§ [Relevant document: the memorandum relating to this instrument contained in the Eleventh Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments (House of Commons Paper No. 34-xi of Session 1995–96).]4.28 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Michael Howard)
I beg to move,That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (Continuance) Order 1996, which was laid before this House on 22nd February, be approved.
§ Madam Speaker
I understand that with this it will be convenient to discuss the following motion:That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Exclusion Orders) Regulations 1996, which were laid before this House on 22nd February, be approved.I have put a 10-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches.
§ Mr. Howard
The first item—the order—renews the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 for a further 12 months. The second—the regulations—makes some minor amendments to schedule 2 to the Act which will bring the procedures under which exclusion orders are made into line with European Community law following the judgment given in the Gallagher case.
On the renewal of the PTA, I should like to begin by thanking Mr. John Rowe QC, who has once again conducted the annual review of the legislation and whose report informs our discussions today. His clear conclusion, following wide consultation and an entirely independent scrutiny of the operation of the Act in 1995, is that it should be renewed—and in its entirety—for a further 12 months. Before explaining why the Government have decided to accept his recommendation, I should like to say something about the background to this debate.
Since the first Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act in 1974, successive Home Secretaries have come before the House to argue the case for renewal. Not one has undertaken that task without feeling both sorrow and anger that such measures are, and continue to be, necessary to protect and defend the citizens of this country from those who are prepared to engage in acts of terror—to kill and to maim by bomb and by bullet. The sadness I feel today must be at least the equal of that felt on any such occasion over the past 20 years.
This is the third year in which I have asked the House to renew the Act. On each occasion, the backdrop to the debate has been different. On the first occasion, in 1994, the IRA's campaign was in full flood. Indeed, as the House may recall, I was just winding up the debate when news reached me of the mortars that had fallen on Heathrow airport less than an hour before. I appealed then to the whole House to unite with the Government so as to send a signal to those responsible for that campaign that the House was united, that it wasdetermined to face them down and to make available to the police the powers that they need to fight terrorism."—[Official Report, 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 335.]To my regret, the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who now leads the Opposition and was then his party's spokesman on home affairs, rejected that call. The Labour party voted against the Government and against the continuation of the powers in the Act.
1125 Last year, I brought a renewal order to the House against the backdrop of a cessation of violence by the IRA and a subsequent ceasefire by loyalist paramilitaries. I was able to point to the hope felt by many in Great Britain and Northern Ireland that the threat from terrorism would recede. At that time, for the first time for many years, the people of Northern Ireland were able to go about their daily business without fear of violence from republican or loyalist paramilitaries. For the first time for many years, there was no imminent threat of IRA violence in the towns and cities of Great Britain.
I argued, nevertheless, for the renewal of the Act because the terrorists had retained their structure, their organisation and their arsenals intact. They had retained the capacity to strike whenever they chose. It would have been irresponsible for any Government, in such circumstances, to have dismantled their defences and allowed the powers in the Act to lapse. Again I invited the Labour party to support the Government, but Labour Members again voted against the Act's renewal. They opposed the renewal because, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) told the House, they considered the power to make exclusion orders a form of internal exile; because the Act provides for the deciding voice in any decision to extend detention under the PTA to be that of the Secretary of State, not a judge; and because there was, in their view, a need for a general and comprehensive review of anti-terrorist legislation then in force.
The Labour party has now, I understand, decided to change its position to abstention because one of those points has fallen to the ground with the Government's announcement of the inquiry by Lord Lloyd of Berwick. The other points that were raised last year are apparently less crucial than they were. I am pleased to see some change in the position of the Labour party even if, as I shall explain later, I do not believe that it goes anything like far enough.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
It would have helped if the Home Secretary had started with a different tone and recognised the total condemnation of terrorism by both sides of the House. He did not do that in his opening remarks.
The Government's position has changed, too, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows it. The number of exclusion orders and of people detained have been dropping consistently for some years. That does not mean that the principle of exclusion is all right, but it does mean that the Government are at last recognising what Lord Colville and many in the House have argued—that the use of the powers needed to be phased out. The Government have cut their use and, for that, I am grateful.
§ Mr. Howard
I am coming very precisely to the use of the powers and the fact that it has indeed been possible to use them on fewer occasions than in the past. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said.
Since the ceasefire, the Government have, as the House knows, spared no effort to consolidate the 1994 cessation of violence into a lasting peace.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)
Will the Home Secretary acknowledge that political prisoners played a very considerable role in persuading paramilitaries in both communities to bring about the cessation of violence?
1126 How does he explain the total absence of generosity and imagination, which the Government promised if a cessation of violence came about? Why has Patrick Kelly still not been repatriated to the Republic of Ireland? Why are four life sentence prisoners serving parole in the United Kingdom rather than being returned to the Republic of Ireland? Why are republican prisoners in Belmarsh prison treated so differently from others in the Prison Service? Why has he not shown the generosity and imagination that the Government said would be shown to political prisoners who played such a tremendous part in bringing about the cessation of violence?
§ Mr. Howard
There are no political prisoners in this country. The prisoners to whom I believe the hon. Gentleman has referred have been convicted of crimes against the ordinary law of this country, such as murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and other very serious violent crimes. They are treated in exactly the same way as others who have been convicted of similar crimes and who pose similar risks of escape.
§ Mr. Howard
Since the hon. Gentleman shakes his head, it may be appropriate to remind the House that, after the ceasefire was announced, IRA prisoners who had been convicted of most serious offences attempted to escape from Whitemoor prison. One shot at and wounded a prison officer during the escape attempt. That is the reality behind the hon. Gentleman's question. He does not serve any purpose by trying to mislead the House or the country with the kind of language that he used.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
I note that the Home Secretary says that all convicted prisoners are treated in the same way. Does that apply to someone who is convicted of murder? I speak of Private Lee Clegg. Will the Home Secretary give his opinion on whether Private Clegg was a political prisoner or got political parole in circumstances when others did not?
§ Mr. Howard
No, the procedures that were applied in that case were identical to those that are applied in every other case. The ordinary law of the land was followed. The country will take note of Opposition Members' reactions to the unchallengeable observations that I have made.
I was dealing with the question of the ceasefire and the actions that the Government have taken since then to attempt to consolidate the cessation of violence into a lasting peace.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
Speaking as a member of the Cabinet that sent in the troops in 1969 and as a member of the Cabinet following the Birmingham bombing when the Act was introduced, may I ask whether the Home Secretary has reflected on the fact that, over the whole of that period, a ceasefire was never achieved by the PTA? The work of Albert Reynolds, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and Mr. Adams secured the ceasefire. The Act, with all its risks to civil liberty, has played no part whatever in dealing with the problem of violence in Northern Ireland. All-party talks are the only way in which to deal with the situation.
§ Mr. Howard
I attempt to be accurate in my claims. I have never claimed that the prevention of terrorism Act 1127 was responsible for the ceasefire. It is not the purpose of the prevention of terrorism Act to achieve a ceasefire: its purpose is to protect the lives of innocent people in this country, to protect those who have been the victims of the bomb and the bullet for many years and to try to ensure that others do not find themselves in a similar plight.
In the months that followed the declaration of the ceasefires, we were able to scale down the more visible and inconvenient aspects of security. In Northern Ireland, soldiers were taken off the streets and all border crossing points were reopened. The number of house searches carried out under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 was reduced by 75 per cent., and the number of those arrested under section 14 of the prevention of terrorism Act also fell markedly. New investment and new jobs poured into Northern Ireland. Tourism was on the increase.
The number of detentions under the PTA in the United Kingdom for 1995 was 70 per cent. down on the figure for 1994. We constantly sought to move the peace process forward. We talked to all the parties, including Sinn Fein, at ministerial and official level, but the response to our continued requests for some gesture from the terrorists of their peaceful intent went unanswered until the evening of 9 February.
The answer was the devastating explosion at South Quay. As ever, the IRA's intent appears to have been to kill or to maim as many people as possible. The IRA's warning was imprecise and its transmission was bungled. It is with profound regret that I remind the House that two people were killed in that blast and many others were injured, some very seriously. My sympathies are very much with them and with their families. Since then, there have been further incidents, further injuries and another death.
My deepest thanks go to the emergency services whose courageous response has done much to limit the carnage planned by the IRA. No new ceasefire has been declared. I remind the House that the most recent bomb exploded without warning—despite the fact that a firm date had been set for the all-party talks, which is what the terrorists profess that they want. Instead, we are told that the IRA is offering another 25 years of bloodshed. The loyalist paramilitaries have indicated that, if there are further IRA outrages, they will match them blow for blow. That is the bleak backdrop to our debate today.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)
Although my right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right to stress that the Canary wharf incident, and events since then, reinforce the need to renew the Act, did not Mr. Rowe recommend its renewal even while the ceasefire continued? Events at Canary wharf have merely reinforced the need for the measure.
§ Mr. Howard
My hon. Friend is entirely correct. He expresses Mr. Rowe's recommendation and the Government's position with absolute accuracy.
The powers in the PTA are a necessary part of our armoury in the fight against terrorism. That is why we continue to argue for their renewal, and it is why I do so again today.
As Mr. Rowe's report makes clear, the powers to make exclusion orders deter people from carrying out terrorist acts and deprive the groups to which they belong of some 1128 of their experienced operators. The powers to detain, to extend detention under the Act, and to stop, examine and search those coming into or leaving Great Britain or Northern Ireland are equally vital weapons in our armoury. Of the 477 detained under the Act in 1995, 19 were held in connection with international terrorism and the remainder were held in relation to Northern Irish terrorism. Some 121 of those—about 25 per cent.—were subsequently charged with an offence. Of great importance, too, are the powers of the police to investigate terrorist finances and to obtain explanation orders in relation to funds and other information found.
I am aware that the exclusion order provisions are regarded as one of the most contentious parts of the legislation. There are some who, while wholly convinced of the need for other parts of the legislation, are concerned about denying British citizens access to part of their own country. As one who remains proud to call himself a Unionist, I appreciate their misgivings and I have some sympathy with them, but when faced with terrorists who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends—who strike at our most fundamental human rights—we have to accept some measures which, in normal circumstances, we would not countenance.
§ Miss Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
I support much of what the Home Secretary has said. However, can he explain why the citizens of one part of the United Kingdom must put up with someone walking their streets who is not fit to walk the streets of London because he is assumed to be a bomber or a terrorist? Why should the citizens of Northern Ireland tolerate that?
§ Mr. Howard
I know that the hon. Lady's view of such matters is different from that of some Labour Members who have intervened in the debate so far. She will know that there are many reasons for that power, one of which—I shall confine myself to only one reason in answering her question—is that, in many circumstances, it can be significantly easier to keep such people under surveillance in one part of the United Kingdom as opposed to another. That is an important way in which terrorism can be fought and combated.
Mr. Rowe's report on the operation of the Act in 1995 points out the need for the exceptional powers. He confirms that the paramilitaries have maintained their command structure and organisation throughout the past 18 months, and that murder, assault, intimidation and coercion have been planned, and carried out, in their name and under their direction. That is why he has concluded that the provisions are still needed and that the Act should therefore be renewed. His report was submitted to me before the IRA's ceasefire came to an end—as my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) said. Mr. Rowe's views must carry even greater force in the changed circumstances in which we now find ourselves.
As hon. Members know, the Government agree with Mr. Rowe's conclusion: it would be sheer folly to allow any of the provisions in the Act to lapse now. If any confirmation were needed, the events of the past few weeks surely put the continuing need for the Act beyond doubt.
Of course, the provisions are not used solely to counter Northern Irish terrorism. Some of the powers can be, and are, used to counter the threat of international terrorism.
1129 Mr. Rowe's report comments on that. The most recent examples are the charges on explosive offences, after detention and extension of detention under the PTA, of those held in connection with the car bombs outside the Israeli embassy and Balfour house in July 1994. In 1995, several Algerians suspected of involvement in terrorist acts were detained under the PTA. One of those detained is currently being held following an extradition request from France. I decided to deport one of the others on national security grounds—in the event, he decided to make a voluntary departure from the United Kingdom and I understand that he was subsequently arrested in France.
Only last week, after I had met the French Interior Minister, he told the press that France owed the successful halt to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group—the GIA—terrorist campaign, in part, to France's co-operation with the United Kingdom. Co-operation between democratic countries is essential if we are to fight terrorism effectively. Last night, a further suspect was arrested in London under an international arrest warrant produced by the French authorities.
Mr. Rowe concludes that, whatever happens in Northern Ireland, there is always likely to be terrorism of an international kind; that the manifestations of it are increasing; and that the need for the Act in order to counter them therefore remains.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)
Does that mean that the prevention of terrorism Act, or its basic principles, will remain in place even if a permanent peace is established in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Howard
That is precisely why the Government set up the inquiry that is being undertaken by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, which I should like now to consider.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced to the House on 9 January, Lord Lloyd agreed to lead an inquiry to consider whether—and, if so, what—specific counter-terrorist legislation would be required if and when a lasting peace is established in Northern Ireland. His review is under way. Both the PTA and the emergency provisions Act will be examined in the consideration of what may or may not be needed in future. We shall consider his conclusions when his inquiry has been completed. I understand that he hopes to report before the autumn.
