HL Deb 16 July 1998 vol 592 cc384-406

3.37 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Sentence Review Commissioners]:

Lord Cope of Berkeley: moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 11, at end insert (", and (c) at least one is a representative of the victims of terrorist crime associated with Northern Ireland.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment concerns the question of whether the victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland should be represented on the new commission that is to be set up under the Bill. The amendment was moved in Committee by my noble friend Lord Tebbit and was sympathetically received by many Members. As a result, the Minister was kind enough to say that he would give further consideration to the question. It would be helpful to know the results of that consideration. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, an amendment on this subject was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in Committee. The amendment currently before the House is almost identical. It reflects the views of many noble Lords as expressed in Committee, and is very much in line with Clause 1(3) which states: In making appointments the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of the Commissioners, as a group, commanding widespread acceptance throughout the community in Northern Ireland. In Committee, there was a minority view that the Secretary of State might find it difficult to identify an individual victim of terrorism. I am quite certain that the Secretary of State herself and the Minister will have no great difficulty, given that the former, in particular appointed Sir Kenneth Bloomfield in November 1997 to report on, the feasibility of providing greater recognition for victims". I quote from the terms of reference. In Committee, my noble friend Lord Dunleath reminded us that the Belfast agreement of Good Friday declares: It is recognised that victims have a right to remember as well as to contribute to a changed society". So on both grounds the Secretary of State would be on firm foundations if she were, for example, to appoint Sir Kenneth Bloomfield to the commission, given the collective or consensus views of the many victims who made submissions to him in preparation for his report.

Further, the Secretary of State has the authority of what has become the Holy Writ of the Good Friday agreement. I am quite sure that the Secretary of State would not want to incur the displeasure or even the censure of those who have condemned some of us here in the Chamber who have sought to scrutinise, amend and improve the Bill. We were condemned on the grounds that even a modest textual amendment or correction would "send the wrong signals", the phrase used so frequently in your Lordships' House. Presumably, it would send the "wrong signals" to terrorists and perhaps wreck the agreement.

I respectfully suggest that the Secretary of State and the Minister, by obeying the words of paragraph 12 of the Good Friday agreement, should say: It is recognised that victims have a right to remember as well as to contribute to a changed society". Surely, it would be indefensible to exclude victims from the opportunity, as laid down in the agreement, to contribute to what we all hope will be a changed society. In fact, it may be thought that their exclusion would clearly be a breach of paragraph 12 of the sacred Good Friday agreement.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, I am one of those who agree with the sentiment of the amendment but is unsure about its exact wording. The words of the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, are wise and the Government would be extremely well advised, when they come to make decisions about the membership of the commission, in practice to include someone who has the confidence of the many victims in Northern Ireland and that he or she would represent their concerns.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord said. I am open to correction but, as I see it, there is absolutely no reference in the Bill or the schedules to any representations being able to be made to the commissioners by victims of terrorist crime. That seems to be a gap which ought to be plugged. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, would agree that somehow there should be a procedure so that representations can be made to the commissioners by the victims of crime.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Cope for taking over the amendment which I originally put down during the Committee stage thus giving it even more force. Of course, we all understand that the Bill has no effect as regards the perpetrators of the particularly vile murder of the three young boys at Ballymoney, the cut-off date being Good Friday. However, as I watched the distress of the parents of those children, it seemed to me that it made even more powerfully the arguments put here in earlier days concerning the needs of the victims. There is nothing we can do to ease the grief of those parents other than to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime are hunted down and punished; punished with no prospect of any early let out in any future deal with another group of terrorists.

It would also give those parents some comfort if they felt that others who had been through what they are now going through were able to have some formal recognition of the way that those who had committed the dreadful crimes before Good Friday were now to be excused and let out.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Dunleath

My Lords, in Committee I too supported the amendment. Nothing has changed since then to make me alter my views. Indeed, the view put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, about the ghastly murders we had in Ballymoney last weekend serve only to reinforce that. As I am sure the Minister agrees, the Bill will give great comfort to the perpetrators of the crimes because they are being let out far earlier, I am sure, than even they dared to expect when the crimes were committed. In one small way I hope that we can all agree that the amendment will redress the balance in that it will provide a little bit of comfort for the victims of crime. After all, they are the ones who deserve that comfort.

Baroness O'Cathain

My Lords, I support the amendment. I also wish to reinforce the statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, to the effect that it might be said that it would give the wrong signals. I believe that the amendment would give all the right signals. There is hardly a family or neighbourhood in Northern Ireland that is not touched by the sadness and terror of the past 29 years. The idea that victims should be represented would be extremely good in terms of the healing process.

However, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, in suggesting that Sir Kenneth Bloomfield would perhaps be the person to represent the victims. For all the admirable work he has done, he is not a victim. There should be a strong case for a search for a victim who would be capable of representing victims in Northern Ireland.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I too support the amendment. With respect, I slightly disagree with my noble friend Lady O'Cathain on the issue of Sir Kenneth Bloomfield. His would be the right appointment because he represents all victims. When we discussed the matter before, the difficulty was whether it would be victims who were Catholic or those who were Protestant. He has heard all of them and could presumably consult them. He could even bring them forward to support his point in the discussions.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, perhaps I can clear up a misunderstanding. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield was in my mind because he was a victim of a bomb attack on his home. It was only through a degree of luck and the grace of God that he and his wife were not killed.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, that makes the case even stronger. There is even more support for the idea that the agreement—if we have to think in these terms—fully authorises what we wish. Paragraph 11 states: The participants believe that it is essential to acknowledge and address the suffering of the victims of violence as a necessary element of reconciliation". Paragraph 12 states: The provision of services that are supportive and sensitive to the needs of victims will also be a critical element". It seems to me that that is part of it.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, in Committee I supported the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. Everything I have heard since leads me to believe that I was right in doing so. The events of recent times in Northern Ireland have sickened people more than ever of the violence that has happened in the past and is happening now. If we pass this amendment today, the people of Northern Ireland will at least understand, be aware of, and appreciate that those who have suffered most at the hands of terrorists, of whatever denomination, would at least be represented and their voice heard.

I hope that my noble friend will be able to accept this amendment or, if it is not in order for some reason, that he will bring forward one of his own which will have the same effect.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs)

My Lords, before speaking to this first amendment there are some preliminary matters that I would like to address. When your Lordships' House considered this Bill in Committee, I undertook to reflect further on a number of the amendments that were spoken to by noble Lords. I have done so and the Government have brought forward amendments in response to some of the points. We shall come to them in due course. However, there is one other issue, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Denton, that I should like to mention at this point if your Lordships will permit.

The noble Baroness spoke to an amendment that would have required the commissioners to consider applications in the order that they were received. She was concerned that the commissioners should have clearly defined procedures for prioritising cases to protect them from any suggestion of capriciousness or partiality.

The Government agree with the noble Baroness that the manner in which the commissioners carry out their functions will be important in maintaining public confidence in the implementation of the legislation. Under the Bill my right honourable friend the Secretary of State may make rules relating to the procedures to be adopted by the commissioners, and she intends to do so. However, it is the Government's view that the commissioners should develop their own priority rules to take account of the speed with which applications are received and other matters such as when prisoners would be likely to be released should they receive a declaration.

By allowing the commissioners to set the priority rules, account can be taken of unforeseen circumstances or developments without the requirement that the legislation be amended after it has been commenced. But the noble Baroness can be assured that my right honourable friend will draw to the attention of the chairman or chairmen the importance of establishing clear rules of procedure where they have a discretion. In addition, the Secretary of State would intend to require the commissioners to make available any rules of procedure that they may choose to adopt.

I now turn to the amendment before your Lordships' House. First, I wholeheartedly concur with the sentiments expressed about the tragic murder of the three children in Ballymoney a few days ago. I know that everybody was shocked in this country, Northern Ireland and in most parts of the world at such a brutal and callous act.

The people who committed that awful murder—I hope that they will be brought to justice—will not come within the scope of this Bill. They committed the murder after the necessary date and there is no way in which they will be given early release—I am presuming that they will be caught, convicted and sentenced—and the Bill does not apply to them.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cope, said, this amendment is the same as an amendment that was spoken to in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. He asked that I consider the amendment further or, as an alternative, that I might give a commitment to your Lordships that the Secretary of State would appoint such a person as a commissioner.

I have considered the proposal in conjunction with the Secretary of State. We do not think that it is necessary to amend the Bill, but consider that there would be merit in appointing a person with the expertise identified by the noble Lords, Lord Tebbit and Lord Cope.

The Government acknowledge that, although many victims accept the release of prisoners as part of the package that is the Good Friday agreement, the work of the commissioners under this Bill is likely to cause them concern. The Government sought to address that concern in part by providing that victims may be given information about the release of individual prisoners should they request it. But the Government consider that it is also important that the commissioners take forward their work in a manner that is sensitive to the concerns of the wider group of victims, including those who do not request information under the scheme provided for by the Bill. For that reason the Secretary of State agreed that it would be helpful to appoint a commissioner who has experience of working with victims. That commissioner could bring his or her experience to the work of the commissioners to ensure that the procedures that were adopted took full account of the need to be sensitive to the concerns of victims. As recommended by noble Lords, the Secretary of State would intend to consult with Sir Kenneth Bloomfield before making such an appointment.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asked a specific question as to whether representatives on behalf of victims or victims themselves could make representations to the commissioners. I am not happy about that. It is not part of the agreement to make the release subject to the views of victims. Indeed, many victims would not want such a specific role which would in part make them responsible for the release of prisoners. I understand the sentiment behind the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, but that is not the right way to go.

I hope noble Lords will agree that the Government are meeting the substantive point at issue in the amendment, even though we believe it can be done by a decision of the Secretary of State without requiring amendment to the legislation. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may say that he misunderstood my argument. I did not mean—or I think say—that release should be subject to representations. I was suggesting that representations could be made to the commissioners. There would be no pressure. I was concerned with providing access for the victim to make representations. They may be rejected, but at least they could be made. That is all I was suggesting.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I take that point. It was in that sense that I understood the noble Lord's comments, even though I used the phrase "subject to the views of victims". There is still a difficulty in putting on the face of the Bill a provision that there will be arrangements whereby victims or people representing victims could make representations to the commissioners. I am not sure that is the best way forward. It may give victims the sense that if they made representations, those representations would have a bearing on the release procedures or on the release date. It would also involve victims directly in the work of the directors in a way that I am not sure would show that wide-ranging respect for victims that many noble Lords feel.

