after Christmas—on 27 December. He was shot as he watched television in his home with his three-year-old son beside him. Ian Lyons was murdered in Lurgan on 2 January as he sat with his girl friend in a car outside her parents' home.

How do I know that the IRA carried out those murders? There has been a fair bit of discussion on the subject. I have spoken to relatives of some of the victims, who are in no doubt that the Provos were responsible. My constituents in west Belfast have no doubt about the IRA's involvement.

I spoke to relatives of Paul Devine, who had spent 18 months in gaol and had been released just a few months before he was murdered. While he was in prison, a member of his family went to Sinn Fein's headquarters in Andersonstown, known as Connolly house, and told a senior Sinn Fein member that he believed that Paul was going to be shot by the IRA following his release from prison. He was obviously trying to ensure that that did not happen. Following his release, Paul was warned by the police that his life was in danger from the IRA—the rest is history.

The debate is about the emergency provisions Bill. Surely we have learnt something after 25 years of violence and civil strife. Powers of arrest and detention were often exercised, not to bring suspects before a court of justice to make them answer to a process of law, but to gather information and to invade, unjustifiably, the privacy of a person's life. Between 1978 and 1982, more than 22,000 people were arrested and interrogated—the vast majority were released without charge. Emergency legislation has been at the heart of Northern Ireland's legal structures since partition. Clearly, such a position is ultimately unsustainable, and surely the lesson is clear: a basis for political consensus must be found.

I shall vote against the Bill because the emergency provisions Acts have totally failed to provide an effective mechanism to defeat paramilitary organisations and because the power of internment would remain on the statute book. Reference has been made to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, chaired by a senior lawyer, Mr. Michael Lavery. That commission advises the Secretary of State on civil liberty issues and has said that it regrets the Government's decision to renew the emergency provisions Act in its entirety for another two years.

The commission placed great emphasis on the fact that powers of internment, non-jury Diplock courts and admissibility of confessions would remain in place. Mr. Michael Lavery QC, the chairman, has said that, with sustained peace for 16 months, a significant opportunity exists to enhance the protection of individuals' rights and civil liberties.

The Committee on the Administration of Justice, which has already been mentioned, is an independent, cross-community organisation, involved in working to protect civil liberties. It also opposed the renewal of the legislation and said that there was not a state of emergency at present.

I am aware of the comments of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). Like him, I am very conscious of the recent brutal murders in the city of Belfast, but the question is whether there is an emergency in the state of Northern Ireland at this point in time. I do not think so. But there is a peace process—granted it has been faltering a little recently—and therefore emergency legislation like this Bill is unhelpful. I have carefully studied the EPA review by Mr. John Rowe QC, who rightly emphasises that he plays no part in any peace process or negotiations, and that he is not bound by any Government policies.

The people of Ireland are divided by history. We therefore need political debate and meaningful dialogue—not draconian legislation. Over the years, members of the security forces who were involved in inevitable confrontation—I emphasise "inevitable" confrontation—with young people became recruiting sergeants for the IRA, the Ulster Defence Association, and the Ulster Volunteer Force. The situations surrounding the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four arose from pressure exerted on the legal process to solve terrorist actions.

The father of Gerry Conlon, Giuseppe Conlon, who had been a patient of mine, was allowed to die in prison in England. Like his son, he was a totally innocent person. His widow Mrs. Sarah Conlon, who is my friend, has never received an apology from the British Government. Even after all these years, compensation for Gerry and his mother is yet to be finalised. I would greatly appreciate it if the Minister took that matter up with the Home Secretary. Quite a number of years have now passed and it is immoral that compensation for Gerry Conlon and Mrs. Sarah Conlon—who lives in the heart of my constituency and is one of the loveliest people I have ever met—has not been finalised. I cannot speak for the Birmingham Six or other members of the Guildford Four.

In theory, the law may be the same for civilians and members of the security forces, but in practice it is quite different. Both Private Ian Thain and Private Lee Clegg were found guilty of murder, but each was released after about two years in prison. In contrast, Patrick Kane, Michael Timmons and Sean Kelly, who did not murder anyone, were sentenced to life imprisonment.

The three unarmed IRA members who were slaughtered in Gibraltar in March 1988 could easily have been arrested. As we know, they had been followed for some days. Like many others, I was shocked by the speech made by the Secretary of State for Defence at the Tory party conference some months ago when he glorified the exploits and disposition of the SAS.

I return to the point with which I started. The IRA's ceasefire is only partial. It no longer shoots members of security forces, but it seems to be all right to murder members of the nationalist community.

I spent 30 years as a medical practitioner in west Belfast and for 20 years I have been an elected politician. I know many of the people there, so I can speak with some authority on the matter. Why has the IRA murdered the young men to whom I have referred? It is nothing to do with drugs. The Provos want to reassert their power base in nationalist housing estates. They greatly fear normality. Indeed, it is what they fear most. They are not worried about the legislation going through the House today—it is normality they fear. Above all, they want to discredit the police: in fact, they want to be the police—those who deal with law and order in the area.

Repressive legislation has indirectly led to many young people from both communities getting involved with paramilitaries. The republican leadership must put an end to murder, assault and intimidation. Those leaders have no right to order young people or their parents to report to the local Sinn Fein office. That happens virtually every day of the week in west Belfast, and I cannot see how the Bill will do anything about it. Every day somebody has to report to a Sinn Fein office, yet they say that they have nothing to do with the IRA. If the republican leadership want to be treated as democrats, they must respect democracy.

Part of the background to the debate concerns the peace process and the twin-track process; it is all intertwined. That twin-track process launched by the two Prime Ministers must remain Government policy. In recent correspondence that I have had with the Prime Minister, he has once again referred to the end of February as the agreed time for all-party negotiations.

Reference has been made to Senator George Mitchell and his colleagues, who have an important job to do. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) has described it as a mission impossible. Certainly, what the Provos have been up to recently makes the task of Senator Mitchell and his colleagues very difficult. Like others, I am sure that, if Senator Mitchell and his colleagues requested a few more weeks in which to produce their report, both Governments would agree. I made a short submission to Senator Mitchell and his colleagues that I hope will be helpful.

All parties, including Sinn Fein, must be involved in continuing dialogue. The people of Northern Ireland will never forgive us if we do not sustain the peace process. The agenda for all-party talks should continue to include the three main relationships—those between the two communities in the north, between the north and the south, and of course between Britain and Ireland. Let us not play into the hands of those who want to destroy the peace process. We must be responsible in our words, actions and legislation.

The police in Northern Ireland have had an impossible task over the past 25 years. Policing in a community divided by history is not easy. The direct association of the police force with repressive legislation has made total acceptability in the nationalist community impossible. I say that as somebody who has co-operated with the police on virtually a daily basis for many years. I have nothing but respect for the great majority of them.

It is a fact of life, however, that on the nationalist housing estates of Belfast, and indeed in the nationalist communities right across the north of Ireland, people of course co-operate with the police on a day-to-day basis but have difficulties in accepting them. Although that subject is for another day, I add that the problem is to do with the police having identified with one section of the community. I appreciate that there have been improvements in recent times, but there is a major debate going on concerning that subject. Solutions concerning politics and security are inextricably linked.

The long-suffering people of my city—on the Falls road and the Shankill road—want peace. The people of Northern Ireland want peace. All parties must therefore be involved in dialogue, and huffing and puffing will not solve anything. Recently, President Clinton visited Northern Ireland. He visited both communities and made a very big impact. His message was one of peace and support for the peace process. As I said, I shall oppose the Bill, because I believe that such legislation is counter-productive.

A young Belfast student recently gave vivid expression to what I hope will be our shared vision for the future when he wrote: In morning sunlight over Belfast a fragile ray of hope grows bright".

7.17 pm
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

I pay tribute to the important words of both my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron), who represent the different communities and the different sides of Belfast. It seems that many of the powerful comments by the hon. Member for Belfast, West are an argument for the renewal of the emergency provisions powers. With his great knowledge of the west Belfast community, the very fact that he speaks about the recent murders as being undoubtedly the work of the Provisional IRA is itself a powerful argument for saying that normality is very far from having been restored to the streets and the estates of Belfast.

Although I was very impressed by the extent to which there appeared to be normality in the centres of Belfast and Londonderry when I last visited the Province during the summer, I feel that the recent sad, tragic and brutal murders are cracks in the peace process, which show once again the importance of renewing the powers.

In addition to the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Belfast, East in his powerful and effective speech, other important issues need to be considered by the House. The Labour Front-Bench spokesmen find themselves in an extraordinary position. They have tabled a reasoned amendment to the motion when their leadership has suggested that the party is now tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime.

Here we have the most important powers against terrorism, which is the most serious of crimes. One might think that in the spirit of the new Labour party there might be a return to the bipartisanship that was so welcome on Northern Ireland matters. Far from it. The Labour party says that it intends to vote against the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill. Opposition spokesmen have searched desperately through the Bill to find some excuse for voting against it. That is opposition for opposition's sake.

I want the Opposition to return to the old days of bipartisanship in Northern Ireland. Unless and until they support the Government on every piece of anti-terrorist legislation, the voters of Britain will never take seriously any of the weasel words of Labour spokesmen from the leader downwards on the strength of the Labour party's policy on crime. If the Opposition will not support us on measures against terrorism, they cannot be taken seriously. It is a measure of the desperation of their opposition for opposition's sake that the Opposition intend to vote against these important and crucial powers tonight.

When we consider the importance of the powers contained in the Bill, we can see clearly, especially in view of the recent murders by the IRA masquerading as Direct Action Against Drugs, that it would be premature to remove the emergency legislation while the terrorist organisations are intact and their weapons are available to return to violence.

No one prays more fervently than I for a complete and lasting peace in Northern Ireland. I admit that, when the peace process began, I was extremely cynical about its prospects. I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland embarked on it and worked on the twin-track process with the leadership of the Irish Republic. I am delighted that the peace process has gone as far as it has.

However, the terrorist organisations still have their arsenals of weapons. Terrorist murders are still committed by Provisional IRA, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West clearly described, as did the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) in a powerful speech on security matters on behalf of the Ulster Unionists.

The case is undoubtedly made for further renewal of the emergency powers, even if the Government have rightly said that, as soon as the security situation permits, the Government may ask Parliament to suspend individual provisions of the Act or to introduce them in a lapsed form. With terrorist murders happening, sadly, regularly in the past few weeks, it is clear that we cannot yet suspend the emergency provisions. Although we welcome the fact that terrorism has declined markedly since September 1994, when the ceasefire was announced, continuing murders highlight the need for special security measures in the Province.

Labour Front-Bench spokesmen say in their reasoned amendment that one of the reasons they propose to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill relates to the recommendations of Mr. John Rowe QC in his analysis of the security situation. I was proud to serve with Mr. Rowe on the Bar Council for several years and I served under his chairmanship. I know what a superb lawyer he is and what a careful analysis he has made, but it must be for Her Majesty's Government to decide what is in the best interests of the security and the legal situation. They have clearly considered carefully the implications of the security situation. There is no doubt in my mind that their analysis is right.

Several hon. Members who have spoken this evening, not least the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, have made it clear why that is. The changes that have been made to security procedures have been implemented solely on the professional advice of the Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding. The Government are right to say that they cannot and will not take unnecessary risks with people's lives.

I am sick to the back teeth of hearing spokesmen for Sinn Fein day after day and night after night on the radio and television speaking weasel words to excuse terrorist actions and the actions of the IRA. They have refused to contemplate the surrender of their weapons and the renunciation of violence. They come up with all sorts of weasel words to excuse terrorism. While they do so, they will not be taken seriously as part of the peace process. They do not deserve to be treated as democratic politicians. I have no doubt that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are right to continue to state powerfully than Sinn Fein and the IRA and all their works cannot be treated with respect as democratic politicians until the weapons are surrendered and we have a real ceasefire.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right last Sunday when he said what he would say to Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and others: I believe you can stop these killings and these beatings and if you wish to be taken seriously as democratic politicians, now or in the future, then you should stop these killings and these beatings and you should stop them now and for good. Those were powerful words, which I hope and pray will be taken seriously. Until the spokesmen for Sinn Fein and the leaders of the IRA surrender their arms for good, they cannot be taken seriously, and the peace process will continue to be in serious jeopardy, despite the bravery and success of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's initiative.