The Government's first priority must be to protect the public. To do that, we have to give the police the powers that they need to combat terrorism effectively. The PTA is needed to help prevent the terrorist from taking action and restocking his armoury and to deprive him of funds and a place to hide. I believe that the Act must be renewed for the full period of 12 months that is allowed. I therefore commend the first order to the House.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The Home Secretary mentioned the work of the police. Will he enlarge on how, in future, national elements to which he has referred elsewhere, such as a national crime squad and a national criminal intelligence service, will be related to the existing mechanism by which police forces co-operate to fight terrorism through national joint units? A reply from the Minister of State suggests to me that the national joint units will still be in limbo, so it would be helpful to know how the police will be given the structure for the necessary national co-operation.
§ Mr. Howard
The right hon. Gentleman is anticipating the debate that we shall no doubt have when we produce detailed proposals for the national crime squad. The point to which he has referred is clearly relevant to the establishment of that squad, but we shall deal with it at the time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that I prefer not to anticipate that debate.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Did the Home Secretary see the "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4 last night, in which it was proved that British companies have been involved in the sale of weapons of terror to despotic regimes abroad and that those weapons are used to torture political prisoners? Will the Home Secretary join me in calling for a full investigation to make sure that that does not happen?
§ Mr. Howard
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady, but I did not watch Channel 4 "Dispatches" last night, so I cannot comment on the allegations that were made in it. I am sure, however, that the hon. Lady will take the matter up with whichever of my right hon. Friends is appropriate.
The second item before the House amends the procedures in the PTA that govern the making of exclusion orders. When the European Court of Justice delivered its judgment in the Gallagher case on 30 November, I made it clear in an oral answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) that the judgment did not affect our powers to exclude, but made a limited criticism of the procedures. I said then that we could adapt our procedures without difficulty, and the order does no more than make the necessary changes in the way in which the procedures are carried out.
The power to make exclusion orders may be used only to counter the threat from Northern Irish terrorism and, as Mr. Rowe points out in his report, it has proved a valuable tool over the years in disrupting terrorist plans. Particular individuals can be barred from entering Northern Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom where the Secretary of State is satisfied that they would take advantage of their presence there to commission, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism in connection with the affairs of Northern Ireland. The use of that power not only hampers terrorists' ability to travel but, because their identity and activities are known to the security forces, it limits their overall usefulness to the terrorist organisation to which they belong. Once an organisation becomes aware that the activities of an individual have become known in that way, his usefulness necessarily diminishes.
It has been argued that keeping people under observation would be more effective than exclusion and less of an infringement of their liberties, but the resource implications of mounting a surveillance operation in every case would be enormous and in most cases it is not a realistic proposition.
Others suggest that the process of exclusion is arbitrary and unfair, but Mr. Rowe's report makes it quite clear that it is not. Before any order is made, a considered report is sent to the relevant Department. Mr. Rowe refers to the further scrutiny of the case for exclusion by officials and by the Secretary of State. That scrutiny is robust. Mr. Rowe found that each participant in the processapproached the task with fairnessduring the year under review.
1131 There are currently 33 orders in force. As the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) pointed out, that is the lowest number since the power was introduced in 1974. I cannot rule out the possibility that further orders will be made. As now, each case will be considered carefully on its merits.
The need for the exclusion power is proven. It is effective. It is an essential weapon in the counter-terrorist armoury and it would be irresponsible to relinquish it.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
Am I right in my interpretation of new regulation 5A(1) of the regulations—that a person may be detained without charge and without suspicion of committing an offence for an indefinite period and, in any event, for more than seven days without any charge being brought against him?
§ Mr. Howard
I am coming to the detailed provisions of the second order, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the detention powers in it are no greater than the present ones, although the timing is different.
As the House will know, we have already made it clear that certain changes will be made to the procedures governing the making of exclusion orders to bring them into line with European Community law following the ruling of the European Court of Justice last November in the Gallagher case. Those changes are set out in the second order. The regulations are to be made under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, which makes special provision to facilitate the amending of legislation to bring United Kingdom law into line with European Community law.
Under the present arrangements, the law requires that where an exclusion order is made, the person affected must be notified of that fact if he is in any part of the United Kingdom. If he wishes to make representations against the order, he has seven days from the date of notification in which to do so, or 14 days if he is outside the jurisdiction from which the order excludes him. Independent advice must be sought once representations are made. An independent adviser is nominated to consider the representations made and the case for exclusion, and to advise the Secretary of State accordingly. His report is taken into account in any decision to confirm or revoke the order.
The House will recall that the European Court found no fault with the substance of the power to exclude when it ruled on the Gallagher case. Its judgment simply requires the Secretary of State to obtain independent advice in every case where he is considering whether to make an exclusion order before the decision is made, rather than shortly after, as he is required to do now if representations are made.
The procedures set out in the regulations, therefore, require the Secretary of State to serve written notice on any person in the United Kingdom against whom he is considering making an exclusion order, to refer the matter for advice to one or more independent persons nominated by him to give advice on such matters and to take into account the advice that he subsequently receives when making his decision. A person who is being served with such a notice may make written representations setting out 1132 his objections and can ask to be interviewed by the independent adviser before the latter reports to the Secretary of State.
Historically, persons detained under the Act have often been at an advanced stage of planning a terrorist operation. The decision to arrest them will have been taken either because surveillance has been compromised or because there is uncertainty as to the exact timing of a terrorist attack. That can sometimes mean that the individual is detained before sufficient evidence is available to secure a criminal conviction. In such cases, it is often the case that the police apply for an exclusion order.
Those people can be dangerous, committed terrorists involved in an operation at an advanced stage of planning. It would not be right to release them back into the community pending the procurement and consideration of independent advice.
§ Mr. Howard
The Secretary of State will appoint them. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman gestures, and the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) laughs. If the exclusion order is to be maintained, what other procedures would they like to see in place? Are they prepared to accept that persons whom I have just described as dangerous, committed terrorists are to be allowed to continue to travel free to commit their acts of terrorism at the expense of innocent people in this United Kingdom of ours? That is the alternative.
§ Mr. McNamara
My understanding is that, when the Home Secretary informs an individual that he is considering making an order, that person may then be detained with no charge made against him and with no recourse to the court. The individual may make representations within seven days. According to the order, there follows an indefinite period during which an adviser appointed by the Secretary of State will examine the evidence—which the detainee will never be able to see, know the substance of or argue against, and neither will he have the benefit of any legal help. Subsequently, a report will go to the Secretary of State who, without any time limit being imposed, can choose how long it will be before he decides whether to confirm or revoke his proposal. Under that procedure, an individual may be held almost indefinitely—there is no time limit and he or she does not have the normal protection of the law. Secondly
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
Order. The hon. Gentleman has already taken a minute. One question of that length is sufficient at this stage.
§ Mr. Howard
Detention in the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman described will be an option entirely for the detainee. There is a simple way in which that person can avoid detention.
§ Mr. Howard
If the hon. Gentleman will restrain himself for just a moment, I may explain that the prospective detainee can escape detention by complying with the terms of the exclusion order. If the individual is 1133 prepared to return to Northern Ireland or Great Britain, as the case may be, he will not be detained. If the individual is not prepared to comply and is in the advanced stages of planning or committing a terrorist operation, it is clearly essential that detention powers are available. The hon. Gentleman's summary omitted that regulation 5(2) requires the decision on exclusion to be made as soon as reasonably practicable.
§ Mr. Howard
I have not given way again to the hon. Gentleman. If he is fortunate to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, no doubt he will make his further points at that time.
I have explained why there is currently a power to detain individuals during the time that an exclusion order is being considered—which is why the new regulations contain a similar power of detention. Under the new procedures it will be possible, if the individual concerned is within the part of the United Kingdom from which consideration is being given to excluding him, to detain him for the period between the serving of the notice and the final decision being taken.
The power to detain is not always used now. It may not always be used in future. Sometimes, the individual is permitted to leave the jurisdiction pending consideration of the case against him. That will be possible in future, but no sensible Government would deny themselves the power to detain murderous criminals while exclusion is under consideration. We will certainly not do so.
All the necessary procedures will be carried out as swiftly as possible but, as will be seen from the regulations, the time it takes for any individual to be interviewed is partly dictated by that person. Individuals will have seven days from the date of the notice, if they are inside the jurisdiction from which consideration is being given to excluding them, in which to make their representations and request an interview.
I began by emphasising our abhorrence at the resumption of the IRA campaign. For 18 months, peace seemed as close as it has ever been in the last 25 years, but the terrorists have returned to the path of murder. The bombs in London serve no purpose. The overwhelming majority of people on both sides of the Irish sea want peace. The IRA has shattered those hopes but the door to peace remains open, and both this Government and the Irish Government continue to explore ways of making progress towards the goal of a comprehensive political settlement in Northern Ireland.
The events of last month have shown yet again that we cannot afford to drop our guard. I do not propose to do so. For the past 12 years, the Labour party has voted against renewal of the PTA. For the two years before that, Labour Members abstained. Before that, they voted for the Act. Now they are doing no more than proposing to return to the position that they adopted when Michael Foot was their leader.
I hope that, even at this late stage, the hon. Member for Blackburn and his hon. Friends will reflect on the matter and support the legislation. Abstention is not enough. Indecision will not do. Governments cannot shrink from deciding whether to take the measures necessary to protect the public from terrorism. We continue to need 1134 the emergency powers in the 1989 Act and the order and regulations before the House will give those powers. Once again, I ask the whole House to support them.
§ 5.5 pm
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
Terrorism is a modern plague. It randomly destroys the lives of innocent people, and it wrecks families and communities—but terrorism is rarely used randomly. Its aim, almost always, is to disrupt the political process. Some acts of terrorism take place in authoritarian regimes, but they are used as often to undermine democratic countries and the processes by which they seek through peaceful means to resolve conflicts that arise between different peoples or interest groups. The threat to the international community from terrorism is so great that yesterday a summit on that subject alone was held in Egypt.
There is no more appalling example of the immediate and wider consequences that terrorism can bring than the recent bombings of innocent bus passengers in Israel. Although that country is 3,000 miles away, we are all affected by such terrorism. We are directly affected if terrorist organisations also intend to base some of their operations in the United Kingdom or seek support here.
The middle east peace process has been rendered fragile by the resumption of extreme terrorism by Hamas. In the UK, the process to achieve peace in Ireland has been placed under enormous strain by the Provisional IRA's unilateral decision to end its ceasefire and begin a bombing campaign on the mainland. Innocent lives have been lost. Many more people have been physically injured or have suffered great psychological damage. Employment has been disrupted, and millions of pounds' worth of damage has been done to homes, offices and businesses. I join the Home Secretary in condemning those atrocities today, as we did when they occurred.
The police and security forces have again found themselves in the dangerous front line of the fight against terrorism. I place on record our gratitude for their work and the debt that we owe for their bravery and dedication. Fortunately, the disruption caused by the ending of the ceasefire has not aborted the peace process but has strengthened the resolve of all political parties represented in the House and of the Irish Government to work even harder to achieve lasting peace, and the huge benefits that it would bring.
The reality of terrorism, whether international or emanating from within the British Isles, means that special measures must be in place the better to combat terrorism. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made his views clear when he spoke in the renewal order debate two years ago:It is not in dispute, and never has been, that we need anti-terrorist legislation … We in the House share a total and complete abhorrence of terrorism and a desire to defeat it."—[Official Report, 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 300.]That sentiment has been repeated by me and by my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who also said in the emergency provisions Bill debate two months ago thatthere must be effective counter-terrorist legislation."—[Official Report, 9 January 1996; Vol. 269, c. 42]We have also striven hard to ensure that, in order to deal effectively with terrorism—by the security measures needed to fight it and the political processes required to 1135 undermine support for it—there is bipartisan agreement across the House. We have achieved such a position on the peace process. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have readily acknowledged that the peace process has been immeasurably strengthened by our support for it. I pay tribute to the indefatigable work of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar and her team in that regard. I wish to put it on record that my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) would have been here, but for the fact that they are in the United States following their duties in the Northern Ireland team.
For at least five years we have also sought means by which there could be all-party agreement on the measures necessary to combat terrorism. In practice, there has been little argument between the parties about four of the six operational parts of what is now the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989—those relating to proscribed organisations, to financial assistance for terrorism and to powers relating to the investigation of terrorist activities, searches for munitions and the control of explosives factories, magazines and stores. There has, however, been argument about the use of certain of the powers relating to arrests, detentions and port controls, and overwhelming objections to the principle of exclusion orders.
Five years ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), then shadow Home Secretary, made proposals for what he described as a "fundamental re-examination" of the prevention of terrorism Acts to achievea demonstration of common purpose".—[Official Report, 4 March 1991; Vol. 187, c. 39.]on anti-terrorist legislation. Those were turned down.
Two years ago, the late John Smith, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), made a further sustained effort to achieve that demonstration of common purpose. Private discussions to achieve that common purpose were held with Ministers, but those private discussions were aborted when their details were leaked. That leak did not come from the Opposition.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that the original exclusion order was brought in by a Labour Government and was supported by the Labour party until 1983? The hon. Gentleman is using weasel words to cover up the differences in his party. Does he agree with comments in The Guardian that his argument is entirely inconsistent? By abstaining on the order, he reveals himself as still soft on terrorism.
§ Mr. Straw
I confirm the first part of what the hon. Gentleman said, which is a matter of fact. I advise him never to take too much notice of what The Guardian says, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—had he remained in his place—would also advise him. As I will explain, there are good reasons for the position that the Labour party took earlier in this decade and in the 1980s.
