HL Deb 05 March 1991 vol 526 cc1338-57

4.57 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Waddington) rose to move that the draft order laid before the House on 21st February be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (Continuance) Order 1991 be approved.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act is an exceptional measure justified only by the wholly exceptional threat that this country faces from terrorism, and it is absolutely right that each year Parliament should have the opportunity to consider whether the powers conferred by the Act need continue in force. Today I am asking the House to approve the continuance in force of the Act because it remains an essential part of our defences against the terrorist. I do so against a pretty sombre background.

Terrorism has continued to cast a shadow over daily life in Northern Ireland, and last year there were more terrorist incidents on the mainland of Great Britain than at any time since 1975–19, with three people killed and 56 injured. Last month we had the mortar attack on Downing Street and the diabolical bombing at Victoria Station in which one person was killed and another 38 injured. The House will also need no reminding of the three murders perpetrated by the Provisional IRA on the Continent of Europe last year.

Our thoughts are with all those in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and elsewhere who have suffered at the hands of terrorists. I know your Lordships will join me in thanking the members of our security forces for the courage, steadfastness, skill and vigilance they have shown in protecting us from these evil people. We owe them an immense debt of gratitude.

We certainly owe it to them at this time not to weaken our defences against terrorism by allowing the provisions of the Act to expire. Without the Act the police would be seriously handicapped in the work we ask them to do on our behalf and there would be a grave danger of the terrorists themselves believing that we were weakening in our resolve to continue the fight against them. Quite frankly, it would be madness to drop the Act at this time.

As Home Secretary I was personally responsible for authorising extensions of detention and for making exclusion orders, and I can assure your Lordships that these decisions are never taken lightly. There is always a full and careful assessment of the available information. Of course there must be adequate safeguards for the people against whom the powers in the Act are used, and detention under the Act is now subject to broadly the same controls as those provided in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, including the right of access to a solicitor and to contact family and friends. As the House knows, we are experimenting with the tape recording of interviews with suspected terrorists at Paddington Green police station and the main Bridewell in Liverpool.

Further protection for suspects has been provided by the annual review of the operation of the Act which since 1984 has been carried out by an independent person. That duty was at first performed by Sir Cyril Phillips, but in 1986 my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross took over and I should like to thank him on everybody's behalf for the painstaking work he has done over the years. In preparing his report on the operation of the Act in 1990 my noble friend has had access to all the files relating to the use of the executive powers of exclusion and extended detention in London, Edinburgh and Belfast. He has visited police forces and ports. He has scrutinised all complaints against the police in cases where the Prevention of Terrorism Act has been used.

Each year since 1986 he has also examined in depth some broader themes. This year he has looked into the operation of the system of periodic reviews of detention, and the operation of the Act's powers against terrorist finances. The system of periodic reviews of detention which was introduced into the prevention of terrorism legislation with the 1989 Act, is modelled on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. It is part of the broad aim to ensure that, as far as possible, people who are held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act are afforded the same safeguards and protection of their rights as those held under the usual powers.

My noble friend has concluded that the procedure under which the need for a suspect's detention is reviewed at increasingly senior levels by officers unconnected with the case is working satisfactorily. The report draws some contrasts between procedures in Great Britain and those in Northern Ireland; contrasting the somewhat bald RUC reports of review interviews with the very full reports given in such cases by mainland police forces. But in fairness to those responsible for operating the procedures in Northern Ireland it has to be said that the caseload in the province is far higher than it is on the mainland where detentions under the Act are comparatively infrequent.

My noble friend has made a careful assessment of the operation of the financial provisions in the Act and has compared these provisions with the those in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act which are designed to get at the proceeds of drug trafficking and those in the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which are there to get at the proceeds of other crime. My noble friend has some harsh words to say. It is certainly true that the legislation is complex and there are differences between the provisions in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act, the Criminal Justice Act 1988, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act; but the complexities and the differences arise out of the different circumstances with which each of the Acts has to deal.

The main difference, of course, is that in an ordinary criminal case and a drug trafficking case the question is whether money used to finance a lavish lifestyle has been gained through criminal activities. In terrorist cases a very different matter is at issue. The question is: is money, which may have been gained legitimately, intended to be spent on terrorist activity?

My noble friend has concluded that the present arrangements do not go far enough in allowing for the restraint and confiscation of terrorist funds. It is true that so far there have been no prosecutions under these powers; but it was never thought that there would be many prosecutions. The police have found the associated investigative powers very useful in gaining evidence and information which may lead to charges, although not necessarily under these provisions.

Since the publication of my noble friend's report, noble Lords will be aware of the Government's proposal to amend the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill, at present before Parliament, to strengthen the powers to tackle terrorist finances in the Province where the problem of terrorist racketeering is most prevalent. We will watch carefully how effectively these new powers work in practice. In the light of that we will consider any amendments to the existing provisions which would significantly strengthen the hand of the police in tackling terrorist funds.