As for the future, the Government have rightly emphasised that nothing will be implemented in Northern Ireland without the consent of all the parties in talks, without the consent of the people in a referendum or without the consent of Parliament. That is the triple lock. There is a powerful community in my constituency that emanates from. Northern Ireland. It comprises people of both faiths and both communities. It is important not only to all the peace-loving people of Northern Ireland but to all the people of the United Kingdom that the triple lock should continue to be in place. I know that it is a particular reassurance to the Unionist community in my constituency, with whom I have always had good and close links.

Before I conclude, I should touch briefly on what I see as the way forward and what I know my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench see as the way forward. The reaction in the Province to President Clinton's visit and to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visits last year clearly illustrated the hope that exists there. I saw that for myself in Northern Ireland last summer. I saw a community which had hungered for peace enjoying after so many years the fruits of peace.

Mr. Maginnis

indicated assent.

Mr. Hawkins

I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone nodding at those words.

The preparatory talks are intended to give fresh momentum to the peace process, but the murders in the Province by the terrorists masquerading under the false title of Direct Action Against Drugs highlight the need for all parties in the Province to demonstrate beyond doubt that they are committed exclusively to peaceful means, not least by making progress on decommissioning.

I apologise to the hon. Members who are to reply to the debate that I may not be able to be in the Chamber for all the closing speeches, although I hope to hear almost all of them. I am delighted to have had an opportunity to speak briefly in this important debate. I hope that the Labour party will eventually learn not to oppose the Government on important anti-terrorist measures.

7.28 pm
Mr. Robert McCartney (North Down)

The issue before the House is whether the Bill, which would in large measure re-enact the principal provisions of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991, should receive a Second Reading in what are alleged to be changed circumstances.

I should mention to the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), who unfortunately is not here at present, that, as perhaps the only independent Member in the Chamber, I cast my vote either in support of the Government or in opposition to them as my conscience dictates on the issues before the House at the time. While I am ideologically totally in favour of the socio-economic policies of the Opposition—with whom I have voted as a volunteer, and not as a whipped or pressed man, on every occasion since I entered the House—I shall with little hesitation be voting with the Government this evening.

The central principle in this debate is the extent to which the protection of the lives, personal safety and property of British citizens—particularly those living in Northern Ireland—requires laws that depart in some measure from traditional civil liberties and human rights. It can be argued that the granting of exceptional powers and the diminution of certain rights, such as trial by jury or access to legal advice, ought to be maintained only as long as the threat of terrorism in all its forms justifies it. Without doubt, that is the present case in Northern Ireland.

The existing ceasefire has been described by the accountable Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office as a military ceasefire, which will be broken only by bombs on the mainland or by attacks on security personnel. While that fine distinction may serve the political objectives of the Government, it offers small comfort to the friends and relatives of those civilians—at present drawn almost entirely from the ghettos of the minority community—who are being mutilated with baseball bats, clubs, staves and iron bars, and murdered almost on a daily basis.

Such people—like the rest of Northern Ireland's citizens—were sold the peace process on the basis of a permanent cessation of terrorist violence. In neither the Downing street declaration nor Government statements at the time of the announcement of the framework document do I recollect any distinction being drawn between military ceasefires and a cessation of violence such as would offer ordinary civilians the protection of normal times.

On the one hand, the frankness of the Minister's language is to be admired, since it reveals what many in Northern Ireland have always believed to be the case: that the peace process, to use that rather nebulous term, was only in a subsidiary way about the ending or cessation of political violence in Northern Ireland, and that its essential purpose was the protection of mainland British economic and political interests.

Northern Ireland has always been a part of the United Kingdom where, to echo the words of the late Reginald Maudling, a level of violence was acceptable to the British Government that would have been totally unacceptable in any other part of the United Kingdom. The most effective methods of protecting the lives and property of the British citizens of Northern Ireland have always been made subordinate to the political objectives of successive British Governments.

The terrorists have always been nurtured and encouraged by the knowledge that their objective—removing Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom—was one upon which successive British Administrations were largely neutral. Concessions could always be wrung from those Administrations at the expense of the pro-Union community. A great number of pro-Union people, like the Czechs in 1938, have rightly suspected that England's peace might be bought at their expense.

This debate between the Government and the Opposition resembles nothing so much as the debate between the Lilliputians and the Blefuscans as to which end of the egg they should open. The only item of any substance in the Opposition amendment relates to the Government's failure to implement the recommendations of Mr. John Rowe's review by removing internment without trial from the statute book. For the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, that is a dispute without substance. Internment has been on the statute book for 20 years without its use being invoked. If the past is any guide to the future political courage of those charged with government, it could remain on the statute book into eternity without being made operative.

What, one may ask, is all the hullabaloo about? The Republic of Ireland has had legislation allowing detention in specified circumstances since 1940, with far less justification than has been and is now being offered in Northern Ireland. I detect no protests from those who speak loudly about the very presence on the statute book of a non-invoked form of detention principle in the United Kingdom relative to Northern Ireland about the same legislation being on the statute book in the Republic of Ireland.

In what other part of the United Kingdom would the Government have tolerated murder, mayhem and the destruction of property on the levels seen in Northern Ireland without not only having detention legislation on the statute book, but actually putting it into effect? Does anyone in the House seriously believe that, if the murder and assassination of judges, members of the public and innocent people had been taking place in Yorkshire, Cornwall or Kent at the level that we have seen in Northern Ireland, there would not have been an all-party bipartisan approach for the implementation of detention procedures in order to stop it?

The assistant Chief Constable of Northern Ireland recently went on the record to state that, on the basis of high-grade intelligence, the police were aware of the identity of the specific killers involved in 80 per cent. of the 1,800 unsolved murders in Northern Ireland. In the other 20 per cent., the police were aware of a small group—perhaps numbering two or three persons—who were specifically involved in those killings. Those people cannot be brought to justice in accordance with the normal rules and principles of law pertaining in a stable and normal society. They are murderous and homicidal people who are exempt from punishment because of the terror that they can inspire and the punishment that they can inflict upon those who have the courage to give evidence against them.

Let me give the House some scenarios typical of Northern Ireland. Mr. X lives in a nationalist housing estate. He is married, with a number of teenage children and—perhaps within that same estate—he has an extended family of cousins, uncles and aunts. He is an eye-witness to a murder perpetrated by someone he knows and recognises as a person with paramilitary convictions. That person may be so confident of the terror that his organisation inspires that he may not even disguise himself by wearing a mask. The witness informs the police, who arrest the perpetrator; he resists all questioning and is released. The witness refuses to testify out of fear for himself and his family. Without his evidence, the killer goes free to kill again. That is not an anecdotal account; it is a matter that is known to the security authorities.

In the mid-1970s, I had occasion to prosecute four or five men on murder charges. All of them had a peripheral involvement. All of them had made statements, which they subsequently withdrew, identifying the person who pulled the trigger. The statements were not admissible because they had been made by accomplices. The trigger man was arrested and was subjected to interrogation, but because he was a hard case who had probably been well schooled in anti-interrogation procedures, he sat in Castlereagh for seven days and never uttered a word. He was released, and he was again involved in serious terrorist crime. He was imprisoned, released and subsequently murdered by his own kind. That is typical of what happens in many cases in Northern Ireland, and it may be one of the 1,800 unsolved murder cases in which the security authorities are firmly aware of the identity of those involved.

Only too frequently, it is those who are peripherally involved, who are often young and inexperienced people who have acted as look-outs and who have collected information, but who are technically guilty of murder, who are convicted and who go to prison under a life sentence. They are the sort of people who perhaps ought to be released in some form of remission because they were by no means central to the horrible crimes that were committed. But in many cases, those who actually commit the murder—the hitmen, the godfathers—are beyond the law. They are certainly beyond the law that is on the statute book at present.

I have practised law in Northern Ireland for more than 30 years, for 20 of them as a Queen's Counsel. I am dedicated to the principles of the common law for the protection of the individual against the power of the state. Like almost every other hon. Member who has spoken in or been present during this debate, I passionately look forward to the day when it is unnecessary for legislation such as the Bill to be on the statute book. However, one must face the reality that there is a point when judgment must be made about how far the ordinary laws must necessarily be put aside to protect the state and the overwhelming majority of its law-abiding citizens from an organised, violent and murderous conspiracy that would subvert the principles of justice and order that make democratic government possible.

It is a measure of the impasse that we have reached that the central core of this debate is not whether a measure to secure the removal from society of such violent criminals should be invoked, but whether, uninvoked and unlikely to be invoked, it should even remain on the statute book. That is the core of the Opposition's objection. The measure has been on the statute book for 20 years. It has been held in refrigerated if not cold storage against the day when it may be required to be used, but it is not in operation. One fears that the unreality that surrounds the debate is taken by the vast, law-abiding majority of both communities in Northern Ireland as a measure of the House's understanding of the true nature of their situation.

In pursuit of the holy grail of an unattainable political situation, the squaring of an impossible political circle that will guarantee the security of the British mainland, the Government, with the bipartisan support of the Opposition, are grappling with the forms instead of dealing with the substance of the problem. To abandon democratic principle in favour of short-term expediency is but to court ultimate disaster. There could not be a less opportune time to remove the detention provision from the statute book. I do not hear people advocating its being put into operation, and I am aware of the political considerations that would have to be taken into account before such a step was taken. But to remove the detention provision from the statute book at present would offer all the wrong signals to the men of terror.

There must come a time when the murder of civilians can no longer be ignored, even if it be the murder of alleged, and certainly unproven, drug dealers. The IRA has, in this case, created a class of psychological outlaw. No longer is it the position—it has not been for centuries—that a man may be outlawed, that every man's hand may be turned against him and that he will be beyond the protection of the law, but the IRA is attempting to use what many people instinctively, intuitively and psychologically feel about those who dabble in drugs and to make such people targets who, the average person would say, psychologically at least, should be afforded no protection.

That is, of course, a fraud and a farce. It is only a pretext on which the IRA can dominate, terrorise and intimidate substantial and significant areas in Belfast, where it can pretend that the RUC and other law enforcement agencies are not welcome. Those are areas in which the IRA can arrogate to itself the power of the state, which it can enforce by utilising the sanction of arms and violence which, in any democratic society, should be used only by the state in accordance with laws approved by its democratic and elected Government.

There can be no place in any peace process for a separate government of people who allege that they are entitled to bear arms. The whole idea that the IRA should not surrender its arms is political. To surrender even one rusty pistol would be to acknowledge that that pistol is held unlawfully and that the weapons held by the forces of the state are lawfully held by them to enforce such sanctions as the lawful Government may grant.

The IRA will not willingly, to use its own terms, either by the back door or by the front door, surrender what affords it its only negotiating power. Why can the British Government, in the form of their personnel in the Northern Ireland Office, be seen entertaining these people in discussions? I speak not only about the IRA, but about all the paramilitary figures who have no political mandate, but who have the power of the gun and the bomb. Would they be entertained if they did not have those weapons? The answer is no. With a mandate of 10 per cent., they would be treated—I do not mean this at all disparagingly—in exactly the same way as the Alliance party in Northern Ireland is.

In fact, as I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) would agree—I hope that the Minister responsible for security in Northern Ireland will take this into account—the mandate would not even be from 10 per cent. of the population were it not for the massive impersonation, fraud and other unlawful practices that are engaged in by Sinn Fein in every election, and especially in the constituency of Belfast, West. Those people must be made aware that, if they escalate the present level of violence and return to the use of guns and bombs as a method of achieving political returns, there is some ultimate position that the established Government can rely upon to meet that challenge. That may well be the presence on the statute book of a power to detain those who are known to be involved.

It has been mentioned during the debate that democratic Governments all over the world, from time to time, are faced with extraordinary situations where only unusual and exceptional powers are appropriate to answer a challenge. President Clinton visited us before Christmas and gave many people in Northern Ireland a lot of hope, but I remind the House that two Presidents of the United States of America—President Abraham Lincoln, during the war between the states, and President Roosevelt during the second world war—were forced to take steps that doubtless would have incurred the criticism of those on the Opposition Front Bench.

President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, executed prisoners without trial and interfered with the United States mail to such an extent that Chief Justice Taney wrote complaining about those measures. However, the late Mr. Justice Robert Jackson, a distinguished member of the American Supreme Court and the representative of the United States Government at the Nuremberg trials, stated that he was by no means certain that democracy would have survived if President Lincoln had accepted Mr. Justice Taney's criticisms.

More recently, when the United States felt that it was threatened on its western seaboard after the Japanese attack on Pearl harbour, 100,000 nisei, or Japanese, many of whom were American citizens, were interned in 10 camps because it was believed that, in the greater interests of the defence of the United States, it was necessary to protect the state. One could hardly accuse Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt of being fascists, but we have to bring to the debate a sense of reality.