Despite the way in which discussions into which we had entered in good faith were aborted as a result of the leaking of details about them—not by the Opposition, as I have said—my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield, in the debate two years ago, repeated the offer 1136that has been made to the Government … to try to reach a consensus on the issue, take it out of the political divide and resolve it properly.He continued:One way to achieve that would be to undertake a full and independent review of the judicial process"—of the PTAunder a senior respected figure".—[Official Report, 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 300–309.]Last year, in the more encouraging climate of the ceasefire, my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar and I renewed those efforts to secure the establishment of such a review. Again, the approaches were not reciprocated by the Government by the time of the debate, which took place almost exactly a year ago. This time last year, I said:Three things … are in dispute: the power to make exclusion orders, which are a form of internal exile; the absence of a judicial element in decisions to extend detention; and, above all … the need for a general and comprehensive review of anti-terrorist legislation.I continued:Had such a review been announced, and had it been able to take into account our concerns in relation to the first two matters that I raised, we should not have voted against the order tonight".I repeated that point, so that there was no doubt about it, on two other occasions in my speech.
I regret that it has taken so long for the review we sought to be announced and for the foundations to be laid—as the review will achieve—for bipartisan agreement. The review we sought has now been announced and it follows directly from what I said last year that we should not vote against the measures tonight. Indeed, that was the reason why we did not vote against the Third Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill on 19 February 1996, despite the fact that it contained measures to reintroduce internment in principle.
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
But did not the hon. Gentleman and his party vote against the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill on the very day the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced a review? Is he not therefore talking absolute nonsense when he says that the reason for the change in his position today, for an all-party approach, is that we have announced a review?
§ Mr. Straw
No is the answer to that question. What I have said is entirely consistent with what I said last year:Had such a review been announced, and had it been able to take into account our concerns in relation to the first two matters that I raised, we should not have voted against the order tonight".—[Official Report, 8 March 1995; Vol. 256, c. 357.]
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman has accused my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) of not getting his facts right, so let us make it clear what the record shows. Will the 1137 hon. Gentleman confirm that, on the day my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced the general review and after that review had been announced, the Opposition voted against the Second Reading of the Bill? The hon. Gentleman does not seem to know what his party did on that occasion, but I can tell him that it voted against the Second Reading of that Bill.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet)
The hon. Gentleman may have been gratified to hear the BBC glorifying his party's apparent change of heart, after 13 years, about voting against the order tonight. The story that the BBC should have reported is that, in spite of the recent bombing and the breakdown of the ceasefire, the Opposition are still not prepared to support these measures. Where is the consistency in anything that the hon. Gentleman has said so far?
§ Mr. Straw
I have explained, on more than one occasion, that we have sought a bipartisan agreement on measures for the prevention of terrorism, as we have given bipartisan support for the peace process. But there is a difference. We have been able to achieve bipartisan support for the peace process because we have been able to have effective, constructive discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about that process. No such discussions have been remotely possible with the Home Secretary, who appears to believe that bipartisan agreement can arise only when a proposition is laid on the table and we have to take it or leave it.
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman has made some allegations about me, so perhaps I may put another question to him. He attaches enormous importance to the review, which he says is the reason why his party has changed its position, and he is relying on it in his increasingly desperate attempt to preserve some semblance of unity in his party's position. Is the hon. Gentleman aware—I made it perfectly clear in my earlier remarks—that the review that we have asked Lord Lloyd to undertake is a review of the powers that will be needed if and when there is a permanent peace in Northern Ireland? It is a review of the powers that we will need against international terrorism or any other domestic terrorism, but specifically not Irish terrorism because it is predicated on the basis that there will be peace in Northern Ireland. The review has, therefore, precious little to do with the subject matter of today's debate.
§ Mr. Straw
That is entirely wrong. The terms of reference of the Lloyd review refer to the future need for specific counter-terrorism legislation in the United Kingdom if the cessation of violence leads to a lasting peace. I made exactly that point this time last year when I called for a review. I said that the review should be established on the Government's working assumption that the cessation of violence led to a lasting peace. So the review that has been established is the review that we sought—whether my hon. Friends like it or not.
§ Mr. McNamara
My hon. Friend has agreed with the Secretary of State that the review is predicated on a 1138 cessation of violence in Northern Ireland, and upon its continuation. Lord Lloyd is not looking at the situation since the breakdown of the ceasefire. The whole premise of the review has in one sense been knocked away by the IRA restarting its activities. So what Lord Lloyd is doing is of no relevance to the renewal of the prevention of terrorism Act—a point that I have made in the past to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Straw
When we called for a review last year we said that it should be established by a High Court judge or someone of similar standing, and that it should be carried out on the Government's working assumption that the ceasefire had led to a permanent cessation of violence. It is our judgment that the terms of reference of the Lloyd review meet the conditions that I specified last year. What I said then is clear for anyone to see. Despite the fact that the PIRA has abandoned the cessation of violence, the Lloyd review continues and he has invited my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar and me, among many others, to give evidence.
§ Mr. Mallon
Just to help us make up our minds, may I point out that there have been numerous reviews down the years? Lord Jellicoe, Lord Shackleton, Sir Cyril Phillips, Lord Gardiner, Lord Colville, Sir George Baker and John Rowe have all carried out reviews, but none of them dealt with the central points that the hon. Gentleman has identified and their recommendations were not adopted by Government. How can anyone therefore place any faith in the Lloyd review or believe that it will come up with the type of conclusions that I would like to see?
§ Mr. Straw
I can only repeat what I have already said. We proposed last year that the review be established on the basis of the Government's working assumption that the cessation of violence was permanent. My statement was made in good faith when the ceasefire was holding. Despite the fact that it has broken down—we hope only temporarily—the review is still going forward and we intend to give evidence to it. It remains the firm hope of every Member of the House that the ceasefire will return, that the PIRA will end its bombing campaign and that the reviews can then take place in the circumstances that we and the Government expected when they were first announced.
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House. Now that his hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) has been able to refresh his memory from the Hansard report of the debate on the Northern Ireland Bill, held on 9 January 1996—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It is for hon. Members themselves to decide whether they have misled the House, not for other Members to pontificate at length before even reaching what may or may not have been a point of order.
§ Mr. Straw
I think I can help the hon. and learned Gentleman. I was misinformed about our position on 1139 Second Reading. We did vote against Second Reading, and I apologise to the House for that error. In the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar made it clear that we welcomed the establishment of the Lloyd review and that we would seek further changes to the EPA in Committee. She also said that we would not vote against Third Reading, and that we did not do.
Although the Act which the House is invited tonight to review dates from 1989, the original Act dates from autumn 1974. It passed through all its stages in this House and the other place in the near record time of 48 hours, following the carnage of the Birmingham pub bombings. The then Home Secretary justified the need for the legislation on the ground that the country faced a highly exceptional situation and a clear and present danger. The powers, Roy Jenkins told the House, were draconian and unprecedented in peacetime. In consequence, Parliament required what have amounted to annual audits of the use of the Act's powers, and that it be subject to annual renewal.
It was also to the great credit of the Labour Government that two more fundamental reviews of the provisions of the Act were conducted by the distinguished figures of Lord Gardiner and then Lord Shackleton. By contrast, until the Lloyd review was announced only one other fundamental review of the Act's provisions has been held under this Administration—the one by Viscount Colville in 1987. That review had been preceded by mounting disquiet, dating back many years in this House and outside it, at the way in which some of the PTA powers were being used, especially those relating to examinations at ports, detentions and their extension, and exclusions from the mainland or from Northern Ireland.
Many complaints were made by my right hon. and hon. Friends on behalf of constituents with family connections in Ireland whose travel to and from different parts of the same kingdom were subject to the hazards and humiliations of unjustified stops and detentions. It was also said that the other powers in the Act were used unjustifiably.
§ Mr. Howard
Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman a little more with the events of 9 January this year. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) said:We will vote twice against the legislation today, as we did in 1991. It is important to be consistent."—[Official Report, 9 January 1996; Vol. 269, c. 47.]Did she consult him before using those words?
§ Mr. Straw
My hon. Friend referred to the position that we took in 1991. She also made it clear that we welcomed the establishment of the Lloyd review and would not vote against Third Reading.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) and many others used to make the point that this sort of experience of the use of the powers, and the sense of injustice that it engendered, perversely assisted recruitment to terrorist organisations and helped to feed the lie peddled so assiduously in the United States that British justice was no justice when it came to the treatment of Irish people. The results of those concerns and of the Colville review have been that the powers in the Act have been more sparingly and judiciously used in 1140 recent years, as we heard from the Secretary of State. The number of detentions fell from 857 in 1979 to one sixth of that number, 145, in 1993, the last full year before the ceasefire came into effect.
Just 8 per cent. of those detained in 1980 were charged with any offence. By 1993 the proportion had risen to 20 per cent. If I heard the Secretary of State aright, I believe that it is now up to 25 per cent. Those figures are salutary. Far from the much more limited use of the Act's powers undermining the fight against terrorism, they have strengthened that fight with a much higher arrest rate and with the removal of some of the grounds for complaint about the injustice of the Act.
As I spelt out last year, however, there are still concerns about the absence of a judicial element in decisions to extend detention and about the very principle of exclusion orders. Under the normal criminal law in England and Wales, a suspect may be arrested and detained by police for up to 36 hours, and that detention may then be extended by a further two and a half days, making four days in all. In contrast, under the PTA, the initial detention period is 48 hours. That detention may be extended for a further five days by the Secretary of State, and not by any judicial figure. It is in the nature of powers needed to deal with terrorism that swift decisions may have to be made, and that the basis of such decisions may be intelligence or other evidence that would be inadmissible in a court of law. These considerations strengthen rather than weaken the case for decisions to extend detention to be made with the utmost fairness and to be seen to be fair. In our view, that must require a judicial element.
The current situation is unsatisfactory. That was recognised seven years ago by the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), the then Home Secretary. He said that the Government continued to look "for a judicial mechanism." Perhaps I have missed something in the argument, but I do not begin to understand why that search has produced a blank.
The argument advanced in this year's audit by Mr. John Rowe is unconvincing. He has recited the circumstances in which a judge would work. He tells us that the suspect could not be given all the detail of the evidence against him, that the judge could not give reasons for his judgment and that there would be no right of appeal. Mr. Rowe then claimed that the judge, in such circumstances, would be actingin name only. He would be exercising a function which could be called judicial only because he happened to be a judge by his profession and occupation. And the judge would in this situation would have every appearance of being an arm of the Executive.In other words, Mr. Rowe was asserting that a judge could bring nothing to the process, and that the only consequence of his role would be to compromise his judicial integrity. If that were so, we would never ask judges to make decisions except in open court. Yet Mr. Rowe admits that there are plenty of examples where judges do not have to make decisions in open court, where they make them in secret on evidence that cannot be disclosed to the defendant.
As the House discussed two weeks ago on Second Reading of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill, that is exactly the position when it comes to dealing with sensitive evidence—for example, the identity of an informant covered by a public interest immunity 1141 certificate, where the defendant may not even know that an application to the judge has been made, still less what it contains.
Increasingly over the years, to provide greater public confidence in the fairness of procedures that necessarily have to operate in secrecy, the House has asked senior members of the judiciary to supervise parts of the work of the intelligence and security agencies. No one doubts the independence of mind and spirit of Lord Nolan, yet one of his tasks is to act as interception commissioner in the operation of the Interception of Communications Act 1985 to check whether telephone taps and other intercepts have been properly authorised. In those circumstances, Lord Nolan has not acted as a judge in name only; nor have his integrity and public reputation been compromised in any way as he has undertaken that task.
There is the example of Mr. Rowe, who is brought in to act, in a judicial capacity, to check retrospectively the use of the Act's powers. Moreover, Ministers have voluntarily assented to treaties and conventions which require that there should be an independent element in decisions, as the decision of the European Court of Justice in the Gallagher case demonstrated.
The state has no greater coercive power than the deprivation of liberty. Even in the grave circumstances of the fight against terrorism—indeed, especially in those circumstances—it is wrong that decisions should be made by Ministers alone.
Exclusion orders apply only to Irish terrorism. They have been justified on the ground that they are a necessary part of measures that are needed to fight terrorism by denying certain individuals entry to one or other parts of the United Kingdom, so disrupting terrorists' organisational and supply lines. That was the case advanced by the Home Secretary. The orders, however, are a form of internal exile, last practised, I understand, in this country in the time of Henry VIII. When such exile was practised in the former Soviet Union, it was subject to round condemnation by the international community.
The effects of exclusion orders are bizarre. After all, we are one kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Yet the orders mean that a suspected terrorist who is regarded as so dangerous that he is not allowed anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales is allowed freely to walk the streets of Northern Ireland. In reverse, a suspect can be banned from Belfast but still be free in Birmingham.
For all that the Home Secretary said in support of exclusion orders, he omitted to mention that when there was last a fundamental review of the PTA, conducted by Lord Colville, the outcome was a settled conclusion on exclusion orders. Lord Colville described the orders asthe most draconian in the present Act".Having considered the security arguments in favour of exclusion orders, he said:However, I am not convinced that the ends justify these means … exclusion orders should not be renewed or replaced.That would be the correct decision, he continued,both in terms of civil rights in the United Kingdom, and this country's reputation in that respect among the international community".1142 Those were prescient words. The continued use of exclusion orders has harmed our reputation abroad and written endless speeches for the apologists for terrorism. It has led also to Britain ending up on the wrong side of international laws to which we have assented.
