§ 3 p.m.
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
This is the fourth occasion in little more than 14 years on which a Bill with this title has been brought before your Lordships. That fact alone shows the importance of the issues which we shall be discussing today. We are not the only democratic society to know something of the evils of terrorism. It has now become a world-wide menace. We have now been facing the threat continuously for some two decades, and regrettably there is no sign as yet of it receding.
10 This year is a sombre anniversary. It is 20 years since the Provisional IRA launched its present campaign of murder. That has not of course advanced its cause one bit. It has achieved nothing—except the sacrifice of almost 3,000 lives.
We also have to recognise the extent to which the whole community in Northern Ireland has been touched by the continuing terrorist campaign, and how normal life for the vast majority in Northern Ireland has been spoilt by the men of violence who purport to represent their interests. The sheer determination of the people of Northern Ireland to go about their business as normally as they can is evident for all to see and to admire. Bilr there can be no normality until the scourge of terrorism is eradicated. Fear is its stock in trade, and fear strikes at the very heart of society; people fear fear.
Here on the mainland, we have to summon our powers of imagination to their limits if we are to understand fully what others have to contend with. However, we too have had constant reminders of the capacity of terrorism for wicked destruction. The recent events at Lockerbie, for example, have stunned the nation. Perhaps we should not have been surprised. We know, from previous atrocities, that the ruthlessness and the determination of the professional terrorist knows no bounds. For that reason we must be constantly on our guard against Northern Irish and international terrorism.
It was said when this Bill was discussed in another place that circumstances have changed since the dark days of 1974 when the terrible bombings in Birmingham and London led the then Labour Government to introduce the first Bill of this nature in two days. Mercifully, bombings and deaths on the mainland have not continued on anything like the scale of the early 1970s. But 89 people have been killed in Northern Ireland, and about 900 have been injured since the last time that these measures were debated in the House this time last year.
On the mainland, besides the Lockerbie bomb, which claimed nearly 270 lives, a soldier has died and a number of men were injured in the bombing of a barracks in north London. The discovery of a large arsenal of explosives and firearms at Battersea just before Christmas has doubtless stopped more lives being lost. But the threat remains high. The need for special measures is as great as it has ever been. We cannot for one moment lessen our efforts to defeat terrorism. No one could take any pleasure from that conclusion. It is dispiriting to have to make the case once again for re-enacting what are exceptional powers.
I realise that some noble Lords may argue later that some of the provisions in the Bill are inimical to civil liberties. I have no hesitation in saying now that I would not wish to pretend otherwise, But victims and potential victims also have rights. It is one of the difficult tasks facing any government who are confronted by a major threat to their institutional and communal life to find the proper and the most responsible balance between the duties they owe to their citizens and the rights of those who are suspected of involvement in terrorism, and who are dealt with under exceptional measures.
11 It is only right that the Government's judgment of where this balance lies should be carefully and regularly scrutinised. That is what we do today. Probably no body of legislation in recent years has been subject to the same degree of parliamentary scrutiny. As well as the debates on this Bill and its predecessors in 1974, 1976 and 1984, we have had the annual renewal debate in this House and another place.
Parliament has had the benefit of three major reviews of the legislation by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and, most recently, by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. There have also been annual scrutinies of the Act's operation since 1984. So it has been constantly under the microscope. The most recent report, for 1988, has just been completed by my noble friend Lord Colville and was published on 6th February. I should like to endorse the tribute which was paid by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in another place to the authoritative and informed contributions which my noble friend has made to the public debate on the prevention of terrorism. My right honourable friend has invited him to continue his series of annual reports scrutinising the operation of the Act, and I am sure that the House will welcome, as I do, my noble friend Lord Colville's agreement to continue to do so.
There are no powers in this Bill more important than the powers of arrest and detention and the power of exclusion. They are central to our belief that this legislation has, without any doubt, prevented acts of terrorism. It has helped to bring terrorists to justice and it will continue to do so.
Clause 14 enables the police to arrest a person on reasonable suspicion of involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. It enables a person to be detained for 48 hours, and for up to a further five days on the authority of the Secretary of State. The powers apply to both Northern Irish and international terrorism. in the same way as in the 1984 Act.
As your Lordships know, it is the arrest and detention powers which have recently been the subject of a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. It is important, first, to recognise those resepects in which the judgment in the Brogan case as it is called did not challenge those powers. The judgment did not rule invalid the power of arrest. The court held that the arrests of the four applicants were based on reasonable suspicion of the commission of an offence. They therefore satisfied the criteria in paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Nor was the problem simply about the length of detention before charge. The maximum of seven days in Clause 14 is greatly exceeded in the law of some of our Continental neighbours. The breach related simply to the requirement in the convention that the person who is detained must be brought promptly before a judicial officer.
I do not disguise the fact that the judgment has set the Government a difficult problem, to which we are working hard to find a solution. It is a complex 12 matter because it concerns the involvement of the judiciary in matters which have previously in this country been handled by the Executive. I think your Lordships would agree that we cannot simply import, wholesale, Continental institutions such as the examining magistracy into our own legal system. We need to work within our own legal traditions and to take account of the differences between the three jurisdictions within the United Kingdom. We need also to take account of the quite abnormal pressures under which the judiciary must operate in Northern Ireland. And it is in Northern Ireland where most applications for extended detention are made.
For those reasons, my right honourable friend has said in another place that a good deal more thought and consultation is needed. He made it clear that this process could not be completed in time for amendments to be introduced to the relevant parts of the Bill. I hope that your Lordships will understand why we believe that this is a reasonable course to take. It would be quite wrong to proceed with undue haste in an area which is so important to the nation's security and in a matter in which our legal traditions are different from those of other European countries.
However, I can say that we have considered and rejected one option—the possible reduction of the maximum period of detention from seven days to four. My noble friend Lord Colville sets out in great detail in his report the various reasons why seven days may he needed in a small number of cases. I shall not recite the list at length, but I shall merely emphasise one point that has been put to me by the police with some force.
The opportunity to continue interrogations is not by itself the crucial factor. The terrorist who remains silent for four days normally holds out for seven. The main value of the extra time is rather that it allows for the following-up of other leads and, in particular, for the completion of forensic tests. These can be very extensive in terrorist cases and the test itself frequently takes at least three days to do. More and more prosecutions nowadays hinge on forensic evidence. To reduce the length of stay to four days will effectively rule out obtaining much of the most incriminating evidence before the suspect has to be released—and then you do not see him for dust.
One example of this occurred in 1986 when the Royal Ulster Constabulary searched a house in Strabane and found three rifles, two grenades, three grenade launchers and a quantity of ammunition. It was not in fact a very large find as arms finds go, but five people were arrested at the flat. Their detention was extended so that forensic and ballistic tests on the materials could be completed. The questioning of the five about their involvement naturally continued as more scientific evidence became available. The outcome was that, on the fifth day of detention, all five were charged with terrorist offences. They were later convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. That is an example of a case where the police would not have been in possession of all the crucial evidence if they had been restricted to four days.
My noble friend recommended that the system of reviews and the authorisation of continued 13 detention, which is contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, should be applied, with necessary modifications, to the first 48 hours of detention under the terrorism legislation. Your Lordships will see that we have given effect to this recommendation in Schedule 3.
The power of exclusion is re-enacted in Part II of the Bill. The Government fully recognise that exclusion is an unpalatable measure. It limits the freedom of movement, which most people would agree is an important civil right. My noble friend Lord Colville concluded that it should be discontinued, but your Lordships will recall that, in the last major review of the legislation, my noble friend Lord Jellicoe recommended that the power should be kept.
It is not for me to quote one noble Lord against another and I would not seek to do so. I refer to this only because both views are tenable and the arguments are finely balanced, but, as my noble friend Lord Colville acknowledges, the power is used sparingly and with scrupulous care.
There are now 145 people excluded from Great Britain, Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. My right honourable friends look at applications critically, and they make a decision to exclude only when they are satisfied of a person's involvement in terrorism. Furthermore, the system, which appears in Schedule 2 of the Bill, for making representations against an exclusion order to an independent adviser constitutes, in my noble friend's words, "a genuine method of appeal".
The difficulties of principle are, therefore, I think. mitigated by the careful procedure for exclusion, but the decisive consideration is, in my view, simply this: exclusion has prevented, and will continue to prevent, the occurrence of acts of terrorism.
I can give one example of this. Shortly before Christmas, the police detained, on arrival at Heathrow airport, a person who was strongly suspected of involvement in a recent and very serious terrorist incident in Northern Ireland. There was insufficient evidence on which to lay charges, but there was good reason to believe that the visit to London was likely to have terrorist connections. My right honourable friend was satisfied that there was a real threat to our security should the person have been allowed to move freely on the mainland and he therefore made an exclusion order.
My noble friend Lord Colville acknowledges the operational value of exclusion orders, but concludes that the ends do not justify the means. We believe that, in the exceptional circumstances of Northern Irish terrorism, they do.
The Bill also seeks to re-enact the power to proscribe organisations which are involved in terrorism and to re-enact the provisions for control of entry into Great Britain or Northern Ireland. These have been features of the legislation since the first Act was introduced in 1974. The port powers, which were previously enacted by subordinate legislation, have now been incorporated in the Bill, as my noble friend Lord Colville recommended, but there are no major changes of substance.