I understand the point and am not unsympathetic to the motive behind the noble Lord's argument. But to put that on the face of the Bill would not be appropriate and may set up all sorts of other expectations, which would be undesirable.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may thank him and the Secretary of State for examining the purpose of the amendment I moved at Committee stage. From bitter experience I know how difficult it is to please all communities in Northern Ireland at one time. I believe that the more the rules are evolved before the need for them, the better it will be for the future of the agreement. I thank the Minister.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, also before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may say how grateful I am for the way in which he came forward with the ideas of which he spoke. It is extremely helpful. Also, in relation to victims putting in evidence and pleas, I understand why he says he has reservations about that being placed on the face of the Bill. However, I do not imagine that letters written to the commissioners would be returned, "Not known at this address".

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for what he said. The commissioners, by definition, will be independent of government and behave as they see fit within the terms of the legislation. However, I would be most surprised if letters were returned unopened.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he responded to this amendment. I am also glad of the assurance that he gave that the people who were responsible for the ghastly murders at Ballymoney will in no way benefit from the provisions of this Bill, which of course we understood.

I take it that it is also true that any organisation to which the people belong who committed the murders will also, by the fact of the murders, have placed itself in the greatest difficulty under the Bill. They have patently not maintained a ceasefire. On the contrary, they have committed the most ghastly murder. Clearly, if it turns out that those who are responsible for these murders belong to an organisation, it, too, will place itself in great difficulty under this legislation.

Like the Minister, I feel sure that the commissioners will receive letters from victims and I hope that they will pay careful attention to them. I am grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has responded to the amendment. In the circumstances, there is nothing for me to do except to seek leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 17, after ("(2)(a)") insert ("and in paragraph 1 of Schedule 1").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment it is sensible that we discuss Amendment No. 18. The purpose of the two amendments is to provide that the chairman of the commission should be a lawyer. This was briefly touched on in our earlier debates, but since then I have had the opportunity to look at the equivalent legislation in the Republic of Ireland and the debates that took place in the Dail on that legislation. I see that the equivalent body in the Republic of Ireland—it is not identical in its responsibilities—is to be chaired by a lawyer. That made me think that it might be worthwhile for your Lordships to return to this question at least briefly this afternoon.

It is true that the Republic of Ireland legislation takes a different form. That government decided that they did not need specific legislation to release prisoners under the agreement. Their releases are intended to take place by executive action, under legislation that has existed for some time. All the Republic of Ireland Bill does is to set up an advisory committee to advise the Minister on how to use his powers.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Can he indicate whether the inaction of the Irish Government and the rather peculiar way they have set about implementing the sacred, holy writ of the Good Friday agreement have in any way endangered the sanctity of that agreement or wrecked the prospects of its success?

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, that is an extremely interesting question. The method of proceeding chosen by the Republic of Ireland Government does not seem to be what was envisaged at the time of the agreement. In that sense it is not in accordance with the agreement, although it seeks to achieve the same effect as the agreement. All it does is set up the new commission. It is to be a totally independent commission, consisting of one lawyer and two civil servants from the staff of the Minister of Justice. It is, by statute, to be an independent commission. It has no instructions on how to proceed with its work except that the relevant section of the agreement is reproduced in a schedule to the Bill as the guidance to the commission.

It is not quite clear, to me at any rate, how many prisoners will be affected in the Republic. The noble Lord the Minister has been kind enough to place a document in the Library about the Republic of Ireland legislation which suggests that the number of prisoners will be in the region of 30. The Dail was told that the number would be about 47. So I am not exactly clear on that point either.

The purpose of the amendments is to raise the question of whether or not the commission should be headed by a lawyer. In view of the precedent which seems to have been set by the Republic of Ireland, and the fact that the commission in this jurisdiction is to deal with sentencing, I think it is certainly a question which is worth your Lordships considering once again. I beg to move.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, I venture to disagree with the amendment. I yield to no one in my admiration for lawyers—many of my best friends, and so on! But I wonder why it is necessary to feel that a commission of this kind could not find people of judgment to make the difficult decisions that are called for without them having had to have had the benefit of many years of legal training. Surely legal advice will be available. I hope that the Minister will reassure us on that point. The best legal advice must clearly be available. I find it unusual for the Benches on my left to be praying in aid the precedent that, if the Republic of Ireland does it in this way, we must do it in the same way. I am not at all persuaded of that.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, the effect of these amendments would be to require that, should the Secretary of State appoint joint chairmen, one of the joint chairmen should be a lawyer with legal qualifications in the United Kingdom. Noble Lords will be aware that in another place my right honourable friend the Secretary of State accepted an amendment to the Bill which required that the lawyer appointed as a commissioner should hold a legal qualification in the United Kingdom. The Government accepted the wisdom of that amendment in the context of arrangements that would only apply within the jurisdictions of the United Kingdom.