§ Mr. Barnes
Is it not also unacceptable that the IRA operates a form of external exclusion order, the exercise of which means that many citizens of Northern Ireland are kept out of Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Straw
I accept entirely what my hon. Friend has said.
We remain implacably opposed to exclusion orders, and shall be saying so in our evidence to the Lloyd review. I hope that the Government will reconsider their support for the orders. They have, by their actions, recognised the force of the arguments against the orders. The number in force, as we heard from the Home Secretary, is the lowest ever. Only four were made in 1993, the last full year before the ceasefire, compared with nearly four times that number in 1987.
Moreover, it now appears that some of those who are involved in the making of exclusion orders now have serious misgivings about them. In his 1994 audit, Mr. Rowe stated simply that police officers had told him that the orders "have a real value". There is, however, a more quantified story in Mr. Rowe's latest audit. He states that theoverwhelming majority of port officers … gave me the answer that these orders are useful and should be retained.But he continued by stating thatthere was a fair number of officers, of all ranks, who held the opposite view".He explained that the opposite view was thata known and experienced member of … terrorist organisations can be noticed at port and followed thereafter, and kept under surveillance.We now know from Mr. Rowe's report that a number of people in the security services are questioning the value of exclusion orders. The only argument in favour of the orders was their utility. If even that is now being questioned, it is surely time for us to agree to abandon their use altogether.
Whatever sincere but differing views Members may take about the merits of the renewal order, the House is united in its determination to fight terrorism with every means that is consistent with a democratic nation whose constitution is based on the rule of law. It is the Opposition's fervent hope that the Lloyd review will be the means by which we can at last achieve bipartisan agreement on the measures necessary to fight the scourge of terrorism.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I remind the House that Back Benchers' speeches are restricted to 10 minutes.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
I shall be brief, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) should understand that he fails to convince on two important points. First, he fails to demonstrate any error in our 1143 assumption that the greatest threat to civil liberties lies with terrorist activity rather than anti-terrorist legislation. The second flaw in his argument is that he gives insufficient attention to the fact that exclusion orders have a vital operational value in that they can interrupt the command and communications structure of terrorists and thus save life. For that reason, reluctantly, we accept the infringement of civil liberties that exclusion orders represent.
On the wider issues, I have three observations to make. The first relates to the Rowe report as a whole. The essential point to note is that it is entirely unequivocal: it is precise, and there are no ifs and buts. It states that the prevention of terrorism Act was operated effectively and properly in 1995 and that there is a continuing need for its existence in the next 12 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) pointed out in an intervention that Mr. Rowe came to his conclusions at a time when the IRA was still operating its ceasefire, so they are that much more valid now that we have moved out of that era. By any criteria, the House would be entirely wrong and would be acting indefensibly and irresponsibly if it did anything other than support the measure as amended with regard to exclusion orders.
Secondly, perhaps the most significant aspect of Mr. Rowe's report this year is the emphasis that he gives to the dimension of international terrorism. There has too often been a tendency on the part of politicians and commentators to regard the PTA exclusively in the context of Northern Ireland. That was always mistaken. The statistics speak for themselves: more than 21 per cent. of the people who were detained under either the 1984 or 1989 Act and who were subsequently charged were involved in international terrorism. In some years, the figure was much higher, and in one year—1987—the totals of those involved in international and Northern Ireland terrorism were virtually identical.
Mr. Rowe provides a useful potted history of the various PTAs and shows that from 1974—when the first of these Acts was introduced—through to 1976 and then to 1984, they always contained the provision to counter international terrorism. The provision was not specifically identified until the later two Acts, but those Acts were consistent with that intention from the very start.
Mr. Rowe reminds us that the Lockerbie incident occurred only just over seven years ago, that it is not yet two years since the attack on the Israeli embassy and Balfour house, and that last year 50 per cent. of the extensions of detention related to international terrorism. It is vital that we do not lose sight of that essential fact and that we continue to have on the statute book legislation which will enable a democratic society to respond to the ever-present threat of international terrorism, regardless of the situation in Northern Ireland.
Thirdly, I must express a slight concern. I noted Mr. Rowe's favourable and reassuring comments about the funding of terrorism and the investigation of it. He pointed out in paragraphs 39 to 42 that there have been convictions under sections 9 and 10, and that greater use was made in 1995 of schedule 7 with regard to the making of search warrants and so on, but my concern is that perhaps the powers that we have on the statute book do not go far enough and cannot deal with one particular issue—that of fund-raising on the part of the non-proscribed political wings of proscribed organisations.
1144 The arguments are long and detailed so I shall say only that non-proscribed organisations can legally raise money which is channelled not necessarily into acts of terrorism—which would be contrary to the PTA—but into promoting the ideology and stance of terrorist or proscribed organisations. I hope that the Lloyd inquiry will deal with terrorist financing or promote the opportunity for wider debate because I do not believe that we have yet got to grips with it.
As I said, I believe that the House would be entirely mistaken if it did anything other than support the measure.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I am sorry that the Home Secretary chose to begin the debate in the way that he did because he is playing politics, which is rather sad and not something that the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would so easily have done.
The Home Secretary spoke about the vote last year and said that it took place at the time of the Heathrow bombs. He said that we should face down the terrorists. If, after 25 years of violence, I believed that we could face them down simply by voting, I would vote with him every time. The problem is that we need to do something more sophisticated than facing down the terrorists.
The Home Secretary and one or two other hon. Members accused my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) of inconsistency. They should watch what they say. They have been asking for cross-party support on Northern Ireland, and they will get it because we believe in the peace, but there is nothing more inconsistent than the Government condemning IRA terrorism year after year while at the same time talking to it without the House's knowledge—and I do not mean Sinn Fein: I mean the IRA. A party that talks to the IRA but then lectures us on being inconsistent has a substantial lesson to learn. The Unionists and the SDLP know that, and most of us know it, too. It is time that the Home Secretary talked to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Prime Minister, who are handling the situation with a great deal more sophistication than he is.
In response to an intervention, the Home Secretary said that there were no political prisoners. I agree. A long time ago, during the hunger strike, I argued—when it was not popular to do so—that there were no political prisoners. Why? Because in this country, laws are made democratically and there is an independent judiciary to put them into effect. There can be political prisoners only when that is not the case. As an ex-probation officer, I knew that people from varying backgrounds would claim political status when they were not entitled to it and when it had nothing whatever to do with Ireland.
The Home Secretary does devastating damage to his case by justifying under the prevention of terrorism Act the power of a politician to impose internal exile and, at times, to detain. That is why there is so much concern among some hon. Members about the nature of the PTA. I am in favour of civil liberties, but the argument is not only about such liberties—it is about two fundamental concepts. The first is the rule of law and the second is how most effectively we can fight terrorism.
I shall explain why I am prepared to abstain this evening, having voted against the measure on previous occasions, and I urge my hon. Friends to do the same. The situation is changing. If the Government had the wit, 1145 they would have told the House that they accept what Lord Colville said in 1987, that there is internal exile, that we know that we have to get rid of it and that is why the numbers in internal exile have dropped and are so low. That is why the Home Secretary should get rid of the exclusion orders. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn said, senior police officers know that, in view of the small numbers involved, it would be more effective to use the security services, MI5 and MI6.
The worst argument that the Home Secretary could have used was that of resource implications. For heaven's sake—we have been spending billions of pounds in Northern Ireland to deal with terrorism, and the Irish Government have been doing the same. Are we seriously saying for the sake of four exclusion orders that we would not use a method which does not so much override the rule of law? If MI5 and MI6 can do the job, as I believe that they can, we should let them do it.
Let us not be dragged before international courts that we helped to establish. British lawyers wrote the laws for the European Court of Justice. We set it up, but then we allow ourselves to be dragged before it because the Home Secretary cannot move on one key issue and say that exclusion orders must go.
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman referred to the European Court of Justice without mentioning that it upheld the substance of exclusion orders and found that they are entirely in accordance with our obligations under the European convention on human rights. The change that it asked us to make, and which we have made, relates simply to the adaptation of the procedures. On the substance of exclusion orders, the European Court of Justice found in the Government's favour. The fact that there are now so few exclusion orders shows that we use them only when we need to do so.
§ Mr. Soley
I think that I should claim injury time for that intervention.
The derogation that Britain seeks is intensely damaging and the Government know it. They know that we get more convictions before the European Court of Justice than almost any other European country and we cannot claim otherwise, as we used to be able to do. As one who was brought up to be proud of our parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in Britain, I do not like to see us in that position. It is legislation such as this that does that damage.
The Home Secretary is moving and he should admit it. The figures are coming down dramatically, although that is nothing to do with the ceasefire; it was happening before that. The figures are also coming down dramatically, as the Home Secretary could have said, in another area that is so damaging in the fight against terrorism—the number of people detained but not charged. At one time, as many as 95 per cent. of people detained under the Act were not charged. Can anyone think of any other Act of Parliament under which that would be acceptable? Of course not. Yet that is what we are doing under this legislation.
1146 The figures have dropped dramatically, but the percentages are still worrying. The one area where they have not dropped is also an area where there has not been a move to the benefit of the fight against terrorism and I would ask the Home Secretary to consider it. A growing number of people are not held under a detention order, but simply questioned for fewer than four hours and then released. I am not convinced that the Home Secretary wants to help, but if he does, he should ensure that those figures are also reduced, just as the number of detentions and exclusion orders have been reduced.
This is a fight for hearts and minds. To those Conservative Members who doubt that, I simply say that some years ago I was held for several hours and cross-examined by the East German police when East Germany was still a communist state. I did not know it at the time, but they were worried because I had in my possession an unsigned cheque belonging to a German who was in fact a distant relative and who had given it to me as a present. One can dine out on a story like that for years.
One of the tragedies is that it is not only people who are held under these Acts and then released without charge who become alienated, but their families and friends. That is why I welcome the drop in numbers. In other words, the prevention of terrorism Act—a deeply undesirable Act, as even the Home Secretary seemed to admit in one of his more radical moments—is being used far less often and, in a way, rather more specifically than it was before.
If the Home Secretary had done what many of his predecessors had done and come to the House and said, "Fortunately, I have been able dramatically to cut the use of the Act and I will review it as well," many people would have said, "Hear, hear—well done, Home Secretary, keep on doing that." But he did not. He came with the intention of scoring a few cheap political points and then told everyone that he was proud of being a Conservative and Unionist. Some people would dearly love to recreate the old Conservative and Unionist party, and I know why. But I tell the Home Secretary this: he can never be a Unionist when he says that Northern Ireland is to be treated so totally and utterly differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, that people can be excluded there in the form of internal exile that the Government support. The SDLP and the Official Unionist and Democratic Unionist parties will tell the Home Secretary that that is to treat Northern Ireland as a second-class citizen and not as a proper part of the United Kingdom, so the Home Secretary should not come to the House claiming to be a Unionist and expecting to have Unionist support, because he will not even get it there, where he seeks it most.
I have been opposed to this legislation for many years. The legislation cannot be temporary when it has run for more than 20 years, and we know it. It is deeply offensive to the rule of law and to Britain's tradition of democracy. The numbers being scooped up in its net have changed dramatically over the years and we need to recognise that. It should have been a collection of information Act, because that is what it does and that is the way in which it works. It has not necessarily prevented much terrorism. It has at times, I accept, but it has also acted as one of the best recruiting serjeant majors the IRA could have wished for, enabling the IRA to claim—wrongly, in my judgment—that it could not get justice in British courts.
1147 We are moving in the right direction, slowly. I hope that Lord Lloyd produces a more fundamental and better analysis than Mr. Rowe. I am not happy with the Rowe report. Its presentation of facts and figures is not good and some other things are missing. But I hope that my hon. Friends will abstain tonight and I hope that the Home Secretary listened to my remarks with care.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)
Throughout last year, I spent a lot of time trying to convince myself that we were moving to a situation where these powers were no longer necessary. If I understand Mr. Rowe correctly, however, he tells me in paragraphs 13 and 14 why I was completely wrong to take that view. It bears thinking carefully about. He says:The proscribed organisations still maintain their structure and organisation, and murders and assaults are carried out in their name.He continues:Explosive devices have been found: a new mortar device has been developed … there is movement of arms about the country … Considerable amounts of firearms and explosives are still in the hands of the proscribed organisations and ready for use. Training goes on, and there is still some recruiting".It is important to note that that was written at a time when there was a ceasefire, not the time after Canary wharf. It is therefore not Canary wharf and what has happened since that makes the renewal necessary. The PTA will remain necessary even if the temporary ceasefire is reinstated.
I want to take a moment or so to explain why I believe that to be the case. I have never had any real doubt that the ceasefire was a temporary truce and a sham. At the very moment when Gerry Adams was shaking Clinton's hand, his friends were building the Canary wharf bomb. The purpose of the Sinn Fein-IRA temporary truce, therefore, was not to help phase out terrorism but to exploit our weakness and to buy time to reorganise and re-equip.
Sinn Fein-IRA has always been and remains, despite its words, a Marxist terrorist group, committed to obtaining by any means at its disposal—including violence—that which it believes in. I still see no sign of willingness on its part to compromise in any way. We therefore have no alternative but to renew the prevention of terrorism Act. Making one-sided compromise after one-sided compromise is no alternative to the PTA. Not only is treating bombers and assassins as though they were democrats not an alternative to the PTA—it is a despicable affront to the people of Northern Ireland.
