§ 11.18 a.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Lyell)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill now be read a second time. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill that we have before us this morning is the first thorough revision of the emergency legislation since 1975. The 1978 Act was purely a consolidation measure. In bringing forward this legislation, the Government's aim is to ensure that the security forces have adequate powers to enable them to carry out their onerous and dangerous job of protecting the community in Northern Ireland from the threat of terrorism, while at the same time attempting to achieve the fairest possible system of justice in a situation where, sadly, terrorism prevents the operation of the normal system of justice which we should all like to see. In framing the legislation the Government were guided by the report of the late Sir George Baker on the operation of the 1978 Act.
356 The Bill will strengthen the hands of the security forces by cracking down on paramilitary extortion rackets which masquerade as private security businesses; by creating new offences concerning proscribed organisations and the collection of information useful to terrorists; and by allowing longer periods of remand in scheduled cases. The Bill will extend the statutory rights of persons accused or suspected of terrorist crime by changing the law on bail, and on the admissibility of confession evidence, requiring reasonable grounds for suspicion before certain emergency powers can be exercised, and putting on a statutory basis the rights of terrorist suspects in police custody. Other provisions should help reduce delays in bringing scheduled cases to trial.
I hope your Lordships will bear with me if I briefly set out the purpose of the various provisions in the Bill. Clause 1 reverses the onus of proof in bail applications involving scheduled offences so that it now rests on the prosecution rather than the defence. It also clarifies the position concerning the power of a magistrate to grant bail into military or police custody to members of the security forces charged with a scheduled offence.
Clause 2 enables a magistrates' court to remand a person charged with a scheduled offence in custody for up to 28 days, thus reducing pressure on court resources and reducing demand for policemen to escort remand prisoners. Clause 3, which enables the Secretary of State to make regulations to set time limits on preliminary proceedings in scheduled cases, and Clause 4, which enables the Lord Chancellor to direct that a particular trial of a scheduled offence be held elsewhere than at Belfast, are both intended to help reduce delays in bringing such cases to trial.
Clause 5 provides that a statement made by an accused shall be inadmissible if there is evidence that it was obtained by the use or the threat of violence. It also declares that the judge has a discretion to exclude statements in the interest of fairness to the accused or in the interests of justice.
Clause 6 in effect abolishes the power of arrest under Section 11 of the 1978 Act. Your Lordships will be aware that this enabled a member of the RUC to arrest without warrant any person whom he suspected of being a terrorist, and to detain that person for up to 72 hours. Sir George Baker commented on the overlap which arose in Northern Ireland between this power and the UK-wide police arrest power conferred by Section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. He also commented on the confusion which this could generate.
The Government's response has been to propose the repeal of the police arrest power in the 1978 Act, leaving the RUC to rely on Section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act as the main emergency arrest power in Northern Ireland. Under that section the RUC may still arrest persons without warrant but they must have reasonable grounds to suspect—that is an interesting rider—that such persons have been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorist acts, or are in breach of an exclusion order, or have committed an offence under the Act. Another difference is that the maximum length of time for which the RUC may on its own authority detain a person following an arrest under Section 12 of the 357 1984 Act is only 48 hours, though that period can be extended by the Secretary of State for a period or periods not exceeding five days. The power of a constable to enter and search premises for the purposes of making an arrest of a suspected terrorist—which had featured in Section 11 of the 1978—is, however, preserved by Clause 6.
Clause 7 reflects developments in the technology available to terrorists by extending the powers of search and seizure under Section 15 of the 1978 Act to cover such things as scanning receivers as well as transmitters. Clause 8 confers on the Secretary of State a power to authorise the closure and continued closure of highways. As your Lordships will be aware, many border roads in Northern Ireland are closed under the authority of a general order made by the Stormont Minister for Home Affairs in 1970. In view of the political, economic and social consequences of road closures, the Government believe it right that all closures should have the specific authority of the Secretary of State.
Clause 9 amends Section 21 of the 1978 Act by creating offences concerning meetings in support of proscribed organisations; such offences already exist in Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Clause 10 amends Section 22 of the 1978 Act, which makes it an offence to collect information likely to be useful to terrorists about members of the security forces and the prison service, holders of a judicial office and officers of the courts. The clause extends this protection to former members of any of these categories. As originally drafted, the clause would also have included elected representatives, but it was amended in another place after two of the honourable Members most closely concerned unselfishly objected to being singled out for protection in this way.
Clause 11 amends Section 25 of the 1978 Act to bring the offences concerning dress and behaviour indicating membership of or support for a proscribed organisation into line with the equivalent offence in Great Britain. Clause 12 improves the arrangements for compensation for damage caused by actions carried out under the Act.
Clause 13 makes the 1978 temporary provisions Act renewable annually, rather than every six months, and provides for the whole Act to be repealed after five years. This reflects the Government's view that the emergency legislation should not remain in force longer than necessary.
We then gravitate to Part II of the Bill, which puts on a statutory basis the rights of a person in police custody under the terrorism provisions to have someone informed of his location and to have access to a solicitor. It specifies the circumstances in which the exercise of these rights may be delayed. The provisions are broadly comparable to Sections 56 and 58 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 as they apply to terrorist suspects in England and Wales.
Part III provides for a new regulatory scheme for the private security industry in Northern Ireland. This does not detract from the Government's general view that the security industry should be self-regulating, but in Northern Ireland there is a particular problem which requires legislation. Paramilitary organizations 358 are known to use some security firms as a front for extortion and intimidation. The Bill tackles this menace by making it an offence to provide or offer security services without a certificate from the Secretary of State.
Many people have argued that the Bill does not go far enough towards dismantling the emergency legislation. In the view of the Government the continuing security situation remains sufficiently serious to justify exceptional measures. The events of the past few weeks have—sadly and starkly—supported this view. The emergency legislation which applies in Northern Ireland must strike a balance between protecting the individual rights of persons suspected or accused of involvement in terrorism and enabling the security forces and, let us not forget, the courts to deal effectively with terrorism, in the interests of protecting the whole community.
It is a difficult balance to strike, but this Bill has provided an opportunity for Parliament to consider the emergency legislation and to adjust the balance slightly in a number of areas. The Government believe that the Bill as amended in another place strikes the right balance. We were encouraged by the constructive spirit in which the Bill was debated in the other place, and I look forward to equally interesting and useful debates during your Lordships' consideration of the Bill. With that, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Lyell)
§ 11.29 a.m.
§ Lord Prys-Davies
My Lords, I should say at the outset that we welcome this important and long overdue Bill, although we are sad that there is a need for it. A Bill relating to the affairs of Northern Ireland makes a very rare appearance indeed in your Lordships' House. In the lifetime of the present Parliament this is the only Northern Ireland Bill to have come before it. That is not to say that there has been no legislation relating to Northern Ireland. In the past 12 months about a dozen Orders in Council made their contribution to the life of the Province, dealing with such important matters as education, local government, social need, mental health and public order; but Orders in Council, as has so often been observed in your Lordships' House, cannot be and have not been amended.
It may strike some people as odd that this Bill, which has taken such a long time to reach this Chamber, may yet be denied a Committee stage in your Lordships' House. We on these Benches have no brief for violence in order to achieve political ends. In the present bleak circumstances in Northern Ireland we have no choice but to support the continuance of emergency provisions for the Province. Emergency legislation of some kind or another will be necessary so long as the problems posed by the paramilitary bodies cannot be defeated. Regrettably, the fact remains that hardly a week goes by without weighty evidence to show that the paramilitary forces have not as yet been defeated. Indeed, there is evidence that their campaign may currently be escalating.
Parliament is always reminded, as it was reminded by the Minister this morning, that when it considers 359 this kind of legislation it has throughout to try to strike a balance between the maintenance of civil liberties and the protection of the community from acts of violence. Most of us assent to the philosophy of the balance, at least in abstract terms, but there are one or two difficulties with this concept. First, how do we know whether we are achieving the correct balance in practice? Secondly, the concept itself implies the erosion of civil rights which in turn may be counterproductive because it undermines public confidence in the legal system. There is that difficulty about the concept of balance.
Last November, in a notable speech to the Institute of Foreign Relations in Munich, Mr. Nicholas Scott, for whom we on these Benches have great respect, reflected publicly on the lessons the Government have learnt in the course of the sustained disorder in the Province. Mr. Scott said:I believe democracies have to be careful in seeking to defend their democracy by not adopting means which play into the hands of the terrorists, and therefore I think we should seek to derogate as little as possible from the normal standards of justice and government which we would normally apply".It is therefore right that there should be an independent review of the emergency legislation periodically; indeed, possibly annually.