I am not persuaded by the arguments for this amendment. Much reference has been made to the legislation in Dublin. I do not want to be put in the position of having to explain, defend or justify legislation produced in another country; I find it hard enough sometimes to explain our own legislation. It is not hard to justify it, but it is sometimes hard to explain it! I think it would be getting us into somewhat uncharted waters if I attempted to explain the whole basis of the Republic's legislation, which I have in front of me.

The noble Lord, Lord Cope, said that there was some doubt about the exact figures, there being two different sources. The information note on the Criminal Justice (Release of Prisoners) Bill 1998—the Bill from Dublin—suggests that there are in the region of 30 prisoners in custody who will qualify for review under the legislation. Noble Lords will be aware that I have placed in the Library a copy of the Bill and the explanatory statement.

I am aware that the legislation introduced in the Republic of Ireland requires that a lawyer should chair a panel appointed to advise the Minister. However, noble Lords who have examined that legislation will see that the role and function of the panel are very different from the role and function of the commissioners to be appointed under our legislation. It is true that both pieces of legislation are intended to implement the Good Friday agreement, but as they do so in very different ways there can be no direct read-across from one Bill to another. If the commissioners appointed under this Bill were to operate as advisers to the Secretary of State, a similar approach might be appropriate. But that is clearly not the case. They do not operate as advisers to the Secretary of State. They operate as independent persons who are guided or instructed as to how to operate by the legislation; and of course they will develop further rules of procedure, to which I referred in the debate on an earlier amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Holme, asked a question. Yes, the commissioners will have access to legal advice to enable them to fulfil their functions.

When your Lordships considered the Bill in Committee, noble Lords accepted that it was important that the panel of commissioners appointed under the Bill should command widespread acceptance throughout the community in Northern Ireland. That is a test in the legislation. Noble Lords also accepted that the appointment of an appropriate chairman or chairmen was of particular importance. But to meet those tests it is not necessary that the chairman or chairmen should have legal qualifications. The chairman or chairmen will be appointed to give leadership and direction to the commissioners. Those are the particular skills which are being sought; not the specific test of legal competence. The Bill does not preclude the appointment of a lawyer as chairman or as joint chairman, but it is not appropriate that it should require it. For those reasons, I ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, the Minister referred to his occasional difficulties in explaining legislation, which I well understand. But that has not been apparent to the House. The Minister always does his best and we appreciate that. As he said, I realise that occasionally he has a difficult job in that respect. The chairman of the commission will also have a difficult job, but that is perhaps not a reason for insisting on his being a lawyer. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 [Applications]:

Lord Monson moved Amendment No. 3.

Page 2, line 16, leave out ("connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is identical to one moved in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, from the Conservative Front Bench. He decided not to press it at that stage. I thought then that it was an excellent amendment and it remains so today. The Government's reasons for resisting it were unconvincing. One suspects that the full implications have not been thought through.

Some terrorists worldwide are motivated by warped idealism; some by mercenary considerations and others by a combination of the two. Above all, it is the latter two categories that one should worry about. If the Bill remains unamended the commissioners would be obliged to release a prisoner who qualified for release on every other count (for example, he is no longer a formal supporter of a terrorist organisation) even if the intelligence services discovered that this particular prisoner—let us say, a skilled bomb maker or an extremely proficient and accurate sniper—had been recruited by ETA (the Basque terrorist organisation) or by violent Corsican separatists or a terrorist organisation in the Balkans, North Africa, the Near East or Middle East, the Indian Sub-Continent, Sri Lanka or Japan.

It is true that subsection (6) provides that a prisoner should not be released if he is likely to be a danger to the public, but the definition of "public" in that context must surely mean in law the public within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. It cannot embrace the Spanish public, the Bosnian or Israeli public, nor the Sri Lankan or Japanese public. It is rather tough on the latter to permit known terrorist experts to be released into their midst. It may not be contrary to international legal conventions, but it is certainly contrary to international moral conventions. In other words, it is not exactly neighbourly.

There is another factor to be considered. The Notes on Clauses issued by the Northern Ireland Office on 24th June state that prisoners will be released on licence and will be recalled—and those three words are underlined—if they engage in terrorist activity after release.

How can they be recalled from Libya, Syria or Iran? If the Minister can convince us that acceptance of this amendment would, for some strange and obscure reason, be contrary to the terms of the Good Friday agreement, regrettably that has to be the end of the story. But if the Minister cannot do so then this matter needs to be pursued. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I, too, share the disappointment that Clause 3(5) is worded as it is. In view of a much earlier extension of the Prevention of Terrorism Act over a decade ago to take in international terrorism, it seems wise that we should think carefully, given the perception that terrorists are being let out of prison. That perception will remain no matter what we in your Lordships' House may say by way of explanation. That perception will not be lost on international terrorists. There will be a very real risk of their regarding the United Kingdom as a safe haven and the rest of us as a soft touch. Therefore, I agree that connecting terrorism with Northern Ireland alone is a regrettable step.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, at Committee stage I supported the noble Lord's amendment, and I still do. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, responded from the Government Front Bench. He resisted the amendment on the ground that a review of international terrorism was under way at the Home Office. When the Minister responds, will he be kind enough to tell us about the timing of that review? If it is not to be completed early and deals with the point raised here today, there is a dangerous gap left in our armoury against terrorists.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I, too, support this amendment. The IRA and the so-called splinter groups of Continuity IRA and the 32 Counties Group—if we are to judge by the latest attempts at terrorism in London—are using what are called "lily-whites" who are young people who have never been involved with terrorism before. Therefore, the IRA will be tempted to develop its long-standing relationships with such organisations as ETA and possibly use them as surrogates. One cannot exclude the possibility that there will be combinations of that kind operating. That would be very tempting for the IRA. We should not allow ourselves to be powerless to use the Act against them.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, I also support the noble Lord, Lord Monson, by saying simply that it is not a question of going as far as Spain, Libya or Greece to get people back and involved in terrorism again. The record in respect of bringing people back from Dublin is one in ten. That should be borne in mind.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, this amendment has merit. One of the problems with this Bill is that all too often people look on terrorists, particularly Irish terrorists, as starry-eyed freedom fighters. That is not the case. They are not starry-eyed freedom fighters at all, but thugs and murderers.