Even when one accepts the need to renew the PTA, there is a temptation in a debate such as this to focus on whether we need to retain all the powers or whether, as we have just heard, some powers could be phased out. That is not what we should be considering. We should be asking ourselves what more we can do, not what less we can do, to root out terrorism. Mr. Rowe makes it crystal clear that we need each and every one of the powers that we currently have.
One can go through the entire list—proscribing organisations, exclusion orders, investigating funding, section 14 arrests, extension of detention, the port powers and the new powers that were given last year. Mr. Rowe 1148 makes it crystal clear that the PTA is needed and that every power in it has his backing. He recommends that we renew them all.
Canary wharf and everything that has happened since therefore confirms not just the need for the Act, but the need to do more. In starting that debate on how to do more, how to extend the PTA and even the emergency powers legislation, we must begin by saying an emphatic simple no to the men of violence. There can be no compromise with evil. That is what the PTA is all about. All terrorists and their apologists must be totally excluded from the entire democratic process unless and until they renounce their terrorism and unless and until they hand over their arms and explosives. Having said that firm no, then—and only then—can we turn to the detailed debate about doing more. That is why I welcome Lord Lloyd's review, and I very much hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, when he winds up the debate, will assure me that Lord Lloyd will not only consider retaining existing powers but will be encouraged to consider additional steps to stamp out terrorism and to bear down on it rather than compromise with it.
§ Mr. Wilshire
No. I am very sorry, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to disagree with me when he makes his speech.
I end by saying a few words about the Labour party and its decision to abstain, which it wants us to believe is proof that it is tough on terrorism. What signal does the Labour party believe that that sends? What signal does it send when it does not have the guts to have an opinion? I gather that what I see as a spineless gesture of abstention is intended to avoid giving Sinn Fein-IRA an excuse to bomb. Have the Opposition not noticed that Sinn Fein-IRA does not need an excuse to bomb? It has been bombing for the past 25 years, and it promises us another 25 years whether or not the Opposition vote today: it does not need an excuse.
§ Mr. Wilshire
The hon. Gentleman has had his 10 minutes. I now hope that he will let me have mine.
I believe that there is only one honourable course at the end of the debate: to vote one way or the other. I believe passionately that voting in favour of renewal of the pRevention of terrorism Act is the right thing to do. That said, I am willing to admit that I respect the integrity of those who have the guts to vote against it.
§ 6.1 pm
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The Liberal Democrats will vote in favour of the renewal of the legislation tonight, as we have in previous years. We shall not abstain.
Since voting similarly last year, there has, of course, been a resumption of the IRA's bombing campaign, with all the terrible results that flow from that. Any ceasefire, 1149 even if it were still in operation, would have some uncertainty about it. An industry of violence has developed in Northern Ireland around the paramilitary organisations. There are, indeed, people who have a habit of violence, which the organisations seem to be having some difficulty in controlling. I have my suspicions that at least some of the assaults and attacks that took place during the ceasefire were carried out by members of the IRA who had nothing better to do and whose determination to continue using violence was channelled into those supposedly disciplinary activities, which, of course, had no shred of justice or legality associated with them. They were a form of intimidation.
Even if the ceasefire were continuing, we would have to keep in place some emergency measures for quite some time. As the Lloyd inquiry assumes, we would need, for the foreseeable future, some anti-terrorist provisions of wider application, which are relevant to other forms of terrorism that are happening around the world and that have some effect in this country.
§ Mr. Barnes
The IRA has suggested that it may engage in another 25 years of terrorism. Does that mean that the principles that are currently contained in the prevention of terrorism Act and to which the Opposition object so strongly should be in place for another 25 years? Would that help the process?
§ Mr. Beith
It means that the character of the legislation that we would have for the next 25 years would be influenced by the background of security that it was intended to deal with. It is difficult to speculate about whether the precise powers in the order would continue to prove useful or whether we would need others, which might involve other incursions into civil liberty. Civil liberties in this country will be damaged for as long as a terrorist organisation targets citizens as a means to exert political power. That is utterly deplorable, but it is a harsh reality.
We do not like this legislation, as it involves a curtailment of civil liberties, but bombs in cities curtail civil liberties absolutely and utterly. Therefore, we have to find ways in which to combat those who bring bombs, while minimising the risk to the civil liberties of others, recognising, however, that the threat to most of our citizens is profound. How far can we contest and combat terrorism and maintain our civil liberties? To a large extent, I hope.
What must be clear, of course, is that the legislation and what we keep on the statute book to deal with terrorism is not a part of the negotiating process. It is not part of attempting to secure a renewed ceasefire. It is the subject neither of threats nor of concessions. It is simply what we feel we have to do to protect our citizens. We should neither ease it to obtain concessions from the other side, nor, indeed, attempt to portray it more harshly in the belief that that will somehow frighten or intimidate. We judge it against the clear security background of what is necessary to protect our citizens.
We very much welcome the fact that the Lloyd review is taking place. It is what we asked for. It is a wide-ranging review. The Home Secretary, in his anxiety to make a different point, may have appeared to restrict the significance of Northern Ireland in the Lloyd review. I think that he was trying to make the point that much in 1150 the present situation cannot be resolved by the Lloyd review, because he is looking to a period in which we can assume that a long-term peace has been secured. That seemed to imply that Lord Lloyd is not concerned about Northern Ireland; he is, of course.
Any long-term view must take into account the fact that the possibility of any ceasefire will produce dissident elements who may be willing to resume acts of terrorism. We may need legislation on the statute book to cope with that. Lord Lloyd will have to consider what elements of the legislation will need to be in place in the longer term. We have talked to him about that already and expect to do so further. As was implicit in my reply to the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), there will be problems even if we secure what we hope is a long-term peace, because there will always be those with the possibility of disrupting that peace.
We particularly dislike exclusion orders, to which much reference has been made tonight, and increasingly they are seen to have limited value. The resumption of hostilities on the mainland is, perhaps, the least propitious moment to bring about the final removal of exclusion orders from the mechanisms of counter-terrorism, but it is something that we should consider as soon as possible.
I regard the new procedure, following the Gallagher case, as an improvement. There is an argument to be made about whether it is a good idea to have a judge. It is important that we have someone who is seen to be independent. Judges carry out such work in relation to interception of communications, and their standing gives greater authority to what they do. I do not believe that it has to be a judge. Much hearsay evidence has to be considered in those matters, so we should not pretend that it is a judicial process. It is an independent review of the Executive, and it must be seen to be so. The detention element arises in part from the existence of an appeal procedure. The possibility of people being detained, when it remains possible that they will be allowed to go wherever they want, exists because they are able to challenge what the Home Secretary might otherwise do, which was not previously possible.
It is not a happy state of affairs, and it is not something that I want to keep on the statute book, but as long as it is there, I would like greater safeguards than there have been hitherto, so I support the second order, which provides that.
Detention for up to seven days is an unwelcome feature of this legislation. It is sometimes adversely compared with countries that allow longer detention without charge than is normal under our system. Nevertheless, I would not want to see it as a long-term part of our counter-terrorism legislation, because it has damaging effects, which the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) described, when it impinges on people who have no involvement in violence or terrorism.
The legislation contains uncontroversial provisions with which we do not wish to dispense—for instance, the provisions relating to the control of explosives, fund-raising and the confiscation of funds. There has been a good deal of public discussion about whether funds are being raised for terrorism in the middle east, and whether Hamas has channels for funds in this country. I hope that, if appropriate, the powers in the Act will be used to deal with any such developments.
1151 The Home Secretary spoke of the work of the police and the Security Service, which have a key role in the fight against terrorism. As I said when we discussed the Security Services Bill, there must be no let-up in the counter-terrorism work of the Security Service for as long as the current bombing campaign continues. I would be worried by any significant transfer of personnel from such work to dealing with organised crime: in the present circumstances, the counter-terrorism campaign should be an absolute priority for the Security Service.
In a similar debate last year, I said that it would be irresponsible to scrap the anti-terrorism legislation entirely, with immediate effect. That is what would have happened if a vote against the Government had been carried that night. I said then that we would vote to renew the Act, although we would continue to demand a general review of its working. Now that there is to be a general review, I feel even more determined that we should ensure that the legislation remains on the statute book, while working for a peace that will mean that at some point in the future our counter-terrorism legislation can make fewer incursions on civil liberties, and can be more directed towards some of the longer-term terrorist threats that will probably always exist.
We must constantly strive to achieve a balance between protecting our citizens from the total destruction of their civil liberties that being bombed, shot or maimed involves, and ensuring that, in providing such protection, we do not create some aspects of the society that the terrorists are wishing on us. We must ensure that we do not further their interests by reducing our civil liberties. Some terrorists, indeed, use the exploitation of the loss of civil liberties as one of their political tools. The more they think that they can make a country ungovernable, the more they think that they can exercise political power from the barrel of a gun or from their bomb-making activities.
That is a difficult balance for any Government to strike, and we shall continue to criticise when we feel that it could have been struck differently. Nevertheless, we do not consider it responsible at this stage to remove the powers that we are using against terrorism from the statute book.
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)
I listened with some surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). I have listened to debates such as this for many years, but I have never heard the hon. Gentleman or anyone else suggest that, if the number of people excluded ever fell to 35, they would change their mind about whether to oppose the legislation.
I listened with complete amazement to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). I am sorry that the House is not full, because we have witnessed yet another instance of the undermining of the Labour's party's bid to be credible on law and order. It is almost mind-blowing that a spokesman for that party should argue at the Dispatch Box that it has changed its posture because the Government are setting up a review which is, in fact, irrelevant to Irish terrorism; that he should use as an excuse for the change of heart the fact that a review has been announced, when it was announced on 9 January, before a debate on emergency 1152 powers legislation whose Second Reading Labour opposed; and that he should be blissfully unaware that his party voted against Second Reading, insisting when I challenged that that was not so.
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence
I hope that the hon. Lady will not mind if I do not. I have only 10 minutes in which to speak.
§ Mr. Straw
If the review has nothing to do with the situation in Ireland, why was it announced on Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland?
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence
The hon. Gentleman has referred to Mr. Rowe's report on the operation of the Act, in which it was made absolutely clear that Lord Lloyd's brief wasTo consider the future need for specific counter-terrorism legislation … if the cessation of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland leads to a lasting peace".If the hon. Gentleman has not read that, however, I am not surprised, because he had not even read the report of the debate on the emergency powers legislation, and insisted that his party had not voted against it. That shows that the Labour party has no grip on the subject, that its members do not know what they are doing or saying and that, if there is a party fit to lead the country in the attack on terrorism, Labour is definitely not that party.
This is a fitting day on which to debate an Act that is intended to prevent the large-scale slaughter of innocent people. Most law-and-order legislation is directed at catching, convicting and sentencing the perpetrators of violent crime after their deeds have been done; if there is any element of prevention, it lies in establishing so fearsome a law that, if it is enforced efficiently, it may deter some would-be offenders. One of the strengths of this legislation is the fact that it meets the prevention of crime head on by proscribing terrorist organisations, and by excluding people suspected of involvement in terrorism from Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a whole.
Of course that is a form of rough justice, and it may be a denial of civil liberties; but there is ample justification for such action, and if the exclusion is directed in error in any particular case, no great harm is done.
Exclusion should not be seen as a punishment. It is a preventive measure, pure and simple. Moreover, exclusion orders can be reviewed by the Secretary of State if the independent adviser suggests it, or if fresh evidence appears that makes such a review necessary. They do not affect too many people, even if they affect them unjustly: the number of those excluded fell from 68 in 1994 to 35 in 1995—the lowest figure for 20 years. In fact, very few mistakes will have been made over those 35, because we have an exceptionally efficient Secret Intelligence Service.
This part of the legislation is not contrary even to the European convention on human rights. In the Gallagher case, it was made clear that the United Kingdom could derogate from article 5(3) in matters of exclusion and detention. John Rowe QC reviewed the operation of the Act even before the docklands bomb, and decided that it remained necessary to counter the threat of terrorism.
§ Sir Ivan Lawrence
1153 Above all, if justice must be rough and the strict obligation to be sure beyond all doubt must be waived, it is because the IRA makes it impossible to obtain evidence for a court by terrifying witnesses. The IRA makes it impossible to secure convictions by terrifying people who, but for the Diplock courts, would serve on a jury. Civil liberties must also be considered from the victim's point of view: the victim of a terrorist attack is entitled to his or her civil liberties, too. So if rough justice is being done, the IRA has no one to blame but itself. And if errors are made, surely it is better to err in an effort to save innocent lives than to err in order to guarantee civil liberties.
It is no surprise that the police support exclusion orders, because their effect is to disrupt terrorist activity. There is no more vital and effective way of preventing terrorism than removing suspected terrorists from areas where they may well be plotting to slaughter innocent people. It would, of course, surprise anyone who did not know the Labour party that the party bidding to form the next Government opposed this order, on civil liberties grounds, for 13 years, and that even today some of its members propose not to go along with the leadership. That shows just how split the Labour party is. By doing that, it was saying, was it not, that it was justified in putting first the civil liberties of persons against whom there was evidence, even if it could not be adduced in a court, showing that they were parties to terrorism.
When the hon. Member for Blackburn says that Labour's change of heart is to stop the wrong message being given to the IRA, he is making it clear that for years the party was giving the wrong message to the IRA and to the nation. In an article in Tribune on 8 March, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said:When Straw announced on television that Labour was no longer going to oppose the continuation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, he argued that, following the ending of the IRA ceasefire, it would send the wrong message to the IRA that somehow Labour was being soft on terrorism … It suggests that Roy Hattersley, Gerald Kaufman and the entire Labour leadership were, at the height of the IRA campaigns and atrocities, by opposing the PTA, sending out signals to the IRA that they were soft on terrorism.How on earth can anyone call a decision to abstain, which I understand Labour intends to take, a clear message to the IRA?
