§ 2.58 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)
My Lords, I beg to move that this House approves the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order 1983. I understand that it would be for the convenience of the House that the debate should also take note of the Review of the Operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976.
The need to prevent terrorism is a serious and sad one which places a grave duty on Parliament to which this House returns from year to year. In the course of the last of those years, one Member of your Lordships' House in particular has turned his hand to this work with considerable distinction and success, and it is with pleasure that I express to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe our appreciation of his review of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. My own admiration of his work in this delicate area is shared by Her Majesty's Government, and I trust that I speak for your Lordships' House as a whole.
At the renewal debate in another place last year my right honourable friend the Home Secretary stated that there would be a review of the 1976 Act, and announced the decision to appoint my noble friend to undertake it. I believe that we all looked to my noble friend to consider whether the Act achieved the right balance between the safety of the public and the rights of the individual, and in my view the report achieves exactly that balance which was sought.
My noble friend's report on the operation of this legislation was published just over a month ago. It may be helpful to your Lordships if I briefly summarise the major recommendations, including the important new safeguards proposed, and if I confirm the Government's preliminary reactions to it, which were stated in another place last week by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
The report recommends that new legislation be introduced subject both to annual renewal and to a limited span of five years in all. Such a Bill would incorporate other major recommendations in the review, subject to views expressed in your Lordships' 477 House, and elsewhere. It is our intention to introduce a Bill which will include the time limits recommended. We accept fully the underlying principle that such legislation should be regularly scrutinised. That has, I think, been amply demonstrated by our setting up the review last year and by the full provision of parliamentary time for discussing both it and the renewal of existing legislation this month. The report points to the changing nature of the terrorist threat, and it is right that such legislation should be capable of being amended to reflect those changes.
Some of the major recommendations are such that we must take the views of a number of those who would be affected by them, before we implement them. The major recommendations on which we are consulting widely relate to the powers of arrest, detention, and exclusion. Let us look first at the powers for detention at the ports. Under the present Act the police may detain for up to 48 hours someone whom they have arrested. After that they may detain him for a further five days, but only on the authority of the Home Secretary. If they apply for an extension of less than five days, there is no provision in the Act for them to apply for a further extension. It is probably as a consequence of that situation that such a large proportion of applications are for extension for the full five days. The report recommends that there should be a power for applications to extend further, up to the maximum, detention originally extended to less than the maximum.
I have said that if the report's proposals become law, important and significant safeguards would be introduced. The expectation would be that applications for less than the maximum would then be made far more frequently than at present. In addition, those detained at ports would have to be given written notification of their rights after one hour, and beyond 12 hours they could be detained only on grounds similar to those which would justify an arrest under Section 12 of the Act; that is to say, where the examining officer has formed a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is either guilty of an offence under the Act, or is concerned in the commission, preparation, or instigation of acts of terrorism, or is subject to an exclusion order.
Looking at detention powers both at ports and inland, I would say that amendments to the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, now being scrutinised in another place, would ensure that the right of access to solicitors and notification of arrest to a third party are made explicit. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary, has undertaken to move such amendments to give effect in the Bill to those recommendations in respect of England and Wales, and in the related codes. Other recommendations look to greater uniformity of controls at the ports, including the completion of landing and embarkation cards on commercial flights and sailings between Great Britain and the island of Ireland, and to great improvements in the conditions of detention.
With regard to exclusion orders, the major recommendations are as follows. First, exclusion orders would lapse after three years, unless a fresh application for exclusion were granted on its own merits. In other words, if it is considered necessary to continue an individual's exclusion beyond three years, 478 it should be done on the basis of a fresh application by the police, detailing recent intelligence on him, and setting out the reasons why exclusion remains necessary. A fresh exclusion order, signed by the Secretary of State, would be required for exclusion to last beyond three years. Secondly, it is proposed that suspects could not be excluded from that part of the United Kindom in which they had been ordinarily resident for more than three years and; thirdly, the right to make representations and see an adviser would extend to those already excluded. Those proposals are designed, among other things, to prevent the use of exclusion powers causing significant hardship, either financial or emotional, to the family of the excluded person. I take this opportunity to remind your Lordships that my noble friend concluded that exclusion had "materially contributed to public safety".
My noble friend also recommended that, to take account of the significant threat of international terrorism, the arrest and detention powers under the Act should be extended to apply to international terrorists of any group, cause, or nationality. The report draws attention to the major trend of an increasing threat from such terrorism within the United Kingdom. It points to the forging of international links by Northern Ireland terrorist groups, and to incidents on the mainland unconnected with Northern Irish affairs. Your Lordships will recall the recent trial of those responsible for the brutal attempt in June on the life of the Israeli Ambassador, which reminded us all of the gravity of international terrorism.
My noble friend pointed out that the change would help to remove the claim that these powers are anti-Irish, rather than anti-terrorist. But he emphasised that the reasons for which he made the recommendations were practical. I would remind your Lordships that he said specifically:I am satisfied…that the arrest powers of this Act have been of considerable benefit in dealing with Northern Irish terrorism. This being so, I believe that they should be available for use in dealing with international terrorism".The report also recommends a number of administrative measures which we intend to take forward, subject to the views expressed here by your Lordships and by others who have an interest. Where quick action has been appropriate, it has already been taken. Henceforth the views of "receiving" forces will be stated on applications for exclusion (as proposed in paragraph 189) and my right honourable friend himself now already personally considers all applications for extensions of detention.
I turn now to the use made of the present Act during the last year and to make to your Lordships what has almost become a customary annual report on the figures. Since the Act was renewed last year, and up to the end of last month, 224 people have been detained in Great Britain, and 38 extensions of detention have been granted beyond 48 hours. The police in Great Britain have made 17 applications for exclusion, and 15 orders were signed by my right honourable friend. Eight hundred and twenty-eight people were arrested in Northern Ireland under Section 12 of the Act, and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland granted 639 applications for 479 extensions beyond 48 hours, and signed two exclusion orders.
Under the arrangements to review an exclusion order three years after it is made, the Home Secretary has, in the last 12 months, revoked eight orders and confirmed 12 others. Seven cases are currently under review. None of those excluded made representations to have his case considered by one of the independent advisers.
Therefore, I ask your Lordships to renew the 1976 Act for a further year in the hope, as my right honourable friend said in another place, that this will be the last time that a Minister will be asking the House to renew it for a full year. I draw no satisfaction from seeking renewal, and I understand fully the position of those who find it difficult to square the legislative provisions with the fundamental liberties which are sacred to us all. But the highest freedom, in Britain and beyond, is—and here I quote the report of another distinguished and noble Lord, Lord Shackleton:that of ordinary people to stay alive and go about their business without fear".Just as exceptional powers require exceptional safeguards, so does the prime freedom require our prime concern. I shall listen with particular interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who did so much to focus public interest and the law on this vital and difficult area.
Against the background of the constructive and humane proposals in the later report of my noble friend and the restrained and measured use of the Act over the past year, we must remind ourselves of the nature of the threat that we confront. Terrorism is destructive and inhuman; it seeks by brutal and merciless acts to shake our own determination to act with reason and resolution. But we are firm in our resolve to protect the rights of individuals and the lives of us all. I believe that the Government of the day were trying to do this when they introduced this legislation in 1974. In subsequent years this House has been united in its resolution to remain steadfast. There can be no doubt that the brutality, horror and grief in our parks last July demonstrated that the threat is undiminished. It is clear that we must continue to give the police the vital support that they need to control it. They are strongly in favour of renewal of this Act. We must demonstrate that this House will not be deflected from its duty to suppress the evils which attack the people of this country. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 9th February be approved. [12th Report from the Joint Committee.]—(Lord Elton.)
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Lord Boston of Faversham
My Lords, one matter on which I feel sure we are all united today is that it is regrettable that we still are having to debate the retention of legislation of this kind. We regret it, I believe, for two main reasons. First, because there continue to be acts of terrorism—grotesque and, indeed, obscene acts—which it seeks to prevent. Over the past year, we have seen once again, since the last time we renewed this legislation, further acts, including those to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has already referred, in the London parks last summer, in 480 the Ballykelly public house murders and others, which we join with the noble Lord in condemning in the strongest possible terms. We express, too, our sympathy to the injured and to the victims' families and friends.
We regret the need to debate this legislation, too, because of the nature of the legislation itself and the fact that we have found it necessary to enact laws which restrict our freedom—and I want to come back to the nature of the legislation in a moment. But, first, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his survey of the Act and the report, I should like to join him in the tribute he has paid to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for the very significant service he has performed in carrying out his inquiry and producing his report. I had occasion last year to welcome the decision to hold an inquiry and to welcome the noble Earl's appointment.
As we would have expected, my Lords, he has carried out a very thorough and comprehensive review and has produced what I can only describe as a masterly, persuasive and, I would say, convincing report. This report, and the equally outstanding contribution made by my noble friend Lord Shackleton, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred this afternoon, in his Report on the Prevention of Terrorism Acts 1974 and 1976, published in 1978, together amount to the definitive works on the operation of this legislation.
I say that the noble Earl's report is convincing for this reason. Not only has he mastered the detail and intricacies of the way the Act works, but he has also looked at it searchingly and critically. Indeed, it is clear that he has agonised over the provisions which, like so many of us, he has always found repugnant because they restrict our civil liberties and our democratic way of life, even though we are bound to accept them as necessary. I, for one, find the approach of the noble Earl reassuring in that he has plainly agonised over these provisions.
It is perhaps appropriate here to mention a point which some of us have made from time to time and which was made so effectively and eloquently by my noble friend Lord Shackleton in his report in words to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, has referred this afternoon, words which bear repeating or at least paraphrasing: that in attempting to prevent terrorism we have sought to strike a balance between the need to preserve civil liberties and the need to protect the lives and property of the overwhelming mass of the law-abiding citizens of this country; and in doing so we have sought to safeguard the most basic civil liberties, the right to stay alive and, indeed, to go about one's business without fear.
My Lords, I mention all this because it is important. It is important that we should not merely make, as a matter of routine, a statement condemning the appalling acts of terrorism that our people have suffered and a statement indicating our abhorrence of the measures in this legislation and then feel that in some way we have been granted some sort of absolution, without making it perfectly clear that we really mean what we say and that we mean to act on what we say. I know that from both sides of the House we have made such statements condemning terrorism and regretting the 481 need for this legislation; and I am quite sure that we have meant and weighed every word. But what I am not so sure about is whether, once the moment has passed, we have all been as assiduous at all times as we might have been in keeping firmly in, mind the precise nature of this legislation and the extent to which it invades the civil liberties that we in this country hold dear.
In other words, my Lords, we must never allow ourselves just to go through the motions of condemning terrorism and with expressing our revulsion against this type of legislation. We must remain constantly on the alert to the dangers of both all the time. We could so easily become anaesthetised and numbed so that we are unconscious of the dangers of acceptance on a long-term basis of these inroads into our civil liberties. Terrorism—this may be obvious but perhaps it is worth reminding ourselves—is evil. It is obscene. It is possible, I suppose, to suppress it, or almost to do so, as the Communists and some other totalitarian régimes have done in cases. But none would even contempate countenancing their methods for a moment. We are prepared to use all reasonable methods to protect life and our democracy, but we are not, I should hope, prepared to jeopardise, still less surrender, our democratic principles, rights and safeguards.
I would urge this, my Lords. Let us constantly remind ourselves that there are limits to the measures that we find acceptable and we would not be prepared to go beyond them if it meant jeopardising the democratic rights we hold so dear and for which we have fought so hard. This brings me to the point that I want to emphasise today. It is that, whatever view is taken about the continuing need for this legislation, I hope that the Government will keep constantly in the forefront of their minds that there is growing unease about aspects of this legislation. The Government have shown that they are aware of that increasing unease, otherwise they would not have set up the inquiry under the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; neither would they have been preparing to implement, as Lord Elton has indicated today, the main recommendations, if not all the recommendations, in the report.