There is one last thing that I must say with the utmost seriousness. Recently, Mr. Hattersley, the right honourable gentleman who is Shadow Home Secretary, has been calling for discussions between the political parties so that we may make common cause in the fight against terrorism. I do not doubt that Mr. Hattersley detests terrorism quite as much as I do; but voting against the renewal of this Act and showing one's preparedness to do away with all the powers in the Act seems a very curious way of demonstrating that detestation. It is a very odd way to set about making that common cause.

The truth is that there was common cause: there was a united front. All the Labour Party has to do now is to make common cause again. All it has to do to join in a united front is to support the legislation which it introduced when in government and invited Parliament to renew year after year while remaining in government. Indeed, not only did the Labour Party support the legislation when it governed, it even continued to support it for the first two years after it went into opposition in 1979. Then, in 1982, all that changed. Why? Had the menace of terrorism diminished in any way? Had that changed? Unfortunately not. Only one thing had changed and that was the Labour Party. Because of changes which had taken place within the Labour Party at that time, it was no longer prepared to face up to its responsibilities. They were changes which, incidentally, led to a substantial movement of people out of the Labour Party onto other Benches in this House as they had seen that the Labour Party had succumbed to pressures within it and as a result had abandoned its responsibilities in these matters.

I cannot imagine that anything could be more damaging than that Parliament should send out a signal now that we were weakening in our determination and resolve to fight terrorism. That would be the signal were the Act not to be renewed. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st February be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee]—(Lord Waddington.)

Lord Richard

My Lords, I could follow a great part of the first part of the noble Lord's speech, but I thought that the last part of his speech was well below what the subject demanded. I make it perfectly clear that we on these Benches are as committed to fighting terrorism as are noble Lords on the Benches opposite. I do not believe that that is a point which I have to argue particularly strongly in this House or which I need to justify. The Labour Party has fought terrorism in the past; it continues to fight it today and it will continue to do so in the future. We share the Government's view as expressed by the Prime Minister recently when he said that the Government and the Opposition are united in their determination to destroy terrorism and to defeat it in this country. Therefore, there is no disagreement as far as ends are concerned. There are legitimate anxieties, of which I hope to convince the House in a moment, about some of the means.

I entirely agree with what the noble Lord the Leader of the House said; namely, that this is an exceptional Act designed to meet exceptional circumstances. It is also right that it should be regarded carefully each year when it comes up for renewal.

I also echo the words of the noble Lord the Leader of the House in the tribute he paid to the security forces and the police. As I am in an echoing mood, perhaps I may also echo what he said about the work undertaken by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, in respect of this Act. It is extremely helpful and very valuable.

This has become in a way a regular annual exercise in which, as far as I can tell by looking at past copies of Hansard, little new seems to be said on either side. This year, however, for all the scoffing of the Leader of the House, my right honourable friend Mr. Hattersley in another place added some new elements to our collective thinking. I wish the Government would treat them more seriously. They are serious concerns which deserve to be seriously addressed. As the Leader of the House said, prima facie, the detention provisions of the Act which are to be renewed by this order run counter to our normal criminal practice. In general the police are not allowed to detain a suspect indefinitely in order to gather information. The principle is a simple one; they have to charge somebody or let him go. We are therefore faced with a different type of procedure. The Government cannot expect a blank cheque in relation to this order every year. There are legitimate concerns which they ought to take seriously.

There is a difficult question of balance here as to the extent to which interference with normal civil liberties is justified by the exigencies of the situation. Certainly it is true to say that this Act has attracted some criticism both at home and abroad. The European Court is not exactly enamoured of some of its provisions and civil rights groups and certain legal organisations in this country are also concerned. The criticisms are too well known for me to justify repeating them here. But I do put this point to the House. Faced with that as a background and faced with the fact that this order has now been renewed for a number of years, it is perhaps time that we try to arrive at more of a national consensus on these issues. Frankly, they are too important to be left to a party dog fight and to the sort of remarks that the Leader of the House felt compelled to make when he was finishing his speech.

I read with some disappointment the Hansard report of the renewal of the order in another place. I regret that the Home Secretary rejected the offer of discussions with other parties so that we might make a more obviously common cause against terrorism. What on earth is wrong with that? The essence of this House is consensus building, if I may say so, and not party political division and confrontation.

We have reservations about some of the provisions of the Act, particularly the powers of exclusion and questioning at ports and the exercise of the powers of detention. They are legitimate concerns; they are intellectually respectable concerns and they are concerns which I should have thought the Government would be anxious to discuss in a somewhat calmer atmosphere than across the Floor of the House of Commons.

Perhaps I may say a few words about the report of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville. No doubt each side in this argument can find quotations which would justify its own position. I shall not enter into that somewhat sterile argument. I merely observe that, in respect of at least one of the Labour Party's major reservations, the report seems quite categoric. Perhaps I may quote from it. My right honourable friend in another place quoted from it last night. The report stated: It is now perhaps irresistible that some new tribunal be set up to oversee these powers. It could draw on Scottish and Channel Isle methodology, but nothing except a bold new initiative seems likely to deflect a continuing divergence of procedure between the rest of Europe and ourselves". My right honourable friend went on to say: I repeat my offer on the terms set out by Lord Colville. We are prepared to co-operate in examining the 'bold new initiative' which is essential to the successful continuation of the Act".—[Official Report, Commons, 4/3/91; col. 36.] The Labour Party has five points that it would wish the Government to take into consideration and which we hope would be capable of being discussed calmly, objectively, and in a non-party context. I shall set them out very briefly. First, we should accept the view of the European Court and of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, that detention should be extended only after the case has been reviewed by a judicial tribunal. Secondly, we should abandon exclusion orders, about which there has been a great deal of discussion as to their deficiency and efficacy.