I do not ask or suggest that the internment provisions should be invoked, but, at a time when the IRA is beginning to escalate its violence to a point where even the Government will have to accept that the ceasefire is at an end. it would be quite wrong to send it the message that the ultimate deterrent that it fears is being not only uninvoked but removed from this legislation. I suggest that all hon. Members who believe in the preservation of democracy and accept, in the face of escalating violence, that it is necessary to have some such proposals, should follow the Government through the Lobby this evening.

7.54 pm
Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

I listened carefully to what the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) said about voting according to his conscience. I have spoken consistently and voted conscientiously against such oppressive measures over a considerable period because I honestly believe that such legislation does little, if anything, to defeat terrorism. It might even be counter-productive, by alienating some sections of the community from the forces of law and order. Nothing in recent experience has convinced me to change my mind. Even before the ceasefire, I voted consistently against such emergency provisions and I believe that the case for voting against them is even stronger now that the ceasefire has been, thankfully, in operation for more than 16 months.

I realise that the explanatory and financial memorandum states that the Bill takes account of the developments since the paramilitary ceasefires, and supporters of the Bill might argue that it is not as bad as its predecessors. Nevertheless, on looking through the Bill, any reasonable hon. Member would have to admit that it contains some draconian measures and does not even incorporate the modest recommendations of Mr. John Rowe QC. Internment without trial is still on the statute book. The Diplock courts remain, and the police and the armed forces will still have draconian powers of search, arrest and detention which should be anathema to any civilised democracy.

I am amazed to hear that the Liberal Democrats will vote with the Government. I always thought the Liberal Democrats had. at least some respect for civil rights, yet even that seems to have evaporated, judging from what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) said.

I realise that we cannot afford to be complacent about the continuation of the ceasefire. We can see that that is true from recent events, such as the recent convictions in the High Court in Scotland of loyalist paramilitaries involved in attempted arms smuggling to Northern Ireland. The fact that they were successfully caught and convicted had nothing whatsoever to do with the Northern Ireland emergency provisions legislation, because such legislation does not apply to Scotland. The convictions came about because of good detective work, especially by the Central Scotland police force. I pay tribute to them for their hard work.

Reference has been made by several speakers to the murders in Northern Ireland over the Christmas and new year period. There is widespread concern in Northern Ireland and elsewhere about them. I absolutely deplore such killings. Whatever the victims have done, or are alleged to have done, no person or group of persons has a right to set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner. However, it would be unwise to interpret those tragic deaths as an end to the ceasefire and a justification for abandoning the peace process. Most, if not all, of the recent murders would be appear to be drugs-related rather than sectarian or politically motivated. That is not in any way to condone them, but we should not allow ourselves to be swayed from the peace process. I fail to see how the Bill will help to trace and convict those responsible for such heinous crimes.

Part of the problem in certain communities in Northern Ireland is the lack of trust between the communities and the police. I urge the Government to take seriously the need for police reform, so that the police become truly representative of, and accountable to, the communities that they serve. That would prove far more effective than this legislation in the campaign against crime—whether it be drug trafficking, terrorism, punishment beating or any other criminal activity.

I urge the Government not to be deflected from the peace process and to pursue the twin-track approach vigorously. I appeal to all parties to support and to co-operate with Senator Mitchell's commission. The Government should set a date for the commencement of meaningful all-party talks. That would be a much more constructive approach than passing more oppressive legislation such as the Bill, which is a gross and unjustifiable infringement of the civil liberties of the people of Northern Ireland and could have a negative impact on the peace process.

7.59 pm
Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen)

I approach the situation by judging the Government's attitudes, behaviour and track record. I have said before that I am concerned about the almost complete lack of recognition by Government Front Benchers of the co-operation and bipartisan support of Opposition Front Benchers. Conservative Members may dispute it all they like, but the general election is first and foremost in their minds. I believe that we must watch them like hawks to ensure that they do not use the Northern Ireland issue to their party political advantage.

I accept that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has a reasonably good record of not using the issue for party political purposes. However, as we approach the general election, he will be subject to the same pressures from his Prime Minister and his party as any other Secretary of State. Our suspicions are reinforced by the way in which the Bill was introduced. Opposition Front Benchers were not able to consider it properly, and there was no consultation. If the Labour party's bipartisan approach to the issue had been appreciated by the Government, there would have been full consultation with the House about the Northern Ireland situation. I am concerned about the Government's real intentions in introducing the legislation.

The parliamentary arithmetic must also be a factor in the Government's mind—not only this year but as we approach the general election. As soon as potential difficulties arose for the Government with the death of a sitting Conservative Member, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis)—he has been present in the Chamber for the entire debate but has now left temporarily—issued a vote of confidence in the Government, seemingly without the authorisation of his leader. He assured them that the Ulster Unionist party was right behind them.

The hon. Gentleman has criticised the tactics of the Labour party, but his leadership quickly recognised his had tactics in giving the Government a blank cheque. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) quickly announced publicly that the Ulster Unionist party would give no blank cheques to the Government and that any support for them would be determined according to the best interests of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Many Labour Members suspect that the Government will use the Northern Ireland issue for party political purposes. Opposition Front Benchers have an excellent record of clear-cut support for the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) today reiterated Labour's support for the Government's Northern Ireland initiative, and I believe that that co-operation and support should be valued properly.

I accept the rationale advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), who has consistently expressed reservations about this type of legislation. In supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar, I believe that we must move forward from our present position. It is a pointless and a futile exercise to consider what may or may not have happened in different circumstances. We should not say, "If such and such had happened at a particular time, we would not be here now." We are in this position, and we must do the best possible job in the current circumstances.

I accept that events are see-sawing, but Labour Front Benchers are moving positively to make the best of a situation that is not ideal. We will not change things overnight, but we must send signals that we are willing to move away from the present mindset about this type of emergency legislation. That is the difference between the Opposition and the Government. No doubt we will make mistakes; we will get things wrong here and there. However, the Labour party is trying to create an atmosphere of change and to maintain the momentum of the peace process. Although I understand the reservations expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, West, I believe that Opposition Front Benchers must move forward from the present position.

Like my hon. Friend, I am absolutely astonished by the attitude adopted by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who unfortunately is not in the Chamber. His attitude clearly reflected the criticism levelled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). He described the make-up of the Committee that considered the original legislation, which he said was a lawyers' delight. The Committee must have been bored to death by all the clauses, subsections and legal jargon in it.

The Liberal Democrat spokesman demonstrated the capacity of the legal profession—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar referred to them as the "fraternity"—to discuss matters among themselves, assuming that they are better trained and a wee bit more intelligent than the rest of us. They believe that they are better able to deal with such matters and that we are simply nuisances.

It is generally accepted—I do not agree with it myself—that the Liberal Democrats have a long tradition of support for civil liberties. However, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery supported Diplock courts and, in fact, he advocated their extension to the rest of the United Kingdom. He went on to say that the Liberals would support the Government tonight.

I received a letter from the local branch of the Liberal party in my constituency which I have kept for quite a while. In the letter, the Liberals demand that I take each and every opportunity to vote against the Government to bring them down, as it is the duty of all non-Tory Members of Parliament to bring down the Government. I wrote back to the Liberals asking, "Should we play party politics over Northern Ireland and bring down the Government, even though we think that they are right?" The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has put the opposite view tonight. That proves once again the variable behaviour of the Liberal Party, and I think that it stinks.

The Liberal Democrats' sister party in Northern Ireland is the Alliance party. I shall be extreme and say that I do not have any time for the Conservative party. However, I accept that it is consistent: it represents its supporters and a particular class interest quite strongly. I do not like it, but I accept it. I think that Conservative Members will agree that the Liberal Democrats are all things to all people everywhere. Therefore, I have absolutely no respect for the Liberal Democrat position tonight.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney) was quite scathing about the Labour party's position on internment. Internment is not acceptable. It is said that it involves only a small point of principle, that it is in cold storage and that it was never intended to be used. If it has existed for 21 years or longer without ever being used, why should it remain? Its existence sends out all sorts of signals about 1971 which reverberate through the nationalist communities in Northern Ireland.

The Irish immigrant communities in the United Kingdom use the issue as a stick with which to beat the United Kingdom and its reputation on civil liberties. A line in the nationalist song "The Men Behind the Wire" goes: Cromwell's men are here again". That relates directly to the United Kingdom's policy of internment in Northern Ireland, which has caused great problems. The continuation of that policy on the statute book causes more problems than it is worth. It is a stain on our record as a democratic society, and we should get rid of it.

It is an understatement to say that it is not easy to deal with the situation in Northern Ireland. Its affairs must be handled carefully, and we must conduct ourselves responsibly. With this legislation, however, there have been delays and a lack of consultation, which suggests to me that the Government are dancing to the tune of their hardliners, to keep them on side in parliamentary votes. In doing so, they are pandering to all sorts of prejudices and hardline positions. The Government have been doing this for quite a while and are now well on the road to decay, which is less than this country deserves.

I hope I am not doing my Unionist friends an injustice when I say that it seems to me that where they are is where they are going to stay: there will be no movement of any kind. I am fortunate enough to be on the mailing list of the Ulster Unionist party; some of the papers I am sent show considerable movement by some of the party's members, but that is not reflected by their parliamentary

representatives. I know that we all have to account for ourselves to our constituents back home, but I do not think sometimes that enough attention is paid to how we arrived at this predicament in the first place.

I do not want to go down memory lane this evening—this is not the time to do so—but most of us here do know why we are where we are in Northern Ireland. The Unionists perhaps do not recognise sufficiently the fears and doubts of the other section of society in Northern Ireland, The Unionist community is dominant there—I do not use the word maliciously—and is undoubtedly the stronger of the two communities. I repeat, therefore, that there does not seem to be enough willingness on the part of Unionist representatives in this Chamber to move forward.

I do not live in Northern Ireland; I have never lived in a society where a person can be killed at a moment's notice for his political or religious beliefs or because he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I fully recognise the pressures that have been brought to bear in Northern Ireland for the past 25 years, but the Unionist community needs to remember that it is not just a question of the past 25 years—it is also important to remember how the problems began and to think about where we are heading in the future.

I think it daft to authorise only silent video recordings, although the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone made one or two worthwhile points about the operational difficulties. I think that silent videos will make Britain once again a laughing stock, just as we were when the spokesmen for the paramilitary organisations were not allowed to speak on television. That just made us look stupid, and we were ridiculed throughout the world. To their credit, the Government eventually got off that hook. Silent videos would be disastrous, and would not help at all.

Clause 51 is a good example of the Government's clumsiness—some would say deviousness—in sending out the wrong signals. Under current legislation, the appointment of an independent assessor of military complaints procedures is mandatory; as I understand it, however, the Bill will make it discretionary. If there are such good reasons for holding fast to the status quo, why meddle with the appointment of this person? I should like to hear the Government's view.

In the context of Northern Ireland, we all have a duty to behave responsibly. I fully support the Labour Front-Bench position, which is to support the Government for as long as the Government are clearly acting in the interests both of the people of Northern Ireland and of the rest of the United Kingdom. At the first signs of the Government trying to turn the issue to their party advantage—there are already such signs on the horizon—the trouble will start. There is no uglier sight than that of a Conservative Government clinging to power by their fingernails. History will judge them harshly if they try to use this issue for political ends.

8.15 pm
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

I respect what the hon. Members for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy), who share a passionate desire for peace in Northern Ireland, said, but it was the extraordinarily lucid speech by the hon. and learned Member for North Down (Mr. McCartney), a great deal of which I agreed with, which has prompted me to speak briefly in this debate. For all its lucidity and polish, his speech had a distinctively Northern Ireland flavour.

The hon. and learned Gentleman implied, in passing, that the United Kingdom Government lacked a full commitment to Northern Ireland; at least, he suggested that that commitment was not as great as he would like. Drawing on my experience as the Minister responsible for economic affairs in Northern Ireland for three years, I think it unfair not to give the Government proper respect for the totality of their commitment.

I offer as an example the fact that the Department of Economic Development, for which I was responsible, had a budget of £500 million a year, compared with the £1.3 billion at the disposal of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for the whole of Great Britain. The population of Northern Ireland, small though it may be, thus enjoyed a budget almost one third as much as the one for the rest of the United Kingdom. That enabled us to put in place some dramatic initiatives to win jobs for Northern Ireland and to bring about the prosperity which, with the peace process, has now led to a 5.6 per cent. increase in employment. Property prices and all the other economic indicators are now working their way through very well indeed. All this is a sign of the great commitment of the United Kingdom Government to Northern Ireland.