It is obvious that Labour has woken up to the fact that it is suffering in the public eye by being soft on crime and its causes. It has decided to give a clear signal to the British people that it is "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime"—by abstaining.
Part of the legislation helps to protect innocent people from international terrorism—one of the blots from which the world is at present suffering. As new nation states emerge and states become unstable, international terrorism may grow. Terrorism is being used at the moment to undermine the peace in the middle east, with the most horrific acts of violence in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel. We have to play our part in helping to defeat international terrorism. We have pledged ourselves to do that by international treaties and agreements, and we are doing it by this legislation. We do it by helping to plug the hole in current legislation—
§ Mr. Mullin
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have been debating the Act for almost two hours. Forty minutes from now, the Front-Bench spokesmen will begin to sum up. The House has not yet heard anyone who is opposed to the Act. I hope that in the next 40 minutes someone will be permitted to put the opposition case.
§ Sir James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
I shall not seek to follow that point of order, but it seems to me that a great many groans, moans and supplementaries showed a fair measure of dissent from the side of the House on which I sit.
In last year's debate on this legislation, my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) expressed the hope, which was shared by many of us—perhaps all of us—that there might be no need for the renewal that we are debating. He said:it is important that we do not lose the protection that the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act provide with regard to terrorist acts. It is not wise to leave the United Kingdom without some pennanent protection."—[Official Report, 8 March 1995; Vol. 256, c. 379–80.]That has been the consistent view of my party for well over 20 years. It was because of our concern for the protection of the United Kingdom that the right hon. Enoch Powell persuaded a Committee examining the Act to extend its scope to deal with international terrorism. Not for the first time was he criticised, and not for the first or last time was Enoch Powell proved correct in his prediction. For what other reasons would the leaders of the world's nations gather in Egypt this very week? I imagine that the British delegation will have been surprised by the resolute approach of some other participating nations, most of which regard Britain as a soft touch for evil-doers. They may have derived that impression from making the mistake of reading Hansard in their native tongue.
In the House, there has been a marked reluctance to recognise the enormity of the challenge of international terrorism to democracy and civilisation. Wishful thinking clouds judgment to an extent that confounds many of our friends elsewhere. For example, several months ago at an Australian international airport, I complimented the security chief on the rigorous checking system employed at the airport. Innocently, I asked him whether it was intended to relax the measures in view of the IRA ceasefire. His reply was significant. He said, "No. The IRA ceasefire is only a small blip. We have to develop even more effective measures, mindful of the known fact that international terrorism will be a permanent affliction." Glancing at my boarding pass, he said, "Well, have a good trip, but remember that the jumbo jet is the most vulnerable element in modern society." That was a chilling thought to take home with me.
There are those who are ever-vigilant in their concern for the protection of human rights. They have been consistent, and one must admire their stand. They highlight, for example, exclusion orders, seven-day detentions and powers of arrest and search. But those are 1155 mere infringements that are reversible and have proved to be reversible—all of them. However, the obliteration of the human right to life is totally irreversible. What right of appeal was open to the Lockerbie victim, and what redress is available to an Israeli child who has been blown to bits? What can compensate the murdered newsagents at Canary wharf? It is of no avail to say that two wrongs do not make one right, but that is not the equation. The seven-day prisoner will be released, but the murdered citizen cannot have his life restored. The longer Governments dither over mere inconveniences, the more murders and mass murders there will be. That is the real, true moral challenge to all of us.
For the second half of this century, the NATO shield protected the free world from the horrors of both conventional and nuclear wars. We now have to ensure that this week's summit in Egypt leads to the establishment of a mechanism that is just as effective in its own way, as was NATO, in protecting democracy and civilisation from terrorist machines every bit as deadly as old-style warfare.
In my maiden speech in 1971. I explained that in Northern Ireland we were seeing for the first time in Europe a demonstration of urban guerilla warfare. The pattern evolving at that time and the product have been successfully exported to many parts of the world. It follows that the civilised world must construct a counter-terrorist organisation on the lines that were mentioned today by the Prime Minister during questions. We were all greatly encouraged to hear him say that the first step towards that goal would take place within a fortnight.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
We have heard a reasoned and sensible speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Sir J. Molyneaux) on the broad issues of terrorism. I should like to develop that theme a bit. This afternoon, we have discussed the terror inflicted on innocent children in a ghastly slaughter in Dunblane. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has returned from talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been discussing international terrorism, so it is especially apt that we should be discussing the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.
As has rightly been pointed out, we live in an increasingly dangerous world where buses blow up in Tel Aviv and in the Aldwych. We see much violence on our screens, be it fictional or showing real incidents. That violence may have influenced Mr. Hamilton, the maniac in Dunblane. Other influences, voices and propaganda encourage people such as Edward O'Brien, who was blown up in the Aldwych. We should ask whether society should have the powers to defend itself against organised terrorism.
That is why I welcome the review under Lord Lloyd. It is right and important to review counter-terrorist measures. Legislation should cover the whole of the United Kingdom, not just part of it. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act covers Northern Ireland. This part of the UK is covered by the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Legislation covering the whole country would be more logical.
1156 As the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said, international terrorism is a threat in the United Kingdom. There have been recent attacks against Israeli targets. There is a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Organisations here have links with Hamas. Further back, Georgi Markhov was murdered on Hungerford bridge by the Bulgarian secret service. International terrorism poses real threats to life and limb in this country. We should have the means to defend ourselves and the necessary tools in the locker to protect society.
I differ from the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), who said:I do not believe … that we need to keep emergency powers on the statute book when we do not have an emergency all the time."— [Official Report, 9 January 1996; Vol. 269, c. 42.]Internationally, the development of emergencies is growing. We should be able to keep some of those powers in abeyance, but the world is not becoming safer, so at the moment we need them.
Some of reasons why we must have the emergency provisions Act have been mentioned. The reasons include the fact that terrorists are not reasonable people. Sinn Fein spokesmen deny the truth when they speak on television. Last month, I heard Martin McGuinness interviewed on the BBC. For more than a minute, he was not interrupted by the interviewer. When does a Cabinet Minister escape being interrupted for more than a minute?
Sinn Fein spokesmen will twist the truth and brazenly say that black is white, and that the Government are to blame for the end of the ceasefire. That is patently untrue. As has been mentioned, Sinn Fein-IRA rely on crime for a large part of their income, as well as on gullible United States citizens. They rely on racketeering and on corruption.
I welcome last December's Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, but Sinn Fein-IRA remain inextricably linked to crime, as do some Protestant paramilitaries. I was always opposed to the broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein and on the other paramilitaries. I should welcome some tough questioning. I wonder whether interviewers are intimidated by stony-faced terrorist sympathisers. some of whom are convicted terrorists with blood on their hands. I wonder whether Sinn Fein spokesmen have been schooled in resisting interrogation and being interviewed, because they stand there saying that black is white.
I make a plea to broadcasters, if any are listening. They should remember whom they are questioning, and be a little more forthright.
Intimidation is a real factor, which is why we need these provisions. There is intimidation against populations, voters, witnesses to crime on the mainland and witnesses in Northern Ireland, which Northern Ireland Members will know much more about than me. I remember bus drivers being held up with weapons and refusing to testify because they feared for their lives. There is intimidation here in relation to terrorism.
I should like to mention, in a slight digression perhaps, that there is intimidation against politicians in the House. Journalists have told me that some hon. Members are unwilling to speak openly on Northern Ireland. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, remembering the deaths of Airey Neave and of Ian Gow, to revisit the question of—
§ Mr. Robathan
I have yet to finish.
I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to revisit the question of candidates' addresses on nomination and ballot papers. That was considered in early 1992. I understand that that was backed by the Labour party. We give a gift to terrorists.
Northern Irish politicians live with that nightmare the whole time. Mr. Bradford has just been mentioned. Several hon. Members have been attacked. Lord Fitt from the other place was attacked in Andersonstown. More recently, the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and others were attacked.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
The family of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea).
§ Mr. Robathan
I hear a sedentary intervention. Many hon. Members have been attacked and intimidated. I pay tribute to the bravery of hon. Members who still return here despite those attacks, but we should not assist terrorists, be they republican or loyalist, by giving them the gift of the home addresses of people who wish to speak out.
Here and in Northern Ireland, we need the extended powers that the EPA gives us. We are not dealing with cosy criminals from a "Dixon of Dock Green" wonderland. There is no honour among these thieves. The atrocities in Northern Ireland are too many to mention, but I recall the children murdered in Warrington. What brave boyos those murderers were. What courage they showed for the cause—another stain on the history of Ireland. A united Ireland is a respectable political aspiration, but those murders differed from those in Dunblane only in the number killed.
In August 1919, Siegfried Sassoon wrote a poem entitled "Aftermath". It stated:Have you forgotten yet?I say to Opposition Members who are considering voting against these measures—have they forgotten the Baltic exchange, Canary wharf, the mortars at Heathrow and other outrages? Has anyone been caught? I fear not, but at least we give the security forces all possible assistance.
The rule of law has been mentioned. The Government must act within the rule of law. Where they do not do so, or where their agents do not so, the judiciary should and does act. Generally the police have acted reasonably with the powers that have been given. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) may disagree, but the police are well motivated and reasonable, in marked contrast with the opponents they face.
Was Edward O'Brien 21? I think so. He was recruited by the lies and deceits of the IRA, destined to blow himself to bits and injure others, including a poor unfortunate fellow Irishman. Some hon. Members would say that that is no justification for giving the police the powers to stop and search someone whom they suspect, yet there are other sleepers and other IRA cells in this country. We must have the power to stop, search and detain if necessary. The Bill allows the exclusion of suspects. This country's population want the police to defend them and have the other powers that are given.
1158 This is not a totalitarian measure. It is to protect the citizens of the United Kingdom. Hon. Members who oppose it show how gullible they are. I would accuse most of the Members who will do so this evening not of having sympathy for the IRA, but of extreme foolish and misguided ideology. The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) talked of political prisoners. That says more about his gullibility, blinkered views and instincts than anything else. I hope that his comment is duly published in the newspapers.
The Labour party, I regret, is not backing this measure. I hope that it will convert at the last moment, support the Government, and show that it is not soft on terrorism.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
Today, we celebrate the release of the Birmingham Six. That terrible explosion was the cause of this legislation. Many of us were panicked into voting for it because we saw it as a means of protecting the Irish population in this country against what was happening to them as a result of that terrible episode. This is the fifth anniversary of release of the Birmingham Six, and the people who perpetrated that foul bombing are still at large. They have not been captured, for all the years that we have had the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.
The last time we debated the Act, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) moved an amendment. It said:this House, reasserting its determination to defeat terrorism and believing that the defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland can only be achieved with the wholehearted support of law-abiding citizens, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill that undermines the rule of law on which the fight against terrorism must be based; and refuses to provide permanent powers either for a suspect to be detained for seven days without charge or for exclusion orders that effectively impose internal exile on British citizens, since such powers are wrong in principle and, by the offence they cause, aid rather than combat terrorists and terrorism".—[Official Report, 6 December 1988; Vol. 143, c. 215.]The question we have to ask today is whether that position has altered in respect of the reasons why the Opposition voted for that reasoned amendment and against the Bill. My hon. Friends the Members for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) would argue that it has, and that the change has been the result of the Government's decision to appoint a commission, presided over by Lord Justice Lloyd and assisted by Mr. Justice Kerr, to determine what anti-terrorist legislation we might need in the event of a cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland.
There is no cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland. I regret that very much; I wish there were. I wish that the terms and conditions under which Lord Justice Lloyd is looking at these matters really existed, that the premise was there—but that is not the case. It is standing logic on its head to say that the Labour party reverses its position because of a Government decision based on a proposition which, sadly, has not become reality. Like everyone else, I hope that there will be an unconditional ceasefire today, but that has not yet happened. Therefore, the premise on which the Labour party has decided to abstain tonight does not exist.
Let us take the matter one stage further, and suppose that Lord Justice Lloyd produces his report in a vacuum and recommends that we should retain detention for seven days 1159 and exclusion orders. Do we then suddenly change our position and say, "Well, the referee, that impartial judge who has been appointed, does not accept our principles, so we must either accept what he says or reject what he says and vote accordingly"? Where is the consistency in that? There is none, so it is wrong of us to think or act in those terms.
During my happy days on the Front Bench, I spent some time looking at the question of a judicial commission. We did so in an attitude of trying to help a Government who seemed to be impaled upon the horns of seven-day detention and exclusion orders. We wanted to get away from those. However, the principles behind our suggestions were never accepted by the Government.
There was never any inter-party agreement to sit down and talk through the issues, which was our first proposition. Our second, for an independent commission, was never accepted while the fighting was continuing and the terror still existed. During that time, there was an elision of the principle of being against seven-day detention and internal exile, and a sudden belief in the "principle" of a judicial inquiry. Surely that is not in any way a principle.
If we get a decision we like, is there any guarantee that the Government will come through with it? From what we have heard from the Home Secretary today, it seems that the Government are implacably of the belief that they must retain exclusion orders and seven-day detention, without a judicial element. Did the Home Secretary say today that, if Lord Justice Lloyd came out with such and such a proposition, the Government would immediately embrace it? Has he given an undertaking that, when we get the result of the inquiry in the autumn, if it embraces certain suggestions we will have immediate legislation to put them into effect? Far from it. Considering the proposition for an independent judge is just putting off the problem until after the next general election. It is an easy way out.