Thirdly, we should toughen up provisions affecting the financing of terrorism. When the Government introduce the measures which the Leader of the House mentioned this afternoon, the Labour Party will support them. Fourthly, we should consider—we ask for no more than consideration—the feasibility and desirability of setting up a national agency, a British intelligence bureau—perhaps something along the lines of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation —which might provide an effective countrywide response against terrorism. That should at least be considered. Fifthly, we should fully introduce the Colville suggestion of video recordings of interviews of all suspects in police custody.

The noble Lord the Leader of the House can mock the position of the Labour Party as much as he likes but those five points are legitimate and sensible concerns which really do need to be addressed. For the Government merely to say that all the Labour Party has to do is to go back 12 years and all will be well is not good enough. Those concerns remain and those issues will have to be addressed. It is better that they should be addressed in a non-party context than that they should be made a political football, as we saw from the Leader of the House this afternoon.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, once again we are indebted to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for his admirable report on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. He has raised in his report a number of matters of significance, some of which I propose to mention. First, I shall deal with the matters of significance. Like the Leader of the House I think it is important to be quite clear where the political parties in this country stand on this extremely important issue. Our view on the matter is clear. We believe that this order should be supported and like the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, I find it depressing that there has been opposition to this order, particularly when we are told that there is a need to create some form of national consensus.

Once again the Labour Party in the House of Commons last night chose to vote against the renewal of these powers. The legislation was enacted by a Labour Government. The powers contained within the Act were regarded by that Government as indispensable including, if I may say so, the exclusion order provision to which the noble Lord, Lord Richard, has just referred. As the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, has reminded us, in the first two years of opposition the Labour Party did not choose to challenge the renewal of the order.

In 1982 there was a very regrettable change of heart. No one can possibly maintain that there has been any lessening of the terrorist threat since 1982. One has only to look at the series of terrorist attacks since then to see that such a judgment would be quite absurd. We have experienced a significant number of vicious attacks even in the past 12 months: the bombings of army information offices, the Stock Exchange, the Carlton Club, the Royal Overseas League, the murder of Ian Gow and of a young soldier at Lichfield station, and recently we have had the attack on Downing Street and the bomb at Victoria Station. It seems quite extraordinary that in these circumstances there should be any vote in the House of Commons against the renewal of these powers.

If anyone attempts to suggest that these powers are not of major assistance to the police in their struggle against terrorism, I suggest that he reads paragraph 1.6 of the noble Viscount's report. It is headed "Extension of detention in Great Britain". I quote: Four such orders were granted by the Secretary of State for Scotland, two for two days, one for three, and one where a two-day order was supplemented by another for three days. In three cases the outcome was an exclusion order and in the other the detainee was released. In the latter case I have every reason to believe that the detention led to a substantial disruption of terrorist activities, and in all cases I am satisfied that good reasons for the order were put forward to the Secretary of State". If I may say so, that seems to be a fairly powerful argument.

There is then the issue to which the noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred to in his five-point plan. He suggested that there should be some form of national agency to deal with terrorist attacks. The idea of some form of FBI was put forward by the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police during the police foundation lecture which was given the year before last. It is hardly a new idea; but, nevertheless, it is not to be despised for that reason. In fact, progress has been made in so far as arrangements are now being made to improve considerably the national intelligence gathering procedures. Therefore, that aspect is already in hand. So far as concerns the proposal that we should have some form of operational national agency, that is more controversial. However, it is an issue which will have to be addressed in the future.

I turn now to deal with the matter which causes me continuing anxiety. Last year I expressed my concern about the manner in which the Government had reacted to the Brogan case. The European Court of Human Rights has held that seven-day detention orders should he subject to some form of judicial intervention. However, the Government have chosen to derogate. I am well aware of some of the problems which would arise if we tried to meet the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights. Nevertheless, I remain uneasy on that aspect of the matter.

I am attracted by the suggestion made by the noble Viscount, to which the noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred, that some form of new tribunal should be established to oversee the exercise of such powers. As the noble Viscount said in his report, nothing except a bold and new initiative seems likely to deflect a continuing divergence of procedures between most of the rest of Europe and ourselves". We must have a decent regard for the views of other governments in the democratic West. Splendid isolation is not a viable policy. We rely upon consistent support from our colleagues on the continent of Europe, and in the United States where the president is under constant pressure to cease his government's policy of close co-operation with our law enforcement agencies.

I shall now put that matter aside and turn to consider briefly two other matters. I acknowledge the fact that they are outside the scope of the order. However, I should like first to refer to a matter which was dealt with during Question Time this afternoon.