This Bill gives the impression that they are anything but thugs and murderers and that does no good at all. I believe that the commission has to be completely satisfied that it is not releasing people who like murder, violence and acts of terrorism and who can be bought, not only in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, but perhaps in relation to some other groups in this country. Therefore, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has merit. We should be extremely concerned and very careful that we do not release into the community people who are not starry-eyed freedom fighters but simply thugs and murderers who enjoy what they do.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly intervene. I hope that the Minister will reflect on what his right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary would say to the government of a friendly nation if one of these individuals arrives in their country and is found to have been involved in something like the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York or a bombing in Israel, or anywhere else. It would be rather difficult for the Foreign Secretary to say, as he presumably would have to—"Well, we did not think he was going to do it in our kingdom, so we did not think it mattered where he took his expertise or to whom he sold it elsewhere in the world".

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, for moving this amendment once again. We discussed it, at my suggestion, at Committee stage. I still support the idea behind it, as I did then. It is very important. My noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth has pointed out the links that already exist between some of the terrorist organisations in Ireland and in other parts of the world. The Government would be placed in a difficult position if a friendly government said that in their view x prisoner whom HMG proposed to let out under this legislation would, if released, assist terrorists against that friendly government. As my noble friend Lord Tebbit has said, in those circumstances all that the Home Secretary could say would be that all that mattered at the time the legislation came on to the statute book was Northern Irish terrorism; that if x was released early and caused difficulty for that friendly government there was nothing under the law that the UK Government could do about it. Parliament had not suggested that.

Reference has been made to ETA and terrorist groups in Israel and other places. It may not be as far away as that. At times Irish terrorism has been directed against the Irish state. If the Government of the Republic of Ireland said that they thought a particular prisoner who was likely to be released might pose a danger to them, I do not know how that could be regarded as terrorism connected with Northern Ireland. It would be terrorism connected with the Republic of Ireland. I believe that this restriction is too narrowly drawn.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, this amendment is similar to that which was discussed by noble Lords at Committee stage. At that time it was explained why the term, connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland", had been included. This Bill deals with matters related to Northern Ireland. It is concerned with persons imprisoned in Northern Ireland who in most cases have been convicted of offences related to terrorism.

The form of words used in this clause and elsewhere in the Bill does not require that the activity covered must take place in Northern Ireland. There are many circumstances in which terrorist acts connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland may take place outside Northern Ireland; for instance, the purchase of weapons or training with other illegal organisations. Noble Lords will be aware that acts of terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland have taken place in England and outside the United Kingdom. What is not covered by the Bill are acts of terrorism that have no connection with the affairs of Northern Ireland. I understand that that is the main reason for this amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. That the Bill is confined to acts of terrorism connected with Northern Ireland is an appropriate limitation in relation to a Bill about Northern Ireland.

The wider question of legislation in relation to terrorism is under review and noble Lords will have an opportunity to contribute to it in due course. I am not yet in a position to tell the noble Lord, Lord Holme, when that review will be made available, but I believe that the House will shortly have the opportunity to consider it. That wider approach to terrorist legislation covering all parts of the United Kingdom, not just Northern Ireland, is an important matter. This matter has been referred to in the past as representing the Government's approach to the wider issues.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, perhaps I may seek clarification. Surely, we are concerned to ensure that such criminals should not benefit from the particular dispensation conferred by this Bill. Presumably, this would not normally arise in terrorist cases. That is why we are concerned.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I understand that. I am dealing simply with terrorist offences that are committed outside Northern Ireland in the context of the Bill. The Bill covers a number of matters but not the matter to which the noble Baroness or the noble Lord has referred.

Clause 3(6) provides: The fourth condition is that, if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public". I am advised that the definition of "public" is not confined to the public in Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom. The definition goes wider than that. If that advice is accepted by noble Lords this amendment is not necessary. Furthermore, if prisoners are considered to pose a risk of that kind they can be refused release. I believe that the Bill in any event has some safeguards. The real difficulty is that we are dealing with a Bill that is framed to deal with a particular situation that stems from the agreement.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am very much obliged to the Minister for giving way. I am surprised by the legal advice that the Minister has received. Certainly, anyone will argue in court that "public" means what people usually understand that term to mean—our public. On any showing this requires clarification. Will the noble Lord take on board that point? I do not believe that it is by any means certain that "public" can be construed as widely as he suggests without any further limitation.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point and certainly I shall give thought to it.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, in helping my noble friend to think about it, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, has intimated, we must remove any doubt whatever about what "public" means. I agree with the noble Lord that there may well be an argument that this Bill is intended to deal with a domestic matter of the United Kingdom and "public" means the public of the United Kingdom. Will my noble friend consider tabling his own amendment to make this clear by inserting either "to the public anywhere" or "to the public in any part of the world"?