Four years ago, the late Sir George Baker, on the initiative of the Government, considered carefully how the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 was working out on the assumption that temporary powers were necessary. Sir George completed his review and reported within a year. That was the last time there was a review of this legislation. His report contained 74 recommendations. I think it is generally agreed that he did not recommend any radical departure from the provisions of the 1978 Act. Some of the recommendations have been implemented by administrative action and a few have been embodied in Orders in Council. This Bill gives effect to a number of the other recommendations, while it also incorporates matters not referred to in the report.
According to the information I have received from the office of the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, it seems that when this Bill becomes part of the law of Northern Ireland about 60 of the 74 recommendations will have been implemented. I think it would be helpful to those who are concerned with the impact of emergency legislation if a list of the Baker recommendations which have been accepted by the Government were to be placed in the Library of the House. I shall refer in my speech to the Baker report because it is an authoritative document based on careful and detailed consideration of the evidence, sometimes confidential evidence, which was made available to Sir George.
We welcome Clause 1, which as the Minister has explained transfers from the defence to the prosecution the onus in bail applications of proving why bail should not be granted pending trial. However, the clause does not provide a presumption in favour of bail. We also welcome Clause 6, which repeals the police powers of arrest without warrant contained in Section 11 of the 1978 Act. But as the police will continue to have the power to arrest under 360 Section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1984, can the Minister explain what is the real significance of the repeal of Section 11?
We confess to some unease that the Bill does not repeal the powers of the Secretary of State contained in Section 12 of the 1978 Act to detain a person without trial. Perhaps I may read just a few sentences from paragraph 235 of the Baker report where he discussed the possible repeal of the detention powers. He said:The case for the repeal of Section 12 is pressed not only by the various bodies concerned with human rights, as is to be expected, but by many others, including those who have been involved in operating detention. A summary of their experience is that detention never worked and will never work; it is always counterproductive in the end".Given this authoritative and unqualified view of Sir George Baker, do the Government have a convincing case for retaining this power?
We approve Clause 5, which strengthens the guidance for excluding alleged admissions made by an accused in criminal proceedings for a scheduled offence. The clause adopts the substance of Sir George Baker's suggested draft wording. Henceforth a statement will not be admissible if the accused was subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment—and here the clause follows the wording of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights—or if he was subjected to violence or threat of violence in order to induce him to make a statement. It was strongly argued in another place that a statement should be admissible only if it was made voluntarily, which is the position in England and Wales. Will the Minister explain why the criteria for England and Wales are not being applied in Northern Ireland?
Clause 12 of the Bill deals with the compensation payable to a person whose property is taken, destroyed or damaged by members of the security forces in the course of their duties. There appears to be some uncertainty about the principles which determine the payment of compensation and also about the claims procedures. Claims have to be submitted within 12 months of the date when the damage or destruction occurs, but it may be the case that the damage—for example, damage to the foundations of a building or damage to underground drains—could not be apparent within 12 months of the date of the act which caused the damage.
Perhaps the Minister can tell us what percentage of claims have not been settled within 12 months of their submission to the department. I am told that there is a backlog of cases. If that is right, what is the cause of the delay? I think it is for consideration whether this criticism is justified and whether the principles and procedures of compensation could be clarified or modified, possibly along the lines of the relevant section of the Coal Mining (Subsidence) Act 1957 or the Latent Damage Act 1986.
The Minister has explained that Part II of the Bill brings the law into line with the relevant provisions of Sections 56 and 58 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This provides a right for a person who is detained under the emergency provisions to have a friend or relative told that he is being detained and where he is being detained. It goes on to provide a right of access to legal advice for the detained person.
361 These provisions were not referred to in the Baker report. But they are decent rights and we very much endorse them. We are particularly pleased that the Government accepted an opposition amendment in the other place that a detained person must be informed of these rights. We note however that the exercise of them can be delayed on many different grounds, and we are mindful that unjustified delay affects the quality of justice.
We approve Part III of the Bill which seeks to choke off one important source of financial support for the paramilitary bodies. It must be the Government's hope that Clauses 17 to 23 will be effective in preventing such organisations from managing protection rackets under the cloak of security services. In practice, it may well be that the effectiveness of Part III of the Bill will depend on the willingness of people to give evidence, and possibly also on the definition of security services.
Turning to Part IV of the Bill, I should like to say how much we welcome Clause 25 and paragraphs 1, 2 and 3 of Schedule 1. The effect of these provisions is to substitute the words "has reasonable grounds to suspect" for the word "suspect" in the context of the powers of arrest and search specified in Schedule 1. But it is still not clear to me why these amendments should be described in the heading of the schedule as "minor amendments", or even as a rider. In each case we believe that the amendment is a helpful step forward.
I wish now to mention three omissions from the Bill. We believe that an important omission is Sir George Baker's recommendation that a prisoner held in custody for over 12 months for a scheduled offence without having been committed for trial should automatically be granted bail without surety. I understand that about 12½ per cent. of the prison population in Northern Ireland are persons awaiting trial, though not necessarily for the scheduled offences. The average period of remand in Northern Ireland for a scheduled offence is 15 months, but in some cases it has been more than two years or even three years. This is clearly unsatisfactory. Many people are greatly troubled about long detention as it can affect the individual and his family.
We acknowledge that Clause 3, which was added at Report stage in another place, goes some way to meet the criticism. This is the clause which allows time limits to be set through regulations by the Secretary of State seeking to ensure that the system operates without undue delay. Again, it would be helpful if the Minister could explain to the House why the Government have rejected this clear recommendation by Sir George Baker. They have therefore failed to provide in the Bill a specified time limit to the period in custody.
There is still much concern that the right to jury trial is not available for the scheduled offences. I accept however that there is a division of opinion on this issue. I, for my part, accept that it is unrealistic to restore jury trial for terrorist offences because of the problems of intimidation of the jurors. But this places on the Government a duty to keep the scheduled offences and the discretion of the Attorney-General to certify cases out of the schedule under constant review. 362 As I understand it, the scheduled offence is a concept essential to the emergency legislation because the purpose of the schedule was to impose non jury trial upon those offences thought to be commonly committed by members of paramilitary bodies.
Many of those who have studied the evidence about those scheduled offences which have come to trial would like more cases to be channelled back into the normal jury system. This has been supported by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in Northern Ireland. In general, Sir George Baker went along with the advice of the standing commission and recommended that the Attorney-General's discretion to certify cases out of the schedule should be extended.
Among the offences Sir George recommended should be capable of being certified out, where there was no observable connection between the particular case and terrorism, were robbery and aggravated burglary. Again, we appreciate that the Government have gone a considerable way to accept the Baker recommendations in respect of increasing the discretion of the Attorney-General to schedule out. But they have not increased the discretion in respect of these two particular offences where it is known that there is no connection with paramilitary bodies.
The significance of these two offences in this context is to be found in a study carried out by Mr. Desmond Webb who concluded that a substantial number of convictions under the Diplock procedures were related to robbery and aggravated burglary and had no connection with terrorism. It would appear to us that where there is no such connection, then the accused ought to have the benefit of jury trial, and that it ought to be possible for the Attorney-General to certify the offences out of the schedule.
There is one other omission to which I want to refer. As I understand it, there is disappointment among many members of the Catholic community that advantage has not been taken of the new legislation to place some limitation on the right to stop and search the citizen at random. That is to be found, I believe, in Section 15 of the 1978 Act. There is a great deal of evidence which suggests that the power is being abused, and that it is being used too often to harass the citizen.
If that is so, then the citizen has a genuine grievance which should be tackled. When this abuse of power was discussed at Report stage in another place, the Minister of State promised to consider what had been said in favour of placing some limit on the exercise of the power to stop and search at random, but the Government have not produced an amendment. Are we therefore to conclude that they do not consider that there is evidence of real grievance arising out of the exercise of this power?
I have tried to cover some of the main grounds of this important Bill and I have indicated our concern over some omissions. In conclusion, we would emphasise the pretty obvious message that when the Bill becomes part of the law of Northern Ireland it will be of help to the security forces. But the Province will still be faced with the immense task of seeking a political solution to its problems. It must be an earnest hope that the political parties in Northern Ireland, which themselves reflect the divisions in Northern 363 Ireland, will decide that at long last the time has come for them to concentrate on the common goal of restoring peace to their land and to their people, and to work together to that end.
§ 11.50 a.m.
§ Lord Hampton
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this Bill. It is not an occasion to seek party political advantage, despite the circumstances in which we may find ourselves next week. I think that the British people can be proud, despite the abuse and criticism poured on them from some quarters in Northern Ireland, that an attempt is still being made in this Bill better to see that justice is clearly and impartially carried out.