A major complaint which I and others on these Benches have to make against the Government is that they have not been sufficiently sensitive to that unease and that they have reacted far too slowly; indeed, they have acted only when they have been pushed hard. Let me explain a little further. It was four years ago, in March 1979, that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, first put forward in your Lordships' House, in the debate on the order to renew this Act, his suggestion that when the matter next came up for debate the legislation should be reintroduced afresh as a new Bill, a main reason being that Parliament would then be able to consider possible amendments which of course it cannot do with an order. As we know, we can only take it or leave it as it stands. It so happens that I was at the Home Office at the time that the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, put forward that proposal and I responded immediately by saying that we would consider that suggestion. I emphasise that I was not able to say that we would accept it there and then but we were prepared to consider it.
482 Since then I have joined, as have other noble Lords, with the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, in putting that suggestion each year to the present Government. It has taken—and I do not think that we can ignore it—four years for the Government to accept that need. It could be nearly five years before we actually enact a new Bill. Again, it was two years ago that my right honourable and honourable friends in another place called on the Government to set up a new inquiry into the Act. It was not until a year had passed that the Government accepted that proposal, and then only at the very last moment, or so it appeared.
If the Government really believe that on such a matter as the prevention of terrorism it is desirable to have a consensus between the Government and Opposition parties, as in war and perhaps on some other matters—and I feel instinctively that on terrorism and combating terrorism that is desirable if possible—as indeed the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary said in another place last week, then they must be much more sensitive to people's misgivings and be much more forthcoming and ready to respond instead of appearing to drag their feet when they come to reviewing and reforming this legislation.
That is a principal complaint that we have against the Government and I feel bound to spell it out. I say that not in any aggressive way and certainly not because I have any doubts about the sincerity of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, or his right honourable friend, for I have no such doubts. But I offer that view as a piece of advice to the Government. I welcome the report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and almost all of his recommendations. I hope that the Government will implement them as swiftly as possible if we are to keep this legislation. I welcome particularly what is perhaps his most important recommendation, and one referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, today, that a new Bill should be introduced; that it should come up for renewal annually; that it should lapse after five years and then have to be introduced as a new Bill, if still needed, after a further inquiry of some kind. If we are to have the legislation then it is right that it should come up for review and possible revision in that way.
I hope that the Government will not wait until the next renewal date approaches but will introduce the new Bill at the earliest possible moment. Part of the unease about this legislation arises because less and less use is being made of the main powers in the Act, as the statistics show, and as the annual report given to us this afternoon by the noble Lord shows. We see that the number of detentions last year—and I do not need to mention them specifically as they have been quoted in some detail—were a little lower than in 1981 but considerably down on previous calendar years since the introduction of the legislation in 1974. The number of exclusion orders last year was similar to the number in 1981 but much lower than in most other years, and the number of extensions of detention also was down last year. However, as the noble Earl points out, the figures have to be treated with caution; and as he also points out, the proportion of what he calls "catches" has risen over the years. Moreover, as we have said in earlier debates in your Lordships' House, the effectiveness of the Act can never be proved conclusively, for its intention is to prevent terrorism and we can never be sure how many crimes have been 483 prevented, nor can we say exactly what the deterrent effect of the Act has been.
A sizeable number of criticisms has been made of the Act or of the way it has been operated, and the noble Earl has identified those and made recommendations for improvement. I do not want to go through them all in detail, except to welcome them. I want to mention a few of them. I turn first to the power of arrest. At paragraph 68 of his report, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, recommends:that the police throughout the United Kingdom śhould be reminded by the appropriate Secretary of State that the power of arrest under section 12 should be exercised only where the use of no other power is appropriate to the end sought".I support that recommendation, but it should not have been necessary now.
The power of arrest in this Act represents one of the ways in which the Act seeks to assist the police in keeping down terrorism. But it also represents one of the major incursions into our normal civil liberties. The fact that it has been necessary for the noble Earl to make this recommendation—very properly, if I may say so—therefore illustrates all too plainly one of our major worries that this Act and the use of its powers need to be kept under much closer scrutiny than before. It underlines our complaint that the Government have not responded anywhere near quickly enough to the calls for a new inquiry and a new Bill so that that could be done. The same kind of considerations apply to the series of recommendations which are on page 25 of the report which centre on applications to extend periods of detention and the need to specify the period required; and the need for the Secretary of State—as is also recommended—to grant the maximum of five days' extension only where a shorter period will not do, and that if he grants a shorter period, the police will have to apply for a further extension up to a total maximum of five days. I support those recommendations.
I shall just give this word of warning about that particular proposal. Suppose the Secretary of State granted three days on a first application and then a new application came for the remaining two days. Inevitably, that would be a rush job to get the Secretary of State's approval—even more of a rush job than usual. I speak as one who has considered these applications before they have gone to the Home Secretary. There would always be a danger that the Secretary of State, with too little time to consider it, would say, "Oh, let them have the extra time". I urge two things very strongly: first, that the initial application and decision should be as thorough and as certain as possible. Secondly, that a very close watch be kept on these multiple applications, as they might be called, to see that there are not too many of them and to ensure that the system is not being abused by, for instance, asking for two or three days in the first place with the aim of grabbing the extra three or two days, as the case may be, in a great rush or panic from a Secretary of State who feels too hard-pressed to say, "No".
I agree strongly with the noble Earl that Ministers should take an active part in finding out how far the purposes for which an extension was granted have been achieved, and they should satisfy themselves that 484 people are not detained under this Act for longer than is absolutely necessary. I urge that Ministers be given a report as soon as is practicable on each case to satisfy themselves that the steps taken were justified and to enable them to take appropriate action if they are not satisfied. If I do not dwell on the recommendations in Chapter 5 about the rights of detainees at police stations, that is in order to avoid taking up time unnecessarily; but I share the noble Earl's view in attaching,considerable weight to the recommendations in this chapter".There are two other specific matters I should like to mention. One concerns exclusion orders and the other is the offence of withholding information. The power to make an order to exclude a person from part of his own country marks perhaps the most severe limitation in the Act upon our traditional civil liberties in this country. I was not at all surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, found that this provision in the Act gave him the greatest difficulty. His view, expressed in paragraph 176, is—and I quote in part—the exclusion of some people … has materially contributed to public safety in the United Kingdom and that this could not have been achieved through the normal criminal process.I would accept that. He also said in paragraph 178—and again I quote in part—the power to exclude should remain … in extreme cases:"—I would ask your Lordships to note the word "extreme"—that its severity should be mitigated … and that the possibility of abolishing it should be kept under regular review, without prejudice to the Act's other powers.".The noble Earl then goes on to recommend two of the most important changes. First, he says in paragraph 181 that—… citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies should not be liable to exclusion from that part of the United Kingdom in which they are settled.".Then he says in paragraph 198, and I quote again:… exclusion orders should henceforth be made only for a fixed term of three years …".instead of for an unlimited period with a possibility of a review after three years. I would support both those recommendations which have been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, this afternoon. On the proposal to keep the possibility of abolishing altogether the power to exclude, I would ask the Minister whether he would not agree that it would be perfectly possible to frame the new Act so that in any further renewal of the legislation there could be provision for parts of the Act only to be renewed, so that, say, the exclusion power could be dropped easily.
But there is one other point about the noble Earl's recommendations on exclusion which needs to be made. That is this: exactly the same sort of considerations arise here as arose out of the proposals to reform the powers of arrest and detention. It really should not have been necessary to make these recommendations now. If the Act had been reviewed sooner, with the chance to amend it, we might have had these changes long ago.
Then there is the offence of withholding information about terrorism. I have always accepted the need for that provision if we are to have this legislation and I have had less difficulty over it than with some other 485 provisions; because if terrorism is to be fought successfully, the fullest possible information is essential. The corollary of that surely is that the greatest harm could arise from withholding information. I agree with the noble Earl's recommendations, and in particular with the one which says that it should be made plain in the Act itself that in requiring people to be forthcoming about information a person is not being required to incriminate himself, and that in Section 11 of the Act, which is the relevant section—and here I quote—… the report should be amended to make it clear that the information which it is an offence to withhold relates only to the conduct of third parties and not to that of the person being questiond.However, there is one problem here. If the information relates both to a third party and to the person being questioned and it is not possible to separate the two, it needs to be made clear whether the overriding consideration must remain the principle that a person should not be required to incriminate himself.
There is one recommendation of the noble Earl, though it is not one of the most important, with which I do not agree. That is his suggestion that the words "Temporary Provisions" be dropped from the Title of the Act. I can understand the logic behind his proposal, of course, and also the fact that he feels uncomfortable because he regards it as something of a pretence—I hope I am not paraphrasing inaccurately or unfairly—to call the Act "temporary" when it has lasted so long, and because under his proposal any new Act would automatically lapse after five years anyway. But the fact is that most, if not all, of us do regard the legislation as temporary, and I would submit that there is no harm in keeping that in the Title as a constant reminder of the need to remove that thorn—the Act itself—from the side of our civil liberties. I suggest that there is logic in that, too; so I do not feel any qualms about retaining those words.
There are many other excellent recommendations in the report, but what strikes one again and again is that we could have had many of these reforms long ago if only the Government had acted more quickly. I would just add these thoughts. Fortunately, in our debates about combating terrorism, despite some differences, I believe that no one on either side of your Lordships' House or indeed of another place has claimed a monopoly, either of a determination to beat the horror and abomination of the terrorists' evil crimes or of a feeling of revulsion for these exceptional powers in this legislation. I hope that will remain the case, for there are genuine differences of view about their acceptability and effectiveness among people who are nevertheless equally determined to destroy the terrorists.
But this I would say: if it is right to seek a consensus on a matter like this (and even in saying that I would suggest that, in a democracy, we must all reserve the right to keep an open mind) then I would urge the Government, in a spirit of constructive criticism and advice I hope, to recognise that a consensus involves a meeting of minds. Therefore the Government must be more sensitive and more forthcoming much sooner than they have been in the past in order to meet the genuine anxieties which many people have on these matters.
One matter above all on which I am sure we are all united is in our sense of grief for the victims of the 486 violence and for their families and friends, our sense of deep gratitude to our security forces, to the police and to the other services, and our determination to do all that we reasonably can to rid our nation of the scourge of terrorism.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, the first issue that your Lordships have to decide this afternoon is whether to approve the renewal of the order. So far as my noble friends in the Liberal and Social Democratic Parties are concerned, the answer is an unhesitating "Yes". We have consistently supported the order made under the principal Act since it first originated and we have consistently done so because all the evidence is overwhelming that it has served to play a valuable part in combating the evils of terrorism. One has only to give the simple figure which was produced in another place by one of the opponents of the order to make that clear. He pointed out that since 1974 there had been detained some 5,555 suspected terrorists, and he pointed out triumphantly that some 4,900 of them had not been charged. There are two things that follow from that. First, it is highly probable, though none of us will know for certain, that many of those 4,900 gave invaluable information before they were in fact released. Secondly, a simple piece of arithmetic shows that some 655 have in fact been charged, and I defy any of your Lordships to suggest that that did not make a useful contribution in the war against terrorism. That is one of the statistics that goes to show the value of this order.
Perhaps I can add, as one who has been involved many, many times in the criminal courts in the trial of terrorists, that there is no doubt whatever from personal experience of the evidence that became available in those cases that, over and over again, it was the operation of the provisions of this order that led to terrorists being caught and in due course convicted. I know, of course, that there is a very real threat to civil liberties in all this, and I know that we have all listened with care to the warnings given by the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham. It is right that those dangers should not be minimised. But I can only say, speaking for myself, that I would very much rather, being an innocent man, be detained in error and interrogated for five days than be blown to bits by the bomb of some homicidal maniac.
When I indicated that we will support the renewal of this order, and always have done, I do not want it to be thought therefore that we have not from time to time been critical about parts of it. We have expressed doubts as to whether the proscription section is anything more than cosmetic; we have expressed our feeling that Section 11, which makes it a criminal offence to fail to disclose information about other people being likely to commit offences, is a wholly unreal and, very often, a rather ineffectual provision and we have repeatedly expressed our unhappiness about the fact that every year we are asked to renew an order and have no choice, except to take it or leave it. It has never been possible in the years since the Act was passed to attempt to improve it by amending it in part.