We supported the proposition for a commission, but we never said that the exclusion orders and seven-day detention were anything other than wrong in principle, wrong in their effect. As a recruiting agent for the IRA. they have been without parallel.
§ Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan)
In about an hour, barring an unforeseen accident, the House will renew the Act. It will still contain the power for the Home Secretary to sign exclusion orders. My hon. Friend is aware of the case of John Matthews, to which I referred from the Front Bench when I was my hon. Friend's deputy. The Home Secretary can still sign an exclusion order for a young man who was set free from a magistrates court without a stain on his character. That power will be retained this evening, no matter what we do.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising a point that I had intended to make. The Home Secretary, in his speech, condemned left, right and centre people suspected of planting bombs, evil crimes, murder and so on. He put labels on people, yet not one of them is able to defend himself, to see the evidence or to go before a jury in this country or a Diplock court to defend himself. The Home Secretary engaged in some of the most terrible 1160 smearing imaginable. It puts those people in ghettos where they become walking targets, find it difficult to get jobs, and are unable to go out of their areas without being attacked.
I want to return to the Opposition's attitude. We are renewing these provisions in March. What happens if there is not a general election—the Government do not want one—until next spring, with Lord Justice Lloyd coming along with his report but the Government doing nothing? Why do we have to go through all this again, especially if Lord Justice Lloyd does not come down on our side? If he does come down on our side and we have the order, there will be the nonsense of voting on that occasion, but not on this one. It does not make sense.
I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that they cannot run before this particular Home Secretary, because he will get them every time. The logic is that, by abstaining, we are in effect voting for these provisions. There is no choice; there is no question of abstention—we are either for the provisions or we are against them. We welcome a judicial inquiry, but we should still stand firm against renewing the provisions.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
There have been some remarks about being soft on terrorism. I have always regarded this debate as a litmus test on being soft on terrorism. Anyone who believes that any of us who come here as representatives of the north of Ireland are soft on terrorism should come and stay where we live, and he will find out about that.
I speak against, and will vote against, the motion for two reasons. My position is based on two basic principles of justice which do not, cannot and should not change with the political climate; which do not, cannot and should not change with the mood; and which do not, cannot and should not change with the feeling that is prevalent at any given time. It is not easy to speak against this Act today, after what happened in Scotland yesterday, but those principles must remain, and they are tied by two elements of the Act.
The first is the power of detention for seven days without any judicial assessment—contrary to the European convention on human rights—which is wrong, irrespective of the year or the circumstances. The second element is the power to exclude people in this jurisdiction, which is not only outside the norm of national and international law, but antipathetic to it.
The principles cannot be bartered away or be conditional on any prevalent mood. Nor can the debate be dispensed with by sleight of hand, on the fragile and probably fallacious argument that, as Micawber said, something might turn up. For Micawber insert Lloyd. Something will not turn up, as my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) correctly predicted.
When I heard the Labour party's decision to abstain, I felt obliged to look through copies of Hansard for the past 10 years that I have been a Member to find out what new elements I had not identified and what had changed since we last voted on the subject. I did not find any new element, except the proposed Lloyd review. Indeed, the principles that I hold were expressed by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) when he said: 1161the only safeguard … against arbitrary arrest is a review by some authority outside the Government who arrested him or her.That remains a principle to which I adhere, as I hope all hon. Members do.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook also expressed his opinion on the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights when he said:The fact that the Government have chosen to ignore or defy that judgment … is in itself cause for us to vote against the order.That remains a cause for me to vote against the Act. He expanded on the point when he said:A second cause is a renewal of the powers that, in the words of a previous Attorney-General, amount to 'internal exile'—the exclusion orders."—[Official Report, 6 March 1990; Vol. 168, c. 822.]I will not just cite the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook as an authority on the subject. I refer the House to what the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said in a similar debate:Exclusion orders represent an Executive power of such force that it belongs to an authoritarian regime and is unlike anything in the British tradition of parliamentary democracy …They are unacceptable to all true democrats".—[Official Report, 30 January 1989; Vol. 146, c. 31.]They are unacceptable to me, and I hope that they are unacceptable to other hon. Members too.
The power of seven-day detention has been abused. The former Home Secretary, Sir Leon Brittan, allowed it to be abused when he defined two reasons why it could be used. He said that it could be usedfirst, as a deterrent to persons other than the people who have been detained and, secondly",because it hasenabled information to be obtained that was of direct value in the battle against terrorism, even though it did not lead to action against the people concerned."—[Official Report, 24 October 1983; Vol. 47, c. 55–6.]There is a dilution of the principles of law in a statement by a former Home Secretary.
Such dilution has affected many people—mostly Irish people in Britain. We are all appalled by the bomb attack in which a young man was killed. Does anybody know the name of the young man who was injured in that incident? His name was Paul Woodhead, who ended up in hospital under armed guard and was detained under the PTA. He was the only person of all those who were injured to be put in that position—why? Because he is Irish. Although I understand the position in which people find themselves after an explosion, that is too much of a coincidence. I simply use that one example, but I could use many more.
The proposed review—regardless of whether Lord Lloyd turns out to be Micawber—is not the first that has been carried out by eminent jurists. Reviews have been carried out by Lord Jellicoe, Lord Shackleton, Lord Gardiner, Sir Cyril Phillips, Lord Colville, Sir George Baker and John Rowe. They all conducted either detailed or broad reviews of the operation of the Acts, and they all have one thing in common: when they recommended changes to the fundamental principles, the Government ignored them. The Government ignored their suggestions about exclusion orders and a judicial element in the seven-day detention power.
What should we expect from the latest review? Where is the confidence that, somehow or other, the Government will be convinced that the situation has changed so much 1162 that they should accept the review? I cannot make that act of faith in Lord Lloyd, any more than I could in John Rowe or any of the noble Lords who reviewed the legislation.
When the Home Secretary referred to the input of a judicial element in the seven-day detention power in last year's debate, he said that the Government had carried out a review, and informed us:We have considered whether there might be a different way to achieve that objective, and we have come to the conclusion that there is not."—[Official Report, 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 305.]Lord Lloyd is going to review a proposed judicial element, yet the Government's view is that things will not change, irrespective of what he presents to the House.
I leave the last word on the subject to the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), whose speech I listened to with great interest, and some alarm. I wrote down at the time the words that he used in a television interview he gave on "Newsnight", so I know that I am not misquoting him. He said of the PTA:it is a bad Act, and it needs to go.I believe that it is a bad Act. I believe that it needs to go. But the only way in which I can try to ensure that is by voting against it tonight, as I hope every hon. Member who feels that way will do, given that it abuses the principles of law.
§ Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)
I consider the term prevention of terrorism Act a misnomer; it has not prevented terrorism. Twenty-two years ago, it was rushed through both Houses of Parliament in the aftermath of the Birmingham bombings. It has certainly not helped to catch the real culprits and, since then, many innocent people have been arrested and detained under it. We should be very wary about simple knee-jerk reactions to acts of terrorism.
We all condemn the atrocities, including the recent London bombings, and want to bring the perpetrators to justice. Lord Colville, who conducted a review of the PTA, said:if we stoop to the level of the terrorists and abandon altogether our fundamental liberties, we have lost the battle against terrorism.I was a Member of Parliament when the original legislation was enacted. Even Lord Jenkins, the Home Secretary at the time, admitted that it was a draconian measure. Exclusion orders are a form of internal exile by ministerial decree. Ministers can order detention for up to seven days with no judicial hearing. It is no wonder that such extreme powers were found to be in breach of the European convention on human rights and that the British Government had to seek a derogation from the convention.
Since the introduction of the prevention of terrorism Act, 448 people have been served with exclusion orders—33 of which are still in force. Since 1974, more than 27,000 people have been detained under the PTA and about 85 per cent. of them were not charged with any offence. It is a very blunt instrument and it could prove counter-productive in the campaign against terrorism. Good police-community relations are absolutely essential in that campaign, and the prevention of terrorism Act has succeeded in alienating many innocent people, their families and their communities. It has caused hostility between communities and the police, particularly among 1163 young people, who are often arrested and detained—their only crime being their Irish accent, Irish name or Irish family connections.
Since last year's debate, the Government have established another review, to be undertaken by Lord Lloyd of Berwick. I have no great confidence that he will tackle the basic problem. His terms of reference are as follows: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".As we all now know, that is a big "if'. It could be argued that those terms of reference have been tragically overtaken by events in view of the IRA's deplorable decision to end the ceasefire. I think that the Home Secretary said in his opening remarks that the Lloyd review has precious little to do with terrorism related to the Irish situation. Given that fact, I do not expect Lloyd to recommend scrapping the exclusion orders and introducing a judicial element into detention orders. At best, we simply do not know what Lloyd will recommend. It would be naive to buy a pig in a poke by voting for continuing the Act or abstaining in the hope that Lloyd will address the legitimate criticisms that have been made.
I have voted against this draconian legislation for many years and nothing that I have heard tonight has persuaded me to do otherwise. If the Government are serious about eliminating terrorism, they should repeal all such oppressive legislation, establish better police-community relations, and accelerate the peace process so that the terrorists and potential terrorists can see clearly that democratic and exclusively peaceful means are the only way to make progress and to build a better society based on peace, justice and equality.
§ 7.2 pm
§ Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)
I am grateful to be called to speak in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker—particularly in light of my recent point of order. It is a pleasure to be associated with the principled stand taken by the hon. Members for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) and for South Down (Mr. McGrady). No one could accuse them of being soft on terrorism: they must live with the realities of it every day.
Although I am well aware of his general view of the world, I was a little disappointed by the contribution of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), who is a distinguished lawyer and a part-time judge. I was disappointed to hear him talk quite enthusiastically about the need for rough justice. That gives us a glimpse of the judicial thinking that perhaps got us into the difficulties that we were in a few years ago.
I am as much in favour of catching terrorists as anyone—indeed, I have had rather better luck than the British authorities in tracking down the odd terrorist, without having the prevention of terrorism Act or any other such powers at my disposal. I should state at the outset that my interest is in justice—particularly British justice. I do not believe that the Act has led to the arrest and conviction of terrorists who would not otherwise have been arrested and convicted. However, I believe that it has led to the harassment of many decent people who are not terrorists.
1164 I accept, as some have argued, that the Act is no longer used—or misused—as much as it was in the past and I welcome that fact. I think that that is probably because of the pressure that the Opposition have maintained for the past 13 or 14 years in voting against the measure.
I accept that there might be a case for some of the provisions in the Act, which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) mentioned. Like most hon. Members who have spoken, I find exclusion orders distasteful, but they are not as effective as Ministers seem to think. One of the first people to be excluded under an exclusion order was one of the organisers of the Birmingham pub bombings. He should not have been excluded, but arrested and put on trial. On another occasion, I met someone who had been excluded who returned to the country during his period of exclusion and even visited friends in prison.
For all the talk, exclusion orders are not as effective as the Home Secretary appears to think. However, that is not the fundamental reason why I shall vote against the measure this evening. My principal objection arises from section 14(5) of the Act, which gives the Secretary of State power to extend, to up to seven days, the holding of prisoners incommunicado and without the safeguards of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. That is the bottom line as far as I am concerned: I shall not vote for any measure that allows prisoners to be held incommunicado for up to seven days. I know from experience—as we all should by now—that it is possible to get anyone to confess to anything if he or she is at one's disposal for seven days and nights. Perhaps the Home Secretary or Lord Lloyd of Berwick might consider extending the provisions of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to cover those who are arrested in connection with terrorism.
My attitude will be changed not by a review, but by a change in the Act. Until the Act, or section 14(5), is changed, I propose to continue to vote against it.
§ 7.7 pm
§ Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West)
I begin by offering the apologies—as did my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—of my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) and for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) who, with many hon. Members from Northern Ireland and others, are in the United States at this particularly significant time.
As the House knows, the measures that we are considering today have their origins in the response to the slaughter that resulted from the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974. I have a very clear recollection of those outrages, as I am sure do all hon. Members. I remember them particularly for the reaction of one Irish person who had been resident in London for more than 40 years, 15 of which were spent serving in the Royal Air Force, including the whole of the second world war. He was working for the Post Office, as he had done for 20 years. He felt unable to go to work, or even to leave the house, on the day after the bombings, not because he feared abuse or worse, but because he felt deeply ashamed at being Irish and at what had been done allegedly in his name. He was a mature, well-established British citizen who had his home and his family in London. Tragically, his experience was not unique. It has been shared by far too many other members of the Irish community both then and since. I know that that is true because that man was my father.
1165 In the past 25 years or so, the gunmen and the bombers of the IRA, in their culpable distortion of the tradition of Irish republicanism, far from advancing peace and freedom in Ireland, have brought untold suffering, misery, distress and disgrace upon Irish people wherever they might be. It would be hard to find a better exposition of that than the extraordinary and resonant speech of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) on the Third Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill a few weeks ago. I recommend study of it to every hon. Member.
The return of the so-called bombing campaign by the IRA has had a particular significance in Lewisham, part of which I represent. The Aldwych bus bomber was staying in a flat in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice). The 171 bus left Catford bus garage on that fateful Sunday evening and the driver who, thankfully, is making a good recovery, lives in Brockley in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock). One of the tragic victims of the South Quay atrocity lived in Downham, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East. Lewisham has a large and well-established Irish community and those events have done nothing to its benefit—as is true of the rest of the country.