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his suggestion. I should like to think about the points that have been raised, the more so as my noble friend has added to the argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the Minister again. In the course of thinking about this matter, will he also bear in mind that the condition, if the prisoner were released immediately, he would not be a danger to the public", applies only to lifers and not to the very large number of prisoners due to be released under this legislation who have fixed term sentences? Therefore, in any case it is limited in application. Whatever "public" means it is limited to the release of only some prisoners.

Perhaps I may trespass on the Minister's time by putting another question. Does he suggest it is remotely possible that the review of international terrorism that is being conducted in the Home Office may lead to proposals to alter this legislation when it becomes an Act? I believe it is extremely unlikely that that will happen.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, I did not suggest that. I said in reply to a number of comments, including the suggestion that the United Kingdom was soft on terrorism, that we condemned terrorism absolutely from wherever it came; that we were reviewing all of our legislation to do with terrorism; and that the results of that review would be available shortly. I did not suggest that there was a direct link between the release provisions in this Bill and the wider review, but that the latter would bring up to date existing legislation dealing with terrorism; it would not be confined to Northern Ireland but would deal with the United Kingdom as a whole.

I understand the strength of feeling on this matter. The main argument is that this is a Bill about terrorism connected with Northern Ireland and it is difficult to attach to legislation of this kind wider considerations such as terrorism in Spain or any other country. I shall reflect on the point that has been made and return to it at the next stage of the Bill.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I may warmly thank noble Lords from every quarter of the House, Front Benches and Back Benches alike, for their powerful and thoughtful support for this amendment. The only opposing voice was that of the Minister—perhaps "dissenting voice" might be a better description.

The first question is: is this amendment contrary to the terms of the Good Friday agreement? From the fact that the Minister said nothing about it, I suspect that it is not. The second question is; can it be denied that this amendment, if accepted, would be a good thing from the point of view of the entire international community? I do not think that that can be denied.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, perhaps I may clarify whether the fact that I did not say that the amendment took the Bill outside the agreement meant that I thought it was within the agreement. I have doubts about whether the Bill, with this amendment, would be within the scope of the agreement because the amendment imposes a new and different condition and one which was obviously not part of the agreement as decided. I am not happy that the noble Lord should draw the conclusion that he did from my silence on that point.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I thank the Minister. Everything would appear to hinge on two things. First, would the Bill, with this amendment, conflict with the Good Friday agreement? Obviously that will require some research on the part of the Minister and his department. The second point on which everything hinges is the precise definition of "public". There are totally opposing views on this. I think that the valuable suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that the Bill might be widened at the next stage to include "the public in the world at large" is excellent. Perhaps the Government will see fit to adopt that suggestion.

It seems to me, despite the large support that I have enjoyed, that it might be better to await a little more research on the precise question of whether this amendment conflicts in any way with the Good Friday agreement. Whether it is merely outside it is neither here nor there.

Lord Tebbit

My. Lords, perhaps a little research might go into contemplating exactly which organisations which were parties to the Good Friday agreement might feel that it was damaging to the Good Friday agreement for Her Majesty's Government to have the power to keep in gaol people who might commit acts of terrorism outside Northern Ireland. It would tell us quite a lot about any organisation which took that view.

Lord Monson

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, makes an excellent point. That, too, must be considered. Tempted though I am to press this, in view of the support I have received, I think it would be better for more research to be done into whether "public" really does embrace "the public throughout the entire world" which, of course, would solve our problems, and whether the amendment conflicts with the Good Friday agreement. We may come back to this at the next stage, depending on how far we get on with that. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 4:

Page 2, line 28, leave out ("may specify only") and insert ("shall specify").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 4 brings us on to those provisions in the Bill under which the Secretary of State may specify as "terrorist organisations" those organisations which are believed to be, concerned in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland or not, as the case may be, depending on the outcome of the consideration of the previous amendment, or those concerned in promoting or encouraging terrorism and which have not established a ceasefire.

It seemed extraordinary to us in Committee that the Secretary of State might be thoroughly convinced that a particular organisation was concerned with terrorism and had not established a ceasefire and yet that she should have the ability under the Bill not to specify that organisation as a "terrorist organisation".

I find it difficult to envisage the circumstances in which the Secretary of State should want discretion in this matter. Why should the Secretary of State not specify as a "terrorist organisation" an organisation of the character described? Giving the Secretary of State that discretion only means that the Secretary of State will be pressed to use that discretion for reasons at which we can only guess and about which we can only speculate.

