HL Deb 02 March 1972 vol 328 cc1191-4

3.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to repeat here a Statement about the Report of the Privy Counsellors, under the chairmanship of Lord Parker of Waddington, which by now will have been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"This Report is published to-day; and copies are now available in the Vote Office"—

that will be the Printed Paper Office here.

"The Government have not found it necesssary to omit any passage on grounds of security; and the Report is published with only minor amendmendments which do not in any way affect the sense.

"The terms of reference of the Committee were to inquire whether, and if so in what respects, the procedures currently authorised for the interrogation of persons suspected of terrorism, and for their custody while subject to interrogation, require amendment. The Government are indebted to Lord Parker and his colleagues for the scrupulous care with which they have examined this very difficult subject.

"The Committee found themselves unable to agree; and they have therefore submitted a Majority Report signed by Lord Parker and my right honourable and learned friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames"—

that is of course, Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter—

"together with a Minority Report signed by Lord Gardiner.

"The majority find that the methods in question, which had been applied on a number of occasions in the past under successive Governments in various parts of the world, were applied in Northern Ireland in August, 1971, to 12 detainees, and in October to two more. They consider—and I quote—that 'there is no doubt that the information obtained by these two operations directly and indirectly was responsible for the saving of lives of innocent citizens'. They conclude that the use of the methods involved could be justified in exceptional circumstances subject to further safeguards which they recommend. They consider, however, that the use of these techniques in some, if not all, cases would offend against English law; but they refrain from expressing any view about the position in Northern Ireland where legal proceedings which raise this issue are pending. Lord Gardiner in the Minority Report considers that these methods are objectionable in all circumstances.

"The Government, having reviewed the whole matter with great care and with particular reference to any future operations, have decided that the techniques which the Committee examined will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation."


My Lords, I am sure that we shall all wish to thank the noble and learned Lord for repeating that Statement. I believe this is also a case where thanks are due to Her Majesty's Government for setting up this Commission in the first place. I personally should like to pay tribute to the courage which the Government showed in the composition of the Commission. Our thanks must also go to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker of Waddington, and my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, and to Mr. Boyd-Carpenter for the way in which they undertook something which, as the noble and learned Lord said, must have been distasteful.

I imagine that we shall all wish to study these two Reports with very great care. Both the Majority and the Minority Reports are of some length and will need to be studied with some care. May I say that all of us will express some relief at the decision to which Her Majesty's Government arrived in their final paragraph, whether for the reasons expressed in the Majority Report or in the Minority Report. I think there will be general satisfaction that the methods used will not in future be used. May I ask in this context whether one can assume that these methods were not used after the Compton Report? May I also ask whether we can assume that after the legal proceedings in Northern Ireland are completed, steps will be taken to regularise the position as between Northern Ireland and this country?


My Lords, would the noble Lord be good enough to repeat his last question? My attention was diverted.


My Lords, I was asking whether we could assume that after legal proceedings are completed in Northern Ireland steps will be taken to assure that the legal position will be the same there as in this part of the United Kingdom?


My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that we very much welcome the decision that has been made by the Government in this case? May I ask him whether the cases mentioned in the Statement were the sum total to whom the techniques were applied? That is to say, that only the 14 individuals who were questioned in August and October respectively were subjected to the procedures involved? Is he also aware that we very much endorse the request that has just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that the law in Northern Ireland, which appears to be in some doubt, should certainly be brought into line with that which operates in this country where such procedure would have been illegal.


My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for the way in which they have received this Statement. I think that the assumptions made by the noble Lord are correct. I cannot of course speak for Northern Irish law, but I have an assurance that the R.U.C. will not in future use these techniques as an aid to interrogation in Northern Ireland; and that, I think, covers the position. So far as I understand it, the use of the particular methods was confined to the fourteen cases. There was a further aspect which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked about—


My Lords. I asked whether we can assume that the techniques were not employed after the publication of the Compton Report.


My Lords, that is my understanding: that the fourteen cases (I am not quite sure of the date of the Compton Report) referred to in the Parker Report are a complete catalogue of the cases in which the techniques were used.


My Lords, may I express the hope that we may be able to debate this matter perhaps in a wider context, because it is quite impossible to comment on just hearing the Report. May I ask the Lord Chancellor this question? If I understood him correctly, the Government have agreed that, despite the Majority Report, these practices shall not be applied in the future. Does that agreement cover all the three main methods: the black bag; the noise; and the spreadeagling against a wall for a considerable period? Does it cover all those three matters?


My Lords, the question of a debate is of course not for me but for the House and the usual channels. If the noble Lord wants to pursue it, he can pursue it by that means. As regards the second question he raised, of course all methods which will not be used as an aid to interrogation are covered.