I was particularly struck by what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said about the experience of Mr. Paul Woodhead, who happened to be an innocent Irishman in the wrong place. Although it should be placed on record that his family in Dublin quite understood why security forces here and in the Republic had to take certain precautions, one can imagine their horror when the Gardai turned up on their doorstep to tell them that he had been seriously injured—I am pleased to hear that he is recovering—and that he was suspected of having been deeply involved in an IRA atrocity in London.
As has been said, tonight's debate is about means and not ends. There can be no dispute that all hon. Members are resolutely determined to stop the inhuman brutality of terrorism wherever it may occur and whoever perpetrates it. The discussion centres on the effectiveness of the proposed measures and the circumstances to which they apply.
The Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, among others, have made it plain that the circumstances are different now from what they were a year ago. The Home Secretary said that the circumstances had not been the same in any of the years in which he has dealt with the matter. The Government's agreement to establish a review, under Lord Lloyd of Berwick, of temporary and emergency powers to counter the terrorist threat—for which we have been pressing for a number of years—is most positive. Some hon. Members may feel that it is not change enough, but without doubt the most negative change since last year has been the ending of the IRA ceasefire and the assertion by Sinn Fein that the peace process is finished.
Our forthright response is twofold. First, we should state categorically that the search for a lasting peace with security in Britain and Ireland will never be over—under any Government, here or in Dublin—until it has achieved its end. The only choice is about whether any party or group wishes to take the necessary steps to join in that endeavour. It will never be easy, but that is inevitable.
1166 Secondly, no democratic Government or society can allow those who use violence, subversion and intimidation to have a veto over progress towards the just settlement that is craved by the overwhelming majority of decent people throughout these islands.
One of the most insidious threats to democracy from those who sponsor and practise terror is that they provoke a disproportionate response from those they attack, which they can then use as a spurious retrospective justification for their actions. There can never be any doubt that terrorism will be resisted by all necessary means, but we must always ensure that we do not fall into that devious trap.
In a recent written answer, the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler), who is not in his place, stated:Whatever the law … should be, it is clearly essential that it should allow for the efficient use of public resources; pay due regard to public safety yet be no more restrictive than absolutely necessary, and be capable of being effectively applied and not open to abuse."—[Official Report, 26 January 1996; Vol. 270, c. 402.]I am certain that all hon. Members will agree. Certainly Opposition Members do—it is a model of its kind. The only argument that arose when I quoted that sentence to the Minister when the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill was discussed in Committee, concerned how the current proposals compared with that standard.
We are dealing with an entirely reasonable and legitimate subject on which hon. Members have strong views. The measures have far-reaching consequences. There should be no doubt that we are prepared to take whatever action is appropriate to defend democracy, its citizens and its freedoms against any group that threatens it, but in our unflinching determination to do so, we must be certain that we do not make an already difficult task harder by neglecting or overlooking the very values for which our society stands.
Some hon. Members have asked what store we set by Lord Lloyd. Others, most notably the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), clearly do not understand the purpose of the Lloyd review. It is plainly absurd for him to assert that it has nothing to do with Northern Ireland. Not only was it announced in the House on 9 January by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but Lord Lloyd will be assisted in his deliberations by Mr. Justice Kerr, who has been appointed specifically because he is a judge in the High Court in Northern Ireland. It is absurd for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that there is no impact on Northern Ireland.
It is disingenuous in the extreme for the Home Secretary to minimise what he feels will emerge from the Lloyd review. I would say that it is unworthy of the Home Secretary to be so inflammatory, but it may be unworthy of the office of Home Secretary rather than the Home Secretary himself. We do not prejudge the outcome of the Lloyd review.
The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) said that he would prefer there to be a single, comprehensive package of anti-terrorist legislation. That is precisely what we have been pursuing and urging on the Government for many years. We hope that Lord Lloyd will be able to make such a recommendation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn explained that we have strong reservations about the current legislation but, as he also made plain, we have no 1167 objection to the bulk of its provisions and are in favour of their continuing. Indeed, there might be a case for strengthening some of them. It seems odd that the Home Secretary should diminish what is likely to emerge from the Lloyd review—
§ Mr. Dowd
The hon. and learned Member for Burton says that he does not, but I am sure that the Home Secretary is perfectly capable of making his own defence. I understand that the hon. and learned Member for Burton has represented various dubious clients in the past, including the Kray brothers, but he should not let his enthusiasm run away with him when defending the Home Secretary.
The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill was brought in for a two-year period—the preceding measure ran for five years—precisely so that it could be open to the amendment and revision that we hope the review will recommend. We believe that the review is long overdue, and we hope that Lord Lloyd will reach the same conclusion as Lord Colville and that the legislation can be improved so that it stops being in part—and only in part—counter-productive and measures up to the standard of security that the British people have every right to expect.
§ Mr. Howard
With the leave of the House, I should like to pick up the main themes that have emerged from the debate and respond to some of the points that have been raised.
As in previous years, much has been made of the exclusion power. We have heard objections to it on grounds of civil liberties or its being an unacceptable form of internal exile. As I have already made clear, it is a power that has been used sparingly and carefully over the past year and there are only 33 exclusion orders currently in force—less than half the number at the beginning of 1995.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
Does the Home Secretary agree that it is dangerous for any Minister to have the use of exclusion powers, and that it is doubly dangerous to have exclusion powers that cannot be contested in a court of law and, therefore, are not open to public examination? That is condemned around the world and it should be condemned here as well.
§ Mr. Howard
It has not been condemned by people who have examined the issue, including Mr. Rowe, because they know that it would be naive and irresponsible for a Government to abandon the power of exclusion while the IRA maintains its weapons, explosives and the will to use them.
I will put it plainly to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) and others who think like him. If we had obtained intelligence of who was planning to carry out the South Quay bombing, or of Edward O'Brien's purpose in coming to London to lie low with a stock of Semtex, I would have had no qualms in excluding them and using the powers that the prevention of terrorism Act provides. I do not believe that anyone has the "civil 1168 liberty" to travel around the United Kingdom to commit whatever acts of terrorism he pleases. I am far more concerned with the civil liberty to run a newsagents in docklands without the roof being blown in on top of one, or to catch a No. 171 bus without it blowing up in the Strand. Those are the civil liberties about which I care passionately.
§ Mr. Howard
I shall not give way again. I was generous in giving way during my opening remarks, and now I want to finish in the time allotted to me.
As for extensions of detention under section 14 of the Act, to which the hon. Member for Sunderland, South referred, I give my personal authority for any detention beyond 48 hours. In doing so, I look at the case put by the police—including, for example, the need not simply for questioning, but for further inquiries or searches to be made or, with foreign suspects, for suspicious material to be translated. I take into account any intelligence that might justify the inquiries. Where an extension of detention is necessary for investigative purposes, I authorise it, for the period necessary.
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South was wrong when he suggested that it is possible under section 14 for a person to be detained for seven days, incommunicado and without seeing a solicitor. The maximum time that the right to consult a solicitor can be delayed, and then only for the specific purposes set out in section 14, is 48 hours. The maximum time for which contact with a solicitor can be delayed in non-PTA cases is 36 hours. The hon. Gentleman attached great significance to those powers this evening and on the "Today" programme this morning, but he is mistaken in his interpretation of section 14. The difference between that section and the ordinary application of the law outwith the prevention of terrorism Act is limited.
§ Mr. Mullin
Is the Home Secretary saying that no one has ever been held, without access to a solicitor, for more than 48 hours under the Act?
§ Mr. Howard
I have no knowledge of anybody being held for more than 48 hours, for which section 14 provides—the power that we are debating this evening, and which the hon. Gentleman misinterpreted or misunderstood.
It was suggested that the power of detention should include a judicial element, but the decision to detain cannot sensibly be taken by anyone who does not have access to the full intelligence picture that enables an informed judgment to be made. The introduction of a judicial element has been rejected in a series of reviews of the Act—by Lord Shackleton in 1978, by Lord Jellicoe in 1983 and by Viscount Colville in 1987. Mr. Rowe deals with the matter in chapters 6 and 8 of his report, in which he succinctly, but clearly, sets out the arguments against judicial intervention. I shall not repeat the arguments because they are set out for all to see in the report.
Perhaps the most difficult issue to address is the funding of terrorist operations in other countries. Whatever legislation is in place, it is extremely difficult to get the 1169 evidence necessary to secure a conviction. Money can be laundered through various routes, and some may be used for humanitarian purposes as a cover. As soon as one, supposedly innocent, fund-raising activity is exposed, the collecting tins come out under another guise. To tackle that, we need close and careful international co-operation. In many cases, it may be best to tackle the fund raiser rather than the fund that he establishes—excluding or deporting where there is information that justifies the use of those powers on the basis that the person's activities are effectively funding terrorism elsewhere. I shall continue to give close attention to that. If there are ways of tightening up our practices that will make a real difference, I shall be delighted to put them into effect.
Much has been made of Lord Lloyd's review. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) asked whether the review could consider introducing new powers. I unhesitatingly give my hon. Friend my assurance that it will. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd) suggested that I was seeking to minimise the significance of the Lloyd review, but nothing could be further from the truth. I said that the Lloyd report is predicated on the ending of Northern Irish terrorism. It is intended to examine the permanent powers that we shall need to combat terrorism if and when there is a ceasefire in Northern Ireland—so it is not relevant to the heart of the issues we have debated today. I see many nodding heads among the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen seated behind the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), who wholly failed to grasp the central aspect of the report's significance in relation to this debate.
I walked through South Quay with the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I saw the devastation caused in London just a few weeks ago. Ask people in South Quay if they support the prevention of terrorism Act. Ask the families of people who were murdered there. Ask the people who were injured. Ask those whose homes were shattered or whose businesses were devastated. We all know the answer that they would give. They would queue up to vote with the Government in the Lobby tonight—and that is where all right hon. and hon. Members should be if they want effective action to combat terrorism—not just to talk about it.
If we are to fight terrorism effectively, and to give our people the protection that they need, we need the powers in the prevention of terrorism Act. That is why I invite the House to approve the order and the regulations.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 222, Noes 26.1171
|division No. 77]||[7.27 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Bates, Michael|
|Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alexander, Richard||Beggs, Roy|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Beith, Rt Hon A J|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Bellingham, Henry|
|Amess, David||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Arbuthnot, James||Boswell, Tim|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Bowden, Sir Andrew|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Bowis, John|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes|
|Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V)||Brandreth, Gyles|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Brazier, Julian|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Bright, Sir Graham|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Jessel, Toby|
|Butcher, John||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Butler, Peter||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Key, Robert|
|Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln)||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Carrington, Matthew||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Carttiss, Michael||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Cash, William||Knapman, Roger|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Knight Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)|
|Clappison, James||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Lang, Rt Hon Ian|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Coe, Sebastian||Legg, Barry|
|Congdon, David||Leigh, Edward|
|Conway, Derek||Lidington, David|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Luff, Peter|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||MacKay, Andrew|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Couchman, James||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Cran, James||Malone, Gerald|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Mans, Keith|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Day, Stephen||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Mates, Michael|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Dover, Den||Mills, Iain|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Dunn, Bob||Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants)|
|Elletson, Harold||Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Evennett, David||Newton, Fit Hon Tony|
|Faber, David||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Fishbum, Dudley||Norris, Steve|
|Forman, Nigel||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Forth, Eric||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Page, Richard|
|Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)||Paice, James|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||Paisley, The Reverend Ian|
|French, Douglas||Patnick, Sir Irvine|
|Fry, Sir Peter||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Gale, Roger||Pawsey, James|
|Gardiner, Sir George||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Garnier, Edward||Pickles, Eric|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Gorst, Sir John||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Richards, Rod|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Riddick, Graham|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archibald||Robathan, Andrew|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Hannam, Sir John||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Sackville, Tom|
|Harris, David||Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Hawkins, Nick||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David||Shersby, Sir Michael|
|Hendry, Charles||Sims, Roger|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Horam, John||Soames, Nicholas|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Hunter, Andrew||Spring, Richard|
|Jack, Michael||Sproat, Iain|
|Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)||Viggers, Peter|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Steel, Rt Hon Sir David||Walden, George|
|Steen, Anthony||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Stephen, Michael||Wallace, James|
|Stern, Michael||Waller, Gary|
|Stewart, Allan||Ward, John|
|Streeter, Gary||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Sweeney, Walter||Waterson, Nigel|
|Sykes, John||Watts, John|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Wells, Bowen|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)||Whitney, Ray|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Whittingdale, John|
|Thomason, Roy||Wilshire, David|
|Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)||Wood, Timothy|
|Trend, Michael||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Mr. Simon Burns and Mr. Patrick McLoughlin.|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Loyden, Eddie|
|Austin-Walker, John||McGrady, Eddie|
|Barnes, Harry||McNamara, Kevin|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Mallon, Seamus|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Marek, DrJohn|
|Canavan, Dennis||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Cohen, Harry||Mullin, Chris|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Etherington, Bill||Simpson, Alan|
|Fyfe, Maria||Skinner, Dennis|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Stott, Roger|
|Hendron, Dr Joe|
|Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)||Mr. Max Madden and Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (Continuance) Order 1996, which was laid before this House on 22nd February, be approved.
§ That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Exclusion Orders) Regulations 1996, which were laid before this House on 22nd February, be approved.—[Mr. Ottaway.]