The noble Lord, Lord Boston, was kind enough to say that it is now some four years since I first suggested 487 that there might be a lot to be said for a new Bill being brought forward, which could be scrutinised line by line in both Houses of Parliament. That suggestion was one of the main features of the submission made by the Liberal Party to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and I am delighted to hear from the Government that they accept that principle. The noble Lord, Lord Boston, criticises the Government for taking four years to act, but I can only say that if the Government acted on all my suggestions as quickly as that I should be a very satisfied person.
Although we have repeatedly been critical about some parts of this order, we have certainly never contemplated voting against it or against its renewal. Indeed, after the year 1982, in which there were some appalling terrorist outrages, it seems to us even more impossible to contemplate voting against the order. I am bound to say that I, for one, was very sad to see that a once great political party should have decided to take that course in another place. In the situation which we now face, there is no longer very much point in analysing this order with great care, because agreeing that the case for renewing it is overwhelming, we now know that this is the last time that we shall be invited to do so, and we now know that there will—we hope shortly—be a new Bill which we shall be able to scrutinise completely.
What the contents of that new Bill will be are becoming clear. They are becoming clear from the comments made by Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Waddington in another place, and by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in your Lordships' House; and it is becoming clear that the Government are willing to accept a great many of the principal recommendations of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. Perhaps I may add my tribute to the way in which this report is written. There breathes throughout every line, first, a passionate detestation of the evils of terrorism and a determination to take every possible step to defeat it; and, secondly, there breathes an equal passion to ensure that in doing so we do not infringe the liberties of the individual. It is a difficult balance to hold. I believe that the noble Earl has done it most admirably and should receive, as I am sure he will, the gratitude of all your Lordships.
In those circumstances, I want to make only three very short comments about three of the recommendations, where it appears that there may still be some doubt as to what is to be included in the new Bill. First, the noble Earl recommends the use of Section 12(1)(b) of the principal Act, in order to arrest without warrant not merely terrorists who are concerned in acts of terrorism in relation to Northern Ireland, but any suspected international terrorist. Given the links which have been demonstrated over and over again in recent years between terrorists of different factions throughout the world, that is a recommendation with which I would respectfully agree. The noble Earl goes on to say that it may not be necessary to extend that power of arrest to what he describes as domestic terrorism. I wonder whether that is wise. I wonder whether there is any real logic in saying that a police officer should not be entitled to arrest, without warrant, a person whom he reasonably suspects of being engaged in terrorist activities, whether the 488 terrorism is domestic or international. I find it difficult to draw a distinction.
Secondly, I welcome very much the recommendation that a person detained shall, of course, have a right of access to his solicitor after 48 hours have elapsed. This is important. I welcome, too, the realistic suggestion that, even after that period, there may be circumstances in which the right should be restricted and should be allowed only within the sight and hearing of a senior police officer. I say that with very great reluctance, but there has been a development in the last few years, among both barristers and solicitors, of a number of people who have become so politically committed themselves that they get excessively involved with their clients, to the extent that they are often unable to carry out their professional duty with propriety.
The third area in which I welcome the proposals made by the noble Earl, and on which the Government have yet to make clear their view, is the area in which he suggests certain limitations on the right of exclusion. Perhaps, of all the powers given in this Act, the power of exclusion is the one on which there is the greatest possibility of use in an arbitrary way. I welcome the suggestions made by the noble Earl which will, I hope, serve to reduce that possibility.
With those observations, may I just say that we await eagerly the arrival of the new Bill, so that we can discuss with great care the proposals and the recommendations by the noble Earl and, once again, we express to him our gratitude for this admirable report.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he would kindly make this observation, if he wishes to do so, in view of his reference to the Opposition in another place. Did he carefully study the speeches that were made from the Opposition Benches that decried terrorism, went into the history of the matter and felt that honest doubts had upon that occasion to be expressed? Does he not acknowledge that there are at least two points of view when civil liberties are at stake?
§ Lord Wigoder
My Lords, I am delighted to express my view, and I do. If the Opposition had succeeded and won the vote in another place, there would have been no order, the order would have lapsed, there would have been no provisions for combating terrorism until such time as the new Bill was brought into force, and I should have regarded that as quite deplorable.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I rise to offer strong opposition to this renewal order. That is the convinced attitude of the Labour Party as expressed in another place, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, referred to the matter. No one has a higher regard than I have for the noble Lord, Lord Boston, but he would be the first to agree that in what he said today he was not expressing the attitude of the Labour Party. No one can possibly claim that he was. The Labour Party, to which I have belonged for 46 years or so, voted against it after giving considered reasons, so let us not be under any misapprehension: the Labour Party is 489 against the renewal of this Act. That is very consoling to those of us who, like myself, are against the Act. I am not a docile supporter of my party line on all occasions, but when the party line happens to be, as it seems to me, the right one I can naturally support it with even more fervour than usual.
There is another large element in our society to which I shall refer: the Irish community in this country. I am speaking on behalf of the Federation of Irish Societies when I express strong opposition to the renewal of this Act. For many years I have been President of the Irish Centre which is one of the largest constituent elements in the Federation of Irish Societies. If the House needs any further credentials, let me say that I have never failed to say that I am proud to be Irish. Not long ago I read in The Times that the late Lord Arran lamented to the late Lord Gage—also highly respected here and Father of the House—that in this House there seems to be less support for the protection of badgers than for the protection of homosexuals. Lord Gage replied that badgers are not strongly represented in this House. Noble Lords can read what they like into that observation of the former Father of this place. I, at least, am speaking today on behalf of the Irish community in this country.
There are three main, detailed sections in the report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. It is a finely written document, as was that of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, though I am bound to say that I find some large gaps in the argument of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. The first detailed section is called Arrest and Interrogation, the second The Port Powers and the third, Exclusion. For reasons of time, I shall confine myself to the first of these headings—that is, Arrest and Interrogation—and deal with that only in relation to the mainland, but the Federation of Irish Societies and, for that matter, I myself would have equally strong criticisms to offer about the other issues.
I should hope that by now the House is sufficiently aware that I have consistently supported the reunification of Ireland. I have a Motion down on that subject for the ballot on short debates. But I have just as consistently denounced violence, here and elsewhere, in pursuit of that end and, indeed, terrorist violence anywhere. I must not fail to quote two sentences from the evidence supplied to the Jellicoe inquiry by the Federation of Irish Societies:The Federation as a body, and all its member associations, are totally opposed to terrorism and have no sympathy for those who involve themselves in terrorist activities. We condemn the use of violence and threat of violence for political ends".I hope that there remains no dubiety on that score. But the federation have consistently and ever more firmly opposed the Prevention of Terrorism Act and they are heart and soul in favour of its repeal. The Act, they say,is divisive in that it sets Irish people resident in Britain apart from their neighbours … Many Irish people feel intimidated by the Act … The Act has to a large degree stifled normal healthy and legitimate political discussions [among Irishmen] … As a result of arrest many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods. The conclusion must be that the principal aim of the Act is to give the police and the security forces power to arrest and detain people for the purpose of fishing exercises"—I repeat that phrase "fishing exercises", because it is very close to my own experience of this subject— 490freed from the constraints of the judges and the sanctions of the court".I shall gladly let any Member of the House have a copy of the full document from which these sentences are extracted.
I stress this attitude of the Irish community which I have just summarised in order to leave no possible doubt about the opposition to the Bill of the Irish community. In another place the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs explained that in 1975 the Home Secretary had used an argument which at the time he, Mr. Hattersley, regarded as having enormous strength and which encouraged him at that time to vote for the measure. The argument was that the Bill was intended to lessen the reaction against the general body of Irish people here. Mr. Hattersley commented that no one seriously advances that argument now.
The arguments against the Bill have been so well deployed elsewhere, though with less fervour than I might have hoped for here, that it is hardly necessary for me to labour them. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, admits in paragraph 55 of his report—I believe that this is a correct quotation—that there can be no clear proof that the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are or are not an essential weapon in the fight against terrorism. Up to a point I am bound to agree with that statement. I can sympathise with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, being only too well aware that in this kind of area there can hardly be a coercive proof, a proof which it is impossible for an intelligent and honest person to argue against. But the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has reached a firm conclusion on his own. He has reached the conclusion that special legislation effectively reduces terrorism. The evidence he brings forward in his report should at least point in that direction, if we are not being asked to rely on his personal hunch, supported by the views of the police.
I would defy anyone—though I cannot challenge the personal recollections of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder—coming from outside and studying the report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to find evidence on the face of the report to justify his firm decision in favour of exceptional and most unpalatable measures. Indeed, I must call attention to a passage at the very beginning of the report which runs as follows:In effect".said the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe,it was necessary for me to reach a major conclusion before taking on the job".I should like the full attention of the noble Earl at this moment because I want to be quite sure that I am not misrepresenting him.In effect",said the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, on the first page of his report,it was necessary for me to reach a major conclusion before taking on the job. Before doing so, I satisfied myself from preliminary enquiries and from a close perusal of the parliamentary debates since 1974 that some form of special legislation was indeed required to deal with the continuing threat posed by terrorism throughout the United Kingdom".In other words, before the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, took on the job, to use his own expression, he had reached the major conclusion that special legislation was necessary, so I am afraid I cannot feel that in the rest of his report he was coming to these matters with 491 a dispassionate mind. However, I appreciate the absolute intregrity with which the noble Earl reached his final conclusion—and, indeed, the absolute integrity with which he reached his provisional conclusion—but it is a conclusion which might have been modified had the noble Earl paid more attention to the views of the Irish community, views which, for reasons I need not go into now, are relevant.
I will spend my remaining time in trying to illustrate with one example what we are talking about in practice when we point out that 85 per cent. of those arrested—or whatever the figure is—are never charged and that a tiny proportion are found guilty. It is not difficult—it never is on these occasions—to find cases of alleged maltreatment by individual police officers, but that is not involved in the case I am going to quote. In this case, as it was reported to me, the officers behaved a trifle crudely, but no doubt they conceived that they were doing their duty and no complaint was lodged. The lady about whom I am talking is a middle-aged housewife. She came originally from Northern Ireland but has been resident here for more than 30 years.
At about 4 a.m. on a certain Wednesday morning, her house was invaded by a number of police. She thought that some of them were armed but I am not necessarily sure whether she was right or wrong about that. She, her husband and her daughter were aroused from bed and taken off to various police stations. She was held and interrogated at various intervals from early Wednesday morning until Saturday evening: the best part of four days. That is well beyond the 48 hours permitted without renewal and so we must assume that some renewal was secured in this case. I need hardly add that when this lady was released, there was no expression of regret, however minimal. That applies to other cases I have looked into.
The lady described herself to me as being bewildered throughout. She could not make out what it was all about. She was asked at one point whether she was a member of the IRA, which she vigorously denied. The main questions, constantly repeated, related to her nephew—her brother's son, still resident in Belfast. She kept pointing out to the interrogators that she had seen this nephew only about twice in the previous 30 years and could tell them nothing. They seemed to disbelieve her for the best part of four days until at last they realised, so it seems, that she could tell them nothing. She was at no time allowed access to a solicitor or any contact with the outside world. She was compelled to strip and hand over her clothes, and was provided instead with a dirty blanket. Is that the way in which the system is supposed to work? I am not taking an extreme case but one that might seem to be a fairly ordinary case. I should like to ask the noble Lord to say, when he replies, whether that is considered on the whole to be something that one justifies.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I should just like to answer the noble Earl, Lord Longford. The noble Earl said that this case is anonymous at present, but I do not doubt that he will reveal it to me afterwards so that I may pursue it. The noble Earl said also that this was probably a fairly ordinary case, although earlier he said that instances of this sort were extremely difficult 492 to come by. I wonder what grounds the noble Earl has for saying that this is a perfectly ordinary case.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I do not think that I did say that instances of this kind were difficult to come by. I am sorry, but my failure of articulation is responsible for a mishearing by the noble Lord. I said that it was not difficult to find extreme cases but that I was trying to cite what seemed to be a normal case where there was not any outrageous behaviour by the police.