We regret that the Bill is necessary but we accept that at present it is. The Bill follows the careful survey of the position by Sir George Baker a little time back. As we are told, the Bill contains provisions which are intended to strengthen the authority's hand in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland while extending the statutory protection given to the rights of persons suspected or accused of terrorism. I hold in contempt extremist leaders of both communities who, despite the agonies experienced. in the Province over the past 17 or 18 years, seem still not to have learnt the first thing about the value of co-operation, conciliation or compassion.
The Bill had a harmonious Third Reading in the other place and we on these Benches support it. There are one or two points where we have criticisms to make and I shall raise these in a brief survey. We regret that Diplock courts are to continue to act under only one judge. For some time we have pressed for there to be three judges as is the case in the Republic. The 12th annual report of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (page 59) argues the case fairly. There would not be a better quality of justice, for tribute is paid to the present judiciary, but it would be seen and seem to be fairer. We accept that this would be the best arrangement at present when the possibility of intimidation makes trial by jury unfortunately impossible. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, has also touched on this point. We support the fact that a number of categories of cases are to be removed from the schedule lists.
Another cause for concern, not mentioned but relevant to the Bill, is the talk of the reintroduction of internment. We should like our strong opposition to even a remote possibility to be placed on record. The experiences of the early 1970s should surely show that, while a number of known troublemakers may be picked up and taken into custody, it is at the price of arousing a great deal of from the supporting community at home.
We are also concerned, as clearly are the Government, that the time that accused people are held in custody before being brought to trial is far too long, and in many cases it can lead to a feeling of unfair treatment. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, mentioned that matter. We welcome the fact that at least some schedule cases will, by the terms of this Bill, be heard other than at Belfast Crown Court, thus reducing the pressure on court accommodation. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, 364 mentioned, in his report Sir George Baker recommended that persons having been held in custody for 12 months without having been committed to trial should automatically be given bail. The Government do not seem prepared to accept that, and we regret it.
Following Clause 1, we agree that the onus should be on the prosecution to show where bail should not be granted. We support Clause 2. It makes sense that a magistrate should be allowed to remand a person charged with a scheduled offence in custody for 28 days, and not have to have him brought forward every seven days, taking up time and causing inconvenience. Clause 5 deals with the admissibility of evidence. I am surprised that it is still necessary to say that it is inadmissible. I quote from the explanatory memorandum:if evidence is adduced that the accused was subjected to violence or the threat of violence".But of course we support this clause.
Clause 10 extends the categories of person about whom it is unlawful to collect information likely to be useful to terrorists. We note with interest that MPs and Peers were removed from the list as a result of the action of Members in another place. Clause 11 makes it an offence for a person in a public place to dress or to wear, carry or display any article in such a way as to arouse reasonable apprehension that he is a member of a proscribed organisation. But will it be possible to enforce this against the hooded thug? Turning to Clause 13, it makes sense that temporary provisions of the Act should need to be renewed annually, while the whole Act will be repealed after five years. We support this.
Part II, Clauses 14 to 16, deals with the rights of persons detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Northern Ireland. We accept the need for some restriction on access to legal advice. Part III, Clauses 17 to 21, contains provisions requiring the certification of private security businesses in Northern Ireland. It seeks to make illegal protection rackets run by those who are members or close associates of paramilitary organisations. We certainly support this policy, but how far illegal intimidation can be reduced by this measure is very much open to doubt. It is at least a step in the right direction.
With those brief comments, I repeat that in general we wish the Bill well. I take the opportunity also to repeat that we remain as convinced as ever that the way forward must be progress under the terms of the Anglo-Irish agreement. We hope that after a general election a more positive attitude will be taken by both communities in Northern Ireland.
§ 11.57 a.m.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, for kindly having invited some of us to meet him earlier this week to discuss the provisions of the Bill. I regret that unfortunately I could not be present but I am grateful for the comprehensive brief which his department was good enough to supply.
In my view, and in the view of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, the Bill is generally to be welcomed. However, I add the words "as far as it goes". Noble Lords have quite rightly pointed out that a balance must be achieved and preserved between civil rights on 365 the one hand and the prevention of terrorism and maintenance of law and order on the other. I fully recognise that that is a difficult balance to achieve.
I turn to look at a few of the provisions. Clause 1 appears to bring the law of Northern Ireland into line with the Bail Act 1976, which is effective in England and Wales. That is a perfectly sensible provision. Clause 3 is most important because it has been a grave injustice that on many occasions those who have been apprehended but not yet convicted have had to spend long periods of time on remand in custody awaiting trial. In some cases it has been up to two years. It is worth bearing in mind that two years spent on remand in custody is the equivalent of a four-year jail sentence with 50 per cent. remission. That is quite clearly unjust and I sincerely hope that the Bill before your Lordships' House today will have the effect of drastically reducing these incidents of delay.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to add something? I agree entirely with what he has said. However, there is a feature which arises not only in Northern Ireland but also in this country, although it occurs much more often in Northern Ireland. It is that the accused is happier to be where he is and deliberately delays his case coming to court. My feeling is that any arrangements made ought to make it clear that this kind of thing puts him out of court as regards appealing for an earlier trial.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his intervention and I am very interested to hear what he says. In fact when I was elected representative I never received complaints from the family of a prisoner because his trial came forward too soon. It was always the other way round: "My father/brother/son has now been languishing in custody for 18 months and there is still no word of his trial coming up".
As I say, I was interested to hear what the noble Lord said, but I think in this context there is truth in the saying, "Justice delayed is justice denied". It should be the right of all those who are awaiting trial to have justice meted out with the minimum of delay. So this is to be welcomed and is in accordance with Sir George Baker's recommendation. The Secretary of State's discretionary power to deal with extraordinary or unusual circumstances is also provident.
I welcome Clause 2 because before now in your Lordships' House I have had occasion to voice my disquiet about the apparent liberty the paramilitaries have to thumb their noses at the security forces and at the law-abiding population—indeed, they probably offend quite a lot of the mourners as well—by turning up at funerals in paramilitary gear, firing shots over the coffins and so on. I sincerely hope that this clause will eliminate that in future, recognising what a very tricky job the police have in dealing with such sensitive situations.
Part II seems to be based on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. As such, I think it is consistent and makes sense. Part III is most welcome; indeed, it is long overdue. Reference has been made to the protection rackets that have been enabled to operate as 366 a result of so-called security services. I think also there have been worse things even than that, with so-called security men abusing their position of trust so as to get information about properties they are supposed to be guarding and then passing on that information, which is very useful to people who want to burgle the property.
Having welcomed those clauses, I must ask whether the Bill goes far enough. Many suggestions have been made in the past to the effect that the Diplock courts ought to have three judges presiding rather than one. I was hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, might have been down to speak before me, because I am sure he knows more about this than I do. One argument against having three judges is that it would put too much pressure on the judiciary, but the noble Lord may be able to throw some light on that argument. The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, urged that there should be three judges, and that would be our view as well.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, suggested that with certain offences of a less serious nature trial by jury might be resumed. This is something that we would welcome where possible. One recognises the difficulties and the risk of jurymen being intimidated. But a move towards normality of that sort and towards justice as we always used to know it in a democratic state would be welcomed if it could be brought about. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, say that this would he in accordance with Sir George Baker's recommendation.
However, having said that any movement towards normality is to be welcomed, I am sorry to have to add that just at the moment one has to concede that Northern Ireland has receded somewhat from normality in the last few months. One of the factors which would make a significant difference and which is not covered in this Bill would be the elimination of the right of silence. That again is the sort of thing that one does not like to have in a democracy, but unfortunately a substantial number of suspected persons who are taken in for interrogation when faced with questioning say absolutely nothing. And that is their right. They can sit there and have questions fired at them, and they can just look at the wall opposite, the floor or the ceiling and say nothing at all.
This makes the job of the police very much more difficult. There might be an argument that in the same way as a suspected drunken driver is guilty of an offence if he declines to give a sample, the suspected terrorist would be guilty of an offence if he declined to answer questions. I know that this is something which is unpleasant and not entirely acceptable in a democratic state.
On the matter of remission, so far as I understand it, if the prisoner keeps his nose clean he gets 50 per cent. remission automatically. This means that even prisoners who have been given what one would normally regard as heavy sentences get back into circulation again fairly soon. There was the example the other day of a gentleman who had bad luck. He had come out of prison after seven and a half years (serving, I think, half of a 15-year sentence) and within a couple of weeks he was once again trying to plant a bomb. Unfortunately for him, it went off in his hands 367 so that he is no more. But the fact that after seven and a half years in prison he was able to get back into active service with the IRA so soon indicates that all is not what it ought to be. I wonder whether 50 per cent. remission is perhaps too freely given and whether there ought to be more strings and more conditions attached.
