§ 7.1 pm
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)
I beg to move,That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (Partial Continuance) Order 1998, which was laid before this House on 24th February, be approved.Last year, from the Opposition Benches, I said:In government, so long as the terrorist threat remains and there is no lasting peace, we shall maintain and operate the powers in the PTA".—[Official Report, 5 March 1997; Vol. 291, c. 928.]Today, in seeking the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, we seek to honour that commitment.
Like the previous Government, this Government are doing all that they can, with the police and the security agencies, to counter terrorism in the United Kingdom and that which is based from the United Kingdom. Strenuous efforts continue to be made to achieve a peaceful settlement, by consent, in Northern Ireland. But recent events in this country and across the world underline the fact that there are those who remain determined to use violent means to achieve their political ends. That is why we are seeking today the renewal of the powers under the prevention of terrorism Act.
The latest atrocity occurred on Tuesday night this week, in Poyntzpass, when Philip Allen and Damien Trainor—friends across the community divide—were shot dead while enjoying a quiet drink together in a public house. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in the House yesterday, the friendship that those men shared symbolised the future in Northern Ireland, while the gunmen who brutally murdered them represented the past. I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in extending our sympathy and condolences to the Trainor and Allen families at this devastating time and in condemning those brutal murders.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Before my right hon. Friend goes on, may I say that I agree entirely, as everyone in the House obviously does, with his comments about the brutal atrocity yesterday. Is he aware that many of us are very pleased indeed that the leader of the Official Unionists and our hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) visited the bereaved families? Does he agree that that demonstrates that law-abiding citizens and their political representatives in Northern Ireland want to see a settlement whereby those terrible crimes will no longer be committed?
§ Mr. Straw
I share my hon. Friend's view. A terrible, appalling situation has arisen in Poyntzpass, a village which, as we now know—many with a better knowledge than me knew this before—had until earlier this week managed to avoid the troubles altogether. I pay tribute to both the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). I saw the right hon. Member for Upper Bann on television. I commend his statesmanship and his condemnation of people who claim to come from his community and appear to have committed those atrocities.
In looking at the context of this renewal debate, I want to speak about terrorism in Great Britain, about terrorism in Northern Ireland and then about international terrorism.
1251 On terrorism in Great Britain, it is now getting on for a year since the general election campaign. One of the things that I remember about that period—others will have had personal experience of this, too—is how terrorists sought directly to disrupt the campaign. On 26 March 1997, two small high-explosive devices went off at Wilmslow railway station in Cheshire. Fortunately, there were no injuries. Then, on 3 April, two devices, one partially detonated, were found at the conjunction of the M1, M5 and M6 motorways around Birmingham. Very significant disruption of the road network ensued. Warrant Officer Alan Islam of the Royal Logistics Corps was awarded the George medal for his bravery in defusing one of the devices. A fortnight later, on 18 April, a small device exploded at a junction box near Leeds railway station and, on 25 April, two more small devices were detonated under a pylon near the M6 motorway. Over the same period, a considerable number of hoax threats were made, no doubt to cause fear and maximise disruption.
Since May, and the renewal of the IRA ceasefire on 20 July, no more terrorist devices have been found on the mainland of Great Britain. There have been considerable successes in the past year in the investigation of terrorism and the conviction of terrorists. Six men were convicted in July of conspiracy to cause explosions and were each sentenced to 35 years, imprisonment. Their intention had been to knock out the electricity grid in London and the surrounding area. In December last year, three men were sentenced to between 17 and 25 years for terrorist offences related to explosives finds. In each case, the police and the Security Service worked carefully and imaginatively to bring the terrorists to book. Their partnership against terrorism is working.
In Northern Ireland, in the period from last year's debate to 19 July—the day before the ceasefire came into force—13 people were murdered. They included two RUC officers, Constables Graham and Taylor, who were shot dead while on foot patrol in Lurgan on 16 June. During that same period, there were several attacks on the security forces and other forms of terrorist activity, including 87 punishment attacks.
In the wake of the restoration of the PIRA ceasefire on 20 July, the scale of terrorist activity in Northern Ireland has diminished somewhat, but it has not ended. Since the murder of the leading Loyalist terrorist, Billy Wright, by the Irish National Liberation Army in the Maze prison on 27 December last year, there have been three significant bomb attacks—in Enniskillen, Moira and Portadown—and 40 punishment attacks. Fourteen murders have been committed by paramilitaries on both sides of the sectarian divide.
Let me make it clear—I am sure that I also speak for the Opposition in this respect—that the recent setbacks will not deflect the Government and the parties from seeking a peaceful solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. The talks continue to progress towards an agreement between the parties, which can then be put to the people in a referendum. Above all, in my judgment and that of the Government, there is an overwhelming desire among the people of Northern Ireland for a lasting and democratic solution.
The third matter relating to the context of the debate is that of international terrorism. Thanks in no small measure to the work of the police and the security 1252 agencies, there has been no repetition here during the past year of the bombings carried out by international terrorists in the past; but the appalling attacks that have taken place elsewhere during the past 12 months demonstrate all too clearly the need for us to stay vigilant.
The House will recall, all too starkly, that in Luxor in Egypt, 58 tourists—including six from Britain—were slaughtered in an act of senseless violence. In Algeria, literally thousands have died at the hands of ruthless terrorists. The United Kingdom is in the forefront of efforts to increase international co-operation against the threat of terrorism. We hold the presidency of the European Union and the chairmanship of the G8 countries; we are progressing work in both those forums on, among other things, countering terrorist fund raising and arms trafficking by terrorists.
We are also determined to ensure that this country is not used in any way as a base for those supporting terrorism overseas. I have power under the Immigration Act 1971, as modified by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission Act 1997, to exclude any foreign national from the United Kingdom if his or her presence here is not conducive to the public good. I have used that power 26 times since becoming Home Secretary. In 1997, 12 people were detained under the prevention of terrorism Act in connection with international terrorism, as compared with two in 1996. Of those 12, criminal charges were laid in seven cases. It is simply not the case, as some abroad have suggested, that the United Kingdom is a safe haven for those who support or promote terrorism.
As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make clear in an address to the Anglo-Arab Association this evening, we already do all that we can to curb the activities of any terrorists found here, to bring them to trial where they commit criminal offences and to deport them where appropriate. In addition, we intend to bring forward specific legislation as soon as possible to make it illegal to conspire in the UK to commit terrorist acts abroad. All that must and will, of course, be consistent with our obligations on asylum under the 1951 convention and our commitment to free speech; but the bottom line is that neither terrorists nor supporters of terrorism are welcome in any way in the UK and we shall do all that we can to make sure that that message gets across loud and clear.
As I made clear in my statement to the House on 30 October last year, the Government will never drop their guard in the fight against terrorism. In the light of all that I have just outlined, it is clearly vital that the police and security agencies continue to have the powers to prevent, where possible, and otherwise to investigate, terrorist incidents.
Informing our debate is the report on the operation of the prevention of terrorism Act in 1997 prepared by the reviewer, John Rowe QC. I am very grateful to him for his clear and independent scrutiny of the operation of the legislation and I am pleased that he was able to conclude that the provisions were operated carefully in accordance with the law.
The powers that Mr. Rowe's report surveys include those, in specified areas and for a limited period, to stop and search individuals and vehicles for articles connected with terrorism and to set up cordons and impose parking restrictions. Mr. Rowe reports that all those powers were 1253 exercised fairly and in accordance with the law in 1997. He draws similar conclusions about the operation of the powers to investigate terrorist finances.