I merely want to know what can be expected. Is 4 a.m. the right time at which to call on such a lady? She was dragged off in one direction, her daughter was dragged off in another and her husband in another; she was kept for the best part of four days without any communication with the outside world and was interrogated remorsely about her nephew. If the noble Lord, Lord Elton, says, "That does not, of course, happen and the whole thing is much more humane than that", then let us hear that also. But as I understand it, this is the kind of incident that is bound to result under this particular Act.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I really must finish because I am taking up around 15 minutes. The House may ask me whether this lady's nephew was regarded with any justification as being a dangerous person. The answer to that is that I have not the slightest idea. I have not gone into the question of the nephew but I am saying that here is a woman who was intimidated for nearly four days in the hope of dredging out of her some information that would help the police in dealing with her nephew. I am saying that if that is the Act, then the sooner it is got rid of the better.
There seems to be some implication in Lord Jellicoe's report that pressure on relatives is something that is repugnant to most people, but as far as I can see under this Act such pressure is apparently an essential feature. Pressure on relatives to obtain information of the kind described is the first step, but quite a large one, towards a police state. Certainly, it is a striking feature of any police state of which we have any knowledge. I am only saying that if that is the plan behind this Act, and it is considered to be all in a day's work, quite normal practice and essential to the preservation of liberty in some wider sense, then it is quite contrary to traditional British ideas of justice and human ideas of decency everywhere. I am delighted that my party—the Labour Party—is so strongly opposed to the renewal of this measure.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, will he answer a brief question which will help us in making our personal plans? In view of the fact that the noble Earl's party is against renewing the order, does he propose to divide the House at the end of this debate?
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I would never dream of taking a step of that kind without long consultation with my leaders.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Brookeborough
My Lords, we have listened to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, with great interest. Whatever the problems about the nephew living in Belfast in the case in which the noble Earl was concerned, I can assure the noble Earl that if he were to come to Belfast, he would not be considered a dangerous person.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, if I may reply to that point, the only nephew of mine who is at all before the public is Mr. Ferdinand Mount, who is a close adviser of Mrs. Thatcher; so I believe it would be very much out of order to cross-examine me about him!
§ Viscount Brookeborough
My Lords, it would be quite wrong for this House to feel that the noble Earl alone has the right to speak for the Irish derived community in this country. I do not know how many members of the Irish population here are in the societies which the noble Earl represents, but I can say with absolute certainty that there are hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens who are perfectly content and who feel that this Act is no threat to them at all. They have a great abhorrence of violence, just as the noble Earl does, but they feel that their enjoyment of civil rights in this country justifies the Act as it is, although there are problems in balancing between freedoms, civic rights, and the need to combat terrorism.
I will start by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for his report, which I found most interesting and which, like the rest of my party, I absolutely support. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Boston of Faversham and Lord Wigoder, on their speeches, because they put the case extremely well. The statistics which the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, produced were very telling. He emphasised the fact that seven-day detention produces information, and that should never be forgotten. The interrogator requires time to get some rapport—if that is the right word—with the person he is interrogating before the information can be produced.
I speak on this subject, of course, from a personal angle. I feel very strongly because I am totally involved, as I am living in a community where people have been murdered. Therefore, I find it easier to accept a limitation of civil rights than do quite a lot of people who live much further from where these incidents occur. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, who said that one must be careful not to be anaesthetised towards such incidents. I can assure the noble Lord that I am certainly not anaesthetised at this moment, but I am very conscious that without a renewal of this order and the new Act to come in, the lives of many people in my area will be at risk—or they may even have been lost by now.
I welcome the inclusion in the report of all international terrorism in the scope of the Act; but I have to say that I consider it absolutely absurd to try to differentiate between nationally derived terrorism and internationally derived terrorism, or IRA terrorism, because to me murder is murder if it is violently done by terrorism, no matter who does it.
I thought I would tell the House of a very small experience I had of the link between international 494 terrorism and national terrorism. About three years ago I was asked to go to Paris to take part in a three-hour television programme. Among my colleagues were one of the Peace Movement ladies, Mrs. Williams, and Austin Curry, who is an SDLP person. To our surprise, when we arrived in Paris we found a certain lady who was deeply involved in violence called Miriam Daley; Mrs. Williams assured me that not only was this lady involved in violence but Mrs. Williams had actually experienced violence from her. I am sad to say that she was afterwards murdered, I do not know whom by, but certainly she met a violent death. The significance of this is that this was a lady from the Falls Road, a not very prosperous part of Belfast, and when she left after the broadcast in Paris, she was collected by a lady who, I was assured on the best posible authority, was the link woman between the Baader-Meinhof, the Red Brigade and the PFLP.
If somebody from the Falls Road, in the IRA or one of those organisations, can go to Paris and get picked up and entertained by somebody involved in that setup, then surely there is no doubt whatever that we should involve all international terrorism within this Act. In my view, we should involve all terrorist acts altogether. As British people we seem to think it is necessary to have a command structure, somebody who pulls the strings and gives the orders. But that is not the way modern terrorism works. There is no doubt that there have been a number of murders—I will not quote two I can think of at the moment—of prominent people, where the IRA may have pulled the trigger, but I very much wonder who ordered the trigger to be pulled. Therefore, I ask the Government to look again at the question of national domestic terrorism and try to include it.
Prevention is the main element. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, said that this was to do with prevention of terrorism. I feel very strongly that it is impossible to calculate what has been prevented by the operation of this Act. I probably suffer as much as anybody else from the point of view of the inconvenience of going through airports. I have not heard anybody complain of the inconvenience. The courtesy of the officers who operate the Act is something we should be very proud of.
What has not been mentioned here, and may possibly be slightly out of order, but it is to do with the prevention of terrorism in one part of the United Kingdom, is that crimes are still being committed in Northern Ireland, quite often more than likely by a Northern Ireland citizen, and the criminal then retreats across the border. The Garda know who they are and they know where they live. But they have not committed any crime or any act of violence in the Irish Republic. Dr. Fitzgerald is a man of great humanity whom I have met and I know. The best method of dealing with this problem is undoubtedly by extradition. That is the best method because all that has to happen is that the two Attorney-Generals, the Attorney-General in Westminster and the Attorney-General in Dublin, have to agree that extradition shall be granted. The level of evidence required is much lower than is necessary for the other method under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act.
I have to repeat what I have said many times, that the Criminal Jurisdiction Act is totally ineffective 495 because the person involved cannot be interrogated by the RUC, or by the Garda if the offence is committed on our side of the border. Ninety per cent. of all convictions occur as a result of interrogation. Evidence is so difficult to produce, because of intimidation. If today, when we have such goodwill from Dr. Fitzgerald, Dublin will not grant extradition, I ask the Government to find some other method; to ask the Government in Dublin—do not let us dictate to them but ask them—to provide another method. It is all right talking about changing the constitution, but for those of us who live in Northern Ireland the most important part of goodwill from Dublin is to bring these men to justice.
My Lords, I did not approve of the Assembly, and I said so in this House. But it is there and we have to deal with the situation as it is. One of my reasons for not approving it was because it validated the IRA. That still stands; they have an electoral validity. I have to say that it was with great sadness that I saw the great Labour Party vote against the continuation of this Act. But I have to note and praise the fact that various members of the Labour Party, Mr. Callaghan, Sir Harold Wilson, Mr. Merlyn Rees, Mr. Orme—in fact every Minister who has had anything to do with Northern Ireland—stood out against that vote; and for that I should like to record the pleasure of the people of Northern Ireland. That vote against the continuation of this order undoubtedly gave comfort to the enemy. There is no better way to defeat the IRA than to show our determination to beat them, and therefore we should approve this order.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I had hoped to spend the time I was going to detain your Lordships in discussing the noble Earl's report, but I am bound to make one or two comments on remarks made by my noble friend Lord Longford. I do not believe I have ever heard him quite so passionately convinced that he was speaking party policy. I think probably he and I have not kicked over the traces very often, but if ever there was a bad case on which to be so passionately committed to party policy this seems to me to be the one. I for one am opposed to what happened officially in the other place. The noble Viscount who has just spoken has drawn attention to the rather strange number of absences from the Division Lobby. Those of us who are old members of the Labour Party are well aware—I give this to the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder—that we do on occasion disagree with one another; that is perhaps the understatement of the year. I think this is the sort of difficult issue on which there are bound to be strong feelings and feelings of conscience. I hope I can remove any anxieties from the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. It is not generally the intention of the Labour Party in the House of Lords ever to vote against an order. Therefore, I think the noble Lord can go home, if he wishes, at this point.
My Lords, let me deal with one or two points of the noble Earl, Lord Longford., He did pick up, with some triumph in his voice, the statement that the noble Earl satisfied himself before he undertook this task that it was necessary to have some legislation, but he was not debarred from saying what he thought about the 496 legislation. It was perfectly open to him, as it was to me, to say that the legislation was objectionable or ineffective, that he had to have regard to the effectiveness of the legislation and to its effect on the liberties of the subject and to report. And he reported, if I may say so, very admirably.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt on one point. He, inadvertently no doubt, left out one word in his quotation. The noble Earl was satisfied that there should be some special legislation, not just legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, left out the word "special".
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I will insert the word "special". It does not affect my point, that there was a need for special legislation. If I may say so, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, committed something of a breach in the custom of the House. He said, as I understood him, that he was speaking on behalf of the Irish community. But that is, of course, entirely contrary to the custom of your Lordships. There is a reference, if I can find it, which makes clear that we do not speak on behalf of any interests. We speak for ourselves. We can identify with outside bodies who agree with us, but we do not speak on their behalf. I think it is important to make that clear.
I have always had an admiration and affection for the noble Earl and I am glad that I am speaking after him, and not before, because I am quite sure that he would deal with me far more effectively than I can deal with him. However, I am bound to say that I agree with him on one point. I think he implied that the noble Earl's report was better than mine. I would be the first to agree. It is an extremely good report. I detect that I have a certain irritation on certain things that he spotted, in the thorough and scholarly way that he approached the matter, and that I failed to see. However, it is fair to point out that in my report, and in his, considerable changes and improvements were made in the legislation. I, for one, feel that we cannot do other than renew this particular order now.
It has been suggested that the percentage of those detained at ports, and inland, and subsequently released without charge, is unacceptably high. We all understand the sense of grievance. The noble Earl drew attention with great force, as I hope I did, to the damage, discomfort and worry that is caused in such circumstances. There are conclusions of more significance to be drawn from the figures relating to detention. Here I should like to quote from the noble Earl's report. In referring to my report, he says:In the period since Lord Shackleton reported the arrest and detention powers in the Act [at ports] have been used more rarely but with a generally higher proportion of 'catches' than in earlier years. These figures demonstrate an increase in both the selectivity and the effectiveness of the use of these powers by the police on the mainland, which is at variance with the assertions of a number of the Act's critics.If I may for a moment dwell on my findings in 1978, I believe that the balance of risks and benefits which I weighed then still holds true. I commented:It is argued that the consequences of a period in detention for the individual and his family may be severe and that where a person is released without being charged or excluded they are well-nigh unacceptable. However, the same consequences may arise in the case of a person who is arrested, charged, and later acquitted of a non-terrorist offence.497 Of course, people are sometimes held, and may be held, without charge for longer periods than the great majority of those detained under this Act because the overwhelming majority—and I draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, to this—were not held for more than 48 hours, and many of them for a great deal less. It is worth while studying the statistics, which the noble Earl points out are still not entirely satisfactory. However, I draw attention to the fact that between the beginning of 1979 and the end of 1982, 459 extensions of detention beyond 48 hours were granted in Great Britain and 210 of those—46 per cent.—resulted in charge or exclusion; that is, 459 out of a total of 5,000. So the amount of time spent in detention was very limited indeed. Therefore, when we look at the noble Earl's report we should pay particular attention to what he says about specifying the period in which people can be kept, even within the 48 hours that he mentioned—the one-hour period and then a 12-hour period.