In recent weeks we have experienced an epidemic of hoax bomb warnings. When the culprits have been caught, they have been taken before magistrates and the maximum penalty—that is, so far as concerns the magistrates—has in many cases been awarded. But, as I pointed out earlier today, a sentence of three months' imprisonment actually means six weeks. Concern was expressed in another place about the situation and Mr. Patten undertook to consider the matter. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, will indicate to his right honourable friend the Home Secretary that there is widespread concern in all parts of this House on the matter. A sentence of three months' imprisonment in such circumstances is frankly ludicrous.

Moreover, I believe that it is perceived as such by members of the public. It is an "either way" offence. I very much hope that the Attorney-General will consider the matter with a view to ensuring that, when it is appropriate, such cases are referred to the Crown Court. In the past, people have been sentenced to many years of imprisonment—not three months—by Crown Court judges. The issue should be reviewed by the Government as a matter of urgency.

Secondly, I am sure the noble Lord is aware of the deep anger felt by the travelling public because of the constant disruption of public transport both in London and elsewhere. Perhaps I may give the House an example of what took place a few weeks ago. A bomb went off at Paddington Station in the early hours of the morning. Subsequently, another bomb went off at about 7.40 a.m. at Victoria Station killing a passenger and injuring many other people. The IRA announced that they had sent a bomb warning soon after 7 o'clock that morning. Within hours the tabloid press was suggesting that a massive error of judgment had been made by our security forces. Again, that is quite absurd. Scores of such telephone messages are received every day by British Rail and many other similar organisations. Many department stores constantly receive these messages and some of them have now decided to ignore all bomb warnings. However, they have taken steps to ensure that a bomb is not placed on their premises.

It is now time for Ministers to consider the matter collectively. It is not enough to say that these are operational questions to be considered by the police or by British Rail. We must take a tougher stand on the issue. I am well aware of some of the problems which will arise, but it has now become a matter of urgency. Having said that, I simply repeat that the order has our total support.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, I rise only to say how very sorry I am that the Labour Party finds itself unable to support the Motion and that, as I understand it, it was prepared in another place to vote against the measure. For years this matter has been treated on an all-party basis. In 1982 the Labour Party supported the renewal of the powers under the Act which were effected by the order. Noble Lords Will no doubt recall that such powers last only from year to year and are subject to annual renewal. I find it deplorable that the Labour Party is now apparently saying that such powers are no longer needed.

It serves no purpose for the noble Lord, Lord Richard, to criticise the various aspects involved in the handling of the security law in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt a great deal in what he said, and I was not unsympathetic to some of the points he made. But the important question now before us does not relate to these matters which will no doubt be discussed during the coming year; it relates to the issue of whether we should allow such powers to lapse.

In the light of what has happened during the past few years, and indeed during the past few months, it would be absurdly irresponsible for any government to allow such powers to lapse. It is inconceivable that any party in office should do so. Therefore, I believe that it is all the more deplorable, with the Labour Party being out of office, that it should apparently take the view that such powers should be allowed to lapse. That attitude contrasts very badly with the thoroughly responsible attitude which the leadership of the Labour Party—I do not say the whole party—has adopted in respect of the Gulf war. It has adopted a responsible line for which it has received due credit. However, to say in respect of Northern Ireland that these powers are no longer needed, is either a complete abnegation of responsibility or an indication of a complete obliviousness to what has happened. I can only say that many people will feel that the attitude of the Labour Party on this business is conclusive on one point: the Labour Party is still unfit to govern.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, I support the order and the provisions of the Act. I believe it is right that this measure should come before the House for regular scrutiny and approval. I know from experience that there can be peaks and troughs in terrorist activity and bursts of activity when either the act is dramatic or the incident results in numerous deaths. We have seen such happenings in recent times, both in the Province and also on the mainland. Of course those acts feed the terrorists' propaganda machine and spur them on to more well-planned daring deeds in the wake of their success. There may then be a lull for some weeks. Security lapses, and in the meantime the terrorists flit to their safe houses, reconnoitre a new area and embark upon a new mission.

Increased activity on the mainland may well indicate that our security and intelligence services in Northern Ireland are frustrating many of the terrorists' plans. Consequently the Provisional IRA has decided to step up its terrorism in Britain. That is especially true of the Provisional IRA. There were more terrorist incidents in 1990 than in any year since 1975. They were not confined to military and security force targets. Gone has its claim that it is a war against the military and ministerial authorities in the United Kingdom. It is now an indiscriminate attack upon civilians and places where hundreds congregate. Mass slaughter is its aim. If the Victoria bomb had exploded during the peak period or rush hour, scores of innocent persons would have been killed or mutilated.

The order and the Act are to be welcomed. I believe that the Act should be strengthened. In the light, or prospect, of mass murder and mutilation by the Provisional IRA, further measures to tackle the menace should be considered. I still strongly believe that there is a need further to strengthen the intelligence-gathering network (the anti-terrorist branches of the Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard) and therefore I welcome the expansion of the use of police forces outside London on counter-terrorist activities. Apart from expertise being placed at the disposal of provincial forces cannot we also have a growth in the use of provisional anti-terrorist squads, financed and trained for anti-terrorist operations? I also ask the Minister to lay to rest the oft-quoted suggestions made in the press about cost-cutting exercises in security, whether in the protection of listed persons or in respect of the national wellbeing.