Mr. Rowe's report records that, apart from air and sea ports, the arrest and detention powers were used in 1997 in Great Britain on about 30 occasions and in Northern Ireland about 500 times. In each case, he reports that the powers were used properly, as they were at air and sea ports in the same period. In Great Britain, the initial period of detention was extended on nine occasions, as against 23 in 1996; and in Northern Ireland there were 72 extensions, as against 48 in 1996. In his report, Mr. Rowe recommends that the existing port powers should be extended. We shall consider that recommendation in the context of the forthcoming consultation paper on permanent anti-terrorism legislation.
Let me deal briefly with the issue of a judicial element in extension of detention decisions. We have long believed that there is a strong case for that. Mr. Rowe, in his report, supports such a move in principle, while highlighting the inconsistencies that would arise if a judicial element were introduced in Great Britain but not in Northern Ireland. Of course, Lord Lloyd recommended as much in his inquiry into legislation against terrorism. The whole issue will be fully covered in the forthcoming consultation paper on permanent UK-wide counterterrorist legislation but, until any new legislation is introduced, it would not be prudent to leave the police without the existing executive mechanism for extending detentions. Otherwise, they would not have the means to seek the extended detention of suspected terrorists.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Despite our respect for much of what he says, we do not accept Mr. Rowe's conclusion that we cannot do that in Great Britain so long as we cannot do it in Northern Ireland. Does the Home Secretary recognise that circumstances in Northern Ireland should not be a bar to improving the way in which the process is conducted in Great Britain?
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not follow the line of logic drawn by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). If it is right for changes to be made in Great Britain, it must be right that they should be made in Northern Ireland. Indeed, we have entered a derogation because of that.
§ Mr. Straw
I have already said to the House that it is hardly surprising that we wish to see a judicial element in extensions of detention in any event, but there is an issue surrounding how that is brought in and, as the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said, it is a fact that arrangements have differed in the past. I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) says, but I ask him to be patient until we introduce the consultation document on the future of anti-terrorist legislation. By way of reassurance, I can tell my hon. Friend that I have looked carefully for a way 1254 to introduce a judicial element in the extension of detention decisions within existing legislation, but it is not possible to do so.
Let me now deal with exclusion powers. Since my statement in October last year, in which I announced the revocation of the 12 remaining orders, I have kept under close review the issue of whether or not those powers should be renewed. At that time, I said that, assuming the security situation did not change, I was minded to see the powers lapsed. Since then, I have, of course, been regularly briefed on security matters and I have kept in close touch with colleagues with responsibility for counter-terrorism. As one would expect, I have also closely read Mr. Rowe's views as set out in his report.
The House will be aware of this Government's long opposition to exclusion powers both on policy grounds, in that they amount to a form of internal exile fundamentally undermining the integrity of the United Kingdom, and because of their limited utility. Nothing in the current security situation, nor any argument of policy that has been put to me, shakes me from the view that it is right for those powers to lapse and the order before the House achieves that end.
I do not lightly set aside the views of Mr. Rowe on the matter. In each of his five years as reviewer, he has argued that the powers are useful and should be retained. Our different stances on that matter are, therefore, nothing new; but nor is it without precedent for a Home Secretary to take issue with a recommendation made by the independent reviewer of the prevention of terrorism Act. Lord Colville, Mr. Rowe's predecessor, in a major review of prevention of terrorism legislation published in 1987, argued that exclusion powers were "draconian" and that they should be removed from the statute book despite the fact that terrorist activity continued at a high level. However, the then Home Secretary, now Lord Hurd of Westwell, decided that it was expedient that they should be retained. We are grateful to reviewers, but Ministers must make propositions to the House, which the House must then determine.
§ Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that it is the responsibility of Ministers and the House to take decisions on those matters. In his earlier remarks, he referred to his statement last October, when he said that, if the security situation did not change, he would be minded to do as he now proposes to do. Will he explain to the House why he believes that the security situation has not changed, given that, since last October, according to the Government's own assessment, the IRA has returned to a campaign of murder?
§ Mr. Straw
As the whole House knows, the situation has changed in some particulars, but the issue is whether it has changed sufficiently to warrant the continued availability of the powers, day by day, to a Secretary of State. In fact, those powers will formally remain on the statute book in any event. I have considered the matter very carefully, as I hope that the hon. Gentleman would expect of me, but I do not believe that the situation has changed sufficiently significantly to justify those powers remaining operative, and available day by day to the Secretary of State.
As it happens, until there can be an opportunity for the House and the other place wholly to revise counterterrorism legislation—and, I hope, to place it on a 1255 permanent basis—the powers will remain on the statute book, and could be activated if that was a determination of a future Government or in certain circumstances.
Despite the arguments about the effectiveness of the exclusion powers, it is worth pointing out that they were already withering on the vine under the previous Administration. No orders have been in force in Northern Ireland since 1995. Despite the fact that the ceasefire ended, none was reinstated in Northern Ireland after that period. As for the mainland, my predecessor, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), made no new orders in 1996 or 1997, despite a resurgence of violence, leaving 22 in force when I came into office.
Under the prevention of terrorism Act, it is my responsibility to ensure that exclusion powers are used only when I judge them to be expedient to prevent acts of terrorism. I repeat that it is my best assessment that I do not consider that their use can be justified, and therefore I have decided that they should not form part of the Act to be renewed this year. The forthcoming consultation paper on permanent counter-terrorism legislation will provide the opportunity for discussion on whether these powers should be retained permanently or abolished.
Before concluding, I shall make some brief remarks about that consultation paper, which I told the House in October 1997 that we were preparing. The consultation paper will draw very strongly on the recommendations of Lord Lloyd of Berwick's recent report on legislation against terrorism, but it will also take into account other matters.
Lord Lloyd was asked to consider the need for specific counter-terrorism legislation in the event of a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. Sadly, that eventuality has not yet occurred. However, that does not mean that we must shelve consideration of the recommendations. Terrorism is not a temporary phenomenon anywhere in the world.
The forthcoming paper will set out proposals for permanent legislation to deal with the continuing threat. The aim will be one robust and clear framework of powers for the whole United Kingdom—I say that to my hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North—both effective and proportionate to the threat, to deal with all forms of terrorism.
In the meantime, pending any changes in the principal Acts, the police and the security forces must continue to have the powers that they need to fight terrorism. Those powers are contained in the order before the House. Events of the past few days serve simply to emphasise the need for counter-terrorist powers, and the Government will not shirk from their responsibility to provide them. I commend the order to the House.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)
Mr. Rowe, whose report is central to our debate tonight, should be thanked for his report, which reflects conclusions based on much detailed work and wise consideration. I am happy to join the Home Secretary in extending our thanks to him for the work that he has done.