We do not expect the Government to answer these particular issues now, but I very much hope that they will pay careful attention to them, even though it adds to the troubles of those who are responsible for administering the Act. Because we feel so strongly about this I am afraid that, inevitably, we have to impose restraints on those who have to administer the Act.
I also welcome the recommendation that the noble Earl made in his review for ameliorating conditions of detention. That is a matter to which I drew attention in 1978. I am sorry to find that the noble Earl was still not satisfied that enough has been done—in particular, that individuals detained at ports for one hour should be given a notice of their rights and, after 12 hours, detained only on the ground of suspected involvement in terrorism which would be appropriate for an inland arrest. The example which my noble friend gave is a horrifying one. I do not know how it can happen. If he regards it as an ordinary sort of case I wonder what an extreme case would be, and I am sorry that he has not given any. Perhaps he will give them to the noble Lord. I hope that amendments will follow to the Act, or a future order, which will, in fact, improve this.
In Northern Ireland, about 40 per cent. of all arrests under the Act resulted in charge and about 45 per cent. of extended detentions preceded a charge. The report comments that,The most worthwhile figure to use as a basis of comparison between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in this respect is the proportion of 'extended' Section 12 arrests which resulted in a criminal charge. This proportion is virtually the same.".A charge rate of over 40 per cent. seems to me impressive in this context.
Finally on this particular aspect, while a scrutiny of the use of the arrest powers in relation to criminal charges is of considerable interest it is not, of course, the test by which the powers must be judged. This is meant to be preventive legislation, and I think that that cannot be overstressed.
I should like to make just two comments on the actual legislation which is contemplated. I am not yet entirely convinced that it is right to extend this legislation to other forms of terrorism. Indeed, I should have thought that the case for doing so for national terrorism—that is, other than the IRA— 498 rather than international seems to be stronger because there are much stronger controls at the ports over aliens coming into this country. I am not opposed to what is being done but the need is obviously greater because we are for the most part dealing with people who are not citizens of this country who can, in fact, be refused admission and can be freely deported back to the country whence they came.
I am not clear whether the purpose of Section 12 was, as suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, deliberately left open so that it might be applied to international terrorism. My own view—and I took this view at the time—is that it was more by chance; and that, if Section 12 applies, so also should Section 11, to which the Northern Ireland dimension is not mentioned.
Perhaps the noble Lord will consider those points when he replies to the debate. It is my view that if the powers are to be extended for international or other forms of terrorism there should be specific legislative authority, because Parliament, so far as I know, certainly did not have in mind such an application for the Act when it was originally passed.
Finally, on Section 11, I still dislike the power to charge people for failing to give information. I know that this was put in at a late stage in the original Act, that no prosecutions took place practically speaking up to the time I did my report and that the moment that I did my report and drew attention to the section a number of prosecutions followed almost immediately. I would ask the Government to consider very carefully. If, like my noble friend, they come to the view that it is a desirable power, I would accept it, but it is one of the ones that I find particularly unpleasant, smacking very much of the sort of police state type of legislation.
In conclusion, I should just like to stress that those who suggest that we are on a slippery slope are misled. On the contrary, the slope is getting less slippery. It is getting more difficult. The amendments that were made following my report, and even more so the amendments that will be made, as I hope they will be, following the noble Earl's report, will make this particular path a more difficult one to follow. It is quite right to accept now that there should be a renewal of the Act—that the Act should in fact be reintroduced every five years, as a guarantee, whether or not it is called temporary or otherwise. I can only say that it is my view that in the conflict between survival for peaceful and innocent people and the inconvenience and sometimes discomfort that is caused to individuals, on balance, this legislation is necessary. I think that the powers of exclusion are perhaps the most unpleasant of all and I am sorry that even now the Government have not yet made any provision to help individuals who are excluded from this country with removal and other expenses, to which the noble Earl has drawn attention. I hope that the Government will look at that. But, having said that, I think there is no choice: provided we can reduce the period, then I think that this Act must be continued. I should be very surprised, if I may say so, if, were a Labour Government in office, they did not in fact do so.
My Lords, in joining with other noble Lords in agreeing that the order should be 499 renewed, I would just like to say that I entirely agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, in what he has said about extradition. The extraterritorial jurisdiction legislation which was introduced has not proved to be effective, and I think that extradition from the Republic of Ireland is the only possible way to solve that particular problem.
In turning to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, if I am right in referring to this now, I would like to ask one quick question and one simple supplementary. In Part I, Section 2, it is stated:Any person who in a public place—et cetera. Turning later in the document to Part III, Section 19, it says:
- (a) wears any item of dress, or
- (b) wears, carries or displays any article, in such a way or in such circumstances as to arouse reasonable apprehension that he is a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, shall be liable on summary conviction".Part I of this Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland".My question, my Lords, is: why should this be the case? My guess is that the answer is that although there is other legislation which covers this, the problem is that whatever that legislation may be it does not appear to be effective.
All too regularly we see on television and in the press IRA funerals where a group of masked men emerge from the crowd and, with what are presumably illegally-held weapons, fire a volley of shots over the coffin and then retire once again into the crowd. They are observed from a discreet distance by the security forces. I should be very grateful if the noble Lord when winding up this debate would explain why this is so. I would be glad if he would tell us whether or not he is aware that this blatant flouting of the law in Northern Ireland causes considerable resentment among the law-abiding citizens. If, for instance, at a regimental or British Legion parade I were to display an illegally-held weapon, I would be hounded by the police, and quite rightly so. So how, therefore, can these hooded and masked men fire shots from illegally-held weapons in a public place without being arrested and brought to order?
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, I would like to say a few things about this review and this Act. I do not want to make a long speech, but I would like just to put forward a thought about the principle behind this review and also an idea about certain of the recommendations made in it.
I think it must be quite clear from what the noble Lord the Minister has said, and from what other noble Lords have said from all sides of the House, that the base of the Prevention of Terrorism Act is to reflect a balance—a balance which is made up, of course, of measures necessary to protect the lives of innocent people while at the same time maintaining the necessary respect for civil liberties and a concern for the sensitivities of those people most affected by those extraordinary powers. In fact, my Lords, it is a balance which will most help the forces of peace to fight the forces of violence. So, my Lords, if we are all agreed that it is merely a case of identifying the best weapons to do this, then I think it is wrong to accuse those who 500 oppose this Act of supporting violence. They do so because they believe that the powers under this Act do not represent that balance.
My Lords, to my mind it is quite clear, from reading the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe's report, that he wrote it with great concern, compassion and a respect for humanity. In my view, this is a constant factor throughout it. It is also clear that he, too, was very preoccupied with maintaining this balance. But I think at some points in his report it is equally clear that the noble Earl was a little doubtful that he was achieving this. To give one example, he said:The most important assistance which the police can have in the fight against terrorism is not special powers but the support of the public. It is vital that such powers do not unnecessarily alienate—either in their essence or in their application—any section of the law-abiding population".Thus, from this extract from the noble Earl's review—and I think I can give others—Lord Jellicoe clearly did have some doubt as to achieving the right balance, yet his recommendation was in favour of renewal, followed by a new Act.
However, I think at this point it is really right that we should remember the noble Earl's final injunction, when he said, as your Lordships will remember:the Act should remain in force only while it continues to remain effective, only if its aims cannot be achieved by use of the general law, if it does not make unacceptable inroads on civil liberties".This leaves us with varying thoughts. I must confess that for my part I find it really impossible to forget what the honourable Member for Belfast, West said in the House of Commons. As we know, there can be no doubt of the continual and courageous stand that Mr. Gerry Fitt has taken against the terrorists and how much he has been persecuted by them. Equally, there can be no doubt of his intimate knowledge of the effect that these special powers have on the sensitivities of the minority communities; and yet Mr. Fitt has decided that, on balance, the Prevention of Terrorism Act is of greater help to the men of violence than it is a hindrance to them. He feels very sincerely that it drives many members of that community into the arms of the IRA.
My Lords, I really do not feel myself qualified to make these decisions, so I would merely like to put forward one or two very brief reflections. First, may I say a word about some of the recommendations in Part II, which deal with arrest and interrogation renewal in the review. These appear to concern the all-important humanitarian provisions about the treatment of detainees. Fairly naturally, my noble friend Lord Shackleton has mentioned these. I would like to support what he said. For example, Recommendation 16 says that:Implementation of Lord Shackleton's recommendations on the welfare of persons held under the Act in Great Britain has been patchy and variable".Can we have an assurance that this will now be carried out?
Other recommendations concern the force orders operating in Great Britain. It seems of the highest importance to have a categorical assurance from the Government that, while the implementation of the recommendation of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in this regard clearly fell down, the recommendations 501 of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will be strictly adhered to. Surely while we retain these special powers, it is of critical importance to give priority to the humanitarian provisions and to ensure that the welfare of those detainees—after all, many of them are entirely innocent—should be protected and safeguarded. Arising out of this, I hope that when, each year, Parliament debates the annual renewal, the prospect of the five years' re-enactment will not diminish the importance of the debate, while at the same time these annual debates will be used to report on how these recommendations are being carried out and on those other areas of the review.
On another point, I hope that at all times the Government will maintain the closest relations with the Republic of Ireland in order to enable the two countries to co-operate to the full in controlling the violence. Lastly, I also hope that in order to prevent these measures from being considered—as I fear they are at present—as anti-Irish rather than anti-terrorist measures, the Government will always keep an open mind to moving towards a wider framework in which to oppose both domestic and international terrorism.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, referred to the incidence of international terrorism, and many other noble Lords have referred to it. In regard to this matter, the Council of Europe's convention for the suppression of terrorism is, as I said, still thought by very many people to be the most constructive effort to attain a minimal measure of international cooperation for the protection of innocent people. If we were able to move towards measures set in such a wider framework, the Provisional IRA would be robbed of a propaganda weapon which clearly the present Act now presents, and a basis for seeking agreement on extradition and other judicial, political and police forms of international co-operation would be provided. So surely it must be agreed that any steps leading to a more authoritarian society are bound to be abhorred. Already the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill in the House of Commons could be seen as a step in that direction.
Therefore, I end merely by saying that it seems of the greatest importance, first, to attach the highest priority to the humanitarian safeguards included in the recommendation of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; and, secondly, to keep our minds wide open to alternative and, indeed, more democratic methods of containing the violence which so tragically exists in our society.
§ 4.43 p.m.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, I want to draw attention to a relatively new phenomenon, which is international terrorism, a considerable part of which is government supplied, government directed and government trained. I think that this is a menace to all peaceful societies and one which we have not adequately recognised. There are two kinds of laws—the laws of peace and the laws of war. I think one can say that the primary purpose of the laws of peace is to provide for and protect civil rights. The laws of peace are the laws of the individual. Within the laws of peace I have always regarded capital punishment as an anachronism, an absurdity and inefficient. But the laws of war are a very different matter indeed. The purpose of the laws of war is to 502 provide government with the powers to protect the citizen against the violence of the Queen's enemies. To that purpose civil rights must take a back seat. Courts-martial must be expeditious and feared. Death, not as a punishment but as a means of coercion, must be at their disposal. Both our will and, it seems, our means are inadequate to protect our citizens against this new danger of organised violence and terror.
The Middle East has had a very long experience of the States of the Assassins; right from the days of Omar Khayyám and before the Crusades one found the Society of the Assassins whose leader said, "If two men will obey me totally, I can command the world". He sent his two men with a message to the ruler, "Obey or you will die". The ruler died and the next ruler obeyed. So for 200 years the Middle Eastern rulers were held in awe and terror by the Society of the Assassins. That has continued there through history from that date.