The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, expressed his feeling of revulsion at the very thought of any type of internment being reintroduced. I should feel similar revulsion, but I must report to your Lordships that there is a school of thought that the present level of violence is just containable while things remain the way they are and the only way to reduce it is to round up the godfathers—those who do not run the risks themselves or get their hands dirty but who plan and organise the acts of terrorism. Internment of any sort is something against which I argued in the early 1970s and I should be very hesitant to see it happen again now; but perhaps Her Majesty's Government should be aware, if they are not already, that there is a school of informed thought which feels strongly that such a measure should be considered.
Whatever is done in this field will not be effective in the absence of full co-operation with the security forces in the Republic of Ireland. Looking at the tragic murder a short while ago of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson, one wonders whether that co-operation is all that it ought to be. How that car could have been left between the two frontier posts unattended, with a bomb inside, if the security forces on both sides of the border had been acting in full concert and had been fully alert, is difficult to understand.
That leads me to ask what results we have yet seen from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, where cross-border agreement was one of the most significant results that were predicted. Northern Ireland still has on display its "Ulster says 'No"' banners. They are getting a bit bedraggled by now, which is perhaps symptomatic of the campaign itself. I did not say no at the tme when the agreement was debated in your Lordships' House in November 1985. I said, "Yes, but". I said "yes" to the objectives of the agreement, which we would dearly like to see realised. I said "but" to the question of whether it would work. Now, 18 months later, what do we have to show for it? Those who have said no from the start can throw in the faces of people like myself and my colleagues, who said that one should not just shout "no" but wait and see whether it worked, the question, "What can we see 18 months later? What results are there to show for it?". That is a difficult question for us to answer.
I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will find it possible to instil a little more confidence in the mind of the public by letting results be seen. I know that many of the things that take place have to happen behind closed doors for security reasons, but I believe that confidence would be reinforced if results from co-operation between the two police forces could be seen. After 18 months one would expect to see results from two forces which, so we are told, have been working closely together for the previous 14 years.
I welcome the Bill but I wonder whether it goes far enough. Certainly it cannot do any harm but I doubt 368 whether we shall see any noticeable change in the security situation as a result of its provisions. Nonetheless I wish it well.
§ Lord Kilbracken
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he explain how the security forces in the Republic of Ireland could in any way be held responsible for the detonation of the car when that occurred at least half a mile north of the border to which they had escorted Lord Justice Gibson?
My Lords, I did not hold the Garda responsible for the detonation. I said that it was very difficult to envisage how the car could have been left there unattended with a bomb inside it if both police forces had been fully co-operating with each other.
I am not apportioning blame to one side compared with the other. I am merely saying that such incidents ought not to happen if the two police forces are closely in touch. In the army we should have called it a rear link between one command and the other so that each would know what the other was doing. That is what I am saying. I can assure the noble Lord that I was not blaming the Garda.
§ 12.12 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, in this debate. He speaks with great authority on the affairs of Northern Ireland, and we always listen to him with great attention. I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, and his department, for the briefing on this Bill which they have given us. That was very helpful.
I am sorry that so few noble Lords have put down their names to speak in the debate. It is true that the Government always table debates on Northern Ireland for Fridays or late at night but to some extent the small number of speakers reflects a degree of public indifference in England to the affairs of Northern Ireland, which is symbolised by the dust covers that we see on the television cameras. The Bill is not particularly controversial and I join with the noble Lords who have spoken in giving it a general welcome. I am especially glad that it is proposed to implement a large number of the recommendations in Sir George Baker's admirable report.
As I understand it, one of the objectives of the Bill is to strengthen the authorities' hand in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland while at the same time extending the statutory protection given to the rights of persons suspected or accused of terrorism. As the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has said, and as the Minister told us, this is a difficult balance. However, it seems to me that the most essential right for anyone living in Northern Ireland is to be able to sit in his or her own drawing room or to walk down the street without fear of being shot. They are not enjoying that right at the moment. We need to concentrate on the first objective.
Two days ago in another place the Secretary of State admitted that there had been "a serious deterioration" in security. Indeed, there has. I believe that this year the murder rate is running at 250 per cent. above the same period in 1986. I understand that the Government do not propose to amend this Bill in the 369 light of the present very serious situation. That surprises me a little, unless they plan other measures, in which case perhaps the Minister will inform us of them. If this Bill is lost I hope that in due course we can have a replacement that reflects the need to reverse the deterioration of which the Minister spoke.
I want to say a few words about the general situation against which we have to consider the Bill and particularly about the emergency (if that is the right word) for which emergency provisions are needed. First, there is the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which I think it is fair to describe as the main plank in the Government's policy for fighting terrorism. When he introduced it to this House in November 1985 the noble Viscount the Leader of the House told us that the agreement:can contribute significantly to the aim, which we all share, of peace, stability and prosperity in Northern Ireland".He went on to say:it offers a real opportunity to make progress towards reconciliation between the two communities in Northern Ireland and to tackle cross-border terrorism in a determined way.[Official Report, 26/11/85 cols. 798 and 801.]On that occasion, I said that as I understand itthe agreement…seems to be based on a calculation … that if representatives of the Government of the Republic can, through the Conference, put forward views and proposals on their own account or on behalf of the Catholic minority about the most important aspects of policy in Northern Ireland, then nationalists may withdraw support for Sinn Fein and the IRA, so that the terrorists lose their support and the level of terrorism is drastically reduced. …If that really happens then obviously it will be an enormous gain…But will there really be such a dramatic improvement? The prospects seem to me to be far from certain".—[Official Report, 26/11/85; col. 842.]My doubts then were not widely shared, but I think that now they are. I noticed two pieces in the press recently which your Lordships may also have seen. On 26th April, the Sunday Telegraph said:After the murder of Lord Justice Gibson and Lady Gibson, the onus of proof is on those who believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has contributed to cross-border security.We hope that the Government of the Republic and the Catholic community in the North will not merely express their outrage, but also demonstrate a new-found determination to apprehend the murderers. If not, it will be difficult to argue with Unionist outrage".And in an important leader on the 28th April, the Independent said:There is no indication that the accord has reconciled many Nationalists. It has, however, done much to alienate Protestant opinion".It went on to say that the argument was often made that in fact there were improvements in security taking place, and that too much publicity would jeopardise recent gains and make it difficult for the new Taoiseach to continue on the path of sweet reasonableness. On that issue they said:There comes a point at which such arguments have to be resisted and that point was surely reached this weekend. In order to restore morale and to engender some confidence the two Governments ought, as a matter of urgency, to give public indication of the ways in which co-operation in security matters has been stepped up. Moreover, it would be valuable for Mr. Haughey to give his unreserved public blessing to the higher profile military presence which will now be necessary on the border and elsewhere in Northern Ireland".I hope that the Government will pay attention to those views and to similar views that have been put forward.
370 As regards the emergency provisions and the measures actually taken to deal with the situation, in the first place, I welcome the steps announced by the Secretary of State two days ago in another place to strengthen the UDR, the RUC and to take measures which have been interpreted as a proposal to send in the SAS. I also welcome that part of the Secretary of State's speech in which he said:I make it absolutely clear that our determination is to pursue our efforts until such time as terrorism is destroyed.However, can that firm and admirable statement be reconciled with what the Government actually do? In the subsequent debate a number of speakers, including the Unionist leader Mr. Molyneaux, talked about the restrictions on the actions of the army which they claimed meant that under the rules and with the yellow card the terrorist must always fire first and that if any of our soldiers shoots first he is liable to prosecution. Mr. Molyneaux quoted an officer in the British Army who said that many of the soldiers there felt like "tethered goats". That seems to me to be an appalling position in which to put our troops. What is the real position? If we are to destroy terrorism, as the Secretary of State says we must, the army must have some of those shackles removed because it cannot destroy terrorism with its hands tied behind its back.
My slight doubts about the Government's will to win were increased by what I read about a case of which I have given the Minister notice which concerns a supply teacher in Northern Ireland called Kathleen Gleeson. That lady was widely reported to be a member of the IRA and to have used her position as a teacher to recruit pupils from her class into the IRA. She has had three convictions, two of them for assaulting the police. However, I noticed an article in The Independent the other day which reported that she had been reinstated. I wish to ask the Minister whether the Government consider that such a person is suitable to teach the children of Northern Ireland.