1256 In the context of Northern Ireland, Mr. Rowe says on page 10 of his report:I am clear in my conclusion. Both in Northern Ireland and Great Britain there was terrorist activity in 1997 and it has continued in 1998. Furthermore the threat of it is real.In 1997 the outward indications of it in Great Britain were the explosive devices which exploded or which were found before they exploded"—as the Home Secretary said—and in Northern Ireland there were many incidents of violence, whether or not with explosives and firearms, and they have continued into 1998.The terrorist organisations—proscribed and otherwise—are still in place: they have their structures, and they are busy at various activities.In the context of the international situation, Mr. Rowe said on page 12:The summary is this. On the one hand there have not been many major incidents in the United Kingdom during 1997, such as explosions or shootings; on the other hand there have been persons here committed to supporting terrorist acts here or abroad, with arms and violence, and they are still a threat.He concludes on page 13:In all these circumstances the threat of terrorism here is a real one.We agree with that assessment, so we support the renewal of the order. We are reinforced in that view by what happened in Poyntzpass earlier this week—to which the Home Secretary has referred. I make it clear on behalf of the Opposition that, as was the case yesterday also, we extend our sympathy and our condolences to the families and to the friends of those who were killed and injured.
Two men were friends for many years. They lived together happily. They drank together, happily. They worked and relaxed together, happily. It is worth taking a moment, in this very serious debate about security matters, to reflect on the fact that that is not an uncommon situation in Northern Ireland. The nature of terrorism and its reporting tends to focus on the evil—on the black deeds that are done. But there is much in life in Northern Ireland that is normal, and which all of us would recognise as being on a par with the type of activity that takes place in our own constituencies.
It may be worth reminding ourselves that the basis of that stability is something that is common to the Catholic and Protestant theological traditions in Northern Ireland—the belief, at the heart of the Christian gospel, that man was made in the image of God. Respect for individuals in our society ultimately derives from that piece of fundamental theology, and that was exemplified in that bar in Poyntzpass.
For several years, much effort has been made to find ways in which to enable members of the community to come together and do things together, in a way that became naturally more normal. I am sure that the present Government will continue with such efforts; I make no partisan point whatever. Attempts were made to generate employment, and to diminish and remove discrimination in the workplace.
I had the honour, in the House, to put integrated education on the statute book, to enable those who wanted to choose to have their children educated in that framework to do so. In the same piece of legislation, I introduced, in the new Northern Ireland national curriculum, education for mutual understanding and 1257 courses on cultural heritage, which for the first time opened up to the young people of the Province an understanding of the various traditions in which they found themselves. In that legislation, I also established the Community Relations Council. It is a matter of record that I made available grants, funded by the taxpayer, to explore the history of the Orange Order. I probably gave more support to the integration of the Irish language into the life of Northern Ireland than any of my predecessors.
I want to encourage the House by reminding hon. Members that all over the Province, there are good people, living and working together in a spirit of harmony, which was reflected by those two men—by Damien and by Philip—in the bar on Tuesday. However, I was also Minister responsible for security, so I have a fairly well-informed understanding of the callousness, the evil and the immorality that constitute those who take part in terrorism.
It is worth reminding ourselves that terrorism is worse than murder, for terrorism not only kills indiscriminately, but is intended to create fear. Above all, it is the refuge of those who have turned their backs on the democratic process—who cannot win in the ballot box, so they turn to the bomb and the bullet.
There is terrorism in Northern Ireland, whether it is on the loyalist side or the republican side, and whether it is associated with organisations that have been at the heart of terrorism for the past 30 years or with new groupings—or perhaps with new names for old groupings. That terrorist threat is real. Each bomb, each murder is an attack not just on individuals, but on the community.
There are other attacks—for example, the targeting of individuals. I pay particular tribute to the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, prison officers and others, part of whose daily life is to be at risk of being targeted. I pay tribute also to civil servants. I have known people in all three categories who, at a moment's notice, have had to move house because of the risk to their lives as a consequence of such clandestine activity.
Fear and intimidation are generated through kneecapping and by threatening shopkeepers. I have met children who sat in their front room and saw their father gunned down in front of them.
Let us never in this House fall into the danger of discussing terrorism as some sort of intellectual concept that is distasteful. It is vile, wicked and evil, and it is designed to be such. Any democratic Government who seek to defend the rights of their people have a right to put in place orders that, in a normal environment, would cause significant debate. It is right for the Government to make those orders and to see that they are used.
I will articulate why we feel so strongly about the legislation and its annual renewal. I do not intend to go into history, but if the right hon. Gentleman hears in my voice the importance that we attach to it, he will understand, at least in part, why we reacted with so much anger, year after year, when mixed messages went out from this House as the renewal was debated.
The other reason why we feel so strongly about having the legislation available is that it sends a message to the good, law-abiding, resilient, upright people of the Province. I am biased. I declare a vested interest. I know that my accent sounds as though I was born and raised in Peterborough, but that is not the case.
1258 I say with great pride, some emotion and much truth that the people of Northern Ireland deserve the highest praise for their courage, resilience and unwillingness to bow to the terrorist. I say the same of the police and the security forces. They have shown admirable courage, restraint and professionalism. They, too, deserve the renewal of the order.
The Secretary of State said that he would produce a consultation paper. He promised it last year and he has promised it this year.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
Exactly. I understand what the situation was on 5 March last year. We look forward to discussing the consultation paper when it arrives. Whatever may be the outcome of the consultation process on the issues surrounding detention, which we may want to discuss with the right hon. Gentleman in more detail depending on what is in the consultation document, I am sure that he is right to take the view that nothing should be changed in the interim. We support him in that judgment.
The right hon. Gentleman also said that he would allow exclusion orders to lapse. That has been a matter of considerable debate. No one in the House has always been entirely comfortable with the concept of exclusion orders, but there have been pragmatic and security reasons for introducing them.
I join the right hon. Gentleman in his judgment that Mr. Rowe offered him good advice, but he is the Home Secretary and the decision must be his. Whether or not we agree with his decision, I for one defend his right to make that decision.
The advice that the Home Secretary got from Mr. Rowe on exclusion orders was based on Mr. Rowe's summary in paragraph 30 on page 16, in which he stated:I have seen no improper use of the power of the exclusion order, this year or previously.He went on to say in paragraph 33:My own view is that the exclusion power is effective. And it has been used properly … But as to the future, the announcement that the power may be allowed to lapse will not deflect me from my view: the exclusion order is a useful part of the prevention of terrorism machinery".I have already underlined my acceptance of the fact that the decision is for the Secretary of State to make. I hope that he will do so with his usual sensitivity, recognising that there remains an argument for a different decision. I hope that he will not close his mind to the future possible use of such orders, should the situation deteriorate in a way that neither he nor I would wish.
However the future develops, we agree with the Home Secretary, as we made clear last year, that there will be a continuing need for legislation. I hope that the Home Secretary will abide by the view of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who was his predecessor, and the views that he himself expressed on 5 March last year—that the House will need to be assured that the situation genuinely has changed before it will be prepared to reconsider with enthusiasm the legislation that we are discussing.
I take this opportunity to affirm again, although I expect that the Home Secretary does not need me to do so, that we support the Government in the talks process. We support the Government in their determination to try 1259 to find a way forward. We support the Government, as we demonstrated over many years, in recognising that there must be a political, not just a security solution in Northern Ireland.
I shall deal briefly with international terrorism, to which the right hon. Gentleman also referred. I refer to last year's debate in which the then Home Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe, said:One area that Lord Lloyd looked at particularly closely was legislation to deal with the activities of United Kingdom supporters of foreign terrorism. He concluded:'The most significant additional measure which the Government can take is to amend the law of conspiracy so as to facilitate the prosecution of those who conspire here to commit terrorist acts abroad. It may take a prosecution or two before the measure takes full effect but it should then serve as a demonstration, both to those involved and to the international community, of the Government's determination to make the UK as difficult and uncomfortable a place as possible for supporters of terrorism overseas.—[Official Report, 5 March 1997; Vol. 291, c. 923.]The Home Secretary has gone out of his way to say that the United Kingdom is not a safe haven for terrorists. He said that the Foreign Secretary would be making that point in a speech this evening. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that is a view that is shared across the Floor of the House, and that we robustly took the same view when we were in government.