14 I should like to refer to the important new provisions in the Bill which are concerned with the financing of terrorism. I am glad to say that there has been general agreement about the importance of these provisions. Money is the lifeline of the terrorists and there has been widespread concern that the existing powers were inadequate to cut off their supply of funds.
Previous prevention of terrorism Acts have prohibited contributions to acts of Northern Irish terrorism and the resources of proscribed organisations. They also provided for their forfeiture. However, the powers have been cast in simple terms, and have been aimed primarily at the more overt types of fundraising, such as collections in pubs and at demonstrations.
The modern terrorist is a professional. Our police forces, who have to catch them, have to show even greater professionalism. We must give the police the necessary powers to track down the terrorists and, in the case of money, to cut off the source of funds. Without funds, no terrorist organisation can operate effectively.
We cannot give an accurate figure of the annual income of the Provisional IRA, but the Royal Ulster Constabulary estimates that it is in the region of £3 million to £4 million a year. It was emphasised to me, when I talked to senior members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland recently, that these are conservative estimates. The vast majority of this income is thought to be raised from within the Province.
Racketeering has now become established in Northern Ireland and it takes many forms. At one end of the scale there are activities which are plainly criminal, such as protection which is extorted from shopkeepers and at building sites, VAT evasion and social security frauds and the occasional armed robbery. However, what is particularly disturbing is the extent to which the Provisionals have moved into the commercial world —for example, pubs, clubs, shops and estate agents.
They have also invested very profitably in the production of pirate videos. These are sold through a wide variety of outlets across the Province, both bona fide shops and those which are directly controlled by the IRA. The profits from these activities are channelled back to the quartermasters who organise the purchase of arms and equipment, the payment of active service volunteers and their dependents and contributions to Sinn Fein's election funds.
Terrorist fundraising is not the exclusive preserve of the IRA. The Loyalist organisations are also heavily dependent on the money that they in their turn extort from their own community in order to sustain their activities—and, let us remember, to keep the leading members in the style to which they have become accustomed.
Away from Northern Ireland, it is not surprising that Middle Eastern terrorist groups should wish to take advantage of the London money market. We have good evidence that the Abu Nidhal organisation was running a cell in London in 1986 at a cost of about £50,000 a year. The measures that we propose 15 in the Bill are also therefore aimed at the funds of international terrorism.
The arrangement is a complex one and I do not pretend to describe each of the new provisions in detail although I shall, of course, be happy to reply to any particular points that your Lordships may care to raise.
In Part III of the Bill we have therefore strengthened and broadened the range of offences which are in the 1984 Act. We have introduced new powers of investigation into terrorism in general; but we have aimed particularly at the financial side. And we have provided powers of restraint and forfeiture.
There are two important new features of the scheme of offences. The first is a widening of the existing offences of making contributions. It will now also be an offence to enter into, or otherwise be concerned in, an arrangement whereby money or other property is to be made available for terrorist use. The second is that there is a new offence of entering into, or being concerned in, an arrangement which facilitates the retention or control of terrorist funds. Taken together, these changes will have the effect of outlawing the activities of the financial middlemen who handle the flow of terrorist funds.
As under the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, the Bill relaxes the contractual duty of confidentiality which is owed by banks and other financial institutions to their clients. This is done in order to enable them to report to the police any suspicions which are aroused by particular transactions. We have discussed our proposals with the representatives of the financial sector in London and Belfast, and I am glad to say that we have been assured of their general support for our proposals.
The powers of investigation in Schedule 7 will be particularly valuable in establishing the channels along which money is passed to terrorist organisations. The police may apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, or to a circuit judge for an order requiring certain specified material, such as bank records, to be produced. Items which are subject to legal privilege are exempt.
In Northern Ireland only, there is an alternative procedure for investigations concerning an offence under Part III of the Bill.
The Secretary of State may himself issue a written order for search or production. He can do this, though, only if he is satisfied as to certain matters, and if it appears to him that police investigations would be prejudiced, or that the safety of a particular person or of Northern Ireland itself would he endangered by a court warrant or a court order being sought. My right honourable friend has said that he will consider applications personally and with the most scrupulous care.
The remaining elements of the proposals come into play once suspected terrorist funds have been identified. The police may apply for a restraint order before a person is charged. The money will be frozen so that if it is later established in court to be terrorist funds it can be forfeited.
16 The Bill provides for restraint and forfeiture orders, which may be made in one part of the United Kingdom, to be recognised in other parts, and for Orders in Council to designate other countries whose restraint and forfeiture procedures will be enforceable in the United Kingdom.
It is obviously important to develop enforcement arrangements across national borders because terrorism, like drug trafficking, is increasingly an international phenomenon. We hope to embark on negotiations with other countries soon after the Bill becomes law.
There is a group of new provisions in the Bill relating only to Northern Ireland which I should like to mention briefly. The first relates to the powers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security forces when carrying out searches under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. This is essentially for clarification.
The second is that there is provision for the Secretary of State to refuse or, in some cases, to withdraw licences under the Explosives Act 1875 in the interests of safeguarding national security or protecting public safety. It is important to be able to prevent the establishment of explosives factories or stores in the Province where such considerations apply. The third is that there are two changes to remission arrangements in Northern Ireland. One will reduce remission for people who are convicted of serious terrorist offences from one-half to one-third, in line with the remission which the person would have obtained if he was serving his sentence in Great Britain. The other is that we are also providing for the reactivation of an unexpired portion of a previous custodial sentence where a person is subsequently convicted of a scheduled offence while on conditional release.
There is considerable concern within the Province that the present arrangements do not provide sufficient deterrent. These new measures are designed to make people think rather harder about becoming involved, or re-involved, in terrorism than they appear to do at present.
I should like to return to one of my noble friend Lord Colville's most significant recommendations; that the new Act should be made fully permanent. My noble friend argued that, as there was no prospect of the terrorist threat receding, there was not much point in regarding these provisions as in any sense "temporary".
We acknowledge the force of this point, and we have thought carefully about it. But we have concluded that it would be wrong, in principle, to allow such exceptional powers to remain indefinitely on the statute book. The Bill therefore provides, as have the previous Acts, for regular annual renewal by Parliament, either wholly or in part. At the same time, we do not think that it is necessary to provide for the Bill to expire after five years.
In giving the Bill an unlimited life, while requiring Parliament to decide each year whether the powers should continue, we have returned to the position which existed under the 1976 Act.
Over the past two decades or so, terrorism has endangered the very life of our nation. It has 17 challenged our security, our institutions, and indeed the rule of law itself. The dangers have become continual because terrorism has become a grotesque profession for those who opt out of the normal democratic society. They put people at risk. They put society at risk. Fear, grief and destruction are the only products of the power of violence.
If we are to prevent terrorism, we too must be systematic and professional in our approach. We must continually examine and re-examine the means by which we choose to protect our fellow citizens. That is what we have done in the preparation of this Bill.
It renews powers which have been exercised effectively over the past 14 years. It also builds on that experience and goes further than before in striking at the very financial roots of terrorism. I commend it to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Earl Ferrers.)
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the House is indebted to the Minister for the lucid and characteristically open way in which he has moved the Second Reading of the Bill. The House will also be looking forward with considerable pleasure to hearing the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Macaulay of Bragar. He is a distinguished colleague from North of the Border.
One of the great traditions of our Parliament is that when the nation is faced with an enemy, the official Opposition and the Government join hands. Terrorism is the enemy of our country and of every civilised nation. The Opposition join hands with the Government without doubt in the wish to wage a successful war against terrorism.
However, in accordance with that tradition it is correct to voice in your Lordships' House the only points of difference. We ask whether the measures put forward by the Government in the Bill amount to a successful war against terrorism, without going too far over the boundaries of invading civil liberties. Do they not have the effect—which we know the Government do not desire—of acquiring people's sympathy towards those wretched organisations, when that sympathy should not be gained? Finally, are the measures counter-productive?
So that your Lordships realise the importance of this approach, perhaps I may quote at once from an organisation which is not in this country but in Northern Ireland, where the population, at first hand, has to deal every day with the problem of terrorism. There is an organisation in Belfast which is called the Committee on the Administration of Justice which consists of Protestants and Catholics, of lawyers, community workers, people who are prominent in their professions, academics, people of different political parties and people of no political party at all. This is the message sent by such an organisation to your Lordships' House:We do feel that the operation of this legislation, notably the seven day detention power, exclusion orders and port controls, has led to alienation in Northern Ireland from the forces of law and order, harassment of the Irish community in Britain, and a reduction in the civil liberties of all citizens in the United Kingdom. It is clearly counter-productive".18 I repeat that it is an organisation of repute situated in Northern Ireland, whose population we are thinking of at this time. Its considered opinion is that many measures in the Bill are counter-productive.
Perhaps I may begin with one example which was dealt with frankly by the noble Earl, as one would expect; that is, the question of an exclusion order. I should like to deal with that first. He said perfectly fairly that the Colville Report, a report by an esteemed colleague of this House, was against exclusion orders. I make no big point of the fact that he did not mention—and it is no great matter of relevance—that it was not merely the recommendation on one occasion but was the conclusion of the noble Viscount in two successive reports. Furthermore, those reports and the examination which led to them came after the report of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe.