Indeed what is needed at this time is a firm signal, essentially from the Prime Minister, that enough is enough and that we intend to put a stop to terrorism. I shall give your Lordships a parallel. In Canada in 1970 there was an outbreak of serious terrorism by an organisation called the FLQ in Quebec. Your Lordships may remember that one of our trade commissioners was kidnapped and that a Quebec Minister was kidnapped and subsequently murdered. Many people in Canada thought at that time that the Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau, being a progressive and very often described as a wet and a strong liberal, would do nothing but wring his hands and that the terrorism would continue. In fact, quite the contrary happened. Mr. Trudeau made it absolutely clear that under no circumstances was his government prepared to put up with the terrorism in Quebec. He brought into force the War Measures Act for the first time in peace-time in Canada. He sent in the tanks, arrested a large number of people and made it absolutely clear to every Canadian, to every member of the Canadian Forces, to everyone in Quebec and to the terrorists that the Government were going to stop the terrorism, and it did stop. That was 17 years ago and there has never been a cheep out of the terrorists since. It was stopped effectively because of the Government's will to stop it.
371 Are we prepared to do likewise? If we are and if we make that determination I imagine that the army would require changes in the legal framework so that there can be no question of prosecuting our soldiers for shooting terrorists in the course of operations. Will we give the army those powers? That matter is far more important than merely increasing the numbers of troops. Will we place some such provisions in this Bill or in its replacement or in any alternative?
There are other steps that we can take at the same time. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, said about the question of the right of silence. We should give consideration to removing that. A short time ago in your Lordships' House there was discussion about the prosecution's right to appeal against excessively lenient sentences in Great Britain, and a number of very distinguished noble Lords, including the Lord Chief Justice, argued that the prosecution should have that right. Whatever happens in Great Britain, it should certainly have that right in Northern Ireland where it is even more important.
The question of detention, or selective detention, is very difficult. Clearly it resulted in damage when it was carried out in a wholesale way. It alienated the minority community, which was clearly a mistake. Nonetheless, we cannot allow the present situation to continue. It is certainly disturbing when we see that the courts in Belfast and Dublin sometimes appear to be competing as to which can release the most terrorists into the arms of their jubilant supporters. We should encourage the Government of the Republic to move in parallel with us in taking strong measures against terrorists.
One other question in relation to the Bill, discussed in Committee in another place on 26th February, was that of the proscription of Sinn Fein. As your Lordships may know, it was proscribed between 1922 and 1974, and the IRA and the INLA remained proscribed. But Sinn Fein, of which the Baker Report quoted from the Daily Telegraph as "the IRA in drag", is not proscribed. That is thoroughly discussed in the Baker Report. I hope that those of your Lordships who have not read it will look at chapter 9, pages 116 to 123, where there is a full and fair discussion of the question. Sir George Baker quoted a suggestion made to him by Professor Wilkinson, of the Department of Politics at Aberdeen University, whom he described as an international authority on terrorism. The suggestion was,that those political parties which refuse to renounce the use of violence should be disqualified by statute from fighting parliamentary or other elections".Sir George added that,the proposal seemed well worthy of further thought.We should pay attention to that because, at the moment, there is an anomalous situation in that Ministers, quite reasonably, will not meet members of Sinn Fein although it is not proscribed and is free to fight parliamentary and local elections.
There is the linked question of terrorist publicity. Your Lordships may have heard "The World This Weekend" on the BBC last Sunday when the question of terrorism in Northern Ireland was discussed. There was a long interview with Mr. Danny Morrison who was treated just as if he was a political leader in the 372 United Kingdom. He described the aims and objectives of the IRA and the progress it had made. That is quite wrong. However, even more wrong was the article which some of your Lordships may have seen which appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday, 5th May. The article quoted,a senior figure who said he was speaking for the general headquarters staff".He described the bomb which killed Lord Justice Gibson and his wife and explained that it contained,1,0001bs. of explosives, and not 5001bs. as estimated by the authorities. It was made of fertiliser base burned by cortex high explosive cable to give uniform combustion. The cable was set off by benzine primer".There were all those details. The article went on to quote the spokesman as saying that,the IRA still needed rifles capable of piercing the chest and back armour protection worn by the security forces … The IRA has inadequate guns to penetrate the armour so we have to get in close for head or stomach shots".It is appalling that a paper with a great past like the Guardian should quote that sort of stuff, which is sickening to read, from a terrorist spokesman. It should be an offence to give publicity to the views of terrorist spokesmen in that way.
To sum up, there ought to be a clear signal that the Government intend that this situation should stop. There should, I believe, be consequent discussion with the security forces. I believe that amendments would be required to legislation, either in this Bill or in an alternative. Clearly, action in the security field is the first priority. But political action is necessary, too.
I think that the Anglo-Irish agreement gave the IRA grounds for thinking that we were giving in to their ultimate objective. We need to make it clear that we are not. To that end, we need to remove the political uncertainty hanging over Northern Ireland. I have already suggested in this House that we should treat the province much more like Wales or Scotland. We should make it clear that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that it will remain so.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I take up one point that he made? He said, if I understood him aright, that he was not sure that the Government had a real will to win. I think that that is an absolutely unjust reflection on the present policy, because the answer to the noble Lord's very understandable complaints about things going wrong the whole time—that has been happening for 20 years in Northern Ireland—is to be tougher and everything will come right.
The curious fact is that the one thing that the terrorists, particularly the INLA, are working for above everything else is to produce a strong reaction. It is the only way that they can develop their case or get friends at all. So it is a good deal more difficult than the noble Lord suggested.
§ 12.32 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I think I should just say to the noble Lord, Lord Moran, that the great majority of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland never have supported the IRA and still do not. Having said that, I welcome this belated move to implement some of Sir George Baker's recommendations, and it is 373 particularly good that the measure comes to us in the form of a Bill and not of an unamendable order.
I should like to welcome the onus now being put on the prosecution to show why bail should not be granted. I welcome also the time limits regarding preliminary proceedings for scheduled offences. But I ask the Minister when the regulations will be published and whether they will be available to us in draft form. Will the limits be comparable to those now existing in Scotland after which bail must be granted? Here we should also refer to recommendation No. 22 of Sir George Baker's report.
I should like to welcome the limited attempts in this Bill to harmonise its provisions with those of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Much more could be done here, because the overlap of emergency and prevention of terrorism provisions is undesirable in principle and unnecessarily complex in practice. The objective, I suggest, should be for Northern Ireland to have a single Act containing all emergency legislation.
I should also like to welcome the word "reasonable", about which the late Sir A. P. Herbert could be so eloquent, which we find both in Clause 6 and in Schedule 1. This is a major step forward and will, I hope, eliminate the so-called "fishing trips" which have so often in the past been counter productive by antagonising the local community where they occurred, and especially the most law-abiding members of the local community.
I should like to welcome Clause 11, though there is still a strong case for making the same organisations illegal in the whole of the United Kingdom, and indeed if possible in the Irish Republic as well. I welcome Clause 14, which protects the rights of people arrested, especially since in the nature of things some innocent people are bound to get arrested and some, whether they are innocent or guilty, will be under 18. When this happens, we know all too well that it causes very strong alarm to the parents and relations of those young people.
The Bill is, however, remarkable for the things that it omits. For instance, as has already been mentioned, the power of executive detention is retained. This is contrary to Sir George Baker's recommendation No. 26. I can foresee that at some future point an opportunity might occur for arresting a significant number of the godfathers of terrorism, against whom there will probably be insufficient evidence to prosecute. But if this situation ever does arise, I should have thought they could be held under the powers of existing legislation until such time—and it has to be a fairly short time, I agree—as Parliament could pass a detention measure tailor-made for specified persons.
I note that nothing is being done in the Bill to amend and clarify the law on the reasonable use of force by the security services as it applies to firearms. Nothing is being done to create a new offence lesser than murder or manslaughter covering the honest—and by that I mean the non-malicious—use of excessive force. This is a point on which again I differ from the noble Lord, Lord Moran.
As to the "certifying" out of scheduled offences, nothing seems to be done to give the Attorney-General 374 greater flexibility so that he may "certify" out any offence for trial by jury which he thinks proper and fit. This is where we come again to Sir George Baker's recommendations Nos. 12 to 17. Can the Minister please say why it has been that some 30 to 40 per cent. of the applications for certificates were refused in each year from 1982 to 1986 inclusive? It seems that this escape route towards normality is not working quite as well as one might hope.
Like the noble Lords, Lord Hampton and Lord Dunleath, I regret that the Bill offers nothing on the vexed question of the single judge without a jury in the Diplock courts. I suggest it is highly significant that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights—the Government's own appointed watchdog on this subject in Northern Ireland—has recommended a three judge court. It did so by a majority of the order or 15 to 2. Here I should like to pay a very warm tribute to the members of this standing advisory commission. It has been in existence now for 12 years or so and has had to walk through the minefield in a very sensitive area, subject to claims and counterclaims, to propaganda and to agitation of every kind. It has discharged this onerous duty in a very admirable way, with the aid of a small permanent staff.