On exclusions, I stand by the legislation. Those whom our intelligence officers regard as suspicious or undesirable should be excluded. Of course we must be satisfied that the information is valid. There should be no abuse of the system. I prefer to be safe and sure. To detain one man at a port may necessitate a group being detained. He may need to be isolated in detention and interrogated but unfortunately that may cause inconvenience, frustration and anger to the innocent. During the course of a year, many hundreds of Irish people from the Republic and the Province of Northern Ireland pour into this country. There are football matches, boxing, rugby, horseracing and other untold means by which terrorists can slip through the net, and they do. That is why there must be no relaxation of exclusions and of the Act. A tightening of the noose at ports and airports is constantly necessary.

We rely upon intelligence and especially "mug shots" of suspected terrorists. Information and evidence often cannot be revealed. That too may cause an outcry, but there must be no relaxation of the measures. If a suspect is dispatched, perhaps back to Northern Ireland, he will continue to be under surveillance. He is therefore neutralised. He may go over the Border to the Republic where most of his ilk go for rest, recreation and training. We must hope that if his "mug shot" has been passed to the Garda, it too will watch out for him. Constant surveillance, based on good intelligence and backed by sound policing, can prove effective.

Regarding the Irish Republic, it is evident to all who take an interest as observers of terrorist activity, that the Republic has been used for the import of arms and explosives; that it is being used as a haven by Irish terrorists; that safe houses are more readily available; that arms and explosives are more easily stored; and that young terrorists are recruited and trained. Northern Ireland Border raids and killings emanate from the South. I ask what the Republic has offered Her Majesty's Government within the Anglo-Irish agreement. Has it offered anything to neutralise and curb those activities? There should be some response from them and from the Leader of the House when he replies.

What are the prospects of British security agents working with Irish intelligence officers in a joint anti-terrorist operation to track suspected terrorists as they move over the Border to Northern Ireland and to the mainland or via the Continent to Britain? Is not that something that can be further developed with the Republic within the spirit of the Anglo-Irish agreement?

The harassment of suspected terrorists pays off. There should be more. There should be periodic swoops on known men and women in the Provisional IRA, INLA and the UVF. They should be picked up and detained, as provided for by the Act, for three days, or seven if necessary. That would be within the law, and would frustrate their plans to take part in terrorist activity within the Province. It would enable intelligence officers and security officers to check on those who flee over the Border in fear of being picked up. The security forces can wait until they return and then register the suspects.

I believe in a higher public security profile; short periods of detention; the use of the UDR at weekends on the Border; more manoeuvres and increased patrols with the RUC so that the terrorists are not allowed to rest. I believe in increased harassment of the terrorist fraternity. The people of Northern Ireland would welcome that. It would give them succour and encourage them to believe that terrorists are being tackled. I accept of course that the civil liberties lobby would protest.

The time has come for Her Majesty's Government to consider a national identity card scheme. Almost everyone working in this country has an identity card of some kind. Most firms and industries have an ID system or are introducing one. No one cries out any longer about ID cards being a curb on civil liberties. If we want seriously to tackle terrorism from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland or other terrorist groups from the Continent and elsewhere, we must face the fact that that system of recognition would aid our police and security forces considerably.

The British people, in the wake of the Victoria bombing, are being conditioned to the acceptance of an ID card. I ask the Government to give it serious consideration. We should use all the tools available to tackle terrorism. We should now have publicly established and nationally known (in the fight against the Provisional IRA operating in this country) a scheme of payment for information about suspected terrorist activity—an anti-terrorist hotline and payment for results. Too many terrorists too easily find safe houses, storage places for arms and ammunition, and garages for vans and stolen cars for their operations. In large cities such as London it is virtually impossible for the police to vet every street, cul de sac and back yard, but the people can. Among the community there are many people who see and suspect people in the vicinity, especially new Irish lodgers. They may see a garage being used more than usual, and so on. People should be called upon to telephone a central operations room in a public spirited fashion with information on suspected activities. All fruitful messages should be rewarded. Of course, for a while the operations room may be swamped, but computer equipment, computer records and intelligence sifting may well pay off.

I believe that extra means and methods still have to be sought to beat the Irish terrorist menace in our midst. I hope that some of my ideas will reach fruition, although. I recognise that they may tend to curtail some of our freedoms and liberties.