Similarly, there has been a firm military commitment to the Province for many years. Anyone who doubts the Government's commitment doubts, in effect, the dedication of the troops who have served so courageously in Northern Ireland over the years. Their courage and determination are unflinching in the face of a great deal of aggression and murder, and they deserve higher tributes than they are sometimes paid.

Those who urge tougher measures against terrorism in Northern Ireland have my support, in the sense that I understand why they make their demands. Nothing could be more galling than knowing that there are identifiable people in Northern Ireland who have been responsible for atrocities. We have to ensure that the rule of law is applied, and seen to be applied, in Northern Ireland. If I learned one thing during my three years there as a Minister, it was the crucial importance of winning the international war to make people understand the difficulties of the situation in Northern Ireland.

Anyone who visits the United States will recognise that the depth of ignorance in some parts of that country seems to have been magnified by the length of time that has passed since the forebears of the individuals there left Ireland. Any Government must be able to project their policies internationally, and particularly in the United States. In places such as Boston, it is necessary to win the war of words and promote understanding of the difficulties of government in Northern Ireland. The imposition of draconian measures and the use of detention in Northern Ireland would inevitably lead to a massive backlash in the United States and we would head towards another range of problems.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, which was much vilified by some people in Northern Ireland, was of massive significance in the United States. The consul-general in Boston told me that, before the Anglo-Irish Agreement, he was frequently barracked as he left his residence, and was subjected to much vilification in the United States. The Anglo-Irish Agreement, which showed that the Government of the United Kingdom was working with the Government of the Republic of Ireland, removed from those who wished to cause trouble in the United States one of their strongest weapons—the argument that the British were acting contrary to the interests of the people of Ireland. The Anglo-Irish Agreement has been important in helping to win the publicity battle.

I share the incredulity of the hon. and learned Member for North Down that it is not possible to take more action against terrorism in Northern Ireland. The first time that I was duty Minister and was asked to sign a certificate to allow the release, on compassionate grounds for a wedding, of a person who had been guilty of terrorist crime, I expressed incredulity that a convicted terrorist should be allowed out of prison to attend a wedding. I was minded not to sign that certificate, and had to be persuaded that it was in line with normal tradition in Northern Ireland and that it would have been counter-productive not to have signed it.

I understand the impatience of many people in Northern Ireland that more cannot be done to enforce the rules against terrorism; nevertheless, I believe that the Government are committed to the right path. It is, as outlined in the Bill, to take for a reduced period of two years a range of powers which include judicial matters, military activity and various matters relating to the emergency legislation.

Many people may be impatient with the position in Northern Ireland, but I recall an interesting and perceptive article by Matthew Parris in The Spectator just before Christmas in which he pointed out how wise my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been in handling the problems in Northern Ireland, and that many people would have said, "I need an answer now. I must resolve this problem now." The problems in Northern Ireland cannot be resolved now. It will take time, patience and diplomatic skill, all of which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office have to an exceptional degree.

As part of their armoury in dealing with the difficult circumstances they face, it is appropriate that we should place again on the statute book a range of measures—some of which are available now and some of which are available prospectively—to ensure that, if necessary, the Government can use those powers, although in many cases they will not be required. The Bill is well judged and deserves our support.

8.23 pm
Mrs. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I shall speak briefly to pay tribute to a number of activities in the city of Sheffield, where I live. Since the peace declaration last year, a number of groups have done an enormous amount to focus attention on the peace process and the need to ensure that it continues.

About two years ago, an initial meeting in Sheffield to promote peace in Northern Ireland drew a comparison between Northern Ireland and South Africa. During that discussion, some quite moving speeches convinced me and the 100 other people who attended that emphasis on terrorism was not the best way to promote peace in countries and societies with a history of cultural antagonism between different communities. The meeting was controversial, because it was addressed by Sinn Fein councillors. At the time, the Government were not speaking to Sinn Fein, nor were its representatives allowed to be reported in the media.

Some 18 months later, the people who had organised the meeting held a conference in Sheffield which brought people from all parties and from all the grass roots organisations in Northern Ireland and many organisations in the city together to discuss how to build on the peace process, which by then was six months old. It was noticeable that many people described the useful work that was being done by local communities in Northern Ireland to build joint approaches on education and trade and to work within the European Community.

Those meetings and that conference made it clear to me that the emphasis on prevention of terrorism legislation and the emergency provisions was not the key to promoting peace in Northern Ireland. That is why I am pleased to say a few words tonight to endorse wholeheartedly the reasoned amendment. If we are to give the peace process the significant boost it needs, we should be prepared to criticise and deplore any acts of violence in Northern Ireland, but we should also make sure that we are on record as saying that the correct way forward to stimulate the peace process is not further to endorse the emergency powers and the assumption that the violence in Northern Ireland is exceptional from a United Kingdom point of view.

We cannot have it both ways. If we are intent on integrating Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom and ensuring that Northern Ireland has the same standards of education and levels of service that we would expect in the rest of the United Kingdom, we must apply the same standards of justice and make the same assumptions about people's rights and liberties there. As long as the emergency powers exist, that cannot be said to be true by Members of the Westminster Parliament.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Jackson

No. I am making a short speech.

It is important that hon. Members on both sides of the House—I hope that the Opposition's amendment will receive some support from Conservative Members—make it clear that the continuation of emergency powers is not the correct way forward, and that we are not in favour of that approach. The emergency powers go against the normal civil liberties that I expect as a citizen of the United Kingdom, including the right to trial by jury and the right not to be imprisoned without due cause—in other words, internment. Those liberties or rights should belong to every person in the United Kingdom. That is fundamental.

It is against that background that, since becoming a Member of this place, I have consistently voted against the continuation of prevention of terrorism legislation. I am conscious, of course, that we are talking about the emergency provisions in Northern Ireland, and I shall vote against their continuation.

8.31 pm
Mr. Piers Merchant (Beckenham)

I am sorry that I was unable to be present for the earlier part of the debate. My absence was unavoidable, because I was serving on a Standing Committee. I wish, however, to say a few words in support of the extension of the measures set out in the Bill. Unlike the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mrs. Jackson), I have always supported their extension.

I recognise and welcome the changing situation in Northern Ireland. I hope that, in the near future, the House will be able to make major changes to the legislation that bears on the Province.

The massive improvement in security in Northern Ireland is much to be welcomed, as is the impact that it has had on the mainland as well. Tremendous steps have been taken that even a few years ago would probably have been regarded as impossible in such a short period. Those steps are in everyone's interests. I am optimistic that there will be further dramatic improvements.

I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those on all sides who have made the dramatic improvement possible. In particular, I thank my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for the lead which he has given. I congratulate him on the caution which he has rightly shown when dealing with Irish affairs. Unfortunately, killings are still being carried out. It is sad that there were more examples over the Christmas period. They are clearly linked in some way with terrorist organisations.

There is always a need to be cautious when dealing with terrorism because it is, to a great extent, unpredictable. There is always a danger of resurgence.

There are two particular reasons why I think it right to retain the array of measures that are set out in the Bill. First, it is necessary to maintain full ability to implement such measures in the event of an unfortunate breakdown in security. We would be foolish, even after 16 months, to imagine that such a breakdown is not a possibility. We must be prepared, although we hope for and are talking about a long-term peaceful settlement. That must be so while it is clear that terrorist organisations continue to exist, and retain their weapons and the ability to use them.

It would be foolish for the House to change the legal framework in which terrorism can be combated until we have seen clear progress in decommissioning.

We should, however, consider reducing proportionally the strength of the security measures as progress is made. I am aware that that has already happened in the workings of the military in Northern Ireland, where soldiers have come off the streets. Indeed, three major units have been relocated from Northern Ireland. Much greater reliance has been put on the police service operating in the same way as in the rest of the United Kingdom. Military action in support of the RUC has fallen by about three quarters over the relevant period. Practical steps have been taken in the right direction.

Mr. Devlin

Does my hon. Friend agree that the flaw in the argument of some Opposition Members is that the situation in Northern Ireland, although much improved, is not as good as it is in Sheffield, for example, or in other parts of the United Kingdom? The security forces still have to be in Northern Ireland in case there is a resurgence of long-standing problems. The recent difficulties—for example, shootings that are claimed to be associated with drugs—show that we cannot afford to withdraw all the measures in the hope that, somehow, the peace process will result in a good end.

Mr. Merchant

My hon. Friend is entirely right. It is not a matter of what the situation in Northern Ireland is like now or what it was last week or six months ago. Unfortunately, there is an explosive potential that is not present in Sheffield, I am glad to say, that must be taken into account. We must ensure that mechanisms are available to the security forces and that the law in Northern Ireland matches the situation that exists or as it might exist rather than as it exists in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The second way in which recognition is given to the changes in Northern Ireland is in the reduction of the period covered by the Bill to two years. There is ample evidence that that is the right course. There is evidence also that my hon. Friend the Minister would like a further relaxation of the legislative framework if it is matched by action from the terrorist organisations that still exist. My hon. Friend said: As soon as the security situation permits the Government intends to ask Parliament to suspend individual provisions in the current Act or introduce them in a lapsed form on enactment of the Bill. The guarantee is there. It is merely a question of timing.

It is right that the current legislation should be retained for the time being because it is entirely appropriate to wait for the results of the overall review of methods of combating terrorism. Once the legislation that relates to the battle against terrorism has been fully reviewed and set in a modern context, given the changing events in Northern Ireland, that will be the right moment for a proper and long-term settlement, which will bear on all the legislation that deals with terrorism.

The House should continue to support the current Act and look to the future. It is to be hoped that the future will be much rosier and that it will be possible to make changes without risking the lives of innocent people in Northern Ireland and of those who have laboured for so long to protect them.

8.39 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

I am deeply grateful to my hon. Friends and to Conservative Members for leaving sufficient time for my winding-up speech.

I shall deal first with a point that has arisen on a number of occasions during the debate. It concerns the bipartisan approach, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) reiterated, we would pursue. During the debate, I wrote down some synonyms for the word "bipartisan", and I came up with "mutual", "joint", "collaborative", "integrated". I did not come up with "We decide, and you follow." I did not come up with what occurred on the last day before Christmas, when we had to table an amendment or response to a Bill that we had not seen. It was not published until the last day before the House shut down for Christmas. Whether we tabled an amendment depended on whether hon. Members managed to prolong a debate on the Humber bridge. We got this Bill only when there was a severe danger that the business of the House was about to collapse.

"Bipartisan" does not mean that. It does not mean that we have a Bill right at the end of the Session, where the Government, using the traditional tactics, smuggle something out, making no comment on it. Although we are committed to a bipartisan approach—it is far too serious a business for anything else—we have to ask the Government, please, to respect the wishes of the Opposition and at least allow us to see the proposed legislation before the closing date for tabling an amendment. That is a very important point to make.

We would have welcomed the chance to sit down with the Government, to put points about the proposed legislation, not just in early June. We would have liked to continue that process and to ask what is in it that can meet our traditional objectives and the general objective that there should be in anti-terrorist legislation. The objections about the way in which the Bill was introduced have come not just from Opposition Members but, as we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), the Government's own advisers. The Standing Advisory Committee on Human Relations has also objected to the fact that, although promises were given that it would be consulted on such legislation, it was not.

Much of the debate has featured the appalling killings and beatings, as paramilitary organisations enact their own brutality in their own areas. From the Labour party's viewpoint, let us make no mistake that that is terrorism of the most stark and literal kind. It is rule by terror. It is just as serious if it is rule by terror of nationalist areas as it would be if it was the terrorising of one's opponents. There has been no more unconvincing a sight—many hon. Members have referred to this—on our screens through December and the early part of January than Mr. Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Fein failing to condemn the killings and beatings. He was the only person on the box who was less credible than Mystic Meg. He knows that he cannot criticise Sinn Fein without losing his position as front man of that organisation.

The Government know, as do we, that the killings and beatings could be stopped if Sinn Fein and the IRA wanted it. The most clear-cut sign of that was during President Clinton's visit. Let us look at the figures that were given to me in a parliamentary answer by the Minister, who is present tonight. Between June and December, there were 126 punishment beatings. Between 22 November and 4 December—the fortnight around President Clinton's visit—no such attacks were carried out—none at all. The cynicism of that is chilling, but, unfortunately, when CBS's cameras were switched away, the killings and beatings were switched on again.