It is useful that your Lordships should be reminded on the Second Reading of this Bill of' what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said about exclusion orders. However, before I quote from what he said in his very recent report, let us be reminded what we are talking about as regards exclusion orders. We are talking of internal exile—a principle unknown in our law for several centuries. It is something about which we learn. I an not trying to quote this as a complete or even a partial parallel but it is reminiscent of exile to Siberia. That is still a part of the USSR and we regard that sort of internal exile as horrific. An exclusion order is made by the Executive without a trial and without charge. It is usually made to exclude people from our part of Great Britain and sends them to Northern Ireland on the basis, presumably, that it is unsafe for us to have those people ambulating throughout our streets in freedom but perfectly all right for them to do that in Northern Ireland.
I now remind your Lordships of what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville—a distinguished member of the party opposite—said at page 39 of the report presented in December 1987:Exclusion orders deprive certain people of the right to move freely around the United Kindom and to live where they please. The evidence against them is not tested in a court of law nor made known to the person excluded and it is possible that some of it may he inaccurate … Exclusion orders can divide families, make it difficult to seek a job and difficult too to get away from former terrorist associates. These restrictions are only feasible because there is a stretch of sea between Ireland and Great Britain. ft cannot be envisaged that such a power could be exercised against Scottish or Welsh separatists however terroristic their activities. It cannot be used against naturalised or British-born citizens from other countries who become caught up with disputes from overseas and resort to terrorism in Britain … It should not he forgotten that one of the aims of terrorism is to lead a Government to introduce repressive measures; the unpopularity thus caused can be exploited further to excite criticism and turmoil as part of a vicious circle … I obtained the impression that the authorities in Northern Ireland would not encounter problems of any substance if exclusion orders were to disappear; although by contrast orders excluding people to the Province do add to the heavy load already borne by the RUC and the armed forces.That is a fairly conclusive and definite recommendation by a Member of this House who was able to do something which no Secretary of State—and, with respect, no Minister—has the time to do. He examined all the conditions, all the papers, all the documents, saw the police force, saw every 19 representative organisation and made all inquiries possible and then came out with this assessment on page 40 of the report:However I am not convinced that the ends justify these means. I renew my recommendation, made in the annual report on the Act for 1986, that Part II of the Act should not be renewed in 1988, or not replaced in the new Bill".Having asked for the guidance, the Government have received it and are ignoring it. Can that be right?
Perhaps I may move on to something which was equally frankly dealt with by the noble Earl. He talked about the Brogan case and talked about arrest. I am talking about ignoring the advice of someone who has been asked to investigate matters and make recommendations. We are signatories to the European Convention. As the Minister rightly said, we were found by a court to be not guilty of contravening, in the special circumstances of terrorism, the power of arrest and we were not even criticised for having that power of arrest before charge extending to five days. The criticism was that we were in breach of the convention by virtue of the fact that the 48 hours is extended to five days by an administrative act of the Secretary of State and not by a judicial officer—and I am using shorthand English in talking about a judicial officer.
Perhaps I may say that the noble Earl put forward a proposition which is foreign to me as a humble follower of the legal profession. He said that it was no part of our normal code that judges should interfere in matters of that kind. When the cry of liberty of the subject comes down the corridors of any of our courts in this land, by tradition it has precedence over every other case. Liberty of the subject is what is involved. Freedom from the possibility of arrest without charge for a certain period of time in no way breaches any of the conventions or traditions of our law, if such an extension has to be approved by a judicial officer.
I recognise that there are some difficulties in this matter and I shall face them frankly. A most extraordinary situation which the Minister did not refer to occurred in the other place. Under our rules I am permitted to quote what Ministers say in another place. In regard to the Brogan case and a solution to it, the Secretary of State said very clearly (and I quote from his Second Reading speech on 6th December):Our system contrasts with that on the continent, in which examining magistrates supervise police inquiries and also, normally, authorise detention. I have no doubt that the House, as I would, would have preferred to see this matter resolved before debating the Second Reading of the Bill today. But it would not have been sensible to rush into hasty decisions—a phrase which I believe was used by the Minister today—on a highly complicated problem between last week's judgment and today's debate. I believe that the House will understand why we feel it necessary to proceed with a little more deliberation in this case. We are examining the problem with an open mind"—I invite your Lordships' strict attention to the following words—and I shall bring forward our proposals, as the House is entitled to expect, before the Bill leaves this House".—[0fficial Report, Commons, 6/1211988; col. 211.]20 It was difficult in the other place to deal with this matter, as the Secretary of State well understood, without the conclusion which was promised and the solution to the Brogan case before the Bill left the other place. That is what happened on 10th January, only a few weeks ago towards the end of the Committee stage in another place. The Minister suddenly produced a letter which was handed to the Member of the Opposition who was in charge of matters in Committee. I quote from column 257 of Hansard of another place:This is a letter that I wrote yesterday to the hon. Member for Huddersfield …: 'I thought you might find it helpful, in advance of tomorrow's sitting of the Standing Committee on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, to give you some idea of the line I will be taking on the ECHR's judgment.
'The Home Secretary made it clear at the Committee's last sitting that it remains the Government's wish to find a judicial solution to the problem of extended detention under the terrorism provisions. Urgent work continues to this end, involving consultation between a number of different departments and bodies across the United Kingdom. This inevitably takes time and, because it is so important, it would he unwise to try to rush it'. I shall not quote the rest of the paragraph where he talks about the Bill having to have Royal Assent before 22nd March. But this is what he says right at the end:'I will therefore be inviting the Committee to proceed with its consideration of the Bill on the basis that we will not be bringing forward amendments to the arrangements on extended detention'."—(0fficial Report, Commons. Standing Committee B. 10/1/1989: col. 257.)So, having promised—and the Secretary of State well knew the problems of' the Brogandecision—on Second Reading that the House must have an answer on the Brogandecision befor the Bill left the other place, at the very last moment on 10th January the Secretary of State is saying that there will not be an answer even before 22nd March, by which time he wanted the Bill on the statute book—"You are going to pass this Bill and you won't know the answer to the Brogan case". That is not good enough. I say, frankly, when one is dealing with liberty of the subject, that that just is not good enough, because I recognise the Government's difficulty. It was a difficulty that was perfectly obvious. Does one give away to the person opposing the extension of the 48 hours to five days all the secrets that you do not want the other side to have? I am talking personally. I have no right whatever to do anything other than to talk personally on this matter. I should have thought that it would be preferable to have a judicial process rather than to derogate as we are, from the European Convention and put ourselves into that critical position. In other words, it might be preferable to have faith in a judge and have a procedure by which the detainee (if I may call him that) can argue before the judge that he should not have the extension. But the judge should be the only person in receipt of any report that has to be given by the prosecution (if I can call it that), by the authorities. I should have thought that that was perfectly all right, but in all humility I am giving a personal opinion to the House.
It is because of considerations like this that the official Opposition is worried. We want to join hands in the fight against terrorism. We absolutely correctly, as the Minister has said, brought forward in 1974 this kind of legislation following the 21 Birmingham bombings. We renewed it quite correctly. We have now had 14 years' experience and we ask ourselves whether these violations of ordinary civil rights are counterproductive.
There were other matters that I wanted to mention, but time does not allow. In conclusion, what does the Bill say at the end of the day? As the Minister told the House, once a year it will come up for annual review. I have studied Clause 17, or it may be Clause 20, which deals with renewal. As I read the clause the Secretary of State can come before Parliament to ask for an affirmative resolution to renew the provisions of the Bill, either in whole or in part. If the statutory instrument says that it should be in whole, what can Parliament do about such matters as I have referred to: the exclusion orders and the power of arrest? Why do not the Government face the issue and undertake to bring in a statutory instrument to renew each separate part of the Bill? If that were done, year after year Parliament would be able to agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, that exclusion orders are out but it will renew otherwise. Or will Parliament possibly be left in the position we are in today: we either take the lot or not? At the Committee stage something may be done in relation to these matters, but I fear that, however optimistic I may be, it may be difficult to carry a vote in respect of fundamental amendments.
The least we can ask for is this. Before we legislate for the particular, which is so often in danger of future legislation for the general, in defeating civil liberties which have been our pride and glory for many centuries, unless that statutory instrument at least provides for each part to be sanctioned separately we are not having a temporary provisions Bill for an emergency but a fairly permanent Bill which is an impairment of civilian rights.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Lord Harris of Greenwich
My Lords, I think this is the tenth occasion on which I have spoken in this House either on the Second Reading of a prevention of terrorism Bill or on one of the continuance orders. Therefore, I think one is faced with the real danger of becoming involved in tedious repetition of arguments.
There are only two comments I should like to make by way of introduction. Like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I welcome the fact that we are to have a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, in a few minutes' time. I can remember only too well the occasion on which I made my own maiden speech on an extremely minor Home Office order and being deeply concerned about every conceivable aspect of that order when I spoke. Therefore. I suspect that I know how the noble Lord is feeling now, just before addressing us. Nevertheless, he is a welcome addition to the House and we look forward to what he has to say.