I conclude by reminding the House of my stated views on the issue of these annual renewals of the past two years. In 1988 I said: To defeat the terrorists there is a price to pay. There is the inconvenience, irritation, annoyance with police and Special Branch Officers and the curtailment of our total freedom and civil liberties. But to combat evil men we must maintain the full legal armoury that Parliament has decreed should be available and that is what I urge my party and this House to do".—[Official Report, 16/2/88; col. 573.] Therefore I backed it then and I backed it again last year: Some liberty must be sacrificed in the defence of liberty, insidious though that may be. It is the price that must be paid in defence of our democracy… 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". —[Official Report, 13/2/89; cols. 33–34.] When I was in office, we had a bipartisan policy. The late Airey Neave and I worked closely together. All our policies, all our plans and my speeches we jointly agreed. We tackled terrorism together and we made an impact. All parties worked together in respect of the Gulf, and there is no reason why all parties should not now be joined together in harmony in the fight against the Provos. If we were, we should have a better chance of defeating them.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Richard, recalls 15th August 1969 when he was in the television studio in London and I was in the television studio in Belfast. We were discussing the onset of the present troubles. On that night five people were killed in Northern Ireland: the first five to be killed in the present troubles. Since then, that figure has been added to by nearly 3,000. In 1972, 458 people were slaughtered in Northern Ireland: the vast majority by the IRA. Other organisations such as the UDF and the UDA also murdered people.

Now after all these years we are still faced with that awful problem. There were times when I was a Member of Parliament and went into the Lobbies with a small number of people to vote against the Prevention of Terrorism Act. People in Northern Ireland have thought about this many times. We remember that it was the Birmingham bombing which prompted that Act. Some people would say that in Northern Ireland the hundreds upon hundreds of people killed did not bring about such an Act.

At that time, when I went into the Lobbies with this small number of people, the Labour Party were engaged in a bipartisan policy with the Government. First it was their Government and then the Conservative Government. It is sad, to say the least, that the Labour Party should adopt an attitude against the continuation of this Act. I say that with a good deal of regret because there were times when I voted against it. If it were possible to amend the order, I should still vote against the exclusion orders and the detention orders. There are imperfections in the order, not every facet is totally acceptable, but I believe that as it stands it is necessary at present in Britain.

Before I came here today I took a few notes from my papers. On 4th March 1972 I was in Belfast and my wife and children had gone downtown. I heard this awful explosion and immediately began to make telephone inquiries. It was what we knew as the Abercorn restaurant where the IRA had planted one of their early bombs. It caused devastation with 130 people seriously injured. Two young girls who went to school with my daughters had their arms and legs blown off.

After all these years during which I have lived in London, on 18th February I heard another explosion at Victoria Station. I made inquiries. If anything could make me support the retention of this Act it is that the next day our newspapers carried the story of a young girl brutally injured in that explosion at Victoria. She was taken into Westminster Hospital saying, "Save my legs, I'm getting married in June". Such issues that affect me emotionally and in every other way make me believe that it is necessary for the Act to continue.

We think of the terrible tragedies that have been caused by the IRA and the so-called Protestant Loyalist paramilitaries; only 48 hours ago four Catholics were murdered in County Tyrone. In the Irish newspapers this morning there is great emotional upset and demands that the security forces should do something to apprehend those guilty of this foul crime. However, the human memory is short in relation to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Only two or three months ago, in November, four Protestants were murdered by the IRA in Lurgan, County Armagh. The human mind can easily forget all the terrible atrocities that have happened; but I am ever mindful of Westminster Hospital and St. Thomas' Hospital today with all those people who were brutally injured in that one explosion at Victoria Station. The world has forgotten about them, except for their relations who have to visit them.

I heard the sickening apology by the IRA that they had given adequate warning and that the security forces did not act in the right way to prevent injuries. When these atrocities take place in Britain the IRA issues its statements from Dublin, either admitting that it was its fault or disclaiming responsibility. Representations should be made to the Irish Government because it must be sickening to the vast majority of people in these islands—it was sickening to me, and I am an Irishman—that the IRA can issue a statement from the capital of Ireland, either denying or accepting responsibility for these tragedies.

I read an even more sickening report in relation to the bombing at Victoria Station. I have tried my best to find out which newspaper contained it. An IRA apologist used the awful language of the Gulf that we have begun to know. He said that Victoria Station could be regarded as collateral damage. Blowing the legs and arms off innocent civilians and killing them is collateral damage. I suppose that the next time that Catholics or nationals are killed in Northern Ireland by an IRA bomb we shall be told that they were killed by friendly fire—to use the language of the Gulf once again.

In the legislation we are discussing today, we try to grapple with a problem that has been with us for many years and perhaps will be with us for many years to come. I have read the report of the debate which took place yesterday in another place. One of the Members who spoke said that it had descended into party politics. All recent debates in relation to Northern Ireland have been about party politics. If you are elected as a nationalist MP to represent nationalists in Northern Ireland you must vote against the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. The IRA is a member of the tribe which elects you to Parliament. If you disregard the wishes of your tribe in relation to this legislation you could easily be removed at the next election.

When I was a Member of Parliament I took a view which was totally opposed to terrorism. I made no concessions to terrorists whatever. Nor did I make any concessions to the electorate which supported the action, even though they may have been only a minority. However, as I made no concessions to the electorate which supported, half supported, or supported that action with certain reservations—that is, the but, on-the-other-hand, nevertheless, notwithstanding brigade—I no longer represent a constituency in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, Unionist MPs must vote in accordance with the wishes of their electorate, many of whom support the so-called loyalist paramilitary organisations. Therefore, party politics is very much to the fore in relation to events in Northern Ireland.