I believe that there have been miscarriages of justice in a limited number of terrorist cases, both before a jury in England and before a single judge in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, an improvement in the composition of the Crown Court in Northern Ireland is highly material to perceptions of justice in that jurisdiction.
We have evidence from the special criminal court in Dublin that three judges sitting without a jury can work perfectly well as a court of first instance. I commend to your Lordships and to Her Majesty's Government the paper by Mr. John Jackson, who is a barrister and lecturer in law at Queen's University, Belfast. That paper is printed in full on page 63 onwards in the twelfth report of the standing advisory commission. The paper sets out how a three-judge court might function in practice and how the Bill could be amended to make that possible. Four different methods are listed on pages 73 to 75. I trust that the Government will soon give a considered reply to the standing advisory commission, since they have had the recommendation from that body since October of last year. Can the Minister say when that reply may be forthcoming?
If the real objection to three-judge courts is simply a lack of judges, we should make use of retired judges, of resident magistrates and of barristers of more than 10 years' standing. I think that it is worthy of note that Mr. Brice Dickson of the Law Faculty of Queen's University has recorded his opinion that only three extra full-time judges would be needed, who could well be found from a pool of some 60 qualified and experienced banisters. If the Government do not accept the recommendations of the standing advisory commission, the least I feel they could and should do would be to appoint an independent inquiry into possible improvements to the present Diplock courts. I also agree with the commission that so long as we have two Acts on the statute book, both intended to counter terrorism in Northern Ireland, the Emergency Provisions Act should have an annual review by an 375 independent person in the same way as the Prevention of Terrorism Act for the whole of the United Kingdom. I think that that was one of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies.
There is urgent need for codes of practice and conduct for the Royal Ulster Constabulary similar to those which have been adopted for England and Wales under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. They set out clear guidelines for the police and a detailed statement of the rights of an individual and the safeguards available to detained persons. Perhaps I may ask the Minister when he replies to say when those codes will also be available for Northern Ireland.
Finally, I should like to welcome Clause 6, which concerns admissions and confessions. In doing so I also ask whether those new clauses cover violence or threats of violence to members of the immediate family of the accused. Such threats could be just as serious as direct threats to the accused person.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I first apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, for having missed the first part of his speech. London is one gigantic building site at the moment and the average speed of traffic is down to about five miles an hour this morning.
It is refreshing to see Northern Ireland legislation embodied in a Bill at last, rather than in a wholly unamendable and hence unsatisfactory order. It is good, too, that for once we are dealing with an Ulster matter at a marginally more convenient time than is usually allotted to us. By and large, the contents of the Bill are to be warmly welcomed, although I briefly wonder whether Clause 13, which provides for the eventual repeal of the 1978 Act, is not giving hostages to fortune. I also have some reservations about Part III, but do not intend to elaborate on those reservations until we come to the Committee stage. Having said that, yesterday's local government election results make it increasingly unlikely that the Committee stage will be reached. I should therefore like to make a few general observations.
It was revealed in The Times six days ago that 244 members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have been murdered since the onset of the troubles. I say "revealed" advisedly because nowadays Fleet Street tends to give minimal coverage to the murder of a policeman or policewoman in Northern Ireland or the murder of anyone else for that matter, unless they happen to be unusually important people. Fleet Street may protest that circulation figures are all that matters and that their readers simply are not interested. The more frivolous tabloids aside, I do not think that that is a good enough answer. If separatists in Brittany, Corsica or Martinique had killed several hundred soldiers, policemen and members of the CRS over the same period of time, together with many tens of thousands of civilians, whether metropolitan French or les français d'outre-me, I believe that coverage in the French press would be much more comprehensive and prominent.
Perhaps I should say that ITN and, latterly the BBC news, after some of us had protested against the disproportionate coverage and attention the BBC gave to the hunger strikers, behave much better in this 376 respect. Let us give credit where credit is due. However, the playing down of the murder of hundreds of mostly innocent people matters. It matters because the public are said by the press to have a right to know: at the moment, they are not being given that right. More importantly, it creates a sense of alienation, in both directions. If murders in Belfast are given no greater prominence than similar murders in Bolivia or Bangladesh, then the English, the Welsh and, to a lesser extent because of their proximity, cultural and otherwise, the Scots public are subconsciously going increasingly to bracket what is part of the United Kingdom with those distant lands.
Meanwhile, the sense of alienation on the other side of the water, as well as the sense of cynicism and resentment, will grow apace, and morale will plummet even further. There may be, indeed I am sure that there are, some who will secretly welcome such a trend. But I warn them that the consequences may not be those to which they secretly aspire.
Returning to statistics, 244 members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have been murdered since August 1969. That is the equivalent of 8,750 policemen and policewomen murdered in England, Scotland and Wales, pro rata to the population: an average of 500 murders per annum. If 500 police officers had been murdered on the mainland every year on average for 17½ years, together with over 750 men of the Regular Army and the Territorial Army and over 2,000 wholly innocent civilians—by that, I mean those totally unconnected with extremist organisations—there would be no question of a one-column-inch report appearing regularly at the bottom of an inside page. On the contrary, the balloon would go up.
It is not too far-fetched that hysteria would reign. The public, the press, back-bench politicians and indeed many front-bench politicians would be crying for the most extreme responses: the right of hot pursuit; the re-introduction of capital punishment; a state of emergency; internment, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath; a shoot-to-kill policy; and possibly Israeli-style raids upon terrorist bases across the border. I am not arguing that all or any of those policies are necessarily desirable. But the British mainland is an effective democracy, where strong public opinion counts very much. The Government in such circumstances would be forced to take strong measures, possibly even against their better judgment.
As Northern Ireland is now, for various reasons which we need not go into at the moment, it is not an effective democracy. The Government are in a position virtually to ignore public opinion in the Province. The sole response to the latest wave of violence has been to recruit more RUC men, some of whom are to replace those who have been murdered, and to send a few more SAS men into the border areas.
It may be that the ability virtually to disregard local public opinion is a blessing in disguise; that unencumbered by the burden of responding to public opinion, the Government are able to reach the wisest decisions; and that the Government's relatively "softly, softly" policy (in a world context) is the most effective one. I certainly hope so, but must admit that I am not at all confident.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, we are indebted to the Minister for the careful and sober way in which he has presented this measure to the House. As in all debates on Northern Ireland, the House is exceedingly well served by those who are well connected with Northern Ireland and who bring to our debates their experience and views to the benefit not only of the House but also of the people of Northern Ireland. I have listened to every contribution with deep respect. Those of us who do not live in Northern Ireland but who perhaps, once removed, take responsibilities in these matters are certainly indebted.
Last September, with the full approval and help of the Minister, my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies and I visited Northern Ireland. That visit gave us an insight, but it was nothing like the insight of those noble Lords who live there, and who can tell us of the problems. My purpose in having as it were, a second bite of the cherry on behalf of the official Opposition, is in no way to repeat what has been said, because there is a general welcome for the Bill not only in your Lordships' House but also, as my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies mentioned, in another place.
The Minister was fair enough to acknowledge that the Bill was improved in another place. He also understands that in Northern Ireland, perhaps more than in any other spheres of government activity, there is a desperate yearning on behalf of all opposition parties to see the Government succeed. In many instances the opposition parties make the Government's job more difficult. However, when we are looking at what the Government are doing as regards Northern Ireland—namely, protecting innocent men and women, and bringing back to the province peace, security and stability, as well as progress—then no sane-minded opposition would wish to thwart that will.
Therefore, the Minister knows at the outset that we wish the Bill and its aspirations well. My noble friend Lord Prys-Davies said—and this was echoed by almost every speaker—that there is the satisfaction that we are dealing not with a series of orders or Motions but with something concrete and positive. By and large I echo the view of all noble Lords who have spoken that there is not very much with which one can disagree, but one expresses disappointment that some of the provisions that we would have wished to see in the Bill are not there.
When one looks at the provisions of a Bill of this kind, by normal standards one may take the view that it is unreal and grotesque. I say that because the conditions with which the Government, the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the United Kingdom have to deal in Northern Ireland are grotesque and unreal. However, it is not a question of using desperate measures. I remind the Minister and the House of the wise words of his ministerial colleague Mr. Nicholas Scott, who said:I believe democracies have to be careful in seeking to defend their democracy by not adopting means which play into the hands of the terrorists, and therefore, I think we should seek to derogate as little as possible from the normal standards of justice and government which we would normally apply".It is an indication of the dangers and difficulties in Northern Ireland that we have had to derogate to the 378 extent that we have in the Bill. No sensible democrat wants to impose upon a system of justice in Northern Ireland the kind of provisions contained in the Bill.