I think it is right to say, particularly in the light of the speech to which we have just listened from the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that we on these Benches, unlike the Labour Party, support this legislation and its broad principles. In our judgment there is the clearest evidence of a continuing and serious threat of 22 international and Irish-based terrorism. In those circumstances this Bill, conferring as it does substantial powers on the police and on the Secretary of State, is justified.
The original Bill was introduced in the House of Commons by my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead following, as the noble Earl reminded us, the public-house bombings in Birmingham. It is also right to say, in the light of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that it received the total support of the Labour Cabinet on that occasion. When those bombs exploded a prevention of terrorism Bill was already in draft form. It had been prepared by Home Office officials following discussions with the police in case the terrorist campaign in our cities was escalated by the IRA. As we all know, it was, and the Bill was introduced.
Is is therefore entirely wrong to suggest, as one Member of the House of Commons suggested on Second Reading of this Bill, that the 1974 Bill was cobbled together at short notice in order to appease a mood of public anger. The Member of Parliament concerned was not, when she was a Home Office official, in any way involved in the work on the Bill and therefore had no knowledge whatever of the matter. What she said was simply untrue.
Having been involved with my noble friend in 1974 in the detailed discussions which led to the introduction of the Bill I hope I can say, without being accused of either smugness or complacency, that it has stood the test of time reasonably well. Its provisions, as the noble Earl said, have been subjected to detailed analysis; first, by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, then by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and finally by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. Although, following the reports, a number of changes have been made, the main provisions of the 1974 legislation are repeated in this Bill: the power to proscribe; the arrangements to permit examinations at ports in the common travel area; the special powers of arrest and detention; and, finally, the power to exclude.
I do not propose to discuss today at any length the case of exclusion orders. No doubt we will be dealing with that matter in Committee. However, as I indicated last year when we debated the continuance order, although I have immense respect for the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, I regret to say that I do not agree with his conclusion in this respect. I do agree with the view of the Home Secretary In the light of the fact that a Labour Government introduced this legislation—in my view, absolutely rightly—I should have been rather more hesitant than the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in making that unfortunate reference to Siberia. I was not wholly clear what he meant by it, but, in so far as he meant anything, it is profoundly unfortunate that he referred to it in any way at all.
Exclusion orders have clearly saved lives. In my viwes, there is absolutely no doubt about that. I have seen the evidence that men and women of violence have come to this country with the object of killing people in Great Britain. In such circumstances it is of course highly desirable that they should be brought before the courts and charged with specific criminal 23 offences. However, despite powerful intelligence information, that is sometimes not possible. In those circumstances the police are, by legislation of this character, able to go to the Secretary of State and ask for an exclusion order. Sometimes they have been granted and sometimes they have not. All that I can say to the House, on the basis of my own experience when I was in the Home Office, is that the standard of proof then required by Ministers was high and that the inquiries conducted by our colleagues into the working of the Act have demonstrated that that remains the situation as regards the present Government.
I propose to deal briefly with only three other matters. First—and on this I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—I should be grateful if the noble Earl would speak at rather greater length about the Brogan case. It is wrong to suggest—and on this I agree with the noble Lord entirely—that the European Court of Human Rights in effect struck down major sections of the Act. It did no such thing; but it did say that the seven day detention orders permitted under the 1974 Act should be subject to some form of judicial intervention. I noted what the noble Earl said. He said that the matter was still being examined. This examination has taken a rather long time to conclude and I therefore hope that before we reach the Committee stage the noble Earl will have rather more explicit information to give on this matter.
Secondly, I should be grateful if the noble Earl would touch at slightly greater length on the contents of Clauses 22 and 23, dealing with remission. I am worried about the concept of the so-called scheduled offence. We can obviously have an opportunity to discuss this matter in Committee but I think that there are problems associated with those clauses which will need to be looked at rather carefully.
Finally, I turn to those clauses of the Bill dealing with the financial roots of terrorism. I believe all of us welcome this part of the Bill without reservation. For many years the IRA has grown fat on the proceeds of protection rackets in Northern Ireland, as have some of the Protestant paramilitaries. More recently they have moved into apparently legitimate businesses and it is obviously necessary to take firm action to deal with this new threat.
Of course, terrorist racketeering is not necessarily confined exclusively to Northern Ireland. We heard from the noble Earl about the activities of some Middle Eastern terrorist groups in London and I have heard of others. Clearly we are dealing with not only Northern Ireland terrorists but also, to some extent, Middle East based terrorists. It is necesary to study the legislation with that in mind.
I hope that the new powers set out in this section of the Bill will prove to be adequate, but I confess that I am by no means sure that they will be. The noble Earl referred to the Drug Trafficking Offences Act, which we spent a fair amount of time discussing in this House. As the noble Earl rightly said, this Bill deals, in part, with some similar issues. When that Bill was before the House in, I believe, 1986 the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and I tried, entirely 24 unsuccessfully, to persuade the Government to accept an amendment that provided that any substantial cash deposit made to a bank or to any other financial institution should be reported to the authorities; the figure to be determined by the Secretary of State.
The reason for that amendment was the American experience. Under the United States Bank Secrecy Act any cash deposit of more than 10,000 US dollars has to be reported to the authorities. The American authorities have told me—I have not the slightest doubt that they have also told the Government—that they have found this of immense advantage in dealing with people involved in organised crime, including those involved in drug trafficking.
I find it odd that once again the Government appear to be declining to accept the very clear evidence on this matter from the United States. I am well aware that British banks would not like this at all. The American banks did not when the Banks Secrecy Act was piloted through Congress. The fact of the matter is that if we are to succeed in our battle against both terrorists and organised crime syndicates (the two sometimes overlap) bankers and others will have to accept more intervention in their affairs.
If I may say so to the noble Earl in the most amiable spirit, the term self-regulation will not be enough. Only an hour or so ago we heard the noble Earl speaking about the way to respond to the evidence that organised criminals, drug dealers and for all one knows people involved in international terrorism have been using bank deposit centres. It appears that there had been some kind of amiable discourse with the British Security Industry Association. The noble Earl later added that the police will be involved in those discussions. I regret to have to tell the noble Earl that there was no indication of urgency on his part in dealing with the clear evidence that organised criminals had been using these centres to launder or to hold the proceeds of their criminal activities.
Given the fact that, as the noble Earl said, we now have evidence that Middle East terrorists are involved in this as well and find London a very attractive place in which to operate, it seems to be a matter of far greater urgency than he suggested in his reply at Question Time today. I believe that this matter should be dealt with far more vigorously by the Government.
In conclusion, let me say this. I believe that it is essential that on a matter touching the civil liberties of our fellow citizens legislation of this kind should be scrutinised with great care. But let us not try to pretend that there is a massive chasm separating Members on both sides of the House. As I have indicated, the broad principles of this Bill introduced by a Conservative Government are remarkably similar to the broad principles of the Bills with the same name introduced by Labour Governments in 1974 and 1976. We have to accept the fact that terrorists have killed and maimed hundreds of innocent people in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, they will kill many more in the future. In our judgment this legislation is the necessary 25 response of a civilised liberal democracy to a threat directed at this country. I believe that deserves the support of a united Parliament.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Lord Macaulay of Bragar
My Lords, perhaps I may first thank my noble friend Lord Mishcon and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for his kind words in anticipation of my participation in this debate. I trust that the anticipation will not be greater than the event deserves. I am told that the previous Lord Macaulay, who was also of Hebridean stock and an historian, politician and scholar, had the ability to talk for hours on end. But I can assure your Lordships that I have not inherited that trait and that I shall abide by the normal conventions of your Lordships' House.
What is being discussed today is the desirability of having a Bill that deals with one of the most controversial aspects of life in the United Kingdom and that touches most of us at one time or another. It deals with an area of strife that has been with us for a long number of years. It is unfortunate that it is necessary to have such legislation. The legislation itself has its own flavour which distinguishes it from any other. Within the Bill there are admitted to be found many provisions which are alien to the concepts of freedom of movement within the United Kingdom and which run contrary to the well-known presumption of innocence of the individual.
In those circumstances it is understandable that there should be a critical and adverse reaction to the Bill, which to some extent inverts the onus of proof. It requires a citizen who would normally carry the presumption of innocence with him on his travels to prove that, within the context of the Bill, he is in fact innocent of involvement in the activities of terrorism to which the Bill is very properly directed. That is a very dangerous intrusion into our basic legal structure. It is therefore extremely important that the reasons for the continuation of this legislation should be closely examined. The particular provisions which in effect take people out of the normal processes of the law and access to the scrutiny of the courts should be put under the closest scrutiny. I have no doubt that your Lordships will do that in due course at the Committee stage.
It is particularly important because these so-called temporary provisions are now taking on the status of permanent provisions. It is important that Parliament should have the right to scrutinise and amend this legislation in order to reflect changing situations. There is a real danger that concentration on what can be termed the rights of the individual will overshadow an examination of the rights of the nation as a whole. It is correct to say that our civil liberties and rights should be jealously guarded and only eroded, even to a minimal extent, when there is good and just cause for that. It will only be in exceptional circumstances that this should happen.