It would be much better if the Secretary of State did not have the discretion once she had come to the conclusion in accordance with Clause 3(8) that the organisation in question was concerned in terrorism and had not established a ceasefire. It seems to me that it would be incredible that she should not do so. That being the case, it is highly desirable that the Bill should say that she should specify such an organisation rather than have discretion as to whether or not to do so. No guidance is given as to how she is to use that discretion. As the indications given in Committee were that she never would use that discretion, she would be better not to be given it by the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I would very briefly, in two sentences, support what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Cope, in moving the amendment. We are not in any way suggesting that the Secretary of State should be confused or overloaded by these responsibilities but, as the clause stands at the moment, it gives the impression of a grey area. If, by any miracle, I find myself in the position of the Secretary of State, I would welcome the wording as amended. It would put the position beyond all shadow of doubt.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, the only argument the Minister advanced in Committee against this amendment was that we should trust the Secretary of State. May I say unambiguously that I wholly trust the present Secretary of State? But that is not the issue which noble Lords are raising. Secretaries of State are mutable; others will succeed to the office. This legislation will last for some time. I think it is incumbent on the Government to say why the substitution should not be made.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, this amendment was considered in Committee. It concerns the application of the test in Clause 3(8) of the Bill. Under Clause 3(8) the Secretary of State may specify only organisations that she believes: (a) are concerned in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland, or in promoting or encouraging it, and (b) have not established or are not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire". That is the test clearly contemplated under the terms of the Good Friday agreement.

Amendment No. 4 would place the Secretary of State under a duty to specify any organisation which she believed failed the two tests set out in Clause 3(8). It is neither necessary nor appropriate to place the Secretary of State under such a duty. If the Secretary of State believes that an organisation fails these tests, she can and will make an order specifying the organisation as a "terrorist organisation".

Nothing is gained by placing the Secretary of State under a duty in this way. In addition, noble Lords will also be aware that any order made under this clause is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, so noble Lords will have the opportunity to debate which organisations should be specified when such an order is made.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, in that very lucid response he said that the Secretary of State "can and will". If the Secretary of State "will", what is the difference from "shall"?

Lord Dubs

My Lords, the difference is that parliamentary draftsmen will normally use a form of wording because they think it is most appropriate to the circumstances. When I said that she "can and will" I was saying that the Secretary of State would clearly interpret both the wording of the Bill—and, indeed, the thrust of the debate here today—in the way I have indicated. However, I believe it would still be preferable to leave the wording as it is now, on the face of the Bill unamended.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I am not convinced. The Minister says that the Secretary of State will never use the discretion. In that case, what on earth is the point of having the discretion in the Bill when all it could do is give rise to extra argument, judicial review and so on? I notice that two of the lawyers who were with us a little earlier have left the Chamber, so I think I can venture on to dangerous ground. It seems to me that the discretion might be such as to give rise to judicial review and to other questions.

The Minister sought to comfort us by saying that because of the affirmative orders the House will have the opportunity to decide whether the Secretary of State has made the correct decision. But the House will not have the opportunity to decide whether the correct decision has been made as regards any organisation where the Secretary of State chose to use the discretion. If some future Secretary of State chose to use the discretion, we should not have the opportunity to discuss the issue because an affirmative order would not be required.

The matter is not satisfactory. I hope that the Minister will reflect on it further in case we wish to return to the issue at a later stage of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 2, line 35, leave out ("take into account whether") and insert ("satisfy himself whether or not").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, having discussed that item in minutiae, we come to one of the main problems in the Bill.

We are agreed I think in all parts of the House and between the two Front Benches that the Bill should reflect the agreement. The difference is that on this side of the Chamber we feel that the Bill should reflect the whole agreement, whereas the Minister thinks that it should reflect the section on page 25 of the agreement headed "prisoners". That is the point of principle underlying the amendment.

The practical point is whether prisoner releases will continue up to and including the two-year stage if decommissioning is not proceeding in parallel with the releases. It is not a pre-condition. We do not ask for decommissioning to take place either in whole or in part before any releases occur. But we want the two to proceed in parallel.

I believe that the agreement clearly envisages that in its overall terms and in particular in its opening statements of the agreement. The Prime Minister has emphasised, as have many other people, that the agreement has to be taken as a whole, and that one cannot take out individual pieces. At present the Bill does not do that. It provides that the Secretary of State has to take into account whether an organisation is doing the four things set out in subsection (9), including in particular co-operating with the decommissioning commission.

We suggested in earlier debates more sweeping proposals to the Bill. Those were rejected by the Minister. But this amendment deletes the words "take into account whether". The subsection would provide that, In applying subsection (8)(b) the Secretary of State shall in particular satisfy himself whether or not an organisation", is doing what is set out in the Bill, including co-operating with the decommissioning commission. It is a weaker version which is less satisfactory to me in many respects. But it is an attempt to encourage the Minister a little further in our direction. I hope that at the very least it will cause the Minister to say clearly that the Government are determined to see the whole agreement, including decommissioning, put in place over the same timescale of two years, and that if decommissioning is not running in parallel as the two years progress then prisoner releases will not continue.

I believe that to be the Government's position. It should be spelt out clearly for the benefit of the law-abiding public. It should also be spelt out so that there can be no complaints from prisoners if the release programme is stopped at some point during the two years because decommissioning is not proceeding in parallel. It would be unfair to let prisoners believe that they will be released if the whole agreement, including decommissioning, is not proceeding.