I do not know whether Sinn Fein and the IRA realise—or whether they care—the extent to which their own democratic credibility is being destroyed by those actions. Confronted by that situation, the choice we all have to make is whether not to move until that appalling behaviour stops or to grasp the opportunity to show the way forward and away from inappropriate so-called "emergency" legislation.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House—people of good will—made passionate speeches tonight and reached different conclusions. The Labour party believes that this is the time to demonstrate our own democratic credentials to the full.

It was interesting that very few hon. Members looking at the matter from the other viewpoint demonstrated how the proposed legislation was helpful at this time, in this situation. In fact, I cannot remember anyone doing that. They did not pray in aid the proposed legislation for dealing with the problem that is occurring at the moment.

It is worth pointing out that the Government's decision to extend the emergency provisions Act by two years gives the EPA the chance to mark its silver jubilee in 1998. Very few non-emergency laws last for 25 years, as this one will if it gets its Second Reading.

Mr. Devlin

Is it not a sad fact that the current court system in Northern Ireland, the so-called Diplock courts, will have to remain, because, in the current climate, with the terrorist beatings, murders and so on, it will not be possible to conduct trials on the same basis as in, say, Stockton-on-Tees, Sheffield or anywhere else in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Worthington

It is not an either/or situation. The Secretary of State might make a judgment that certain offences need to remain under Diplock courts. A way forward would be to demonstrate, either by using the certifying-in procedure or some other mechanism, that we are gradually moving away from the Diplock courts. One of the things that we would have liked to discuss with the Government was the way in which one can move away from the Diplock courts. The Labour party recognises that there has to be anti-terrorist legislation.

One of the striking things about the debate was that it was portrayed by people of intelligence that by voting against the measure, the Labour party was against anti-terrorist legislation. That is not true. Simply because one votes against a particular Government health measure does not mean that one is anti-health. Simply because one votes against a particular Government education measure does not mean that one is anti-education. One is being asked to judge whether this is the right form of anti-terrorist legislation, and I hope to demonstrate tonight that we, like the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), the leader of the Ulster Unionists, do not believe it is.

We also recognise, as does international opinion about emergency laws, that one should not keep laws in existence where there is only the threat of emergency rather than reality. That is what international bodies are now criticising Britain for. It is not enough to say that we should keep the legislation because the threat of an emergency exists; we must demonstrate that there is currently a need for the powers that it contains. Labour recognises that, if it were in office, it would need anti-terrorist powers. We have approached the matter as if we were the Government—as we may be before the legislation reaches the statute book. We are not talking theoretically; we are criticising not simply for the sake of it, but with a sense of total responsibility.

My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar spelled out what is wrong with the measure and with the Government's approach to it. Soon after the start of the ceasefires, we said that the emergency legislation needed to be reviewed—if for no other reason than because parts of the legislation, particularly those providing for internment, could be used as a recruiting sergeant for the paramilitaries. That was pointed out by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron).

The establishment of a review is clear evidence to the world—to this Parliament, to all in Northern Ireland, to the United Nations, to the European Court of Human Rights, to President Clinton and Senator Mitchell—that the British Government have done all the homework necessary to push the peace process on. Indeed, that is clear to all, both north and south of the border. It is important for the Government to show that they are at the forefront in promoting fair democratic values and human rights.

Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman has used the throwaway phrase "recruiting sergeant for terrorism". That is not necessarily true just because someone says it. It would be much more helpful if the hon. Gentleman would consider the many ways in which the Government and parties such as mine have tried to encourage Sinn Fein-IRA to eschew violence and to move into the democratic mood. That has been kicked in our faces again and again. Why does the hon. Gentleman think that appearing to be soft in legislation to deal with terrorism will bring him some reward?

Mr. Worthington

It is not a question of being soft; it is a question whether anti-terrorism legislation is effective. Governments have been saying for 20 years that internment is not effective anti-terrorism legislation because they dare not introduce it—and they dare not introduce it because they know just how ineffective it was when it was introduced before. That ineffectiveness has made the present Government unwilling to introduce internment again. We must send the message that we anticipate no circumstances in which we would introduce internment. What is the point of having legislation that one feels cannot be used, but which will still send a message to those who are marginal—who may he deciding whether to join paramilitary organisations, and making up their minds about what sort of Government the British Government are?

Mr. Peter Robinson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Worthington

May I make a little more progress? We are a little short of time. In Northern Ireland terms, an hour is a mere second. I shall certainly give way later.

What do we have? In June, it was announced that a review was to take place. We would normally expect the announcement of a review to be accompanied by the announcement of its remit and the name of the person conducting the review; however, month after month passed with no such announcement and no start of the review. At the end of October, there was an updating of the codes of practice for the EPA, containing the sentence It is unlikely that the Reviewer will report much before the summer of 1996. Today, at last, we have the announcement of the review committee's membership. We must be critical of the Government for the delay. It is not as if the person who has been chosen—we wish Lord Lloyd well—were inaccessible. After months of trawling the world to find a reviewer, the Government have come up with a lawyer who was born in the same year as the Secretary of State, was called to the Bar in the same year as the Secretary of State and lives 20 miles down the road from the Secretary of State. I admit that one went to Eton and Cambridge and the other to Tonbridge and Oxford, but, after a seven-month delay, the Government have not come up with an unknown figure.

In a press release, the Minister of State said that the reviewer would consider the EPA and the PTA, their working at the present time and their possible amalgamation and incorporation in United Kingdom law by the summer of 1996. The Secretary of State is asking us to believe that Lord Lloyd and Mr. Justice Kerr can do that in far less time than it has taken him to choose someone to head the review committee. He is living in fairyland, and the Government know that. I hope that the Minister will give us a realistic date by which Lord Lloyd will have to report.

We are not alone in saying that the Secretary of State is being too dilatory. The hon. Member for Upper Bann said it in June, before he was translated to his present eminence as leader of his party. What he said then was very different from what was said by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) today—that there should be "no tinkering or tampering" with the EPA. The hon. Member for Upper Bann said: Anti-terrorist legislation cannot be allowed to disappear altogether. A single Act was needed to replace the present legislation, which, in the hon. Gentleman's view, should be on the statute book by March 1996 or August 1996 at the latest. He called for a single and flexible Act for the United Kingdom. The Labour party would go along with that.

Mr. Trimble

I and my colleagues are intrigued by the conflict that the hon. Gentleman pretends to find between my hon. Friend and me. If he casts his mind back, the hon. Gentleman will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said that the Bill purports to be, and is by and large, simply a re-enactment of the emergency provisions Act. My hon. Friend's critical comments were directed towards the Opposition Front Bench and were that there should be no tinkering with that Act, which merely continues on the statute book until the review is completed, at which time the legislation can be replaced by the single United Kingdom-wide Act that we have called for.

It is perfectly correct to say that, last June, I said that that could be done by 1996, so that we would not have had to extend the emergency provisions Act. It would be fine if we could go back to June and replay events, but we have to deal with the situation as it is. We cannot allow the emergency provisions Act to lapse, as the hon. Gentleman would like, thus leaving the people of Northern Ireland without protection, as he would want.

Mr. Worthington

I shall deal first with the hon. Gentleman's first point. In June, he was highly critical of the Government's behaviour over the emergency powers, and said that the Government were too dilatory. I do not know what word one would use in January about not having made further progress, but in June the hon. Gentleman said: I do not see any difficulty in proceeding to put together a consolidated Act which could be used to cover the continuing situation…as well as international terrorism. The hon. Gentleman said that the Act should be on the statute book by March 1996 or August 1996 at the latest…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."—[Official Report, 12 June 1995; Vol. 261. c. 530–31.] Do the Government now look foolish?

Mr. Trimble

The only person who appears to be looking foolish at the moment is the hon. Gentleman, because he is taking something completely out of context and putting it in quite a different way. Of course, if the review had been put in place last June, as I urged the Government to do, we would not now have to renew the emergency provisions Act, but we have to renew that Act, and in that context it is absolutely foolish to vote against a measure that is clearly needed.

If the hon. Gentleman wants to make something out of the fact that occasionally on this legislation I have disagreed with the Government, he can go back through earlier debates on the issue and look at Committee reports on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Act 1991 and subsequent criminal justice Acts. If he does that, he will find many occasions on which I moved amendments to try to persuade the Government to alter the legislation on much more substantial issues than that on which the Opposition are manufacturing a Division tonight.

Mr. Worthington

In no way will we leave the people of Northern Ireland without anti-terrorist legislation. That was clearly stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar. We all agree that the danger to peace comes from the terrorists, but we have to do all we can to assist the peace process by showing our willingness to tackle contentious issues such as emergency legislation. We cannot continue with the status quo: we must show that we are fully considering those matters.

We could send constructive messages to the world, to everybody who is watching this process, by dropping the parts of the legislation that we do not wish to use. The Secretary of State made much of his willingness to use the old section 61 to drop or to suspend particular parts of the legislation. We thought, judging by the press release that was issued by the Minister of State on 20 December, that there would be more in the Bill, because the press release states: As soon as the security situation permits the Government intends to ask Parliament to suspend individual provisions in the current Act or to introduce them in a lapsed form on enactment of the Bill. It would be interesting if, in his winding-up speech, the Minister of State could help us by outlining marginal areas where it is contemplated that some of the Bill's provisions could be dropped. Are we to go into Committee where there is no attempt at a meeting of minds or to be bipartisan, or are there areas where the Government can be persuaded to make changes?

Mr. Alex Carlile

Both the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) have told us that a Labour Government would introduce emergency provisions legislation. Will he now send a clear message, to use his phrase, to the House by telling us what would be in that Labour legislation to protect Northern Ireland's people from terrorism? What would be that legislation's positive elements? We have not heard that yet tonight.

Mr. Worthington

We have backed the Government totally on their intention of having a review that, for the first time, considers the amalgamation of the EPA and the prevention of terrorism Act in a United Kingdom context, as is the intention. What we find difficult to take is why, in a situation as sensitive as this, the Government are dragging their feet on the easy bit of the anti-terrorist procedure—setting up the right machinery.

We are disappointed that the Secretary of State has been unable to be more positive in this legislation. Why could he not come, for instance, with a commitment from the Chief Constable that, in all possible circumstances, he would use the powers and procedures under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 rather than under the emergency powers? I asked for that in June—a simple commitment and statement by the Chief Constable that, where possible, one will use the normal law rather than the emergency powers. Such a simple statement would be easy to give if the intention were there.

The Government stated today that they were now willing to use silent video recordings in holding centres. We had been hoping that both audio and video recordings would be used in such centres. I find it hard to understand the Secretary of State's difficulty on this matter. We know that the Chief Constable has had reservations about it in terms of intimidation of witnesses or of the police if tapes found their way into the wrong hands, but, as the Secretary of State will know, his own commissioner on the holding centres, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, has found ways of combating that and of safeguarding the tapes—that is what the procedure would involve. It would be interesting to Labour Members if the Minister of State could say why he has rejected Louis Blom-Cooper's recommendations and has gone for the recommendation of silent video recordings—that sounds strange.

The Rowe report—no one reading Rowe could feel that he was in the presence of a wild radical—said that there should be audio taping of interviews at holding centres, and that it should start as soon as possible. His 1995 report says: I have examined this topic before. I do not rehearse all the points. He goes on to say: Several judges within the last year in Northern Ireland have mentioned in open Court the advantage of audio taping of interviews, in particular with reference to the time saved in trying cases. Quite apart from the saving of time, the taping of an interview would protect both the suspect and interviewing officer. It is therefore the judgment not of the Labour party, but of Rowe and of many judges in Northern Ireland, that audio taping would not hinder the process of justice in Northern Ireland. It would facilitate that process. They ask for the facilitating of justice and for audio and video reports. We want to know from the Minister of State why that advice from the judiciary and from Rowe is not being accepted.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

Has the hon. Gentleman had any opportunity, as I have, to talk to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who conduct these interviews? If so, police officers will have told him clearly that, if the interviews are recorded in any way, a prisoner is much less likely to tell the police anything at all for fear of blackmail. Is it important to try to impose an English-style system which works fine in England, but which in Northern Ireland—where there is intimidation, blackmail and comeback—would silence the very person from whom the police must obtain information? The hon. Gentleman must accept that there are different circumstances in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Worthington

I must ask the hon. Lady—at the risk of being given another speech—whether she is speaking against the Government's recommendation on video recordings. A look of panic came over the hon. Lady's face when she realised that she was speaking against the Government's recommendation. We are to have a video—according to the hon. Lady that is all right—but the audio recording will not exist.