The question now posed is whether the problem of terrorism particularly as regards Irish affairs, falls within the ambit of exceptional circumstances. The reality of life is that, despite the recent optimism about a possible settlement of the Northern Irish and 26 indeed the Irish question, the evils of terrorism will be with us for some time to come. Terrorists in whatever shape or form are the arch-enemies of freedom and democracy and cannot live with democracy. They will always try to oppose agreement and peace and their justification in life is violence and terror. Who dies, who lives or who is maimed as a consequence of their vile deeds does not concern them. They pay lip service to what they like to call their "cause", which when examined is merely a vehicle for the exercise of violence mutually exchanged between opposing elements.
Terrorists must be sought out and dealt with according to the due process of the law. Therefore it is essential that in pursuit of that objective the investigating and prosecuting authorities should have as much freedom of action as is consistent with the maintenance of the rights of the individual against the machinery of the state. How that balance between the state and the individual is to be struck is a very difficult matter to judge. It is a delicate balance but it must be achieved.
The affairs that make it necessary for this Bill to be before the House are unique politically and geographically and in the manner in which mindless violence is perpetrated. With that unique background it can reasonably be argued that unique steps are called for to counter the terrorists of whatever complexion, creed or code. They take advantage of every weakness shown by the authorities. They kill and maim and then insult the whole nation with pious apologies. Therefore it is necessary in order to reduce the carnage, death and destruction that they should be harried until they either disappear or they are caught and brought to court. The essence of this exercise reflected in the Bill, as I see it, is the prevention of terrorism. Once the act of terror has been committed, it is too late so far as concerns the victims. Prevention is an important element for as long as the violence continues and there is a problem to be faced.
The Bill has its shortcomings but in posing the primary question, "Is this type of legislation still necessary in principle?", there can be only one answer; and that is in the affirmative. No one welcomes or wants a Bill of this kind but most people will recognise the necessity for it. It is easy to take an academic view of the issues involved while ignoring the reality of what is going on. In Scotland, experience has shown that such legislation appears to have been a powerful weapon in the hands of the authorities. The situation in Scotland now appears to be that, perhaps due to a combination of the existing legislation and the vigilance of the police, presumably allied to excellent intelligence information, the prospect of terrorist activities has receded and it is to be hoped that one day this will be reflected throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. That is not to say that legislation should not be introduced to Scotland. Its existence may well be the deterrent that is required to keep the terrorists out.
What worries many practitioners in the area of the law is the lack of legal scrutiny of what happens to people when they are being detained. Being locked up for up to seven days must be a terrifying prospect for any individual, particularly an innocent person. 27 There are well-recognised circumstances in which persons who are being detained without access to someone other than the investigating authorities eventually, to use a colloquialism, crack up. They make statements sometimes amounting to confessions of guilt which in fact are untrue but are made in desperation in the loneliness of detention and in the hope that making such a statement will get them their freedom. That should not happen if it can be avoided because once such an injustice has occurred, and as events have shown, the road to freedom thereafter following conviction becomes a tortuous and tedious one for the unfortunate innocent and his family.
It may be that in order to balance the public interest in apprehending terrorists there should be built into the system better immediate access to legal advice as part of the detention system immediately a person has been detained. It is easy to recognise why there should be minimal access to anyone while there is an active investigation which might be spoilt by information being fed to the outside world, even by a lawyer, which is probably not unknown. But that must be balanced against the considerations of the presumption of innocence. The individual should always be entitled to access to legal advice when in custody unless there are exceptional circumstances to deny him that.
It has to be said also that, even with the best will in the world, there will inevitably be courtroom clashes between the defence and the prosecution about the fairness of admissions made during the time of detention. Consideration will have to be given as to whether any such admissions should be admitted in evidence at all unless they have been tape recorded, as happens in police stations in some areas in Scotland, or videoed or acknowledged by the suspect in the presence of his solicitor as being something that he had voluntarily said while being detained and questioned.
The Bill is a piece of legal machinery which is considered to be necessary to attempt to at least contain the activities of terrorists, to get at their existing funds and to deprive them of access to other funds. That aspect of the Bill is welcomed on this side of the House. It is a special Bill dealing with special circumstances, but the state should not shirk from its responsibilities towards the individual to build into the system adequate provisions for the protection of the innocent. It is inevitable in this field that innocent people will be caught in the dragnet of investigation, and while the Bill has provisions for review of detentions it should also ensure that such detained persons should have reasonable and ready access to help to ensure that they are released at the earliest opportunity. That might help to balance the Bill between the public and the private interest.
The purpose behind the Bill is basically the obtaining of evidence by the process of detention and continued detention and the obtaining of such evidence by questioning or otherwise. That makes it even more important that the whole process should be carefully monitored. Few persons would argue that some form of special investigative powers should not be given to the authorities, but the zeal to find the 28 men of violence should not be allowed to override the basic principles of the legal system.
Many argue that, by the nature of their activities, terrorists have given up any right to enjoy the presumption of innocence and to have the burden of proof of guilt always placed on the shoulders of the prosecutor. That is an understandable attitude but it is one which prejudges the issue of innocence or guilt. Having had court involvement with members on both sides of the divide, I have seen the fanaticism and blinkered approach of persons eventually accused of crimes of terrorism. Even being in court facing many years in prison does not alter their commitment to what they see as their just cause which sees violence as the only language the other side will understand.
Violence begets violence, and only when it has been eradicated will the troubled island of Ireland find peace within itself. While the politicians strive but fail to achieve peace the problem of terrorism will be with us and the legislation now before the House will be necessary to give the authorities the freedom of movement they need to contain the men of violence.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Colnbrook
My Lords, all noble Lords will know from their own experience that the delivering of a maiden speech in this Chamber is something of an ordeal. Even if one is accustomed to addressing audiences or courts in other places, it is different here. We all congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay of Bragar, on his maiden speech, which we enjoyed very much. He brings to our discussions a well-informed and balanced approach to the difficult problem of the liberty of the individual and the rights of the state as a whole. That is not altogether surprising because he is a distinguished advocate and I understand that his practice was to a considerable extent in the criminal courts. I also understand that he is to continue his practice, which is unfortunately some 400 miles away. We all hope very much that the necessity to continue practising will not keep him away from the House too much. We look forward to his contributions to our debates in the future.
As my noble friend Lord Ferrers said in introducing the Bill, it is an international Bill. However, I think the House will understand if, in view of my own history, most of my remarks relate to Northern Ireland. I should like to start by picking up one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. When speaking to the Bill a few moments ago he referred to his support for waging war against terrorism. I hope that he will not use that phrase again. It is the terrorists' belief in Northern Ireland that they are at war. They believe that a war is going on. If someone is locked up, they believe that that person is a prisoner of war. I am sure that the noble Lord will remember the special category prisoners, of whom fortunately practically none is left. He will remember the blanket protests and the dirty protests in the Maze Prison. The protests arose because they wanted to be treated as prisoners of war. A war is not going on. This is an effort by society to stamp out crime—no more. Any impression given that we regard it as a war, as I am sure the noble Lord on reflection will agree, is unhelpful.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I would always welcome a correction from the noble Lord and would take it, as he will know, in good spirit. But there is such a phrase, well known to all of us, as the war against crime.
§ Lord Colnbrook
Indeed there is, my Lords, but I have made my point and I know that the noble Lord will reflect on it. I know that he does not want to give any aid or comfort to terrorism.
Perhaps I may refer to a point made by Mr. Hattersley during the Second Reading debate in the other place. He urged the other place to decline to give a Second Reading to the Bill and his friends supported him in that Motion. One of the reasons he gave was that the defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland could be achieved only with the wholehearted support of the community. He went on to suggest that the existing legislation and the new legislation did not have that support. He is quite wrong. Virtually everybody in Great Britain, and I suggest not less than 99 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland, desperately want an end to terrorism.
Perhaps I may make a slight diversion at this point. Television, radio and most newspapers have the habit, when reporting on some terrorist outrage, of saying that such and such an organisation "claims responsibility". My dictionary tells me that the word "claim" means to demand as a right; in other words, that there is some legitimacy attached to these matters. What shadow of legitimacy can possibly be attached to the apparently endless stream of atrocities, large and small, committed by terrorists in Northern Ireland?
Ten years ago almost to the day in the precincts of this Palace a distinguished Member of the other place and a good friend of many of us, Mr. Airey Neave, was murdered and the Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility. What conceivable legitimacy attaches to that? They may think that there is some right to do this, they may think that there is some legitimacy attached to it, but nobody else does. So I very much hope that the television, the radio and the editors of newspapers will stop using the words "claims responsibility". "Admit" is a much better word and I hope that they will use it.
To return to my main point, I said that 99 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland want an end to terrorism. If anything, that is an under-estimate. If 99 per cent. want an end to terrorism, only 1 per cent. actively support it. There are 1.5 million in the Province and 1 per cent. of 1.5 million is, I think, 15,000. I simply do not believe that there are 15,000 people in Northern Ireland who actively want the campaign of terrorism to continue.
There are many reasons for that and there are probably two most important ones. First, it is against all their upbringing. The people of Northern Ireland, as I am sure your Lordships know, are a great deal more attached to churchgoing and the teachings of their religious leaders than, unfortunately, many people are in England. Every church—Roman Catholic, Anglican, non-Conformist, the lot—teaches the same message: that murder is evil and that murder for political reasons is no less evil than any 30 other. The people of Northern Ireland have been brought up in that belief since they began to talk.