The right hon. Gentleman and I, as present and past senior Ministers, also know that there is a perception in the wider international community that there is more that the United Kingdom Government could do to help to curb international terrorism. Both of us might take the view that some of the criticism to which this country has been exposed is unfair. Nevertheless, there is a sense in which, at least in part, that perception exists. Lord Lloyd clearly thinks that it exists.
We hope that the Home Secretary, in his consultation document, will spend some time reflecting on what other steps might be taken to enhance our legislative framework in order to deal with some of the threats that we face. If, at any point, the right hon. Gentleman would find it helpful to consult on these issues, we would be more than happy to do so.
We are here to confirm the renewal of the order; it is part of a continuing process. Already, Ministers—perhaps also Mr. Rowe and others—will be giving thought to whether there are other things that might be done that would be helpful in combating terrorism.
I shall mention briefly two areas that I hope the Home Secretary will consider further. First, there is the financing of terrorism. In the debate last year, my right hon. and learned Friend the then Home Secretary said:I am determined that the police should have all the powers they need to combat effectively the current threat from terrorism. That is why I intend to introduce proposals in due course to strengthen the existing controls on terrorist finances. Those proposals will build on Lord Lloyd's very helpful ideas."—[Official Report, 5 March 1997; Vol. 291, c. 923.]We have not changed our view since last year.
We put in place some fairly draconian measures in a free society. With the support of the House and, in quite specific terms, with the support of the present Home Secretary and his colleagues who were then on the 1260 Opposition Front Bench, we introduced some additional preventive powers. Those powers have been useful, and Mr. Rowe commends their being and their use. However, the Home Secretary knows that those who operate in such a climate are seriously devious. I expect that the Home Secretary will share my concern, for example, about the money in Northern Ireland that appears to be getting into the drugs trade. I hope that he will commission, if he has not already, a serious review of what can be done to strengthen measures against the financing of terrorism.
I would also like the Home Secretary to consider intimidation—the creation of a climate of fear that stops short of actual violence, but which in itself can be almost as debilitating to a community and to individuals. I think of shopkeepers who are forced to close their legitimate businesses because somebody walks through the door and issues a veiled, and sometimes not so veiled, threat to their business and to their livelihood if they do not do what the bully boys say.
I think also of those shopkeepers who talk to us—and, no doubt, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—about those who go into shops and say, "We are happy for you to continue trading but we want 25 quid a week." That 25, 50 or 100 quid, whatever it may be, goes to finance terrorism in whatever form. That happens on both sides of the community—I make no particular point—and it is a form of terrorism. It is part of the package that we all wish to resist.
I think of civil servants who are doing their job on behalf of the community, who in the doing of it expose themselves to threats from others in the community who want an unfair advantage or who do not want those civil servants to behave as their masters, the Ministers, would wish them to.
I think also of local newspaper editors, who are put under the most enormous pressure by quiet chats in their own areas to slant their newspaper coverage, one way or the other, to suit local terrorist activists. I could continue, but I do not wish to for I have made the point. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider the areas to which I have referred.
The powers set out in the order are necessary, are used and are effective. Unless and until the everyday world of Northern Ireland changes, along with international relations and intrigue, the powers remain a significant part of the democratic fight against terrorism. We support the order.
Issues of funding, stop and search, detention and border and port controls, to which Mr. Rowe refers—and others—raise various areas of civil rights. The most damning indictment in civil rights terms is denial of the right to live, along with the right to live a quality of life without fear. The House has never had any difficulty in deciding between those competing civil rights. The powers set out in the order must be retained and implemented, and we give them our unconditional support.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North)
It is not my intention to keep the House long. First, I join my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) in expressing my sympathy to the families and friends of those who were brutally murdered or wounded in South Armagh 1261 the other day. I urge my colleagues to put their names to the early-day motion, of which I am a sponsor, that expresses the revulsion that the House feels about that incident.
I welcome yet again, with two-and-a-half cheers, the progress that my right hon. Friend has made towards implementing what he said before the general election he would do. The decision to allow exclusion orders to lapse is of profound importance, including mental importance.
We were saying that a man or woman could be restricted to a particular area, as in Northern Ireland, or parts of Great Britain. We were saying also that they could not move or know the evidence that was being used against them: they could not challenge it. They were subject to an interview behind closed doors, and that was it. If they were sent back to Northern Ireland, they were made prisoners within their own community. Often, they were unable to obtain employment. Often, by the nature of what had been said about them, they were targets for the other side, whichever side that might have been. That was a denial of what the House stands for; we should not agree with it.
I welcome the steps that my right hon. Friend has taken and the fact that he has rejected Mr. Rowe's advice. It is interesting that my right hon. Friend is criticised for rejecting that advice when advice offered by Lord Colville to liberalise the legislation was continually rejected by the Conservatives when they were in power. They accepted no meaningful reduction of the draconian powers in the order.
I understand my right hon. Friend's difficulties and welcome his undertaking about the need for judicial intervention when a person is detained for any length of time so that we come into line with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. I very much regret that one of the Human Rights Bill's main proposals was to put immediately into statute a derogation, albeit with provision for it to be removed.
It would have been far better to have a Bill without a derogation and then to include it, which would have shown intent and the direction in which the Government were going. The ability to have a derogation will exist irrespective of whether we have the Bill. It would have been a better example to have on the statute book the European convention on human rights in its entirety, without the derogation. The steps taken by my right hon. Friend are welcome.
I shall make one point on Lord Lloyd's report—we await with interest the consultative document that my right hon. Friend will produce. The document and the legislation must lean towards civil liberties. It is always difficult against a background of terror and violence to talk about the freedom of the individual, but if we are unprepared to accept those freedoms—I accept that the most basic and fundamental freedom is the right to life—in the most difficult situations, we are falling into the very trap that the terrorists create for us.
When we start to lower our standards, we do two things: first, we give terrorists the opportunity to cry foul, which they frequently do when they have been guilty of the most despicable acts; secondly, we allow ourselves to become hardened, to accept these things and to lower our own sensibilities. We cannot afford to let that happen when pursuing individual human rights. In human rights it is the hard case, the nasty case, the awkward case, that has to be defended, and we must ensure that all the 1262 rules—the proper rules, the rule of law—are upheld and not allowed to be bent, for whatever good, immediate, expedient or pragmatic reason, as that takes us down the spiral that the terrorists want us to go down, to give the pseudo-justification that they claim for their actions.
On international terrorism, my right hon. Friend made the point—it cannot be underlined too much—that although we cannot have in this country people plotting vile acts of terrorism, we must be careful with the regimes that allege that that is happening and remember the practices of the regimes themselves. It is strange that regimes that allow the stoning of women taken in adultery and allow public executions and hands to be chopped off for theft complain about the actions of some of their citizens in this country.