I hope that the Government will take into account the genuine reservations held by people such as me in relation to the exclusion orders. I still believe that they are most unfair. However, I am ever mindful of the fact that the IRA also has exclusion orders which it uses in a devastating way. For example, a man living in a flat in Derry heard noises in the adjoining flat. Fearing that something might happen to his neighbour he rang the police and the security forces. He was unaware that the IRA was in the adjoining flat holding the family hostage. After the gang had been apprehended the IRA sent some of its gunmen to find the gentleman who had made the telephone call believing that he was helping his neighbour. The gentleman was told to get out of the country. He was excluded by the IRA and I understand that the police have him living in this part of the United Kingdom. If he were ever to return to Northern Ireland he would meet certain death from the IRA. Therefore, the terrorists also have exclusion orders.

One of the Members who spoke in yesterday's debate voiced his opposition to the Act and asked how it must affect the Irish-Americans. He said that the Irish-Americans would be most annoyed. I suggest to this House that the time has come to stop being concerned about what the Irish-Americans think. They do not have to contend with stations being blown up and other atrocities that we in these islands have had to put up with. No matter what we do in legislation the Irish-American will still hold a hatred of Britain. That hatred has been born and bred into the blood of the Irish-American since the famine in Ireland in 1847. Therefore, whatever legislation we pass will not meet with the approval of the Irish-Americans.

I cannot agree with all the provisions in the order, but if there is a Division—and I hope that there is not—I shall go into the Lobby in support of its retention. I shall be driven into the Lobby by the cries of the young girl as she was carried into the hospital: "Please save my legs; I am getting married in June".

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, we have heard tremendous oratory from the previous two speakers. I shall take only one minute to ask a question. I have never been able to discover the argument against the Act. Are we not confronted with a situation in which we know that an effort is being made to encourage people to perform terrorist actions in this country? Do we not know that the border provided by the Irish Channel is one of the places at which they can be checked?

Do we really resent the inconvenience to one or two innocent citizens who are delayed in their journey for three or four hours, and at the most for one day? Do we put that forward as a civil liberty more important than keeping a bomber out of this country? I believe that to be a wrong-headed decision. Although I have been asking that question of my friends in the Labour Party since 1982, I have never understood how they can value such civil liberties which are tiny when compared with the enormous risk to the public.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I support the order because it is still necessary. I hope that we can discuss it in a dispassionate way in spite of the atrocities from which we have all suffered in varying degrees. However, a number of subsidiary points arise which cannot be glossed over. I shall mention only two.

The first is the manner of operation of the port controls; particularly the training that is given, or should be given but which may not be universal, to those who must operate those controls. We must try to prevent unnecessary harassment of innocent travellers. I should be perfectly happy if it became obligatory for all citizens of Britain and Northern Ireland to carry identity cards. If that measure is thought to be too sweeping or complicated I should also be happy for photographs of passengers to be taken when they begin their journeys. But let us take the necessary steps to avoid the harassment of innocent people which creates great ill-will and bad feeling among the component parts of the United Kingdom.

My second point concerns detention for up to seven days in respect of which we have had to make a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights. Why, in the Government's view, is it not possible for detained suspects to be brought before a magistrate after 48 hours? If they do not believe that magistrates are suitable, why not bring suspects before a judge in chambers? If there are insufficient judges, or if they are thought not to have the right experience of such issues, why cannot detained people be brought before the three wise men who examine cases of detention and possible expulsion from this country?

5.58 p.m.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, did not like the second part of my speech. I did not expect him to like it nor did I intend that he should like it. There are times when within the conventions of this House, where I know that one should be particularly polite, one should tell a few home truths. I hope that if my comments did not make the noble Lord, Lord Richard, feel a little embarrassed, at least what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Mason, with his great wealth of experience, made the noble Lord feel embarrassed.

The Labour Party ought to feel embarrassed. It is shirking its responsibilities. So long as I have any responsibilities in this matter, I shall shout from the housetops the fact that the Labour Party is shirking its responsibilities to the people of this country. It cannot produce a case and has not produced a case today for now refusing to support a measure which when it was in government it knew was necessary for the protection of the people of this country.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, mentioned five points. Before we come to his five points, I have to say this. In justification of his position, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that he had reservations about some of the provisions of the Act. It all sounds so reasonable. But if you have some reservations about some of the provisions of an Act, you do not throw the whole Act out of the window. A responsible person does not reject the Act lock, stock and barrel. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, made that point only a few moments ago. However, that was the rather feeble justification put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, for his stance.

I turn now to the noble Lord's five points. He said that we should accept the conclusion of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, that there should be a judicial tribunal. That is not quite what my noble friend said in his report. My noble friend said in his report: Is it now, perhaps, irresistible that some new tribunal be set up to oversee these powers of detention. That is slightly different. He recognised that the Government are faced with something of a dilemma as a result of the Brogan case and our decision to derogate under Article 15 of the convention.