Then of course there is the second reason. The activities of the terrorist are so indiscriminate. When they launch some major horror on the country and blow up a dance hall, a shop, a group of people gathering around a war memorial, whatever it may be, it is the innocent who get killed—people who have nothing to do with the cause for which these people are making these explosions. They are just bystanders, old and young, children in arms, people who have nothing at all to do with it. Even when the attack on society is much more limited and the terrorist sets out to shoot somebody, quite often he shoots the wrong person who has nothing at all to do with the cause. Occasionally he is good enough to say that he was sorry he got it wrong.
The point I am making is that the terrorist campaign is totally indiscriminate and everybody in Northern Ireland knows it. You can be on one side or other of the political divide or have no politics at all, but you may get caught up in it purely by chance. That is why I maintain that the Government, in bringing forward these measures, have massive support both here in Great Britain and in the Province of Northern Ireland.
To turn to the Bill itself for a moment, my noble friend said that it differs in a number of respects from previous legislation and we shall be going into all these matters in Committee. I should like quickly to mention just two points. The first has been referred to by virtually every speaker; that is, Part III, which attacks the funds of the terrorist. I am delighted that this has come forward. It has always been the prime concern of the terrorists to ensure that they have money. They must have money because Colonel Gaddafi does not give them weapons; he sells them weapons. You cannot find Semtex explosive lying about. You have to go and buy it.
Furthermore, you have to maintain your own people when they are in hiding preparing to mount some atrocity. They have to be paid and they have to spend money. The terrorist needs money and he has been getting it over the years. I am happy to say that the provisional IRA get a great deal Mess from the Noraid organisation than they used to do. I think that the US Administration deserves our congratulations on taking steps to ensure that that flow of funds is a great deal less than it was a few years ago.
The terrorists get money in all sorts of other ways, as has already been said, some legal but most of it illegal. The difficulty—and it is increasing—is that if they manage to get money illegally they can launder it. I am no financier, but I think that that is the right word. In other words, they make it into legal money and, as has been said, they invest it in enterprises quite properly while hiding the fact that it was improperly come by. Anything we can do to deprive them of money will be a severe blow to their campaigns. If we can starve them of money by operating the provisions of this Bill, we shall all benefit and they will be restricted quite noticeably in what they can mount in the way of terrorist attack.
My final point is about the permanence of this Bill which has already been mentioned. It differs from the 31 1984 Act in that it does not have an end date. I think that the 1984 Act was wrong to have an end date and I am glad that this one does not. I will tell your Lordships why I think that. It goes back to what I was saying earlier about the belief of terrorist organisations that they are fighting a war, that the war will come to an end and that they will win it.
Anything that they detect on the part of what they regard as their enemy—in other words, the British people—any weakening of their resolve to continue what they regard as the war, they seize on and are pleased about. It encourages them to make one further, two further or 10 further efforts. The thought that the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1984 passed a Bill which lasted for only five years gave them encouragement, because they thought to themselves: Why did Parliament do that? It is because they do not think they can carry this on for any longer than five years. Therefore we have only to keep going for another five years and we have won. Of course we know that that is absolute nonsense, but I believe that that end date in the 1984 Act gave some encouragement to the terrorists. So I am very glad that it is not in this Bill.
Of course we have to look at it every year, which is absolutely right and proper, but if we can demonstrate today, and hopefully in future years as and when necessary, that we are determined here in this House and in this country to continue to do everything we can to bring an end to terrorism, and the more determined we can show ourselves, the nearer comes that day when terrorism can be banished.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord Mason of Barnsley
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, gave us a reasonable and noncontroversial presentation of the Bill. I believe that he struck the right note and he certainly carried me with him. Equally, my noble friend Lord Mishcon, who was cautiously hesitant about welcoming the Bill, gave the right warnings about the erosion of our civil liberties. He was quite right too. Any dismantling of our established civil liberties is a matter that is bound to cause all of us some concern. But in combating terrorism I think we have to accept that some erosion is inevitable. We pass these measures in the hope that the liberties will all return.
I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Macaulay of Bragar on his learned and authoritative intervention. It was quite obvious from what he said that it is a subject in which he takes a great deal of interest and we look forward to him entering our deliberations in the future.
I am in favour of the provisions in the Bill and, although not everyone will agree with all I say, I hope that everyone in your Lordships' House hates and detests everything that is planned and executed by the terrorist organisations and wishes to eradicate this evil that operates within our shores. We differ only on the ways and means of achieving that goal.
I believe that in a democratic society it is defensible to stifle all outlets and eliminate all forms of support for those terrorist groups who are bent on 32 undermining the authority of the state and intent upon smashing our democratic institutions. That is certainly the aim of the Provisional IRA. Therefore, I do not hesitate to back a measure which is designed to apply more pressure and tighten the legislative grip on all terrorist activities in Northern Ireland.
This Bill seeks to reduce remission of a jail sentence in Northern Ireland from one-half to one-third for people who commit serious offences and who are sentenced to fixed terms of five years or more; that is mainly those convicted of terrorist offences: murder, attempted murder, weapons and bomb offences. I ask, why not? In retrospect I believe that it was remiss of me not to have recommended this measure 10 years ago. Just imagine the terrorist murderer gaining 50 per cent. remission of his sentence in Northern Ireland, whereas on the mainland it would only be one-third. I believe this to be a ludicrous situation. Those who have suffered grief because of the loss of a loved one, in many instances a totally innocent bystander, must think that the law is crazy, unfair and unjust.
It is estimated that 30 per cent. of released Provisional IRA prisoners rejoin the paramilitaries. Alan Wright, whom I very much admire and respect is the spokesman for the Northern Ireland Police Federation, representing 10,000 members of the RUC. He has said:no doubt that a large proportion of them went back to terrorism—it is like a conveyor belt system.How frustrating and heartbreaking it must be for the police force that has so painstakingly tracked, trapped and successfully charged a terrorist, to see him return so quickly into an active service unit. The Royal Ulster Constabulary needs our support. I believe the Bill to be a morale booster. A life sentence is still not life, but at least this will keep more of these evil men out of society for a longer period of time.
The Bill also seeks to retain the right to arrest and detain a suspect for up to seven days. I believe this to be absolutely right. It recognises that the personal permission of the Secretary of State shall be sought for the extension of seven days, and that proper presentation of reasons shall be submitted with the police application. I know from personal experience the seriousness of this exercise. The police have never treated this aspect of the legislation lightly. The noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, in their reviews of terrorist legislation, have all thought this measure to be necessary, and so do I.
The terrorists wage an insidious and devilish campaign. In order to outwit the terrorist who has had anti-interrogation training the police need the necessary time to do the job: time to check fingerprints, complete forensic tests, check all their police records, conduct patient interrogation; check alibis and find witnesses. Time is needed when the detainee is unco-operative and may well have had a spell in the Maze Prison (that university of Provo terrorism) where he had been taught anti-interrogation techniques. Time is therefore most important. Knowing full well that the extensions are not lightly sought, I support the RUC's desire for its continuation.
33 Thirdly, the Bill seeks to stifle the illegal finances that flow into the terrorist organisations' coffers, constantly lubricating the activities of the Provisional IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army, and I am sure too the Ulster Volunteer Force and some of their units.
There will be virtually no opposition in Northern Ireland to this provision in the Bill. It enables seizure and confiscation of proven terrorist funds and allows sentences of up to 14 years for the offence of handling terrorist-bound cash. There are far too many innocent, frightened people in Northern Ireland, and this aspect of the Bill, apart from tackling the ill-gotten financial resources of the terrorists, will gradually lift the veil of fear from hundreds of persecuted and intimidated people in the Province. There is the opportunity in this legislation for the police, backed by the security forces, to stamp out the protection rackets and the intimidation and death threats against workers on building sites, prison buildings, government buildings and those repairing and building new Civil Services offices—many hundreds of totally innocent men and women who are singled out and constantly threatened just because of the job they do. The spin-off from this attack on terrorist finances will give so many people greater freedom and enjoyment of liberty that a permanent depression will be removed from their lives. This measure is worth it for that alone. I only hope that the police will be able to act swiftly and effectively to release these people from this constant misery.
Finally, this Bill seeks to continue with exclusion orders. I believe that, with recent instances of terrorist activity in Great Britain, the British police must have the right to arrest, suspect and exclude persons from British soil. The powers to arrest and detain persons on reasonable suspicion of being involved in a terrorist act causes so much concern, inconvenience and personal upset, that it is constantly criticised. Of the people stopped at ports and airports, many are innocent and feel greatly hurt. There is always the possibility that the police may be conducting a trawl—maybe with harassment or indeed abusing their power. However, these powers are still necessary. The surveillance team observing the home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his movements had only one obvious objective in mind; but at the time of arrest they had not committed the act. There was the disturbance by a car thief of a terrorist look-out, which scattered a team of terrorist suspects from their lair, wherein were found explosives. There was no doubt about their mission but it had not yet been carried out. They are still at large and, when arrested, there will be the right to use exclusion orders and so on. Herein is the right to arrest and exclude them from our shores. These men are over here for real, deadly business. To many Irish people it is an unacceptable level of intrusion and injustice but many others, including the British on the mainland, especially those who are conscious of the extent of terrorist activity and its effects on their lives, say"Thank goodness". It gives them some comfort that the police have the necessary legislative power to act.