We may not justify what their citizens might be doing in this country, but we have a proper history of being prepared to be a haven for people who seek to subvert some of those regimes, some of which are our best customers for some of our best hardware. We must be able to say to those regimes that while their people are in this country and are not engaging specifically and directly in organising acts of terrorism, they will be allowed to stay, to protect their own lives and to establish their rights of free speech and criticism. It should not be a part of any British Government to take the role of a Rupert Murdoch with regard to criticism of the Chinese Government.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
We have heard in the two preceding speeches the balance that must be struck when trying to ensure that terrorists do not take away the civil rights of the people to whom they pose many other threats. We must ensure that we do not make it possible or easy for terrorists to take away the most basic civil right, people's right to life—the right that was so brutally taken away from Philip Allen and Damien Trainor in Poyntzpass.
It is not many weeks since a friend of mine, a much-loved Presbyterian minister who had served for decades in my constituency, was buried in Poyntzpass. He lived to be nearly 100 and hoped to see in his lifetime peace come to his beloved home Province. He would have been shocked to realise that his funeral would be followed not long after by those of two young men who had their whole lives ahead of them. Their ability to get on with each other across the community divide was one of the things that terrorists hate and attack.
In its brutality, the incident underlined that what terrorists destroy is people's ability to live their lives as they choose, which is one of the most basic freedoms. We must recognise that the problem may well increase, the closer we get to a settlement—a point that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made. It is not that the people of Northern Ireland cannot reach a settlement or endorse one in a democratic vote, but that there will be many threats to them as they go through that difficult process. Furthermore, as is reflected in the order, there is a chance of threats to people in Great Britain.
None of that should deflect us from the search for a peaceful settlement—in which all the parties are currently engaged—but if anyone thinks that the arrival of a settlement will bring an end to terrorism, they are mistaken, because however broadly a settlement is endorsed, there will still be those who want to fight 1263 against it and try to use terrorist methods to do so. The broader the settlement, the more the supply lines of terrorists can be broken, their refuges removed and their ability to operate in a community destroyed, but their efforts may linger for a little while, even if a settlement is achieved. That fact underlines the necessity for the order.
It is a matter of regret that we have to have extraordinary security powers, which in some measure undermine or remove some of our civil liberties, but they are part of the process of protecting the most basic liberty—the liberty to live one's life without the threat of violence. Because the powers are exceptional, we subject them to exceptional scrutiny. Mr. Rowe's report is part of that process. He states:The PTA makes inroads upon civil rights; there are offences which are unusual, and there are powers which are larger than ordinary".They are extraordinary because of the nature of the threat that we have faced.
We welcome the Government's intention to consult on the implementation of more permanent UK-wide counter-terrorism legislation to deal with longer-term threats and look forward to the discussions that will take place on the consultation document. International terrorism is unlikely to disappear and various groups around the world may resort to it. In the longer term, we hope that legislation will be more limited in scope and more precise in impact than that which has been necessary to deal with the Irish-based threat of recent years.
I emphasise the targeting of the financing and organisation of terrorism. Mr. Rowe stressed the importance of measures aimed at undermining the funding of terrorism. The right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) drew attention to the intimidation used to obtain such funding. Even when terrorist organisations are not bombing and killing, their structures remain in place and their fund-raising and organisational activities continue. We should direct as much effort as possible at intimidatory and illegal fund raising.
For two consecutive years, Mr. Rowe has highlighted concern about the adequacy of staffing of port control facilities, where the legislation is implemented. He has not said that there is a crisis, but Ministers should consider the matter carefully.
In an intervention, I made it clear that Liberal Democrats want a judicial role in the extension of detention, which is an extraordinary power. The Home Secretary has indicated his interest in moving on the matter. Mr. Rowe is in favour of the proposal, but believes that it would not be right to implement it in Great Britain if it cannot be implemented in Northern Ireland. Mr. Rowe has made it clear in consecutive reports that the proposals could not be implemented in Northern Ireland because judges there cannot yet be asked to extend detention.
Aspects of the judicial system in Northern Ireland, such as the Diplock courts and non-jury trials, are not ideal. I hope that those aspects will be changed as soon as is reasonable, given the security situation in Northern Ireland, but there is no barrier to the judiciary in Great Britain becoming involved in extending detention. People in Northern Ireland may be denied a further safeguarding 1264 of their civil rights because of the problems of the judiciary having that power at the moment, but that does not justify not proceeding with the measure in Great Britain.
We agree with the Home Secretary that exclusion orders should not be continued. They send the wrong signal. The signal that we are trying to send is that people are citizens of the United Kingdom, no matter what part of it they live in. The discussions on the future of Northern Ireland are not designed to take away that entitlement. Indeed, they may produce further entitlements, especially if a settlement is reached that makes different sections of the community in Northern Ireland feel comfortable with the constitution: a minority of the community has been unhappy with it for many years.
Exclusion orders send the wrong signal. They no longer have the same security value and they give ammunition to people outside the country who argue that our activities in Northern Ireland are repressive when, in fact, they protect the civil rights of citizens in every part of the community.
I made the point to Mr. Rowe that, when these and other measures are being scrutinised, as much detailed information as possible must be examined. His review of decisions, which is a random examination of cases, is important because people who do not see such information must be confident that he can say with certainty that procedures have been followed correctly and that processes have been used in the right way and for the right purpose.
Mr. Rowe should play the same role as the commissioner under the Interception of Communications Acts and be able to examine intelligence information without identifying sources. Then, we could be sure that the information justified the action. If the information that is available to him is only second hand, he will not be able to make the judgments that we want him to make. Such judgments should be examined by one person occasionally rather than by a wider group of people. The fewer people have access to that information, the easier it will be to maintain security in the future.
Mr. Rowe does not want to see the details of the intelligence information on which decisions are based, but giving him a role similar to that of the commissioner under the Interception of Communications Acts would help him to make his decisions.
The order should be renewed. The powers, which are necessary, are exercised by people in the various services who often place their lives at risk while defending us all. We always emphasise the maintenance of civil rights, but we also acknowledge that the order is a regrettable necessity.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Helen Jones (Warrington, North)
I represent a town that knows only too well the consequences of our failure to defeat terrorism. Warrington has suffered two IRA bombings, the second of which killed two children and injured several other people. Where I come from, we never underestimate the magnitude of the terrorist threat.
A large number of people of Irish descent live in my constituency. They are law-abiding people and I am conscious of the need to protect their civil liberties. I am acutely aware of the balance that must be struck 1265 in anti-terrorism legislation. Wherever the terrorist threat comes from, there will always be tension between the rights of those who may be suspected, sometimes wrongly, of committing a crime, and the rights of those who must be protected from violence.
We walk a tightrope, and we must be honest as legislators and admit that we do not always get it right. Few hon. Members would argue that the prevention of terrorism Act is flawless, but, equally, no one could argue that such legislation should not remain on the statute book. As the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) rightly said, terrorism is not only about murder, but about undermining the fabric of society. Terrorists attempt to make normal life impossible. While the terrorist threat remains, there must be a law on the statute book to combat it.
It is our duty to think clearly about which powers in the order are necessary. There is no dispute about several of them. The reviewer showed clearly that powers to stop and search and to impose cordons and parking restrictions have been operated carefully and in accordance with the law. Those powers must be used only in specified areas and for limited periods, but those who argue that they should not remain on the statute book are telling my constituents that the police and the security forces should be denied the power to prevent someone from driving a bomb into the middle of town if they ever, God forbid, received information about another bombing in my area. My constituents would not accept such an untenable argument.