I recognise that the Government have been seeking to maintain the balance—a balance which is always very difficult to strike and even more so in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, the Government are right almost to bend over backwards to ensure that the civil liberties of the individuals, and even the terrorists and the organisations that they support, are taken fully into account when putting legislation on the statute book.
I wish to remind the Minister of the wise remarks of my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies. He said that what we want to see is support for the trend of channelling back into the normal jury system. The Government want normality but it is a question of pace.
The terrible murder of a judge and his wife on the border and the subsequent events remind us that there is a dreadful price to be paid if we do not maintain a proper system of security. My noble friend was also wise not only in welcoming the many provisions in the Bill but also in reminding the Minister—if indeed he needed reminding—that substantially we are talking about security and justice. Moreover, the solution in Northern Ireland will be found only when politicians find a political solution that is acceptable to everyone.
I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, when he raised the issue of treating silence in the face of interrogation as something akin to a driver who refuses to give specimens for tests. Although it is an interesting theory, it does not sound attractive to me because it is one of the frustrations and hurdles with which police and security forces of all nations have to contend. The alternative is to use methods of breaking the silence, but certainly we on this side of the House would have nothing to do with them.
In conclusion, I remind the Minister of the points about which my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies said that we were uneasy. I am talking of matters that we would raise at Committee stage, which under normal circumstances one would envisage taking place within the next two or three weeks. However, these are not normal times because we are living in the period immediately before the calling of a general election. But I think that the record ought to show where our unease lies.
My noble friend Lord Prys-Davies expressed unease that the Bill does not repeal the powers of the Secretary of State contained in Section 12 of the 1978 Act to detain a person without trial. He also indicated that Clause 12 of the Bill deals with the compensation paid to a person whose property is taken, destroyed or damaged by members of the security forces in the course of their duty. My noble friend mentioned the uncertainty of the principles which determine the payment of compensation and also the claims procedure. Perhaps the Minister has those points in mind and will deal with them in his reply.
My noble friend then drew to the attention of the House, as did other noble Lords, the concern in Northern Ireland that the right to jury trial is not available for a wide range of offences. Perhaps the Minister will also deal with that point. We accept that 379 it is unrealistic to talk of the restoration of the normal jury trial system.
My noble friend then raised another omission; namely, the disappointment among many members of the Catholic community that advantage has not been taken in this new legislation to place some limitation on the right to stop and search citizens at random.
I want merely to repeat what my noble friend said. It is deeply regrettable that such legislation is required. However, we share the view of the Government and the Minister that it is required. We are pleased that the measures have been codified and brought up to date in the Bill.
§ 1 p.m.
§ Lord Lyell
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has summed up our discussions on this Bill. All the remarks that have been made about the measures contained in this contentious legislation, which have been with us while the emergency has existed, have been extremely well balanced and thought out. They have given me and the Government food for thought. I hope that I shall be able to cover most, if not all, of the points that have been raised. I am grateful to your Lordships for giving me some indication of the points that may be raised and the markers that may be put down at later stages of the Bill.
At the outset I wish to take 30 seconds of your Lordships' time to allude to one sad event among the many that have taken place in Northern Ireland during the security emergency. Last Sunday an especially sad event occurred with the death of the Dowager Duchess of Westminster, who, as your Lordships may be aware, was Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant for the county of Fermanagh. It would be remiss of me personally, and on behalf of the Government, to allow that terribly sad event to pass unremarked in your Lordships' House.
All of us who have been connected with service in Northern Ireland in government, or in any other way, have noted the marvellous contribution made by the late dowager Duchess for many years. She had just retired from the position of Lord Lieutenant, which she had held since 1979. To say that the dowager Duchess was loved by all sections of the Northern Ireland community would be an understatement. We mourn her passing.
We have had an interesting and illuminating debate. I shall start by trying to reassure your Lordships that we too are pleased that we can include these measures in a Bill. Every speaker has drawn attention to that fact. We are grateful that it has been noticed.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked whether I could place in the Library those of the Baker recommendations that had been dealt with and those which had not. I have put in my notes, "Library; why not?" I hope that I can do that. I shall place in the Library the information that we made available earlier this week. If I can, I shall try to fill in any gaps in the information about the Baker recommendations. I shall discuss the point with my advisers and then take action.
380 The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked about a number of points. First, he asked about the repeal of the police arrest powers contained in Section 11 of the 1978 Act. That is covered by Clause 6 of the Bill. The significance of the repeal of the police arrest power contained in Section 11 of the 1978 Act is that it removes an overlap in the emergency arrest powers contained in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act and similar powers contained in the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. We consider that the system we have evolved in Clause 6 and the continuing powers under Section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act provide all the grounds we believe to be necessary for arrests to be carried out in Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, also mentioned Clause 5, which replaces Section 8 of the 1978 Act and deals with the admissibility of confession evidence. The provisions relating to the admissibility of confession evidence in England and Wales could not be applied to terrorist cases in Northern Ireland. All your Lordships, including the noble Lords, Lord Dunleath and Lord Fitt, are aware of the situation in Northern Ireland. We do not think that those provisions could safely be applied.
There is a risk that the Northern Ireland courts would of necessity return to the pre-Diplock interpretation of the law, which resulted in the non-admissibility of virtually all statements made in police custody although there was no ill-treatment and the statement could only have been made by a person who was, to all intents and purposes, guilty. I ask noble Lords to accept that such provisions relating to the admissibility of evidence would not be practical and would not work.
The noble Lord also asked me about the Attorney-General's discretion to certify out. That power has not been extended to cover robbery or what I think the noble Lord called aggravated burglary. Those would be the only two scheduled offences in which a weapon is used. Certifying out has not been extended because of the difficulty in determining the accused person's motive. I believe that the noble Lord will accept that. There would also be a difficulty in reaching an objective decision about the appropriate method of trial.
The noble Lords, Lord Prys-Davies and Lord Graham, asked about the stop and search provisions. I hope that noble Lords will accept that stopping and searching has to be random if it is to be effective, first to deter, and, secondly, to prevent terrorist activity. We are alert to the difficulties caused by the possible abuse of those powers. We take the greatest care to try to reduce all abuses. Your Lordships will be aware that during the past two years we have tried to ensure that those unpleasant measures are carried out as politely and humanely as possible. I hope that I have your Lordships' support for these regrettable but necessary measures. I believe that they are welcomed by most people in Northern Ireland, because they help to protect the entire community.
Your Lordships will of course be aware of the enormous haul of explosives, weighing well over one tonne, which was made last weekend. I am not aware of the full details, but that indicates to your Lordships 381 the circumstances which exist in Northern Ireland and that random searches of traffic and people are necessary. We shall continue to try to reduce any abuses.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, asked about compensation claims. They are covered by Clause 12. He asked how many compensation claims had not been settled within 12 months. I hope noble Lords will accept that the new compensation provisions in Clause 12 require notice of a claim which should be submitted within a maximum of 12 months. The noble Lord is seized of the point that the claims do not have to be settled within 12 months. I stress to him that most claims are settled within the period unless the claimant is dissatisfied with the settlement offered. Your Lordships will therefore see that there is a very fair mechanism with which these grievances can be redressed. Noble Lords will find the provision at pages 9, 10 and 11 of the Bill.
The noble Lord raised the question of a field of grain for a farmer. That matter would arrive on my desk in the Northern Ireland Office; indeed, most matters of drainage seem to end up with me. The example given by the noble Lord would become evident within 12 months. Most farmers are swift to take precautionary action, which is all that is needed under the terms of Clause 12 of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, referred to the police procedures with regard to persons such as the late Lord Justice Gibson and Lady Gibson or any person who might wish to cross the border in either direction at any time. I am able to stress to the noble Lord that the chief constable of the RUC is pursuing very urgently his inquiries into the circumstances of the murder of Lord Justice and Lady Gibson and the security procedures and advice provided for those such as the judiciary in Northern Ireland who are under constant threat from terrorism. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, will know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already signed a vehicle control zone order making it illegal for vehicles to stop on that stretch of the A.1 immediately north of the border where vehicles are at particular risk from car bombs such as the one which murdered Lord Justice and Lady Gibson.
The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, also spoke about the elimination of the right to silence. I note very carefully what he said about the problems which are raised for the investigating and prosecuting authorities by the principle of the right of a suspect to remain silent during questioning. Your Lordships will understand that this is a very difficult area which the Government would hesitate to enter without considering very carefully the whole issue of civil rights of individuals.