A serious question was being asked about the police. My impression of what the police are saying—I feel that I have been speaking to the police in Northern Ireland recently more often than the hon. Lady—is that many of them have experienced recording in normal criminal cases, regard it as a tool and aid, and would welcome it being extended to scheduled offences and the holding centres. We know that the Chief Constable is against that, but I do not make the mistake of saying that, because the Chief Constable has said that, all the police say that.

Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman must not try to mislead the House by suggesting that there is a clamour among rank and file police to have either video or audio recordings in the holding centres. The police who work there and who strive to gain information that will not just convict the person being questioned but help to undermine the structure of terrorism, are totally dependent on the information that they can receive from those whom they are questioning. Audio and video recordings will impede that work.

Mr. Worthington

The hon. Gentleman says that I must not pretend that the rank and file police are clamouring for the measure. I did not do that.

In June, the Secretary of State said of holding centres: 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 must be our aim, although we are not there yet. I believe that the Secretary of State said that there had continued to be a downward trend.

When I saw the legislation and realised that it contained no reference to holding centres, I wondered whether the Secretary of State would today announce that those centres would disappear and we would turn to the ordinary Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989, but he did not. He told us that there would be silent video recordings. The Secretary of State said that, even if he cannot discard the holding centres, the Government will propose introducing an electronic recording scheme. I assume that silent video recording constitutes an electronic recording scheme.

The Secretary of State continued: 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."—[Official Report, 12 June 1995; Vol. 261, c. 507.] May I assume from that statement that in Committee the Minister will table an amendment respecting the Secretary of State's statement that the introduction of electronic recording requires an addition to the Act?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

indicated dissent.

Mr. Worthington

The Secretary of State is shaking his head, so I fear the worst.

Sir Patrick Mayhew

The hon. Gentleman is making a substantial meal of the matter. I am glad to deal with the question of what I said on 12 June. I said, as he rightly reported, that we would propose to introduce a measure of electronic recording. I did not specify what form that electronic recording would take. It was uncertain at that stage what would be practicable and what the advice would be. Had it been in the form of audio recording, it would have been necessary to have statutory safeguards. That was why there would have had to be provision in the Bill.

For the reasons that I have given, the advice to me is consistent only with it being prudent to introduce a measure of electronic recording in the form of silent video recording. There is no need for statutory safeguard in respect of that, for reasons that will be apparent. That is why there is no reference to it in the Bill, and there will be no application made and no amendment moved in Committee.

Mr. Worthington

The words before me are clear. The Secretary of State said that the introduction of an electronic recording scheme would require statutory alterations. We will have to take consultation on that. It is interesting that the promise made by the Secretary of State in June of an electronic recording scheme was his second position. He said that that would require an alteration to the Act, yet that is now not going to occur. Silent video recording will be introduced without guidelines or alterations to the Act. Or am I wrong?

Sir Patrick Mayhew

There will be a code of practice.

Mr. Worthington

I hear what the Secretary of State says from a sedentary position.

In his winding-up speech, will the Minister of State further confirm that it is his firm intention one day to get rid of Diplock courts and to bring back trials by jury in similar circumstances to those existing in Great Britain? Parts of the Act, such as the provision to hold Diplock courts in other parts of Northern Ireland than in Belfast, could be interpreted as a form of entrenchment of Diplock courts in the judicial system. It would be helpful if the Minister could give the clearest of commitments on that policy because I hear talk in some parts of the House of how well the Diplock courts have functioned, which implies—perhaps—some weakening of that firm intention.

Lady Olga Maitland

On that point.

Mr. Worthington

I am now running out of time—[Interruption.]

Lady Olga Maitland

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, since the point about the ending of Diplock courts is important. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, if trials by jury were brought in before the whole peace process was totally satisfactorily resolved, there would be a danger that juries would not dare to convict for fear of intimidation? Surely the hon. Gentleman is putting the cart before the horse?

Mr. Worthington

I welcome the hon. Lady to the debate somewhat late in the day. She has now spoken for longer than some hon. Members who have been present for the whole debate. We have said repeatedly that there is no way in which the Diplock courts can be abandoned overnight. They have to be phased out. We have suggested that they should be phased out in such a way that they should disappear last in those areas where threats of intimidation or risks to justice are most severe. That is clear.

Why have the Government kept internment in the Bill? It has not been used since 1975. It is the principal source of irritation between the United Kingdom and the international community. The Government's reviewers comprehensively have come out against it. It was rejected by Lord Gardiner in 1975. It was rejected by Sir George Baker in 1984. It was rejected by Lord Colville in 1990, who said: As things stand now,"— this was at a much more grave time in Northern Ireland— I can only endorse with vigour Sir George Baker's recommendation: no detention. It was rejected by John Rowe in 1995. It was rejected by the Government's advisory body on human rights. The view of John Rowe in 1994 in the fundamental review was that internment should not be re-enacted in any new EPA. One has to remember that he wrote that in a pre-ceasefire context. Still the Government keep internment in the Bill.

Internment is a difficult issue. It is a confession of failure by a democratic state dedicated to the rule of law. It is a statement that the rule of law does not work. We have had internment on our statutes for 25 years. We cannot keep it there just in case the situation worsens. We do not understand why the Government cannot see how important it is to occupy the high ground by being associated only with laws that follow the soundest principles of international law and the protection of human rights.

The Government had an opportunity in the Bill to say that they meant to entrench and deepen the peace by moving to laws that were not emergency laws but laws of peace, of which one could be proud. The Government have failed to take that opportunity. That is why we have tabled a reasoned amendment. That is why we shall go into Committee armed with amendments to persuade the Government that, after 25 years, they should grasp the opportunities that the peace offers. That is why we shall be voting against the Bill.

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

The House has considered the Government's Bill at length and in detail since early afternoon. It is right that the House should have had that amount of time to consider such an important measure in detail. I am grateful to the large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have spoken in the debate. I am especially grateful to those who intend to support the Government in the Division Lobby later tonight.

I also listened with great care to those who have a contrary view. In matters of this kind, it behoves any Government to listen with great care to points of concern about the issues that we have considered today, especially as they relate to the criminal justice system and the concept of liberty. I shall respond to as many points as possible in the time available. First, I shall take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). [Interruption.] I am obliged to the Scottish representatives for their correction of my pronunciation of the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I suspect that I shall have the pleasure of referring to the hon. Gentleman and his constituency quite frequently during the Standing Committee which we shall commence shortly.

The hon. Gentleman began his remarks by criticising the Government for publishing the Bill on the last day before the Christmas recess. I regret any inconvenience that that caused the hon. Gentleman and Opposition spokesmen, and it was not the Government's intention to embarrass him or his colleagues or to cause them inconvenience. But the fact is that the process of preparing this Bill was lengthy, and there were many detailed issues which had to be considered right up to the last moment. As a matter of fact, the day concerned was a sitting day of this House, and it was perfectly proper to employ that day for the business of Her Majesty's Government. Having said that, I regret the inconvenience that was caused to the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman made the serious point that so-called punishment attacks stopped in Northern Ireland when the President of the United States paid his visit. That was a cynical piece of behaviour on the part of Provisional IRA-Sinn Fein. The fact is that Mr. Adams and the leadership of that structure are able to stop the violence when it suits their purpose, and the hon. Gentleman was right to make that point as strongly as he did.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say that emergency legislation of one kind or another will have been on the statute book for some 25 years by the time the review is over. Who in this House would not regret that? But the problem is that it is not this House that is the cause of that emergency legislation, but those who seek to kill, to intimidate, to maim and to attack others in pursuit of their criminal endeavours. Those people are the reason why this House has to consider exceptional measures to deal with exceptional circumstances.

Lady Olga Maitland

Has my right hon. Friend taken evidence or had an opportunity to meet Families Against Intimidation and Terror, an organisation of which I have the honour to be one of the patrons? If he had done so, he would have heard first-hand accounts of the brutality and intimidation carried out—often against young teenagers—by Sinn Fein-IRA. Young people are having their legs smashed up, and they are taken to the Royal Victoria hospital. Surgeons have told me that it is only by the grace of God that somebody has not yet died as a result of these punishment beatings. It is absolutely essential that we are well aware of the seriousness of what is going on. We cannot take the matter for granted or be complacent.

Sir John Wheeler

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. My only regret is that her attendance in Committee prevented her from being in the House this afternoon to make the kind of contribution that she has just made. She is absolutely right to refer—as others have done during the debate—to the work of FAIT and others who support those who have been intimidated and exiled from Northern Ireland as a part of the terrorist campaign against those of whom the terrorists disapprove. My hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to that, and that is why we are obliged to consider the Bill today.

I shall continue my comments on comments of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie. The House will have been somewhat puzzled by his approach. He says that he does not believe that the Bill is in the right form. The Bill is in the form that it is to deal with the circumstances that have prevailed for the past quarter of a century.

The hon. Gentleman says that he recognises the need for special legislation—although not, apparently, the Bill. However, if he was considering afresh, with a blank sheet of paper, what he would want to have to deal with the situation, he would do as the Government have done during the past few decades. He would consult the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and many others in the judiciary and elsewhere. He would inquire about what the provisions should be to meet the character of the threat that the people of Northern Ireland have faced so bravely and courageously for so many years. He would be driven to the conclusion that the measures that the House is being invited to support tonight are the measures that he would be obliged to set down in a legislative framework.

I am therefore puzzled that the hon. Gentleman should come to the view that he should urge on his hon. Friends the need to vote against the Government's proposals this evening. I regret that, but I accept that he is as firm in his opposition to terrorism as any other hon. Member. I am especially grateful to him for the clarity of his statement in that regard.

The hon. Gentleman said that we would not leave the people of Northern Ireland without the protection of the right kind of legislation. Why, then, does he intend to vote against the Bill tonight? If his view prevailed, the people of Northern Ireland would indeed be left without the appropriate protection.

The hon. Gentleman posed a number of questions, and I shall seek to deal with them before I turn to other points raised in the debate. He asked about the date for the completion of the independent review. We very much hope that Lord Lloyd and his judicial assistant from Northern Ireland will be able to report as soon as possible. I emphasise the words "as soon as possible", but given the nature of the review and the fact that it will cover the concerns of not only Northern Ireland but Great Britain, it will take time.

What is important is that the reviewer should be able to present for proper scrutiny to the House and to the wider public a considered and full document which covers all the issues. He should not feel that he is under any time pressure to deliver a report, but rather that he can be thorough in his consideration of it. It may well be that, if Lord Lloyd requires the time, it will not be until the autumn of this year that he can produce his report for the House's examination.

The hon. Gentleman asked which provisions could be lapsed and when. It is difficult for the Government to speculate about which provisions may be candidates for early lapsing. Those decisions must, of necessity, be taken on the advice that the Government receive from the Chief Constable, who is the principal security adviser to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. If one has such a person in office, it behoves one to listen to the advice given. The Government will depend on that advice and on the analysis that the Chief Constable is able to give on the improvement in the security situation. I cannot, therefore, second-guess what that advice will be and I cannot say which provisions in the Act will be able to be lapsed. I am sure that the House will understand the reason for that.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie and others asked why we could not return to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provisions. I, for one, would like to do that, and I am sure that the House would like to, but one of the features of the debate this afternoon has been the reminder to the House of the state of the security situation in Northern Ireland. It must be obvious, therefore, that, until the security situation substantially improves, it will not be possible to employ the PACE procedures in the police offices of Northern Ireland. I very much hope that the day will come when that will be possible.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie also referred to the Diplock courts. They have, rightly, been praised for the quality of justice from the judiciary of Northern Ireland and the impression that the hon. Gentleman may have formed that those courts would therefore be a permanent feature are, I am glad to assure him, mistaken. I would welcome the ending of the Diplock court procedure, and one day it will go. It will go when people are able to be members of a jury or witnesses without fear or intimidation. Unhappily, that day has not yet arrived in Northern Ireland.

I turn now to other contributions to the debate. I would like to start with the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile). I particularly thank them for their contributions, especially in regard to the services of the judiciary in Northern Ireland, which without doubt has given remarkable service during the past 25 years. It has never been intimidated and has always done its duty to the criminal justice system fairly and objectively. Its judgments have stood the test of vigorous examination in many places, which is a great tribute to it.