We all agree that the powers that we are discussing tonight represent a restriction on the civil liberties of ordinary law-abiding people. Of course they do—but the greatest restriction on anyone's civil liberty is the ending of his or her life. Two children in Warrington suffered the greatest possible restriction on their liberty.
I accept that there is more concern about the powers of arrest and detention under the Act. The evidence is that they are used sparingly in Great Britain, although perhaps more widely in Northern Ireland. However, each time they are used is a cause for concern. Although I believe in the right of the police to detain suspected terrorists, I was pleased that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that he would consider introducing a judicial element into the continuation of that detention. The threat to civil liberty is such that ultimately we shall have to take that course of action. I accept that it cannot be done under the current framework but I hope that the matter will be addressed in future.
I cannot support the use of exclusion orders, however, and I am glad that they will be allowed to lapse. I do not believe that they work or that they prevent terrorism; they merely move the threat somewhere else. They introduce into the United Kingdom a form of internal exile that cannot be tolerated in a united country.
The decisions that we have to make this evening are not easy, straightforward or welcomed by anyone in the House, but I believe that we have got the balance about right. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that what we have before us tonight will not suffice in the long term.
The terrorist threat will not go away. Even if we achieve peace in Northern Ireland—as all right hon. and hon. Members hope—there will still be a threat of international terrorism. Last year, 12 people were detained 1266 under the prevention of terrorism Act in connection with international terrorism. We need to ensure international co-operation against that threat, but in the long term we need permanent anti-terrorism legislation that has been properly discussed and considered by the House. I hope that we shall press ahead with the consultation that my right hon. Friend mentioned and that, in due time, proposals will be brought before the House for us to debate and consider properly. Until then, my constituents and others deserve protection from acts of random and senseless violence. If the House wills those ends, it has to be prepared to legislate the means.
The Act is not perfect, but the order gives my constituents and others the protection that they need and for that reason I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)
I rise to support the extension of the legislation for another year. I shall not try to emulate the speech by the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) as I could not better his eloquent description of the threat. I shall refer to some specific points in Mr. Rowe's report and then make some general comments.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Rowe for his report. It meets the standard of previous reports and contains the views of many who have commented on the legislation and acted for the House in that respect. We need to put on record our indebtedness to him for his careful work.
I support the action that the Home Secretary has taken in respect of exclusion orders. As he knows, we have been critical of exclusion orders as a matter of principle. The hon. Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) described them as "internal exile", but that is not entirely accurate. I could be attracted to the notion of internal exile, properly described, particularly the way in which it operates with regard to the Mafiosi in Italy, where it has been extremely effective. However, exclusion orders are a crude device and they are objectionable in principle.
I note with interest Mr. Rowe's comments on detention powers. I wish that some of those who criticise the legislation, the powers of detention and the provision for the extension of detention for up to seven days would read pages 26 and 27 of the report and see Mr. Rowe's careful consideration of the use of those powers. He does not act as a judge deciding whether detention was correct in any particular case; he simply checks that the procedures were followed and that the legislation was properly applied. However, one could not fail to read that passage and similar passages in previous reports without realising that the powers are being exercised sparingly, here and in Northern Ireland.
I note the comments of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) with regard to intelligence, and I do not disagree with his suggestion that Mr. Rowe might look more closely into the cases. Of the three extensions of detention founded purely on intelligence grounds, two cases resulted in criminal charges, so intelligence is not being used simply to cover abuse of the legislation.
The House will know that in previous years we argued for a judicial element in extensions of detention. I consider the comments that have been made on the issue this evening to be misconceived, as is Mr. Rowe's report. People are paying too much attention to the word 1267 "judicial" and giving it an interpretation that is understandable here, without appreciating that the term originates in the European convention and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
When we talk of a judicial element in the extension of detention, we mean judicial not in the sense of a High Court judge, but as the word is applied in the European convention and defined by the European Court of Human Rights and within the practice of other European legal systems. It would mean importing into our legal system a feature of continental procedures. It should not involve giving our judges a task that is inappropriate for them. I hope that we do not do that.
It would be much better to look at the practice elsewhere. In many respects, that is unnecessary and our own practice is superior to that in continental countries, but because of the interpretation of the convention by the European Court at Strasbourg, it is necessary for us to follow what I consider to be the inferior practice of some continental legal systems. However, in this context the word "judicial" should be understood as it applies in the convention and as it is interpreted by the European Court at Strasbourg and by other continental countries. If it is understood that the term "judicial" does not apply to proper judges and that distinction is borne in mind, there is no problem with judicial participation and no distinction needs to be drawn between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Therefore, I consider the discussion on the issue to have been misconceived.
On port and entry powers, I note Mr. Rowe's reference to manifests on page 34. His comments are eminently sensible. I mention in passing that we have a common travel area in the British Isles, but it seems to operate more on informal understandings than on a clear legal basis. I sometimes think that there is a case for having our own mini-Schengen agreement, to put matters on a more regular basis. However, that is another issue.
I underline the points made by other hon. Members with regard to terrorist financing. It is an important issue—the Achilles heel of terrorist organisations—which, until recently, has not received much attention. I consider that it is still not receiving enough attention. There are powers in the existing legislation and we are told that they are being utilised, but we see little evidence of that. We see very few cases being brought and very little sign of money and assets being confiscated. That is the test of the effectiveness of the legislation. The powers are used largely to deter and to gather intelligence.
There is a parallel with the approach to intercepted communications. Too often, the emphasis is on gathering intelligence rather than finding evidence with which to obtain convictions. There is a difference in approach between the security services and the police forces. We need the approach of the police forces, whose aim is to obtain evidence to secure convictions. Gathering intelligence is not sufficient—we must go beyond that.
Hon. Members have also referred to international terrorism. The evidence of arrests and charges shows the need to maintain the legislation to deal with that. The treatment of people who sought political asylum in the 19th century is no longer practical. At the end of the 20th century, with modern communications and travel methods, those who come here seeking political asylum 1268 could easily be involved in terrorism and pose a threat to other countries. We have an obligation under international law to ensure that our territory is not used as a base to attack societies elsewhere. That may mean an occasional regrettable intrusion into the circumstances of those who have sought refuge here, but that is unfortunately necessary.
I endorse the comments that have been made about the appalling murders this week at Poyntzpass. I also reflect on the bombs at Moira and Portadown, in my constituency, together with all the shootings and other incidents that have occurred since Christmas. We should consider the period since Christmas as of a piece. There has been a series of events aimed at destabilising the situation. I fear that that is likely to continue—indeed, it may even intensify.
It is difficult to be clear about who is responsible. There is a tendency in the media to pass off the bombings as the work of what is called the Continuity Army Council or the Continuity IRA, but I must enter a question mark on that. The Continuity Army Council has been around for a long time and has not had the manpower, the skills or the resources to mount operations such as those that we have seen in recent weeks. There is speculation about defectors from the mainstream IRA. There were some defections before Christmas, including Mr. McKevitt, the former quartermaster of the IRA who left to form a separate group. We also believe that there are people who may be called defectors who are still in place in the mainstream IRA.
The likelihood is that the recent bombs in Northern Ireland have been constructed by such people, who are still members of the mainstream IRA but who are co-operating with recent defectors—perhaps even some with a CAC background, although I am inclined to discount that. The bombs are probably constructed by the McKevitt group and sympathisers in South Armagh. There is reason to believe that the North Armagh IRA was responsible for delivering the bombs to Moira and Portadown.