Perhaps I may draw the noble Lord's attention to the words of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in another place in the lengthy debate on security last Wednesday. My right honourable friend said:That is why we are continuing to consider ways in which the work of the security forces can be helped to bring terrorists before the courts. While maintaining fair treatment under the law, we will ensure that if terrorists are found guilty, they are subject to the full rigour of the law. I do not propose to comment any further on those 382 matters now. However, I hope that the House has listened carefully to what I have said and will be under no illusions about the seriousness with which I regard that aspect of the problem".—[Official Report, Commons, 6/5/87; cols, 741-2.]I hope that the noble Lord will accept that my right honourable friend has taken these points on board, and in particular the point on the right to silence. However, we should not take a step to remove the right to silence with regard to the provisions today, and in particular when we look at Clause 5.
The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, also raised the question of the discretionary approach to 50 per cent. remission in sentences. I note what he said. I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, for his very helpful comments. He raised two points to which I shall come later. One was the question of three- judge courts and the other was that of internment and detention. I have also noted the thoughts of the noble Lord on Clause 11 of the Bill. I share with him the hope that these measures can be enforced. We certainly believe that there is a strong probability that they can be enforced and offenders brought before the courts. We believe that the attempt to stamp out this menace will be successful.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, was kind enough to give me notice of the case of the teacher, to which I shall come in a moment. He referred to the murder rate being 250 per cent. higher than in the same period in 1986. I stress that the Government share the concern of the noble Lord about the recent upsurge of terrorist murders in Northern Ireland but I hope he will agree that we do not want to play into the hands of the terrorists, and of those who support them, by adopting draconian measures which would undoubtedly be counter-productive in the Government's consistent policy over a number of years to isolate terrorists from the community which they falsely claim to represent.
I note the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Moran. I hope that he can be classified as a friendly Member of your Lordships' House inside and out. I hope your Lordships will accept that we have to maintain the balance between justified and essential means to counter terrorism which we are using in Northern Ireland and other methods—which we insist are necessary in a democracy—that we have in Part I of the Bill. We want to maintain the balance between adequate powers for the security forces and protection for the basic rights of all citizens. It is still the fact that citizens are innocent until they are proved guilty, even with the situation in Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, also spoke of the powers of the security forces to take on terrorists. Under the law the security forces can use whatever force—and that includes lethal force—is reasonable in the circumstances. Those four words restrict the security forces in a way that I believe your Lordships will consider absolutely essential.
It is rightly a matter for the courts to decide in particular cases whether the use of lethal force was justified. I stress to the noble Lord that there is no legal or regulatory requirement for the security forces to hold fire until the terrorists open fire. I hope that the 383 noble Lord will accept that statement; it is essential that it is clearly understood.
I do not wish to go down the avenue of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in this debate this afternoon. Nevertheless, the Government believe that the agreement continues to offer sufficient reassurance to both sides of the community in Northern Ireland to enable them to engage in constructive political dialogues. The agreement, however, provides a very important framework for co-ordinating security force activity on both sides of the border. Members of the Government have made no secret of the fact that the agreement would not achieve results overnight. I do not accept that this upsurge in terrorist activity is necessarily connected with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That may be the opinion of sundry people in Northern Ireland but we do not accept that as being the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was kind enough to warn me that he would have one or two complicated matters to raise. One of the points that he wished me to cover was the response of the Government to the letter from the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in October, recommending the introduction of three-judge courts to try scheduled offences. The Government took into account the views contained in the SACHR's letter before we arrived at our decision, which my honourable friend the Minister of State explained at an earlier stage of the Bill in another place. I hope he will accept that we took the point on board. That is as far as we can go today.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, raised the matter of compensation. I hope that he will find that the period of 12 months in Clause 12 is sufficient. I stress once again that the measures in Clause 12 are there merely so that the aggrieved person may give notice of his intention to make a claim.
The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, and other noble Lords raised a question on detention and whether the word "internment" also was covered by detention. I shall cover them under one heading. I am sure the House will accept that the Government have a responsibility—even more, we have a duty—to ensure that the appropriate powers are available to protect the entire community in Northern Ireland from the effects of terrorism. We also have to take into account the possibility of deterioration which could not be foreseen in the security situation and in the ability of the courts to deal with terrorists. The Government have considered these two aspects very carefully. We concluded that it would not be right to repeal the provisions for detention at this stage. I stress that they have not been used since 1975. They have not been in force since 1980, but while they remain on the statute book they constitute a reserve power which could—I stress that conditional—be implemented at short notice in response to an emergency.
The noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Hampton, raised the matter of three-judge courts. We have a proposal that three-judge courts should be established for the trial of scheduled offences in. Northern Ireland, but we see three substantial objections. The first is that the current Diplock procedures contain powerful safeguards which in our view sufficiently compensate 384 for the absence of a jury. I think your Lordships will know that in the detailed paper on the proposal the Standing Advisory Commission emphasised that there was no reason to believe that the current Diplock procedures had led to any unfairness. There is statistical evidence to show that the percentage of cases which go to the appeal court from a Diplock court—every convicted person from a Diplock court has a right to appeal—is the same as that for any other cases which go to appeal.
Secondly, there would be substantial practical and procedural difficulties. Thirdly, as your Lordships are aware, the divided society in Northern Ireland places us in a situation where in practice three-judge courts would be most unlikely to promote public confidence in the administration of justice. For those three main reasons I am afraid we are not persuaded that it would be right to provide in this Bill for the establishment of three-judge courts for the trial of scheduled offences. But I stress that we look forward to the day when jury trial can be restored for all cases in Northern Ireland.
A question on time limits was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. We have time limits in Clause 3. As noble Lords will see, Clause 3 provides for the grant of bail if what we call the custody time limit is exceeded. I cannot say when the regulations which will impose time limits will be drafted. Before introducing time limits we want to await the outcome of the experiment being carried out by the Home Office with actual time limits. These experiments began only on 1st April this year. We shall then be collecting more data from our own monitoring exercise, which has been running for less than a year. I hope we shall have something more to report then.
The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised a query about overlap and the problems of confusion with arrests for the emergency provisions Act and prevention of terrorism Act powers and whether these should be contained in a single Act for Northern Ireland. But in Clauses 6, 14 and 15 the Bill seeks to tie the two Acts together and to create what we hope will be a coherent package of anti-terrorist law for Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, also kindly warned me about his query on certifying out and the percentages of applications which were refused. The noble Lord was in correspondence with my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor on one of these aspects. In these cases my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General would have concluded, on the basis of detailed notes submitted to him by the Director of Public Prosecutions, that it would not be right to issue a certificate to enable the cases to be tried before a jury in the proportion of cases mentioned by the noble Lord. I stress to the noble Lord that this decision is one for the Attorney-General.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked whether the Government proposed to establish an independent inquiry into the procedures of the Diplock courts. The late Sir George Baker studied the whole issue with great care. He recommended that there should be no change. The Government have given detailed consideration to this matter and have concluded that the procedures we have are satisfactory. We think they 385 are those which are likely to remain in the confidence of the public.
I can help the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has announced that he is considering the appointment of an independent person of standing to review the operation of the emergency provisions Act each year. That is the position at the moment. If there is anything further on which I can help the noble Lord I hope that I shall be able to do so before too long.
The noble Lord also asked me about a code of practice and a code of conduct for the RUC. This is a matter for the chief constable. I understand that the matter is in an advanced stage of preparation, but I stress that the code will not bite on the exercise of emergency powers or on the exercise of power by the armed forces. My honourable friend the Minister of State announced on 8th April that the Government would be publishing and bringing into force a non-statutory code of practice for the exercise of emergency powers by the RUC and the armed forces.
I am sorry that I have my notes out of order. I shall be winding up straight away. There was one last point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, about a teacher whom he mentioned. The Department of Education became aware in October 1986 that during the past two years this lady, Miss Gleeson, had had three criminal convictions—impersonation at an election, assault on the police and obstruction of the police. The department informed this lady that it proposed to withdraw her recognition as a teacher on grounds of misconduct, subject to any representations which might be made by her. These representations were heard and in all the circumstances the department decided not to withdraw recognition. She was informed by letter on 10th April of this year and at the same time was given a stern warning as to her future conduct.
I hesitate to say that I have covered all the points that have been raised during this debate on what is a short but complicated Bill. I hope that I have covered most points, but if there are any others we shall no doubt be able to pick them up at a later stage. I should like to thank all your Lordships for giving such close and detailed consideration to the Bill. It stresses that these are emergency provisions and, as your Lordships know, we are in an emergency situation in Northern Ireland. The Government are grateful for the consideration and tolerance with which it has been considered. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.