I am particularly glad that the hon. Lady and the hon. and learned Gentleman should single it out for especial praise for its work. I would add that the services of the resident magistrates have been equally commendable and they, too, deserve the thanks of the House for their work towards the upholding of an effective criminal justice system.

The hon. Member for Redcar was right to make her commitment to the rule of law. The House is united in the principle of the rule of law. That has been a theme of many hon. Members in the debate tonight. The hon. Lady also gave much credit to the Royal Ulster Constabulary for its achievements. During the past 25 years, 300 members of the RUC have been killed and more than 7,000 injured in the course of their duties. The RUC, too, is a major contributor to what is called the peace process. Its steadfastness down through the years has contributed to the process that we are engaged upon, and I am particularly glad to accept the hon. Lady's tribute to them and her comments.

I am responsible for drugs policy in Northern Ireland, and I also welcome her remarks about that. The RUC has strengthened its unit, and the Government in Northern Ireland have brought together all the departments in Northern Ireland, including education, to mount a co-ordinated campaign using the criminal justice system, information and the school room in every way to try to reduce the incidence of drug abuse in Northern Ireland.

In an intervention, the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) asked about the authorised investigator powers. I particularly want to deal with the hon. Gentleman's question, because it is an important one. He inquired about the continuing availability of the authorised investigator and his powers. I can assure him and the House that the powers currently in section 57 and schedule 5 of the EPA to deal with racketeering will continue to be available by means of article 49 and schedule 2 of the proceeds of crime legislation which was laid before the House on 11 December last year.

Mr. Trimble

I thank the Minister for giving way on that very important point. Can he assure me that the provisions that he mentioned in the proceeds of crime legislation are exactly the same as the provisions that they are replacing in the emergency provisions legislation? Can he assure me that they are exactly the same, as my cursory reading of the legislation suggests that there are significant differences?

If the provisions were continued in the emergency provisions legislation, we would have the opportunity to debate and amend them in Committee. We will not have that opportunity with regard to the proceeds of crime legislation. The Minister may not be in a position to give me a detailed answer now, but I ask him to examine the matter. If there are differences, will he give us the opportunity to ensure that the proceeds of crime legislation is brought into line with the provisions that existed in the emergency provisions Act?

Sir John Wheeler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point. I can give him the assurance that he seeks: the proceeds of crime legislation, which is currently before the House, will replicate the measures that have hitherto been part of the law. The Government have no intention of diminishing the ability or the role of the authorised investigator. If there should be any doubt about that, the hon. Gentleman is very welcome to pursue the matter with me on a separate occasion, when I shall endeavour to assist him as much as possible.

I shall now try to pick up some of the many important points that were raised during the debate. I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), who spoke so authoritatively and powerfully early in the debate. He made the cogent point that the threat to civil liberty comes from the terrorists. It does not come from the Bill or from the House of Commons; it comes from those who perpetuate evil in Northern Ireland against the people of Northern Ireland. I think that he made a very persuasive point.

He said that the terrorists keep open the possibility of a return to violence. As my right hon. and learned Friend said in his opening remarks, that, unhappily, remains the case. As long as they persist in retaining the enormous arsenal of weapons and as long as they structure and organise themselves in a state of readiness to return to full-scale violence, the legislation is essential.

My hon. Friend welcomed the review that the right hon. Lord Lloyd is about to undertake, and I am grateful for his support in that regard. He made a good point about the question of internment when he said that a special vote in the House would mean that the birds would fly before we could bring the measure into use. He is quite right. If we needed to use the internment power, it would have to be used with great immediacy; otherwise, there would be no point in using it at all. He also made the point that audio recording would deter co-operation but that silent recording is acceptable as a safeguard. Others made the same point.

Mr. Canavan

When I pressed the Secretary of State earlier, he failed to give any justification for the strange decision to reject the recommendation of John Rowe QC that audio taping at holding centres be allowed. The Secretary of State hinted that I would be given a detailed explanation during the wind-up speech. May I have it now, please?

Sir John Wheeler

I understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration. The Government receive advice from a great many quarters—from this honourable House, for instance, from Mr. Rowe, whose services are exemplary, and from others. But my right hon. and learned Friend must also take into account the advice he receives from his principal security adviser, the Chief Constable of the RUC, who has a duty to explain the problems of dealing with terrorist suspects. They are formidable people to deal with, as the House should know.

My right hon. and learned Friend therefore has to weigh the advice from all quarters when coming to a decision on how to implement objective and desirable procedures, in the light of the prevailing security situation. That is how the Government have approached the issue. The hon. Gentleman may not like the decision, but the plain fact is that such decisions have to be made in the round, taking all the circumstances into account—not just some of them which may be partial to one point of view.

Mr. Canavan

What did the Chief Constable offer by way of justification for the strange decision to allow video but not audio taping?

Sir John Wheeler

Others today have already made a case for the procedure by explaining the nature and extent of intimidation. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) did so most effectively. Many in the House have endorsed the Government's position by reference to the degree of intimidation and to the need to conduct proper interviews while safeguarding those in the interview room. If it is thought that they have offended others outside the interview room, their very lives, and possibly the lives of their families, are at risk. I therefore suggest that we have a duty to recognise those facts, whether we like them or not.

My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), in a helpful speech, talked about the need to retain the detention power. He said that it might be seen as a measure taken against the nationalist community. Not so—this century, the Republic has seen fit to retain in its Offences Against the State Act 1939 provision for special criminal courts without juries, which are now used for other serious cases as well as for terrorist cases. That Act also contains provision for internment.

I cannot speak for the Government of the Republic, but I can speak for the Government of the United Kingdom, and I can infer that neither Government would wish to use the measure. As my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne and others have made clear, however, if the House were to remove the provision altogether, it would send a message to the terrorist gangs that would not be helpful, given the current terrorist activity in Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend rightly asked why Mr. Adams and those who speak for PIRA-Sinn Fein on the television and the wireless do not condemn those murders and attacks.

One of the most important developments would be to hear Sinn Fein, that claims to be totally committed to the democratic principle, condemn those evil acts and crimes. If that were to happen, there might be progress.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), who is both courageous and determined in his support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, gave the House the chilling facts about the huge arsenal that the Provisional IRA, and to a lesser extent the loyalist terror gangs, still possess. If the Provisional IRA believes in peace, why does it need to retain 2.5 tonnes of Semtex? For what purpose does it require that arsenal of attack weapons?

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the work of the disarmament commission, and asked whether the time of the report could be considered in the light of the need for the commission to take further evidence. The Government fully accept that the deadline set for the commission is very tight. If that body believes that it will need more time to complete its task, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government would be happy to consider any request that it may make. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's words will carry to the ears of the commission which will have opportunity to review its work and decide whether it wishes to take more time.

The hon. Gentleman rightly referred to the work of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the need to maintain its morale after so many years of loyal service. I appreciated what he said, and I assure him that, in looking at the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary—its size, its function and its organisation—the Government will be guided by the concept of evolution and not by radical and sudden change. We owe it to the men and women of the RUC to ensure that they are kept informed of all proposed changes and that their views are considered and taken into account.

The hon. Gentleman was right to caution the House about the possible dangers of silent recording in police stations. Others have said that we should go further. The hon. Gentleman, however, reminded Members of the disadvantages that might arise from the extension of those procedures.

I am also grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter), who made a helpful contribution to the debate, and to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) for the support of his party in the Lobby in a few minutes' time. He was right to endorse the multi-partisan approach to Northern Ireland that has been one of the guiding spirits of the debate tonight. He was also right to point out that Provisional Sinn Fein has not yet renounced violence and to draw attention to the injustice of the PIRA murders and expulsions. The European Court of Human Rights does not apply to people who have to flee their homes. There is no right of appeal for them. The hon. and learned Gentleman was quite right to bring that point to the notice of the House.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) referred to measures to reduce security. I can assure him and others that all the measures—which have been substantial in the past 16 months—are reversible. They have all been undertaken on the advice of the Chief Constable and the security forces on the basis of what is acceptable in the present circumstances. Such measures can be restored, some extremely rapidly. It is important that the House should know that, should there be an unwelcome deterioration in the security situation.

The House will understand that I have been able only to touch on a few of the many issues that have been raised during the debate. I look forward to pursuing other matters in Committee.

Dr. Hendron

I am sorry to return to something that you mentioned earlier when talking about holding centres. I have been in holding centres many times over the years. You rightly talked about protection for those who are doing the interrogating. But as you well appreciate, the people who are being questioned also need protection. Bearing in mind that the majority of those who have entered the Castlereagh holding centre over the past 20 years have not been charged with any offence, I ask you a direct question. I do not expect an immediate answer. Do you—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The hon. Member has been in the House long enough to know that he refers to a Member either as the hon. Member or, as in this instance, the Minister.

Dr. Hendron

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I ask the Minister to tell us how many people were beaten in Castlereagh, after which compensation was settled out of court. The nationalists in the north of Ireland would appreciate an answer to my question.

Sir John Wheeler

I cannot comment on the detail of the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I recognise that he has a serious point to make. If I can take it up with any advice that is separate from the debate, I shall certainly do so.

I say in passing that the hon. Gentleman referred to the Conlan case. I respect his great integrity in seeking peace in west Belfast. I shall ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is made aware of the hon. Gentleman's remarks and responds to him direct.

I shall not repeat anything said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State in my final remarks. I merely say that the continued terrorist threat demonstrates the wisdom of the positive yet measured response to the ceasefires of the Government and the security forces. The ceasefires have released most people in Northern Ireland from constant fear of a sort that only those who have lived in the shadow of terrorism for 25 years can fully comprehend. People can now see within their grasp a peaceful future. They look forward to the economic and social improvements that that will bring.

For some, sadly, the dark shadow is still there. The words, "They haven't gone away, you know," are still relevant. My right hon. and learned Friend has described the recent brutal murders. He referred also to punishment attacks. During the summer of 1995, 78 attacks took place on Orange halls, churches, chapels and Gaelic Athletic Association properties. The figures speak for themselves. From June to December last year, there were 143 such attacks, of which 48 were attributed to the loyalists and 95 to the republicans. This year, up to and including 7 January, there have been nine punishment attacks, four loyalist and five republican.

We view these murders and attacks with great concern. They underline the Government's concern about arms. No doubt Senator Mitchell's international body will be following events with interest and concern. We are aware of the possible implications for the propriety of maintaining the dialogue with Provisional Sinn Fein. For the moment we believe it right to continue that dialogue. The question of maintaining it, however, given Sinn Fein's apparently equivocal stance on the issue of illegal violence, will remain under review in consultation with the Irish Government.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 295.