Unfortunately the circumstances are such within the United Kingdom that some liberty must be 34 sacrificed in the defence of liberty, insidious though that may be. It is the price that must be paid in defence of our democracy. I believe that there should be all-Party support for the introduction of these limited special powers to resist and tackle terrorism. Nothing gives the IRA more joy and some encouragement than to see a divided House, and especially the image created by some within Parliament of seeming to be too protective of the terrorists and their political allies, rather than wishing their destruction.
When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland my opposite number was the late Airey Neave. I took him into my confidence. We jointly discussed projected anti-terrorist measures. We had a bipartisan policy. We stood together with the major political parties behind us. The terrorists received no joy from us. On a matter where the basic freedoms that we all enjoy are under serious threat, that is how it should be. I am sorry that this was not achieved in another place, but I am more hopeful that it will be so in your Lordships' House.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, I hope that it will be helpful if my Irish voice can contribute a little to the debate. because this legislation has had over many years, and will continue to have in the future, a great effect on Irish people. There is quite a lot that I had intended to say, but in view of the awful event which occurred yesterday in Belfast, where a very brutal and gruesome murder took place, and the atmosphere which exists there today, it may be inappropriate to mention some of the things which I had intended to say. However, I hope that before the Bill leaves this House, I shall avail myself of that opportunity.
I remember vividly in 1974, when the original Act was first promulgated in another place, the atmosphere of fear and despair which then prevailed throughout Britain in the wake of the Birmingham bombing. In the few remarks that I was able to make on the introduction of that Bill, I did hot blame the British Government for introducing that legislation; I blamed the IRA for making it necessary for them to do so. I have never had any reason to change my mind since then. There have been occasions in debate after debate in another place when I have voiced my fears about certain aspects of the Bill. But I have always been convinced that while terrorism and the threat of terrorism exists in these islands, it is necessary to have some powers to combat it.
When my noble friend Lord Mason was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I do not think that he and I agreed on every single issue as we saw it then. However, I found myself in total agreement with him today when he said that the protection of the people in these islands from terrorism should be a non-party affair, and that both sides of the House—that is, in this House and in another place—should be in total agreement on the matter.
As I said, I listened to the debate which took place in this House last week, and I have been listening to debates and reading Irish legislation as it has gone through another place over the past few weeks. I detect a certain element of opposition in the speeches 35 which have been made by Opposition Members in another place, which is totally inappropriate, to attempts by the Government—Conservative though they may be—to protect the citizens of this state from murder. I have heard it repeatedly in the remarks made by Members of the Opposition, and, regrettably, in those made by my noble friend Lord Mishcon today. He said that elements of the Bill were leading to harassment of the Irish people. That is exactly how the IRA wants this legislation to be seen.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I know that my noble friend Lord Fitt will forgive my intervention here. When I used those words, I was quoting deliberately from an association of non-political people; namely, Catholics, Protestants, lawyers and academics. Those people asked me to quote those words in your Lordships' House and I did so. They were not my words.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, that is quite right, and I apologise to the noble Lord. But I do know that it was read from a document. I know the people who constitute that committee and I would not say that the majority of them were non-political.
I repeat, in speech after speech in another place, both on the Floor of the House and in Committee, the charge was made that the proposed legislation was harassment against the Irish people. As I said, that is exactly how the IRA wants it to be seen; members of that organisation want it to be seen as a racist attack on the Irish people. They hope that by putting out this image that it will garner them more support from Irish people living in this country.
I have said repeatedly in debate after debate that the vast majority of the Irish people living in this country, and in the island of Ireland, want absolutely nothing to do with the IRA and terrorism. I have with me a quotation which I have come across over many years. It is printed in every IRA "hit sheet" and it is used on the propaganda leaflets of Noraid in America. Morever, regrettably, it is used by very responsible newspapers in their editorials in the island of Ireland when the occasion suits them, especially when there is disagreement about extradition, or some other issue. The quotation is dragged out again and again and printed. I should like to lay this quotation, which appears to be of such benefit to the IRA and its supporters, to rest once and for all.
It appears that about 200 years ago there was a man called Sydney Smith. That name, to say the least, is not the best-known name in the island of Ireland or, indeed, in this country. However, with the assistance of the Library of the House, I was able to obtain some information about him. The information I have reads:Sydney (1771–1845), English journalist, clergyman and wit".However, so far as concerns this quotation, he was a halfwit. Nevertheless, he was very much involved in the debates which were then taking place as regards Catholic emancipation and the great arguments which were then raging not only in this country but also in Europe.
36 Again, with the assistance of the Library, I was able to find further information culled from a book called Peter Plymley's Letters. It would seem that Peter Plymley was even less well known in Ireland than Sydney Smith but, according to the information I have, Sydney Smith is evidently writing to Peter Plymley. I shall read but two sentences to your Lordships. He wrote:Every body who knows Ireland knows perfectly well, that nothing would be easier, with the expenditure of a little money, than to preserve enough of the ostensible appointment in the hands of the Pope to satisfy the scruples of the Catholics, while the real nomination remained with the Crown".That is gobbledegook to most people; in fact, the whole letter is gobbledegook to most people. Indeed, I would urge noble Lords to check the matter out in the Library. However, the next sentence is of devastating importance. In relation to Catholic emancipation and other issues which have absolutely no relevance to the events of today, he goes on to say:But, as I have before said, the moment the very name of Ireland is mentioned, the English seem to bid adieu to common feeling, common prudence, and to common sense, and to act with the barbarity of tyrants, and the fatuity of idiots.I have seen that quotation bandied about in Ireland for at least 20 years, or perhaps even 30 years. It bears absolutely no relation to what is happening in these countries today, but it is dragged out by Noraid; it helps the provisional IRA and it helps all those who want to exacerbate existing tensions between Ireland and Britain. However, it is simply not true.
If the Irish people feel harassed, if they feel that they are second-class citizens, why is it that 20,000 of them come here every year from both Southern and Northern Ireland? Further, why is it—as your Lordships know—that the hundreds of Irish people who work in this very building in no way subscribe to the belief that they are being treated barbarically because they are Irish'? As I said I would, I have made only a few remarks today. There is quite a lot more I should have liked to have said but in view of the happenings in Ireland yesterday, I shall refrain from going along that way.
Regarding exclusion orders, I find myself in disagreement with most of what has been said this afternoon. If a person is suspected of terrorism or acts of terrorism in London, Wales, Scotland or anywhere else, and the authorities and the security forces cannot find sufficient evidence against him, I do not believe that he can be dumped in Northern Ireland. If Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom—that is what it is all about, members of the IRA are saying it is not, and that is why they are killing—it should not be used as a dumping ground for people against whom no charge can be made. I am not sure what legislation or what Act can be used. If someone is suspected of terrorism in London and the charge cannot be proved against him, then some means can be found to detain him here where it is alleged that he was about to commit an offence.
It looks as though on the face of the exclusion order the authorities and the powers that be are saying, "We don't want you to commit murder in London, but it is not so bad if you do it in Belfast". I think that is wrong. There have been nearly 3,000 terrible murders in Northern Ireland over the past 20 37 years. I do not believe that the idea should be put around that a murder in Northern Ireland is more acceptable than in other parts of the United Kingdom.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mason. I realise that in saying so I shall he subjected to a good deal of abuse and criticism in Northern Ireland. I have never believed that priority should be given to the Northern Ireland terrorist, and that he should only be given half his sentence by way of remission for the most foul crime that we can see in humanity—the brutal murders that have been committed. When people are sentenced to a period of imprisonment they know very well that they will get 50 per cent. remission. I have always believed that that was unfair. I have opposed, and shall continue to oppose, capital punishment. I do not believe in anyone taking life; but in substituting a life sentence for capital punishment the life sentence should mean what it says, without remission.
Regarding the legislation, I remember saying repeatedly in another place that similar legislation has a great habit of becoming permanent. It was called temporary, but it became permanent and so has terrorism become permanent. If terrorism were not as permanent as it is today, then there would be no need to keep this legislation on the statute book. However, I urge those who will be enacting the provisions of the Bill to treat the issues of the exclusion orders, the searches at airports and at points of entry into this country, with great sensitivity in order to ensure that the IRA and its supporters do not get away with promulgating the belief that it is harassment of the Irish people—either in this country or travelling to or from it.
I do not think that anyone here or in Northern Ireland would have any qualification at all about the new powers contained in the Bill, the seizure of funds. The IRA, acting as it does in a Mafia-type way, living by fear and intimidation, has accrued to itself all the finesse of Mafia organisations throughout the world. It has used every terrorist tactic in the book to ensure that it will never go short of funds in order to carry on its campaign of terrorism. I have serious doubts—and I voice them as an Irishman—as to whether the majority of people in the IRA are really fighting to drive the British out of Ireland or bring about the unity of Ireland. A new way of life has taken over for them. They are acting as Mafia, as the Mafia has done throughout decades.
I said last week—and if noble Lords wish, they may check this in the Library—that when the Mafia first began, it began as an organisation which was allegedly fighting to throw off the oppression by Italy of Sicily. Let us see what has developed throughout the years in that organisation. I honestly believe that the vast majority of young people in the IRA do not know what they are fighting for; but the godfathers certainly do. If the legislation can in any way inhibit and punish those godfathers, then it will continue to have my overwhelming support.