There is a genuine difficulty here. I say that in reply to the remarks made a few moments ago by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. How, within our framework of law, can we bring somebody before a court or other judicial authority—to use the words of the convention —without telling the person or his adviser what is known about him and why it is that the police wish to detain him for a period of days? They may find ways of getting round that on the Continent. However, our judges would be very loath indeed to intervene in such cases when the responsibility was to be placed on their backs to authorise detention on the basis of information given to them by the police and they could not communicate to the defendant the information on which they were to make the decision to detain that person for a further five days. It is no use pretending that there is not a difficulty here; there is a very real difficulty. It is right that we should try to find a solution to it, but it is not an easy matter. It is foolish to pretend that it is.

The second point of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, was that we should abandon the exclusion orders. I know that my noble friend Lord Colville in an earlier report said that he did not like exclusion orders. However, nobody denies that at times they have frustrated the activities of terrorists. My noble friend Lord Colville was brave enough and sensible enough to say that one would have to replace the exclusion orders with something. If my memory serves me correctly, he suggested that the mischief which exclusion orders are designed to address would have to be dealt with by surveillance of individuals who would otherwise be excluded under the exclusion orders.

The argument that was advanced in reply to my noble friend Lord Colville was that that would be extraordinarily expensive in terms of resources. It is extremely doubtful whether one could perform such surveillance of all those against whom it has been found proper over the years to make exclusion orders.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, then said that the provisions on finances should be made tougher. I shall not quarrel with him on that point. Clearly we ought to be reviewing and are reviewing the operation of the provisions to see whether they can be improved.

The noble Lord called for a national agency. The Metropolitan Police Special Branch has national responsibility for the collection of intelligence about the IRA throughout Great Britain. The head of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorism Branch has been appointed national co-ordinator of Provisional IRA investigations by ACPO. The Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations leads a group composed of himself and three chief constables of forces outside London to enhance co-ordination between the Metropolitan Police and provincial forces. So it is not as if there has not been the most careful assessment of the position and careful steps have not been taken to bring about that national co-ordination which everybody recognises as necessary.

Lastly, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred to the video recording of interviews. He might have given us credit for the steps that have been taken with the introduction of tape recording of interviews. Perhaps we shall eventually have video recording, but that is extremely expensive in terms of resources. If the Labour Party is suggesting that, I hope it will tell us how much it is prepared to spend so that we can put it on the list of the various undertakings for additional expenditure which the party has given over the months. I do not believe that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, meant what he said, and that if by some misfortune the Labour Party were to become the Government tomorrow there would be video recording of interviews throughout the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, rightly pointed to the Colville Report should anybody now question the efficacy of the powers. If noble Lords look at paragraph 1.6 of the Colville Report they will find that he refers to an instance which shows the efficacy of the powers. In that paragraph he refers to the use of the powers in Scotland. He says: In the latter case I have every reason to believe that the detention led to substantial disruption of terrorist activities". That is what it is all about.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked me about penalties for bomb hoaxers. He said that three months' imprisonment imposed by the magistrates' court was not enough. My right honourable friend Mr. Patten in another place said that he proposed to review the penalties in the magistrates' court. However, we should not forget that that is an either way offence and it is open to the magistrates, if they consider it a very serious offence, to commit to the Crown Court. On indictment the penalty is not three months but five years. There has been one case recently in which somebody received three years' imprisonment for that offence. I hope that that is made well known throughout the land so that those who are minded to commit such offences are deterred from so doing.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for what he had to say. I agree wholeheartedly that it would be absurdly irresponsible to allow these powers to lapse at this time.

I referred to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mason. I thank him for his sturdy support for the legislation, given against the background of his great experience. It is not a question of cost cutting on security although I am sure that the noble Lord will agree with me that it is very necessary that people should recognise that security should be afforded to individuals on the basis of a proper threat assessment by those who are capable of making an informed judgment about those matters.

The noble Lord asked me: what are the prospects of Irish intelligence officers working with ours? Obviously greater co-operation between the security forces in the Republic and in the United Kingdom was one of the aims of the Anglo-Irish agreement. We must continue to try to get that co-operation. He said that he supported a national identity card scheme. When I was Home Secretary, I found that the police took the view that it might provide some marginal benefit but they were not widely excited about identity cards. They did not feel that it was top of the priorities. It would be quite a costly exercise. I imagine that identity cards would be fairly easy to forge. The possession of an identity card certainly would not obviate the necessity in certain cases for questioning at the ports. That comes back to another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

One does not want harassment at the ports, but it could never be sufficient for a person to produce a document which claimed that he had a particular identity. Often the purpose of questioning at the ports is to see whether a person might be connected with a terrorist activity. He might be connected with a terrorist activity when everybody knows perfectly well who he is when he appears at the port and there is no need at all for him to produce any document to show that he is of that name.

The noble Lord, Lord Mason, recommended an anti-terrorist hotline. There is nothing to prevent the police from carrying out that kind of exercise and nothing to prevent them from deciding in a particular case that it might be useful to encourage affording information by the offer of a reward. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, for saying from the depth of his experience that this order is necessary. So it is. Once again, I recommend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.