Elements in the republican movement are involved in those operations. The question is whether they are doing so as part of an overall plan or independently. A recognised IRA codeword was used for the Portadown bomb and the bomb scare in Armagh the same day, but it was a couple of months out of date. I suggest that that was carefully contrived to enable some to come to the conclusion that because the codeword was out of date, those responsible must have defected from the organisation.
We do not know whether we are dealing with a real split in the republican movement or a pretend split. We must remember that we are dealing with a conspiratorial organisation. No apparent effort is being made by the leadership of that organisation to restrain its members from acting contrary to the ceasefire that is allegedly in place. It is likely that the IRA is deliberately increasing pressure through violence to take advantage of the Government's no claim, no blame approach. While pretending that a ceasefire is in place, the republican movement is going back to violence, but trying to cast the blame for it on other elements, to avoid the opprobrium that would come from the nationalist community if there was an open and avowed return to violence.
1269 We must not underestimate the fact that there is no general support among nationalists in Northern Ireland for a return to violence. That is part of the reason for the underhand behaviour of the IRA. The IRA also wants to provoke and manipulate loyalists. It is clearly succeeding in that. There is reason to believe that the leaders of the mainstream loyalist paramilitary organisations want to maintain their ceasefire, but some groups, such as the Loyalist Volunteer Force, have broken away. There is also evidence to suggest that elements in the mainstream loyalist paramilitary organisations have returned to violence. That may have ended for a while, but there is no assurance that that suspension will continue.
The explanation for the events since Christmas is that the republican movement knows that the political process will not deliver its core objectives. In the words of a leading republican at a meeting in South Armagh a few months ago, they are going back to what they do best in the hope that that pressure will produce political movement from the Government. Over Easter and through the summer, we can expect continued violence. The medium-term objective will be preventing an agreement or wrecking any agreement that comes into operation.
Some commentators and analysts take an optimistic view of the situation, while others take the more pessimistic view that I have expressed this evening. The Government must be prepared for the worst eventualities. It would be terrible if they allowed terrorists to dictate events. Some fear that that has already been happening in recent weeks and months. I sincerely hope that the Government will prove by their actions that those fears are groundless.
§ Mr. Paul Stinchcombe (Wellingborough)
I shall be brief, because I have only a few points to make. A week or so ago, I spoke in the House in support of the Human Rights Bill. I bow to few in the strength of my conviction and commitment to human rights. However, none of us should forget that the greatest human right is the right to live—and not just to live, but to live in peace, free from fear, violence and intimidation.
As with all rights, that is matched by responsibilities. Perhaps the greatest responsibility is that which falls on the shoulders of the Government, to take action as necessary to protect their citizens. Therefore, as long as there is a terrorist threat to our citizens, we must take measures to ensure that we can meet it. Even if and when, as we all hope and pray, Northern Ireland finds its peaceful solution, the threat will remain by virtue of the terrorist threat from abroad.
However, because we are committed to human rights, we must tailor our measures carefully. We must meet the terrorist threat, but in ways that do not trample unnecessarily on the very human rights that we endeavour to protect. It is for that reason that I support the decision that the time for exclusion orders has gone. I agree with everything that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said on the issue. Exclusion orders were draconian and objectionable in principle. The powers were already in decline, and it is right that they have disappeared.
I also take the view that the case for introducing a judicial element in the process of extension of detention is compelling—as touched on by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and others in the debate. Such protection 1270 should be built into permanent legislation, which is now due, and when passed, should be national in character, covering the entirety of the United Kingdom.
In opening this debate, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary called for a robust, clear but proportionate framework of powers across the UK, to meet the terrorist threat. That should indeed be our aim. I hope that, one day soon, it will be our achievement.
§ Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke)
In supporting the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) and many of the points made by the Home Secretary, I shall be selective.
The first theme to which I shall refer is the Government's plans for reforming the framework of counter-terrorism legislation, of which the prevention of terrorism Act and the continuance order are essential parts. I have no quarrel, in principle, with such a move at all. Indeed, on the contrary, I welcome it; it is overdue. The legislative framework is contained principally in two Acts. One is described as temporary, and the other as emergency—showing that its provisions were not intended to last long.
Both Acts represent the latest versions of legislation that was introduced well over 20 years ago in response to the threat of terrorism. Sadly, the intervening years have made a mockery of the hope that legislation to combat terrorism can be regarded as temporary. It is a fact of life that the threat of terrorism is here to stay, at least in foreseeable circumstances, and it is therefore right that the Government should think of creating permanent legislation.
The Home Secretary referred to his statement on 30 October, when he announced that he and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland intended to publish proposals in the form of a consultation paper early in the new year. I suppose that, as we are still in the first quarter of the year, this is still early in the year. Obviously, the subject is immensely complicated. There are conflicting issues to be taken into account and difficult balances to be achieved. All that requires careful consideration. I nevertheless hope that we shall not have to wait very much longer; we may soon become a little impatient.
Although I do not complain about the delay in the appearance of the consultation paper, I quarrel in one respect with the Government's handling of anti-terrorism legislation so far. There are strong arguments for ending internment and for allowing the power to exclude to lapse. We shall be looking for the emergence of a package of measures from the consultation process, the totality of which meets the threat of terrorism and safeguards, so far as possible, human rights and civil liberties. I genuinely believe that the Government have been mistaken to anticipate selectively what should have been considered part of a debate on a total package.
With regard to exclusion orders, I must confess that I am not yet convinced by the Home Secretary's line. I dare say that, in that respect, I am in a minority of one, but I shall nevertheless state my views on the subject. I do not share the negative view of the effectiveness of exclusion orders that many hon. Members have expressed. Exclusion orders have been effective on occasions. They can disrupt the chain of communication and command, 1271 without which terrorist operations cannot take place. They are a weapon of pre-emptive strike; they prevent terrorism. Moreover, the use of an exclusion order marks the recipient of it and makes him virtually unusable to a terrorist organisation. In that sense, of course, arguments for exclusion orders reflect arguments in favour of internment.
The Home Secretary has not yet convinced me on another point. The fact that exclusion orders have been used with decreasing frequency in recent years is not a justification for abandoning entirely the power to use them in future. I find it impossible to say that, some time, somehow, circumstances will not arise when, in the absence of evidence to bring other charges, the use of an exclusion order might frustrate a terrorist operation and save human life.
Back on 30 October, the Home Secretary significantly based his justification for ending exclusion orders on two considerations. One was the fact that Viscount Colville, in his 1987 review of anti-terrorist legislation, had recommended it. The other was that the Home Secretary had taken into account the views of those who advise him on security matters. The annual review of the PTA is not written in stone; it does not have divine authority. However, it is worth recording and noting that Viscount Colville's successor is, effectively, one of the Home Secretary's security advisers—albeit one who operates in a narrowly defined remit—and Mr. Rowe does not agree with the Home Secretary.
We should note that, in his report, Mr. Rowe confirms the firmly held opinion of police officersthat the power is of use in combating terrorism".In the same paragraph, he continues:I have seen, in times past, two clear instances where an exclusion order deterred the excluded person from engaging in terrorist attacks in Britain.As hon. Members know, he offers his personal view that the exclusion power is effective. He concludes with this sentiment, which I share:the announcement that the power may be allowed to lapse will not deflect me from my view: the exclusion order is a useful part of the prevention of terrorism machinery".For the time being at least, I continue to share that view.