Today Iraq, Iran and Libya are assassin states, training, using, despatching and, through the diplomatic box, supplying and arming assassins throughout the world. The man Rosen, who was sentenced to 35 years for the attempted murder of the Israeli ambassador, is a colonel on active service in the intelligence corps of the Iraq army. How long will be served? How long will it be before the Foreign Office comes here and says, "There are some important trade agreements with Iraq and we have considered an amnesty in these matters, which I am sure everyone regrets"? I can hear them saying it. How long will it be before some important Englishman is kidnapped in Iraq and we are offered an exchange with which, of course, would go various economic deals? When you are dealing with what I think one may term "sovereign" criminals—that is to say government directed assassins—I am afraid that prison is no good. The bars do not hold against a sovereign patron. The only sentence that sticks and the only sentence feared is death.
Then one turns again—and I am talking of Foreign Office behaviour in these matters—to the PLO. Nobody has any doubt at all that the PLO has built its position and gained its influence by its capacity to assassinate rulers in the Middle East. They have also sent a series of assassins who have operated here. Yet it is Foreign Office policy to negotiate with these assassins and to recognise the power which they have taken by assassination and nothing else. I do not think you can operate a peaceful world on these lines. As regards Europe, the international terrorists operate on both the Left and to a far higher degree on the Right. I am told that Britain is regarded as a safe house by the Right-wing terrorists in Germany, Italy and France. I can give the noble Lord who will reply a list of names if he wants them. Terrorists from these countries stow safely away here.
Now again one comes to Ireland. The IRA claim to be soldiers, as indeed do terrorists in the Middle East. They claim to have the right to be treated as military combatants. Let them have those rights. Let them remember that their activities are forbidden by the laws of war under the penalty of death. For combatants to operate without uniform and without order against even an invader is forbidden under penalty of death by the laws of war. If they choose to 503 claim the laws of war, let them have them. Let them be tried by courts-martial.
When the Irish trouble began 12 years ago I was then a Member of another place. I then pleaded for immediate application of martial law to Northern Ireland. I remember that Mr. Whitelaw came up to me and said, "What do you mean by martial law?" I referred him to the Duke of Wellington's memorandum. It is still the classical statement of what martial law amounts to. It means that the legislative power, the judicial power, and the executive power are vested in the commander-in-chief for the period during which martial law is applied.
If you had done that, and if the commander-in-chief, Northern Ireland, had issued an order that arms were to be surrendered by a certain date; that anybody found with illegal arms after that date would be tried by a court-martial, by a drumhead court-martial with a major as president; sentenced; the sentence would be confirmed, and execution would take place within 48 hours, how long would it have taken to disarm Northern Ireland? I do not think very long.
Again—and this is a suggestion I made—the taking of hostages in face of guerrilla activity is recognised by the laws of war and our own military manual as necessary and justified. We had at that time some 300-odd hostages whom we were holding under detention, and who were members of the IRA. I suggested at that time to put their names in a hat and say, "This will be the order in which these men are taken and shot, one for each bomb that goes off'', so that the people who lay out bombs will know at least one of the people they are going to kill.
If we had had the guts to do that, remember the excitement that would build up. The list published and known, and as he came down the list the agitation by the priest and the family, "For God's sake don't kill old Joe"; and how long would they have had the nerve to go on doing it? I very much doubt whether it would have been necessary to shoot half a dozen. Almost certainly not a dozen. Since then over 2,600 people have died horribly by murder, because one did not have the guts to do what was necessary early enough.
It is that kind of weakness for which thousands die. We are facing terrorism in its newest form at this moment. If we go on being soft with it—and this Act is hopelessly soft compared to what we are up against—there are an awful lot of people who are going to join that 2,600 who have already died and been mutilated because of our weakness.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he would agree that the Germans tried exactly that, and would he agree that they were not very successful in the end?
Lord Paget of Northampton
No, my Lords; I would agree that they were exceedingly successful. Where the German Army were in charge, which was primarily France, the German Army were able to go into bars, and they were able to use public transport for over four years until it was clear that the Germans were beginning to be beaten. The German occupation of 504 France was safe, and there was no terrorism or violence in France. As long as you are on the winning end it works. Of course, once you begin to be defeated, then people rouse themselves up.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, the review conducted by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was published only six weeks ago. We have had less than one week's full notice of the debate on that review, and I feel that we have been rushing into it somewhat. I express the hope that the usual channels on all sides of the House will take notice of this. One of the amazing and encouraging things about your Lordships' House is that there seems to be almost always someone or other who knows precisely where the shoe pinches. It is for that reason that I was particularly glad to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, had to say earlier. I would invite the noble Lord, Lord Blease, if he is willing, to tell us when he speaks of some of the problems which have occured of perfectly innocent trade unionists crossing the Irish Channel in both directions and being detained and arrested simply because they happen to have an Irish name or an Irish accent.
I am one of those who, over the years, has been concerned about this Act because of its implications, not only for civil rights, as has been mentioned on many sides, but also for its impact on community relations. I agree that the review provides some considerable improvements. I should particularly like to welcome paragraphs 9, 21, 25, 29, 30, 36, 43, 50, 56 and 57 of the conclusions and summary. We have, however, to remember that the great majority of suspects who are likely to be detained in the future are likely to be innocent people. I say this in spite of the points rightly made by the noble Lords, Lord Wigoder and Lord Shackleton.
This is what makes me draw attention to conclusion No. 16, and here I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs. I hope that the welfare of arrested persons will be rapidly improved where it is now inadequate. As regards recommendation No. 19, I should like to ask that persons arrested in Britain should be informed of their rights, as will be done in Northern Ireland. This is already covered by the Judges' Rules in Britain, and by the recent Home Office draft code on the treatment of persons in police custody. I have only just managed to obtain a copy of the code, but I trust it will apply to the whole of the United Kingdom and that it is designed to protect both suspects and police forces. It would be good if the sections on interrogation could form the basis for an eventual European code.
As regards other safeguards, I should like recommendations 10 and 13 to be more positively stated and to read something like, "Except where circumstances make it impossible, applications should" and so on. We should note what is said in conclusion 52 about the relative ineffectiveness of proscribing organisations in view of the existence of legal wings and parallel bodies. I hope it will be possible to abolish entirely exclusion orders before a further five years have passed. Meanwhile, would Her Majesty's Government please consider that a person served with an order should be enabled to make his representations to a judge in chambers, instead of to an 505 adviser? If that happened, the judge could then, in complete privacy, weigh the grounds for suspicion against whatever the suspect might have to say on his own behalf. I believe that would be a more obviously fair way which would not impose a great burden on the judiciary, because relatively few orders are made.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, I would remind the noble Lord that the proposition he is advocating was considered very carefully. The danger of it is that it would imply some form of judicial process, whereas by definition it cannot be a judicial process. Therefore I strongly support the use of the appeal to the adviser rather than to a judge in chambers, who would find it very difficult, as it would not be possible to confront the individual with the evidence on which he was being excluded.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I bow to the superior knowledge and experience of the noble Lord, but I should still like to obtain a judicial flavour in the matter.
I am concerned very much with the overlap of the Act we are considering today with the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. In Northern Ireland, a suspect may be arrested under either Act and then treated somewhat differently. Surely there is scope for harmonisation of the two. Last summer the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, wrote to me saying he expected the Government to announce a review of the Northern Ireland Act early last autumn. Can the Government today cast any light on when such an announcement will be made and who will conduct the review?
The terms of reference for this second review will be of great importance, and I ask first, that they should include, the question whether any sections of the Northern Ireland Act can be omitted or amended; secondly, that the review should consider, as I am sure it will, all aspects of the operation of the Act; and thirdly, that the question of harmonising the Northern Ireland Act with the Prevention of Terrorism Act should, in the light of Lord Jellicoe's review, be taken into account. I urge the Government to pay most serious attention to the representations that have been made on both Acts by the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights in Northern Ireland.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, first I wish to echo the tributes paid by my noble friend Lord Boston to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and to my noble friend Lord Shackleton for their thorough and masterly reports in a very difficult and sensitive area of issues of a high political nature. A considerable amount has already been said in the debate about general attitudes to the prevention and suppression of terrorism, and I shall try to avoid repetition. However, I feel it important for me to restate the fact that this emergency legislation has been in force for nine years and that in that time the levels of violence and the effects of outrageous damage to life and property have continued to appal peaceful and law-abiding people. At the same time, I firmly believe it is right that emergency measures, like any legislation, should be open to critical scrutiny and public discussion. While, it is not sufficient to rehearse 506 stale arguments based on a lack of sensitivity to human values or because of a blind reliance on the fair and impartial administration of law and order measures, it cannot be claimed that this legislation is perfect. Nor can we be satisfied from the evidence provided that there is not administrative inertia which has allowed delays, default and abuse when legitimate and individual rights have been infringed.
When this order and the Jellicoe Report were debated in another place on Monday last, Mr. Roy Hattersley drew special attention to paragraph 10 of the report, which states:The most important assistance which the police can have in the fight against terrorism is not special powers but the support of the public. It is vital that such powers do not unnecessarily alienate—either in their essence or in their application—any section of the law-abiding population.I agree with Mr. Hattersley when he commented:There is much evidence to suggest that the alienation has already happened. Law-abiding Irish visitors feel threatened and harassed at the ports, and the Irish community in Britain feels that it is under constant suspicion. Propaganda victories are handed to the most disreputable elements in Irish politics.".I am in total agreement with Mr. Hattersley when he went on:We can beat the gunman and the bomber only by scrupulous and clearly visible support for the rule of law which the terrorist defies and despises. We cannot beat them by sometimes descending to their own contempt for our normal judicial procedures".—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/83; Col. 574.).However, I consider it important that I should at the same time indicate my equally strong support for the views further expressed in paragraph 10 of the report:There is a fundamental liberty about life in Britain which is not easily found elsewhere. Accordingly, if Parliament sees fit to grant the Executive and the Police special powers, in special circumstances, then they should be required to exercise those powers as selectively, humanely and openly as is consistent with the demands of security".In my opinion, that passage contains the numb of the debate about effective terrorist legislation. For those reasons, I welcome the Jellicoe Report. It provides Parliament with a fresh opportunity to bring forward new, agreed and effective measures to deal with the prevention of terrorism.
I turn to some relevant matters arising out of the report and the debate in another place on 7th March, and I wish to apologise to the Minister for raising some points and asking some questions about which I have not been in a position to give him notice. Perhaps those he is unable to answer when he replies to the debate—and I shall understand his not being able to do so—he will inform me of at a later date. In that debate in another place, in reply to an honourable Member, the Minister of State, Mr. David Waddington, said:The hon. Gentleman said that if we have an Act that will lapse after five years that will be the beginning of permanent legislation. That is an Irishism all right. Every five years hon. Members will have the opportunity to examine the legislation in detail and to decide which parts of it, if any, they want to retain. The hon. Gentleman said that the Act should be allowed to lapse so that the Government should be obliged to bring in another Bill. This is precisely what we are doing".—[Official Report, Commons, 7/3/83; col. 641.]Even after considering that statement in detail, I feel that it requires further explanation. Perhaps I may explain how I see the position, and the Minister for his part may clarify the points. I understand that what is proposed is as follows. First, the Government will introduce a new Act based on the decisions arising 507 from the Jellicoe Report. Secondly, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 will lapse. Thirdly, Parliament will review the new Act each year during its five-years stipulated life, Fourthly, it is possible that during each annual review of the new Act sections of it may be deleted or amended. Fifthly, at the end of the five-year period of the proposed Act, it may be found not necessary to reintroduce whatever may remain of the measures.
I have gone into a little detail because I believe that it is important for us to realise that we are entering into a new situation in dealing with measures for the prevention and suppression of terrorism—a new situation that is born out of two reports and nine years of exercising and administering different measures.
It has already been mentioned that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights made recommendations to the inquiry of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. I understand that the Eighth Report of the Standing Advisory Commission has been issued today and is now available in the Printed Paper Office. I know that in its report the Standing Advisory Commission goes to some lengths in dealing with the approaches connected with making legislative changes. It also makes strong recommendations for a monitoring body.