Division No. 18] [10.00 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Eagle, Ms Angela
Ainger, Nick Eastham, Ken
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Etherington, Bill
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Fatchett, Derek
Armstrong, Hilary Faulds, Andrew
Ashton, Joe Fisher, Mark
Austin-Walker, John Flynn, Paul
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Foulkes, George
Barnes, Harry Fyfe, Maria
Barron, Kevin Galbraith, Sam
Battle, John Galloway, George
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Gapes, Mike
Bell, Stuart George, Bruce
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Gerrard, Neil
Bennett, Andrew F Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bermingham, Gerald Godman, Dr Norman A
Berry, Roger Godsiff, Roger
Betts, Clive Golding, Mrs Llin
Blunkett, David Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Boateng, Paul Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bradley, Keith Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grocott, Bruce
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gunnell, John
Burden, Richard Hain, Peter
Byers, Stephen Hall, Mike
Caborn, Richard Hanson, David
Callaghan, Jim Hardy, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Campbell-Savours, D N Henderson, Doug
Canavan, Dennis Hendron, Dr Joe
Chisholm, Malcolm Heppell, John
Church, Judith Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clapham, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hood, Jimmy
Clelland, David Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coffey, Ann Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Cohen, Harry Hoyle, Doug
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hutton, John
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corbett, Robin Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jamieson, David
Corston, Jean Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cousins, Jim Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Cummings, John Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jowell, Tessa
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Keen, Alan
Dafis, Cynog Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n)
Darling, Alistair Khabra, Piara S
Davidson, Ian Kilfoyle, Peter
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Liddell, Mrs Helen
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Livingstone, Ken
Dewar, Donald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Dixon, Don Llwyd, Elfyn
Dobson, Frank Loyden, Eddie
Donohoe, Brian H McAllion, John
Dowd, Jim McAvoy, Thomas
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McCartney, Ian
Macdonald, Calum Reid, Dr John
McGrady, Eddie Robertson, George (Hamilton)
McKelvey, William Roche, Mrs Barbara
Mackinlay, Andrew Rogers, Allan
McLeish, Henry Rooker, Jeff
McMaster, Gordon Rooney, Terry
McNamara, Kevin Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
MacShane, Denis Sedgemore, Brian
McWilliam, John Sheerman, Barry
Mahon, Alice Short, Clare
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Soley, Clive
Martlew, Eric Spearing, Nigel
Maxton, John Spellar, John
Meacher, Michael Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Michael, Alun Steinberg, Gerry
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Stevenson, George
Milburn, Alan Stott, Roger
Miller, Andrew Strang, Dr. Gavin
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Morgan, Rhodri Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Timms, Stephen
Mowlam, Marjorie Tipping, Paddy
Mudie, George Touhig, Don
Mullin, Chris Turner, Dennis
Murphy, Paul Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Wareing, Robert N
O'Hara, Edward Watson, Mike
Olner, Bill Welsh, Andrew
O'Neill, Martin Wicks, Malcolm
Parry, Robert Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Pearson, Ian Wilson, Brian
Pickthall, Colin Winnick, David
Pike, Peter L Wise, Audrey
Pope, Greg Worthington, Tony
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wright, Dr Tony
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Young, David (Bolton SE)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn Tellers for the Ayes:
Purchase, Ken Mr. Joe Benton and
Raynsford, Nick Mr. Robert Ainsworth.
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Bowden, Sir Andrew
Alexander, Richard Bowis, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Allason Rupert (Torbay) Brandreth, Gyles
Alton, David Brazier, Julian
Amess, David Bright, Sir Graham
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Arbuthnot, James Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Browning, Mrs Angela
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Ashby, David Budgen, Nicholas
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Burns, Simon
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Burt, Alistair
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Butcher, John
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Butler, Peter
Baldry, Tony Butterfill, John
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery)
Bates, Michael Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Batiste, Spencer Carrington, Matthew
Beggs, Roy Carttiss, Michael
Beith, Rt Hon A J Cash, William
Bellingham, Henry Chapman, Sydney
Bendall, Vivian Churchill, Mr
Beresford, Sir Paul Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Coe, Sebastian
Boswell, Tim Congdon, David
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hunter, Andrew
Couchman, James Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jessel, Toby
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Day, Stephen Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Delvin, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dicks, Terry Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Key, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Duncan, Alan Kirkwood, Archy
Duncan Smith, lain Knapman, Roger
Dunn, Bob Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Knox, Sir David
Elletson, Harold Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Legg, Barry
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Leigh, Edward
Evennett, David Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Faber, David Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lidington, David
Forman, Nigel Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim) Lord, Michael
Forth, Eric Luff, Peter
Foster, Don (Bath) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lynne, Ms Liz
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley) McCartney, Robert
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger MacKay, Andrew
French, Douglas Maclean, Rt Hon David
Gale, Roger Maclennan, Robert
Gallie, Phil McLoughlin, Patrick
Gardiner, Sir George McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Garnier, Edward Maddock, Diana
Gill, Christopher Madel, Sir David
Gillan, Cheryl Maginnis, Ken
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Maitland, Lady Olga
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Major, Rt Hon John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Malone, Gerald
Gorst, Sir John Mans, Keith
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Marland, Paul
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marlow, Tony
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mates, Michael
Grylls, Sir Michael Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Merchant, Piers
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mills, lain
Hampson, Dr Keith Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hannam, Sir John Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)
Hargreaves, Andrew Moate, Sir Roger
Harris, David Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Haselhurst, Alan Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector
Hawkins, Nick Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hawksley, Warren Needham, Rt Hon Richard
Hayes, Jerry Neubert, Sir Michael
Heald, Oliver Nicholls, Patrick
Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Norris, Steve
Hendry, Charles Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Oppenheim, Phillip
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Ottaway, Richard
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Page, Richard
Horam, John Paice, James
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Patnick, Sir Irvine
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W) Pawsey, James
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Pickles, Eric Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Porter, David (Waveney) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Powell, William (Corby) Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Redwood, Rt Hon John Temple-Morris, Peter
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Thomason, Roy
Riddick, Graham Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Robathan, Andrew Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Thumham, Peter
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Tracey, Richard
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Tredinnick, David
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Trend, Michael
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Trimble, David
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Trotter, Neville
Sackville, Tom Twinn, Dr Ian
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Tyler, Paul
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shaw, David (Dover) Viggers, Peter
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Walden, George
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford) Wallace, James
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Waller, Gary
Sims, Roger Ward, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Waterson, Nigel
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Watts, John
Soames, Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Speed, Sir Keith Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Spencer, Sir Derek Whitney, Ray
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Whittingdale, John
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs) Widdecombe, Ann
Spink, Dr Robert Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Spring, Richard Wilkinson, John
Sproat, lain Willetts, David
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Wilshire, David
Stephen, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stern, Michael Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Stewart, Allan Wolfson, Mark
Streeter, Gary Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Sumberg, David
Sykes, John Tellers for the Noes:
Taylor Ian (Esher) Mr. Timothy Wood and
Mr. Derek Conway.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading):—

The House divided: Ayes 295, Noes 205.

Division No. 19] [10.15 pm
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Beggs, Roy
Alexander, Richard Beith, Rt Hon A J
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bellingham, Henry
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Bendall, Vivian
Alton, David Beresford, Sir Paul
Amess, David Biffen, Rt Hon John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Arbuthnot, James Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia
Ashby, David Bowden, Sir Andrew
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Bowis, John
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Brandreth, Gyles
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Brazier, Julian
Baldry, Tony Bright, Sir Graham
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Bates, Michael Browning, Mrs Angela
Batiste, Spencer Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Budgen, Nicholas Hampson, Dr Keith
Burns, Simon Hannam, Sir John
Burt, Alistair Hargreaves, Andrew
Butcher, John Harris, David
Butler, Peter Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Butterfill, John Hawkins, Nick
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Hawksley, Warren
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hayes, Jerry
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Heald, Oliver
Carrington, Matthew Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Carttiss, Michael Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Cash, William Hendry, Charles
Chapman, Sir Sydney Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Churchill, Mr Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Horam, John
Coe, Sebastian Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Congdon, David Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hunter, Andrew
Couchman, James Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cran, James Jack, Michael
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jessel, Toby
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Day, Stephen Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Devlin, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dicks, Terry Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Darrell, Rt Hon Stephen Key, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James King, Rt Hon Tom
Dover, Den Kirkhope, Timothy
Duncan, Alan Kirkwood, Archy
Duncan-Smith, lain Knapman, Roger
Dunn, Bob Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Durant, Sir Anthony Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Eggar, Rt Hon Tim Knox, Sir David
Elletson, Harold Kynoch, George (Kincardine)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Legg, Barry
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Leigh, Edward
Evennett, David Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark
Faber, David Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lidington, David
Forman, Nigel Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Forsythe, Clifford (South Antrim) Lord, Michael
Forth, Eric Luff, Peter
Foster, Don (Bath) Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Lynne, Ms Liz
Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley) McCartney, Robert
Freeman, Rt Hon Roger MacKay, Andrew
French, Douglas Maclean, Rt Hon David
Gale, Roger Maclennan, Robert
Gallie, Phil McLoughlin, Patrick
Gardiner, Sir George McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Garnier, Edward Maddock, Diana
Gill, Christopher Madel, Sir David
Gillan, Cheryl Maginnis, Ken
Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair Maitland, Lady Olga
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Major, Rt Hon John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Malone, Gerald
Gorst, Sir John Mans, Keith
Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs) Marland, Paul
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Marlow, Tony
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Mates, Michael
Grylls, Sir Michael Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Merchant, Piers
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mills, Iain
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Spring, Richard
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Sproat, Iain
Moate, Sir Roger Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James Stephen, Michael
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Stern, Michael
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stewart, Allan
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Streeter, Gary
Neubert, Sir Michael Sumberg, David
Nicholls, Patrick Sykes, John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Norris, Steve Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Page, Richard Temple-Morris, Peter
Paice, James Thomason, Roy
Patnick, Sir Irvine Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Pawsey, James Thumham, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Townend, John (Bridlington)
Pickles, Eric Tracey, Richard
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Tredinnick, David
Porter, David (Waveney) Trend, Michael
Powell, William (Corby) Trimble, David
Redwood, Rt Hon John Trotter, Neville
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Twinn, Dr Ian
Riddick, Graham Tyler, Paul
Robathan, Andrew Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn Viggers, Peter
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Walden, George
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Wallace, James
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Waller, Gary
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Ward, John
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sackville, Tom Waterson, Nigel
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy Watts, John
Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Shaw, David (Dover) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Whitney, Ray
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Whittingdale, John
Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford) Widdecombe, Ann
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sims, Roger Wilkinson, John
Skeet, Sir Trevor Willetts, David
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wilshire, David
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Soames, Nicholas Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)
Speed, Sir Keith Wolfson, Mark
Spencer, Sir Derek Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Ayes:
Spink, Dr Robert Mr. Timothy Wood and
Mr. Derek Conway.
Adams, Mrs Irene Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ainger, Nick Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Burden, Richard
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Byers, Stephen
Ashton, Joe Caborn, Richard
Austin-Walker, John Callaghan, Jim
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Barnes, Harry Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Barron, Kevin Campbell-Savours, D N
Battle, John Canavan, Dennis
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Chisholm, Malcolm
Bell, Stuart Church, Judith
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clapham, Michael
Bennett, Andrew F Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Bermingham, Gerald Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Berry, Roger Clelland, David
Betts, Clive Coffey, Ann
Blunkett, David Cohen, Harry
Boateng, Paul Connarty, Michael
Bradley, Keith Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Loyden, Eddie
Corbett, Robin McAllion, John
Corbyn, Jeremy McAvoy, Thomas
Corston, Jean McCartney, Ian
Cousins, Jim Macdonald, Calum
Cummings, John McGrady, Eddie
Cunliffe, Lawrence McKelvey, William
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Mackinlay, Andrew
Dafis, Cynog McLeish, Henry
Darling, Alistair McMaster, Gordon
Davidson, Ian McNamara, Kevin
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) MacShane, Denis
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) McWilliam, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Mahon, Alice
Dewar, Donald Mandelson, Peter
Dixon, Don Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dobson, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Donohoe, Brian H Martin, Michael J (Springburn)
Dowd, Jim Martlew, Eric
Eagle, Ms Angela Maxton, John
Eastham, Ken Meacher, Michael
Etherington, Bill Michael, Alun
Fatchett, Derek Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Faulds, Andrew Milburn, Alan
Fisher, Mark Miller, Andrew
Flynn, Paul Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Foulkes, George Morgan, Rhodri
Fyfe, Maria Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Galbraith, Sam Mowlam, Marjorie
Galloway, George Mudie, George
Gapes, Mike Mullin, Chris
George, Bruce Murphy, Paul
Gerrard, Neil O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Godman, Dr Norman A O'Hara, Edward
Godsiff, Roger Olner, Bill
Golding, Mrs Llin O'Neill, Martin
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Parry, Robert
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Pearson, Ian
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Pickthall, Colin
Grocott, Bruce Pike, Peter L
Gunnell, John Pope, Greg
Hain, Peter Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hall, Mike Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hanson, David Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hardy, Peter Primarolo, Dawn
Harman, Ms Harriet Purchase, Ken
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Raynsford, Nick
Henderson, Doug Reid, Dr John
Hendron, Dr Joe Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Heppell, John Roche, Mrs Barbara
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Rogers, Allan
Hinchliffe, David Rooker, Jeff
Hodge, Margaret Rooney, Terry
Hood, Jimmy Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Sedgemore, Brian
Howarth, George (Knowsley North) Sheerman, Barry
Hoyle, Doug Short, Clare
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Skinner, Dennis
Hutton, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Illsley, Eric Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Jackson, Helen (Shefld, H) Soley, Clive
Jamieson, David Spearing, Nigel
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Spellar, John
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Steinberg, Gerry
Jowell, Tessa Stevenson, George
Keen, Alan Stott, Roger
Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Khabra, Piara S Sutcliffe, Gerry
Kilfoyle, Peter Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Timms, Stephen
Liddell, Mrs Helen Tipping, Paddy
Livingstone, Ken Touhig, Don
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Turner, Dennis
Llwyd, Elfyn Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Wardell, Gareth (Gower) Wise, Audrey
Wareing, Robert N Worthington, Tony
Watson, Mike Wright, Dr Tony
Welsh, Andrew Young, David (Bolton SE)
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen) Tellers for the Noes:
Wilson, Brian Mr. Joe Benton and
Winnick, David Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).