The final theme that I wish to explore is judicial involvement in extending detention. The House will know that, two years ago, Mr. Rowe argued against that. He reasoned that it would beunusual … a straining of the judicial function.He argued that a judge acting in such a capacity would be actingin name only … exercising a function which could be called judicial only because he happened to be a judge by his profession and occupation.I noted with interest the comments of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) on that, and I must confess that I, too, must have missed an essential point. All the debates on extending judicial involvement in which I have taken part over the years have also failed to make the distinction that he made. Nevertheless, Mr. Rowe reported last year that he had undergone something of a Damascene conversion. His view had changed, not least because judges were much more 1272 involved in one-sided, ex parte and secret hearings in respect of applications for public interest immunity certificates.
In a debate last year, I incurred some unpopularity among my right hon. and hon. Friends by saying that I had an open mind on judicial involvement, although I was not convinced by the arguments of the Home Secretary and Mr. Rowe. My view has moved on from last year, and I now accept in principle the desirability of judicial involvement—as I understood it, before the statement of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann. It is right for the Government to consider carefully how it can be implemented.
I accept in principle the desirability of the Government's aspiration to bring about judicial involvement in extension orders, but there are accompanying dangers. The issue is not clear cut. It is imperative that judges are not regarded as an arm of the Executive. That would undermine the independence of the judiciary. The other danger is that extensions of detention are an obvious part of the process of arrest and detention, and that, arguably, is not an area in which the judiciary should become involved.
Finally, I agree with Mr. Rowe's conclusions unreservedly. There is a need for a prevention of terrorism statute and for the provisions of the PTA, and I share his opinion that each of the sections is needed for the forthcoming year. I deeply regret that, in one respect, that is not the view of the Government.
§ Mr. Straw
This has been an interesting debate, which has showed the widespread agreement in the House for the proposals in the order—that, with the exception of part II of the 1989 Act and one or two other more detailed points, the PTA should be renewed for the forthcoming year.
I wish to pick up a number of the points raised in the debate. Before I do so, I pay tribute to the eloquent words of the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), who spoke movingly from his own experience about the situation in Northern Ireland. He spoke about the way in which—despite the terrorism and the efforts of the terrorists to pull the communities apart—there are thousands of people from both sides of the divide who have been determined to make unity and not division the reality in their lives. The right hon. Gentleman drew not only on his experience as someone who comes from the Province, but on eight years as an Under-Secretary and Minister of State attached to the Northern Ireland Office from 1984 to 1992.
The right hon. Members for North-West Cambridgeshire, for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) asked whether adequate steps were being taken to target effectively the finances of terrorists. The frank answer is no. I am not satisfied with the powers—but not the efforts—and the results being achieved in pursuing terrorists and other serious criminals in a way that often can hit them the most—through their bank balances, safe deposit boxes and the cash they have stashed abroad.
There are two problems. The first is the insufficiency of the existing powers; the second is the problem of following up court decisions to fruition. In terms of the non-terrorist situation, the amount we take in each year is tiny compared with the ostensible value of the orders 1273 achieved by the courts. I am concerned about that. So far as terrorism is concerned, we are examining it closely in the context of the consultation document that we shall publish shortly. I will come to the question of when precisely, which was raised by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter).
In October, we were looking at whether we could use civil procedures to bear down on the confiscation of assets generally. Those techniques have been used successfully in the United States, Canada and—it must be said—the Republic of Ireland. We are examining their experiences because we cannot have a situation where serious criminals—terrorists or not—achieve substantial increases in their incomes and then use the protection of the law to stop us getting at their funds.
The right hon. Member for Upper Bann raised an interesting point about the terminology of the European convention on human rights. Article 5(3) of the convention states:Everyone arrested or detained should be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorised by law to exercise judicial power.The right hon. Gentleman was right—it is always worth while examining the texts. We are doing so in the context of the consultation document. The obvious way of doing that is through a judge, but it must be borne in mind that there are many stipendiary magistrates, and their numbers are increasing.
I had a meeting the other day with a magistrate from a continental country—I shall not mention which one. Magistrates in that country are judicial officers, but some of their functions are a combination of the functions exercised by the police and Home Office officials in this country. We must recognise that it is against that background that the European Court of Human Rights has come to its decisions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) apologises through me to the House for the fact that he has had to leave before the end of the debate. He asked whether we should have included within the Human Rights Bill a derogation relating to the PTA. We regret the need to start the Bill's life with the derogation, but it is unavoidable if we are to preserve the existing power to extend detention. Only fresh primary legislation to introduce a judicial element will get over the need to continue the derogation. Under the Human Rights Bill, the derogation will itself lapse after five years, unless it is specifically renewed.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke referred to the exclusion powers, and I understand his point. He quoted Mr. Rowe, and accepted that, in other respects, Mr. Rowe's views—and his own—had changed. I am grateful to Mr. Rowe who has, as usual, done a thorough job. It is a fact that on some issues we are bound to take different points of view. It is worth drawing it to the attention of the House that, although he has reported from time to time the view of the police and the security forces in favour of exclusion orders, he has also reported that this is not a unanimous view. I draw to the attention of the House paragraph 29 of his 1995 report, in which he said: 1274The overwhelming majority of port officers gave me the answer that the orders are useful and should be retained. But there was a fair number of officers, of all ranks, who held the opposite view.That is a fact and, in reciting the opposite view, he said:On the other hand, the argument is that in the absence of exclusion, a known and experienced member of an organisation can be noticed at the port, and followed thereafter, and kept under surveillance.
§ Sir Brian Mawhinney
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for missing the first few minutes of his reply. Having been in the Chamber since 4 pm, I had gone to get something to eat, so I apologise for missing those first few minutes. He has been talking about detention and the derogation. Can he remind the House how long that derogation still has to run? I am trying to tempt him into speculating whether his legislation will be before the House before that derogation is up, or whether he contemplates having to renew it.
§ Mr. Straw
I was not talking about the derogation that has been entered on the record before the Council of Europe, derogating from the European convention. I was talking about the fact that we have had to repeat that derogation within the body of the Human Rights Bill. It is within that that the derogation will lapse within five years, unless it is renewed under powers given in the Bill. I anticipate that we shall sort this problem out well within the five-year period, including making provisions within article 5(3) for a judicial element in extensions of detention. The right hon. Gentleman was in government for much longer than I have been so far and will be aware of the pressure on parliamentary time. However, it is no great secret that I hope and believe that we should legislate permanently in that field in the next two or three years.
The hon. Member for Basingstoke gently tweaked me for the fact that, in my statement on 30 October, I said that I hoped to publish the consultation document early in the new year. That was being over-optimistic. It is now early in the new year, but I am anxious to publish it in the next two or three months. It is a complicated, but also an important, matter.
I think that I have answered the main specific points that right hon. and hon. Members have raised. My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Stinchcombe), in a short but eloquent speech, said that we needed to remember that the greatest fundamental human right was the right to live, free from fear, intimidation and terror. It is the duty of the Government and of the House to secure that fundamental right above all. Without it, no other rights or freedoms can be enjoyed. Against that background, and with that fundamental right in mind, I commend the order.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (Partial Continuance) Order 1998, which was laid before this House on 24th February, be approved.