I want to make a number of points, and I want to do so as succinctly as I can. I do not propose to argue them. I think that the relevance of the issues will be understood without my going into a lot of detail. In dealing with the question of exclusion orders, while replying to matters raised during debate in another place, Mr. Waddington said, as reported at column 637 of the Official Report:The right hon. Member for Down, South, said that he welcomed the shorter period than 20 years, which would prevent the use of the power of exclusion. That recommendation will be examined. Again, on the question of exclusion the right hon. Gentleman said that he welcomed the recommendation in the report that the police on both sides, that is, on the excluding and on the receiving end, would be consulted and advice taken"—
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, is the noble Lord quoting at length a Member of the other place who is not a Minister?—because I think that that would not be in order.
§ Lord Blease
I am sorry, my Lords, if I did not make clear that I was quoting Mr. Waddington, as reported at column 637 of the Official Report, No. 73, Volume 38.
§ Lord Blease
I am concerned here with what is a point of great contention and controversy in Northern Ireland. I shall attempt to restate the reply that was given in the other place:Again, on the question of exclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said that he welcomed the recommendation in the report that the police on both sides, that is, on the excluding and on the receiving end, would be consulted and advice taken from them before an exclusion order was made".I have already said that we are concerned here with a very contentious and controversial issue, and I want to 508 ask the Minister whether he will give an unequivocal guarantee that the Chief Constable of the RUC is fully consulted before an exclusion order directly related to Northern Ireland is made. That point did not emerge from the particular question that arose in the other place.
A further point arises from the new three-year rule regarding exclusions proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. I appreciate that the Minister made some reference to this point in his opening speech, but will he give an undertaking sympathetically to examine the equity position of persons now excluded, who would not be excluded under the proposed new three-year rule? In other words, they are persons who are now excluded under a perpetual, or a 20-year, rule. If a three-year rule is introduced, will they have an opportunity to be examined? I think that there would be a serious breach of human rights if that position were not clearly understood.
Earlier I said that I shall make my points without arguing them, and I hope that this will be acceptable, but if the Minister wants a further explanation I shall be pleased to elucidate, should anything not be clear. In paragraph 87 of the report the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, stated that he had received evidence of verbal abuse of suspects by RUC interviewing officers. May I ask the Minister what steps have been taken to remedy that?
The noble Lord has already referred to differences between the prevention of Terrorism Act and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. Section 1 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act provides that in Great Britain membership of a proscribed organisation carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment. Under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, the maximum penalty is 10 years, and perhaps the reasons for the discrepancy can be made clear.
Her Majesty's Government have given notice of derogation under the European Convention on Human Rights in respect of the powers conferred by the Emergency Provisions Act. They have not done so in respect of the more extensive powers of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Here I should like to support the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and mention that in July of last year we were promised an inquiry into the operation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. Can the noble Lord the Minister indicate when such an inquiry is likely to be announced, or can he state what stage we have reached in preparing for it?
Paragraph 142 of the report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, recommends that an examining officer should lose the right to examine and detain a passenger after 12 hours, unless by that time he has formed reasonable suspicion that the person is guilty of an offence under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, or is involved in terrorism, or is subject to an exclusion order. That seems to be an excessively long period. Section 14 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act provides that Her Majesty's Forces may detain suspects for up to only four hours. A 12-hour period may be justified if the suspect is not a United Kingdom resident and inquiries have to be made with police forces abroad. But in the case of Northern Ireland residents, surely their identity can be more readily 509 verified, through well-established links with the RUC, within the four-hour period operating under the Emergency Provisions Act in Northern Ireland. Modern information technology ought to be able to provide a more speedy response to inquiries about any suspect.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred to persons arrested and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act who subsequently had lost their employment. Some such persons looking for appointments had failed to gain employment. I understand that the representative of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions made strong representations to the review carried out by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, regarding this particular problem. Considerable suffering and hardship have arisen from this particular situation. I know that the position is not simply black and white. There are persons who go out deliberately in order to provoke situations and to bring about some publicity. However, I should be grateful if the Minister would undertake to examine this particular matter.
Also, Paragraph 142 of the Jellicoe Report recommends that a person who is examined at a port for longer than one hour should be given notice of his rights. In the paragraph explaining the rights, it goes on to say, "and so on". But "and so on" does not mean anything in terms of words. I think it might be more helpful if there were a clear definition of the list of rights that a person has to receive in this respect. In Paragraph 180, Earl Jellicoe recognises the strength of feeling in Northern Ireland that the province is being used as a "dumping ground". He also recognises the growing links with international terrorism; but there is no reference in the report to having looked at the controls at Aldergrove or on the Northern Ireland border which might demonstrate an equal concern about keeping terrorists out of Northern Ireland as well as out of Great Britain. I would ask this. Will improvements in port controls in Great Britain extend to the entry points into Northern Ireland?
As has already been indicated in a speech which I would not like to follow at length, it appears that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, perceived a growing threat from international terrorism. We know also that the United Kingdom is a signatory to the European Convention on the Supression of Terrorism (Cmnd.7390) of November 1978. What surpised me was the absence of any reference in the report to the legislation and the administrative measures taken and exercised by other national governments for the prevention of terrorism. Surely, it would have been useful—if not necessary—for an examination of these aspects of international terrorism to have been undertaken.
Finally, I should wish to press the Minister for an earnest consideration of inclusion in the new proposed measures of an effective monitoring arrangement. Some suggestions have already been made, but I would put forward my own view that the appointment of a parliamentary Select Committee or a Standing Commission under a person of high legal standing may be a suitable and appropriate way to carry out effective monitoring. I say this for the simple reason that it would be best if the monitoring arrangements were put in and were subject to report at the annual review period, rather than waiting until the end of a 510 five-year period and then having another long review and the bringing forward of measures. It would be an ongoing situation. I understand that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights has strongly proposed in its evidence to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, the need for an effective monitoring body. Having said that, I support the renewal order and look forward to the early introduction of a new Act.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, it is reasonably clear that the Labour Party is seriously divided on this important issue. In another place a week ago, it was announced as Labour Party policy that the order renewing this Act should be opposed. My honourable and right honourable friends there divided the House and there was unanimous support for the Opposition, although, of course, with very noticeable absentions. In this House today we have had strong speeches in support of the order from my noble friend Lord Boston of Faversham on the Front Bench, from my noble friend Lord Shackleton below the Gangway and from other noble Lords. I do not see any harm in such a difference of opinion. This Act is an extremely controversial—indeed contentious—Act.
It has always struck me as remarkable that large bodies of intelligent people—and I mean the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Liberals and the SDP—should find agreement on so many of the extremely diverse subjects that come before Parliament at one time or another. When a matter such as this one arises, I think it is only to be expected that a party that prides itself on its attention to individual matters, to the rights and wrongs of individual cases, should find itself unable to agree. Therefore, although there have been one or two somewhat equivocal voices on this side in opposition to the order, I welcomed the clarion call of my noble friend Lord Longford for opposition to the continuance of this Act.
I have several things in common with the noble Earl. Like him, I am an Irish citizen; I share the wish that he expressed for the eventual reunification of Ireland; and, like him, I oppose as strongly as I can the use of violence in any form on either side in connection with the achievement or non-achievement of that end. I share his conviction that the renewal of this Act by this order should be opposed.
My Lords, it surprised me that my party finally came out in favour of the ending of this legislation without its replacement by any other legislation. But, when I examined the Act again—as I do every year—in more detail, I decided that much of it was so repugnant and none of it indispensable that the days of its usefulness (if they had ever existed) were over. There are two main provisions of importance. They are the power of detention for up to seven days, if necessary, without charge, and the question of exclusion orders. The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, referred to the very interesting statistics which are published in the table at the end of Lord Jellicoe's report. If I may say so in parenthesis, I read the report with great interest and admiration.
I must point out that the figures quoted by the noble Lord on the Liberal Front Bench, although he extracted them from the report of the debate in another place, are not accurate, in that although there have 511 been 5,555 detainees under the Act, the figure that he gave of some 650 who had been charged with an offence is greater than the true figure. That figure includes 261 in respect of whom exclusion orders were granted, and those were not charged with an offence. The number charged is only 384, which is 7 per cent. of the total; and, of those, only 303 were found guilty of an offence and only 171 received custodial sentences—that is, 171 out of 5,555, which is just over 3 per cent. It should also be noted that 20 of those were for offences in no way connected with terrorism. They were for burglary, theft and so on. They were just chance minnows that fell into the net. So we have a situation where no more than 2¾ per cent. of those detained were imprisoned for offences in any way connected with terrorism.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, seemed to think that these figures did not demonstrate in any way that the Act was undesirable. He said that there would be some 5,000 detainees who would have given valuable information to the police. That is probably true. The police probably did gain a good deal of information in this way. But is this what the Act is all about? Is this why the right to detain was given? The police are allowed to detain a person only if they reasonably suspect that that person is guilty of an offence connected with terrorism. Here we have a situation where over 5,000 people have been reasonably suspected by the police of being implicated in terrorism and only 151 of those have been found guilty of terrorist offences and sentenced to imprisonment.
This great operation has been carried out by the police, arresting over 5,000 people supposedly on reasonable suspicion that they are terrorists, and 2.7 per cent., of them were so guilty—virtually, none of them. I suggest that this proves that either the police are totally incompetent—which I do not believe to be the case—or that they are unreasonably suspicious or else—which is a much more likely suggestion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder—that they are interested in arresting people without having any reason to think that they are guilty of terrorist offences but because they think that they may be able to provide them with valuable information. That is not the purpose for which this Act became law, and it is not the reason for the police to act in order to obtain information.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, the noble Lord will, of course, concede that the very great majority of those who were so-called detained were detained for a relatively short time, and that the ratio of charges to those detained for more than 48 hours was very much higher.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, of course I agree that the majority were detained for fewer than 48 hours; but I do not see the significance of that remark because you start to interrogate somebody and if after 36 or 48 hours you feel that you are getting somewhere, then you apply for the period of detention to be extended because the person is a suspicious character. So it is among those who are interrogated for more than 48 hours that you would expect to get a higher ratio of men charged.
512 I turn now to the exclusion orders. Again, some very interesting figures are given in the tables at the end of the Jellicoe Report. We find that 337 applications for exclusion orders have been made to the Secretary of State, and the Home Secretary refused 45 of those. In every case where the Home Secretary did not oppose the application, exclusion orders were made but 11 of these were revoked before the exclusion took place. That gives a total of 281. Some 13 of these were outside the United Kingdom at that time. So 268 men and women were actually excluded, of whom—to complete the break-down—231 were removed to Northern Ireland and 37 to the Republic of Ireland. Of those 268, incidentally, 40 were subsequently revoked, leaving a total of 228. What I want to say about the 231 men who were excluded to Northern Ireland is that these were United Kingdom citizens subjected to internal banishment. That is what it is: internal banishment. They are being told, "You cannot live in this part of the United Kingdom; you have to live in that part of the United Kingdom". How on earth would we feel if the same thing were said about Yorkshire? Suppose there was some trouble in Yorkshire and Yorkshiremen were told in London, "You cannot live in Middlesex; you have to go to Yorkshire". Yet we are told that Northern Ireland is as much a part of the United Kingdom as a British county.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way for one moment? Surely this is an exact example of what we should expect. If there was a group of people in Yorkshire who were openly threatening to bomb us in London, we would expect the police to take steps to see that they did not, and we would resent it if the police failed to do so.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Lord. If this was taking place in an English county, if it was not across that convenient little bit of sea, if there was a move from a British county or an area in Britain to cause terrorism, to cause death and destruction in London, the ordinary civil procedures would be used. The people would be traced by the police, arrested and charged under the law. This is internal banishment, telling people that they cannot stay in England, where they may have lived for 18 years. If they have lived in England for 20 years they are okay; but if they have lived in England for 10, 15 or 18 years they are told, "You cannot live in England any more, you must move to Northern Ireland". I object to that whole provision in the exclusion orders most strongly because there is no trial; very often there is not access to a solicitor. People are told that they have to leave the place of their abode and go and live somewhere else. There is something that is totally odious by any of the normal principles of British democracy and British law.