§ 4.55 p.m.
My Lords, I am grateful to your Lordships for the support which noble Lords have 38 given for the Bill. On the whole, that support has been fairly universal. There have been some questions which various noble Lords quite understandably wish to pursue, and they will be able to do so at a later stage.
Throughout the whole of the debate there has been support from all corners of the House—not just for the Bill but for the continued onslaught against terrorism and all that that means. For that I am most grateful because when a government produce a Bill of such a nature as this, where liberties are very substantially curtailed, it is of great importance and comfort, if I may say so, to find that on the whole your Lordships approve of it.
I was particularly delighted—as I know other noble Lords were—at the maiden speech of Lord Macaulay of Bragar. He made a number of points which rang very true and I tried to make a note of them. His method of delivery was so rapid that I may have some of them a little wrong. He said that it was too easy to take an academic view without realising what was going on. That is of real importance. It was good to hear from him such a robust speech against terrorism. He has the unique distinction of coming from the other side of the Border, well- versed in the law. I am sure he will find that he will be enormously welcome here in all capacities, whenever he chooses to speak.
The noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, also showed great ability in his masterly way of being noncontroversial wihout letting on that he did not necessarily agree 100 per cent. He said that the Bill had shortcomings which had already been touched upon. I do not think one could be more noncontroversial than that, and I congratulate him. We are delighted to have him here, and we, look forward to his participation on many occasions.
My noble friend Lord Colnbrook said that he thought that 99 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland were against terrorism. That left 1 per cent. which he said was too much. When I was in Northern Ireland the other day, one person put the matter to me. He said, "If you take 1 per cent. and cut it in half and then cut it in half again and then cut it in half again, you get down to somewhere like the number of people who want to be involved".
It is quite right that with that kind of scenario the Government—whatever government happens to be in power—should take every possibility they can to protect the interests of the majority of those people who abhor terrorism in all its forms. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, also confirmed that the vast majority wanted nothing to do with the IRA.
I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Colnbrook for saying that the Government have massive support for the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, said that it deserved the support of a united Parliament. I was also glad for the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mason, whose knowledge of Northern Ireland—like that of my noble friend Lord Colnbrook—is very deep. The noble Lord has of course held responsibility in the past regarding Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Mason, was enormously supportive. He supported the right to retain the power to detain for seven days. He aprroved of the 39 exclusion orders. He said that what was needed was all-party support and that when he was in government he had obtained that support. He hoped that that would be the case now. I was grateful to the noble Lord for those remarks.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, started with the happy phrase that the Opposition wished to join hands with the Government in attacking terrorism. I felt a degree of contentment at that. The noble Lord then quoted from an organisation. That body said that the operation of the legislation would lead to alienation, harassment, infringement of civil liberties, and would be counter-productive. That was an unfortunate quotation to use after the noble Lord had just said he hoped there would be a joining of hands against terrorism. I wonder whether his noble friend Lord Fitt, sitting behind him, chivvied him on that.
Much to my surprise, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said that he was only quoting from someone else. The noble Lord cannot brush away the responsibility for what he quotes. That is rather like a schoolboy saying. "Oh no, sir, it was not me, it was Smith minor". If the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, quotes from somebody, he must take the responsibility for presumably agreeing slightly with the words of the quotation.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Earl, as always, is not only fair when he argues, but he is witty too. However, I wish to remind him that what I said was that the Opposition wished to join hands. The noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, did not like my phrase, "in the war against terrorism".
The point concerns how one wages that war. I quoted from an authoritative body in Northern Ireland which said that there were certain defects in the way in which this Bill waged that war. To me there is no inconsistency. If there is to the noble Earl, I bow to his intelligence but not necessarily to his understanding of me on this occasion.
My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord should have explained what he meant. We shall not take it further than that. The noble Lord referred, as did a number of your Lordships, to exclusion. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, said that exclusion was virtually exiling. I believe that was the word he used. If exile means sending people away from their homes, that is not an apt description of what is happening.
The majority of people who will be excluded will be sent back to the part of the United Kingdom in which they normally lived. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, was worried about that point. He said that we should not dump people back into Northern Ireland. I should make it clear that the exclusion powers are very carefully framed in order to take account of where a person is settled. The Home Secretary cannot exclude from Great Britain a person who has been resident here for three years. So we are really talking about people who have been resident for less than three years. The Home Secretary must in other cases take account of a person's connections with Northern 40 Ireland or with another country before making an order.
Exclusion does not therefore increase the concentration of terrorists in Northern Ireland; rather, it prevents active Northern Irish terrorists from moving to the mainland with the aim of carrying out major atrocities. That is the purpose of the measure. The Royal Ulster Constabulary has accepted that it is easier to prevent terrorism if it can be contained in Northern Ireland, where the security forces are better equipped to deal with it. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, should regard this not as dumping back into Northern Ireland those who are terrorists but keeping out of the United Kingdom those who have come and who are shown to have connections with Northern Ireland for reasons of a terrorist nature.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, asked why we could not renew the legislation bit by bit, instead of as a whole. It can be done either in whole or in part. The noble Lord quite clearly said that if a Peer or a party wished to renew all the legislation except one particular part, they were unable to do so under the system as it is at the moment if the Government produced an order permitting the re-enactment of the whole of the legislation. But if the whole of the legislation were not passed, it would be up to the Government to produce another order which would have the important parts of it enacted. Perhaps I have not explained that to the noble Lord as clearly as I should have done. However, I think he knows perfectly well that if an order were produced for the re-enactment or the continuation of the whole Bill, and if that were found to be disagreeable to your Lordships, the Government would have to come back with another order re-enacting those parts considered suitable.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I beg the noble Earl's courtesy in intervening again. I was trying to say that if there is to be a proper annual review the only fair way of dealing with it is by having a statutory instrument not dealing with the whole. That means that those of us in the House who feel that generally the order is right have to vote against it. That would not be the fair way of dealing with it.
I asked whether the Government would consider that each part should be put before Parliament by way of a statutory instrument, on one day if necessary, so that those of us who felt that a part of the Act was wrong could voice our view without throwing the thing back to the Government to come out with another statutory instrument. I merely ask the noble Earl to consider that. As he well knows, I have asked him in previous years to consider that.
My Lords, the noble Lord always has the benefit of remarkable clarity of exposition, and I am grateful to him for that. I understand what he means. We shall of course have occasion to return to this matter in Committee. I shall take into account what the noble Lord has said.
A number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, said that the question of Brogan should be clarified a little more. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, was also concerned 41 about that. I should explain that the maximum period for which people can be detained under the Bill is seven days; that is, two days on the authority of the police and five days more on the authority of the Secretary of State. After that they must be charged, deported or excluded from the United Kingdom, Great Britain or Northern Ireland, under the provisions of the Bill, or released.
The point of the European Court's judgment which has put us in difficulty is that the way the system operates in Europe is different from the way it operates in the United Kingdom. In European countries suspects generally have to be brought more quickly before an examining magistrate, but examining magistrates commonly have the power to remand suspects in custody for much longer than seven days without there being a specific charge in a form our courts would recognise. Therefore, we are in a difficulty because the systems operating in Europe and those operating in the United Kingdom are different. It is not a question of those who are kept in custody not being charged in time. They are bound to be charged within seven days. It is merely the system that is different here. That is why we shall have to take some time in finding the right answer to that difficulty.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary outlined in another place some of the difficulties we would face if we were to adopt a judicial procedure for considering the extension of detention. As he pointed out, our own criminal justice system is radically different from those of the other signatories to the European Court of Human Rights. For the courts to take on from the Secretary of State the function of authorising extensions of detention would be to involve them in a role in which they have not hitherto been involved. It is not surprising that we are therefore bound to have to take a little time to conclude the right way of dealing with that. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who is a particularly zealous advocate of the law, and his noble and learned friend, Lord Elwyn-Jones, beside him will think that is a prudent course to take.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris, referred to the package of measures dealing with terrorist finances. I am glad that he welcomed that part of the Bill. We have given some considerable thought to the American legislation to which he referred. As the noble Lord acknowledged that is concerned with organised crime as opposed to terrorism. We have not so far been convinced that the American approach is the right one for this country.
If we can break the rackets which the paramilitaries operate, we shall deny them the money on which their business depends. That will limit their capacity to prepare for further acts of violence and will undoubtedly save lives.
It will also relieve the community in Northern Ireland as a whole from the systematic bleeding of its precious resources. If the drive against funds brings about conditions of greater normality that may have a significant effect on the level of support for the men of violence. I am glad that the initiative will on the whole, have the general support of the House.
42 I do not wish to minimise the extraordinary nature of some of the powers which we are taking. I am deeply grateful for the support for the Bill which noble Lords have given from all round the House despite the reservations which have quite understandably been expressed. When we reach the Committee stage we shall have to deal with those matters. Your Lordships will be quite right to probe them more deeply. I shall do my best to give your Lordships the assurances which you will expect and require.
I am grateful that we have had support in principle for a Bill which seeks to remove the fear of terrorism. If in so doing it curtails the liberties of others I think that we shall have to accept that curtailment.
§ On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.