The final point that I want to make is that we often hear—we hear again and again—the slander that there are known terrorists walking about in the Republic of Ireland who are known to the Gardai but who are not arrested, and that no action is taken. I hope that we shall hear less of that, because it is nonsense. The Gardai and the Irish army have worked with enormous skill and courage to combat the terrorism that threatens the Republic from the North. The fact 513 of the matter is that the proof is that there are these 231 persons against whom exclusion orders have been made and who are therefore reasonably suspected of having been concerned in terrorism. They have been sent across and the authorities in the North have known that they were reasonably suspected of terrorism. However, although the laws in Northern Ireland are very much more draconian than they are in the Republic and it is much easier to pick up a known terrorist in the North than it is in the Republic, they are walking about and nobody picks them up, nobody charges them, nobody imprisons them. I therefore draw attention to this fact: if there is any suggestion from anyone that the Republic is not taking the action that it should be taking, then let them look to the 200-plus known terrorists excluded under this Act, not to mention the many others in the same position. We are not, apparently, going to divide the House tonight, but if we were I should express myself, "Not-Content".
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, I apologise for speaking when my name is not down in regard to this Motion. My colleague was down to speak but is not able to do so and I want there to be no doubt as to where I myself and my colleagues of the SDP stand on this issue. I find myself in acute difficulty even to understand the approach of my old colleague and friend who has just spoken and indeed the approach of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who spoke earlier. But let me say at once that I do not believe either of them are in favour of terrorism; there has never been any question that we have suspected their motives. 1 just think they are wildly, furiously and hopelessly wrong—and dangerously wrong, too.
Nobody who has been concerned in the direct rule or concerned in government in one way or another in Northern Ireland is going to vote against this. Nobody has yet, or has shown the slightest sign of it; and when we were in that awkward position we were constantly being blamed by the "shoot-the-lot" school so well exemplified by the noble Lord, Lord Paget, earlier, for not doing a bit more decimation of the enemy and that sort of thing. We were constantly being opposed by the other side, who objected to every effort we made to tighten up the screws of law and order. I will say no more than this: on the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, at least 151 likely bomb-throwers have been kept out of this country and, so far as I am concerned, this justifies every single thing that has been done.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I have listened with the greatest interest and attention to the views your Lordships have expressed. Of course, in deciding whether this Act should be renewed, the Home Secretary of the day and Parliament must seek to strike a balance. My right honourable friend has freely acknowledged in another place that the Act makes regrettable inroads into our civil liberties. We cannot afford to lose sight of this and I do not cavil at anything the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, mentioned in that context. I also accept that consensus is a very desirable foundation for legislation of this sort; that is indeed what we are most urgently seeking. 514 He may think us slow and insensitive in this. The consideration which it was undertaken to give to the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, that the law should be made anew, has perhaps gone on for longer than he may think he would have managed with—though it did not in fact take us four years to act because my noble friend's report was commissioned early in 1982. But this passage of time has, I think, sharpened his appetite for what my noble friend has placed upon the legislative menu, and I take careful note of his comments upon it. One of these was that the new Act sould be renewable piecemeal, and I will certainly undertake that we will consider that proposal with care when we come to draft the legislation.
I hope that your Lordships will bear with me for a moment, because replying to a debate of this nature is rather like doing a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces become separated from the main plot; in fact, they sometimes entirely disappear. If I may now turn to the contributions of noble Lords and the noble Baroness, I should like to begin by welcoming the robust support given by the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, to the renewal of the order and his very clear exposition of the benefits which flow from it. I also welcome the restrained and balanced way in which he dealt with the anxieties of himself and his party touching the liberties of the individual. I was particularly interested in his comments on the considerations that we should have in mind when looking at arrangements to enable detained subjects to receive professional advice and support. He expressed some reservation, as did the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about the report's recommendation that the arrest powers should not be extended to non-lrish domestic terrorism. The Government have not reached a final conclusion on that point and will take careful account of the views of both noble Lords. But perhaps I should point out that the noble Earl was concerned that these far-reaching powers should be available to the police only when there was a real and clearly-established need. If non-Irish domestic terrorism were to become a serious problem, it would be open to the Government of the day to ask Parliament for fresh powers.
The contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, highlighted the striking difference in tone between what the noble Lord, Lord Boston, said in this House and what his colleagues did in another place. I had thought that this bore out the rule that mature reflection always tends to add judgment to hasty attitudes, though I found myself shaken in this view when listening to the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I did indeed find it very odd that the noble Earl, who found an ally in the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, should infer that there could be any question that my noble friend Lord Jellicoe's conclusions were based on,personal hunch supported by the views of the police".If the whole report itself does not give the lie to that, which I think it does, the list of witnesses at the end does, and I note the ironic conclusion therein of the Federation of Irish Societies, for which I thought I heard the noble Earl say he was speaking in this debate, although of course I may have misheard him—in which case it must have been the second thing that I misheard from the noble Earl since it would have been, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, quite out of order to speak on their behalf—
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, may I interrupt? For once I cannot get the noble Lord's point. He speaks of the society with whose goodwill I spoke to the House earlier and which I mentioned as those who had given written evidence. They were not asked to give oral evidence, so I do not think that would commit them to anything in the report.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I did not think they were committed to anything in the report. I thought that the noble Earl had spoken not with their benevolence but on their behalf. Plainly I misheard him at the beginning of his speech. As I implied when I intervened in his speech, I will always look into a case where the details are provided to me, and I hope that he will do so in this case.
The noble Earl asked me whether the case that he described was typical of police behaviour. I can assure the House that the police do not seek to make arrests at inconvenient times without good reason. When they are seeking the arrest of suspected terrorists, it is understandable that their primary concern is to carry out their duty safely and surely. That may sometimes lead to arrests being made in the early hours of the morning when both the honest and the dishonest may be presumed to be asleep.
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, was well worth the attention which I promised and indeed which I gave to it. It is reassuring to hear such accord between the authors of two such very professionally-constructed reports as his own and that of my noble friend. The area where he was most in doubt is that which concerned the noble Lord, Lord Wigoder, as well; namely, the extension of powers to cover international terrorism. The noble Lord asked in particular whether it was the intention to extend the use of Section 12 to apply to terrorism other than that with an Irish connection. I can give him the assurance that we will not do so under existing legislation. If it were to be more widely used it would only be under new legislation.
My noble friend Lord Brookeborough took us to Paris to remind us that all terrorism is able to connect with an international network, which bears on my noble friend's recommendation that the powers of the new Act should extend to control of international as well as to specifically Irish terrorism. He also spoke, with a wistfulness which I share, of the advantages which an agreement on extradition could bring in dealing with terrorists who seek refuge in the Republic. Successive Irish Governments have never been left in any doubt as to the importance we attach to the problem of fugitive offenders. We believe that a workable extradition arrangement offers the best way of ensuring that terrorists are brought to justice. We will continue to make our concern abundantly clear, and we have been very encouraged by the success achieved by the Irish authorities in extra-territorial prosecutions of people accused of terrorist offences in Northern Ireland and in London; but we do not consider it to be a satisfactory alternative. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, was particularly interested in funerals, but as I see he is not in his place I will deal with that matter by correspondence.
The noble Lord, Lord Paget, made a number of far-reaching points, which time forbids me from pursuing 516 in detail. On the recent case concerning the shooting of Mr. Argov, I am afraid that I cannot confirm or deny the truth of the allegations made by the noble Lord, but I undertake to draw his remarks to the attention of my right honourable friend. I see that he is not here, either. Therefore, I shall not deal at length with his remarkable interpolation. I would merely echo what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, and, had the noble Lord, Lord Paget, seen fit to give way to me when I sought to intervene, I would have put before him the example not of France, but of Norway, where exactly similar methods were used with totally ineffective consequences. I would not endorse anything that he said.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, were softer spoken in their approach. Their first and shared concern was for the welfare of detainees. That is a concern which we share, as is indeed evident also from the report of my noble friend. The first question to which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, then addressed himself was that of when we would review the Emergency Provisions Act. This concerned also the noble Lord, Lord Blease. We did not feel that this review ought to overlap with the review of my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, which we have been discussing today.
Since the publication of the report last month, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been finalising arrangements for the review of the Emergency Provisions Act and hopes to make an announcement very shortly. I have noted his views about the terms of reference that ought then to be taken on board. He referred also to the report of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. We hope that the views of the commission will be made known to those—or he—who review the Emergency Provisions Act, and I have no doubt that they will be carefully considered on that occasion.
The noble Lord also wished to know whether the Government consider appeals against exclusion orders to a judge in chambers who would see evidence in private. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, intervened at that point. The Government, I should say, welcome constructive proposals on these matters and will take full account of the views of both noble Lords expressed in the House today.
But I draw attention to the report's conclusion in paragraph 191, that,Exclusion is a matter of public policy. It is based not merely on the conduct of the excluded person, but also—once his terrorist involvement is established—on matters such as the security situation at the time exclusion is considered and the danger the person poses to the public at large".These matters fall properly to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, who is accountable to Parliament for the way in which he discharges these onerous responsibilities, and that is something which we must consider when we look at what the noble Lord suggests.
His third question was on whether the force orders, judges' rules, and draft codes, which are referred to in the report, are public documents. Force orders are, in fact, operational documents and are not made publicly available, but copies of the judges' rules and draft codes are in the Library of the House for him to refer to. I should say that the noble Lord is a very kindly 517 man. In spite of his feeling, to which he gave voice this afternoon, that we had given him too little notice of the debate in this House, he was kind enough to give me notice of his questions and that may have quite a lot to do with the fact that I have been able to answer them. If more of your Lordships were to do as much, I dare say that my speeches would be a good deal longer and my letters a good deal shorter.
The noble Lord, Lord Blease, did not follow that admirable example and I fear that I must reply to him principally by post. But I can confirm his lucid exposition of the Government's position on new legislation in all respects except one, and that I have already given the lie to. We are only considering whether the new legislation should be renewable piecemeal as opposed to in toto. On exclusion orders from Great Britain, I can confirm that the recommendation that the RUC should be consulted has already been implemented and is being observed. The position of persons already subject to exclusion orders will be carefully considered in the course of preparing legislation. On the monitoring of the Act, I would refer the noble Lord to paragraph 17 of my noble friend's report. On a number of other points I will write to him.
The noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, made much of the small percentage of detainees who are subsequently charged. I think he said that the figure is 2.7 per cent. It matters not how small it was. It was a very small percentage—
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, if it was 7 per cent., a fortiori what follows? The noble Lord is, I think, connected with farming, He may be familiar with the disease of ergot in wheat. This has the effect of giving a poisonous character to a few grains in a crop. I do not believe the noble Lord would think that the millers were failing in their duty if they sifted the whole of the crop before baking his bread, if only 2.7, 7 or, indeed, 0.2 per cent. of the grain proved to be infected, because the result of that is to protect his life, and that is the purpose of the legislation which is before us.
I have listened carefully to the matters which have been raised and I hope that I have referred to most of them. In conclusion, may I repeat one point? Of course, this Act causes inconvenience and perhaps even an occasional sense of injustice to innocent members of the public. I regret that as much as any other Member of this House, and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is always ready to look into any case which appears to have caused hardship. But it is perfectly clear that the terrorist groups in Northern Ireland are still as dedicated as ever to violence and to murder.
I believe that the public are entitled to look to us to do all that we can to protect them from acts of terrorism. This Act has helped the police significantly in their fight against terrorism. They deserve our help and I am persuaded that they need the practical support which the powers in this Act give them. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe's review has given us many constructive proposals to consider, and we shall be looking at this very carefully in the light of the views expressed today in this House and in another place last week. But, while the threat from terrorism remains at 518 the current level, I believe it would be folly to allow the Act to lapse and I ask your Lordships' House to agree to its renewal for another year.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)
The Question is, That this Motion be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say, Content?
§ The Deputy Speaker
I think that we have constitutional difficulties about dividing the House on this Motion on this order. I will put the Motion again. As many as are of that opinion will say, Content?
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.