Your Lordships may recall—I have said it before—that I hate the idea behind the Bill. I believe that prisoner releases are acceptable only if their organisations have given up violence for good. I think that the Bill is an injustice anyway, and without decommissioning, without a proper end to violence, it is a horrible and a deadly mistake to pass the legislation, which could have appalling consequences.

Nevertheless, the Bill is acceptable if there is a permanent end to the violence. Decommissioning is the most practical, verifiable and effective way of gauging the reality of a permanent end to violence as opposed to a temporary lull. There have been previous temporary lulls. But that is not enough to justify a Bill of this character. If an organisation, in the terms of the Bill, is committed to the use now and in the future of only democratic and peaceful means to achieve its objectives", then it can have no use for arms and explosives. I can foresee difficulties about establishing for certain whether some members of what has been until now a terrorist organisation are still preparing plans for violence. But there will be no doubt about the fact of decommissioning. That is why I say that it is the most verifiable, effective way of judging the end to violence.

The other criteria depend to a great degree on the Secretary of State gauging sensitive, difficult, intelligence information, good as that can sometimes be. But for the decommissioning commission to say that it can certify that x number of guns or pounds of explosives have been destroyed is a different matter. It is a matter that everyone will know about. It will demonstrate clearly that there has been an end to violence. It will be difficult for anyone to be sure that all the weapons of an organisation have been destroyed. Of course new weapons can be obtained; and of course some terrorists will continue the violence in support both of political aims and for the financial rackets. But decommissioning still remains the key action which will signal an end to violence by a terrorist organisation. It is a key requirement of the agreement.

The agreement needs to be implemented in full. I believe that the Bill should reflect that. The amendment goes a small way to seek to achieve that.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I apologise for not having taken part in or been present during the earlier stages of the Bill. Part of the reason was that I was in Northern Ireland at the time. It seems to me that the noble Lord has somewhat overstated his case on the amendment, but I leave that for the Government to reply to.

I seek reassurance from the Minister that former terrorists who used to belong to organisations but who have clearly broken their links with their old organisations while in prison—I can think of a good many people in HMP Maghaberry and perhaps a few elsewhere who have done so—will still be eligible for release, even though the Secretary of State is not fully satisfied with the organisation to which they used to belong. If the Minister finds that a little complicated and would prefer to write to me, I shall be quite happy.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham

My Lords, whereas I was happy to support the noble Lord, Lord Cope, on his previous amendment, I fear that I cannot on this one. It is not that I find the wording of line 35 satisfactory. I fear that there is not sufficient clarity about who makes the decision on (a), (b), (c) and (d) and upon what evidence he or she makes it. I still have that acute reservation. The amendment strikes at a fundamental piece of architecture of the Good Friday agreement by which the Secretary of State is required to take into account those four various considerations in arriving at a judgment.

As the Minister knows, I should like greater clarity about how the Secretary of State arrives at a view on each of those four considerations, but it is taking those four considerations as a whole and balancing them as a matter of judgment in the account that she takes that is crucial to the Good Friday agreement. I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Cope, is trying to do, but I believe that in this respect it would strike at the delicate agreement constructed a month ago.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead

My Lords, I, too, share the anxiety over the lack of clarity, especially of the conditions and of subsection (8) in its entirety. Like the noble Lord, Lord Holme, I would welcome clarification on those points. I support what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley. I regard the amendment and the explanation he gave for submitting it as a positive suggestion designed to have a positive effect. In the current situation, and the situation as it is likely to obtain for some considerable time, the amendment suggested would remove ambiguity and the impression of weakness. The impression of weakness always greatly encourages evil doers of all sorts.

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh

My Lords, the potential the Bill has for causing unease and unrest in Northern Ireland if it is thought that there is any fudging of the conditions under which early releases will take place may not be understood. Anything in the wording that suggests that it could be fudged should be cleared up. That applies to the previous amendment and the one before it, which in my view added clarity.

In this case I cannot understand why "to satisfy himself" would be contrary to the Belfast agreement. I should have thought that it was in order. To "take into account" is a phrase of little meaning. How does one "take into account?" I find that dubious. "Satisfy himself" makes sense. I look at the amendment in the broader sense also. If there is, and there will be, certain contention about the releases, the thought that there is room for fudging would be most unsatisfactory.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Holme, said. There are times when fudging is better than clarity. In a delicate situation, there are a number of aspects to be considered which cannot all be put on the face of the Bill. One needs a great deal of understanding, common sense and delicacy. This is the time, when the situation is so delicate, when we should leave well alone, and leave the Bill as it is.

Lord Dubs

My Lords, the amendment is intended to change the nature of the test that the Secretary of State must apply in determining whether an organisation is a "terrorist organisation" for the purpose of the Bill. It changes the nature of the test. Although there is only a small change in the wording, it is significant.

Clause 3(9) incorporates those matters, referred to by the Prime Minister in his Balmoral speech, which were intended to clarify how the Government would determine whether an organisation had established and maintained a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. In his speech the Prime Minister referred to the four matters he identified as factors to be taken account of. He did not, as the amendment would do, make each of the factors a separate test to be satisfied. He said: These factors provide evidence upon which to base an overall judgment—a judgment which will necessarily become more onerous over time". He also said: We are not setting new preconditions or barriers. On the contrary we want as many people as possible to use the Agreement as their bridge across to an exclusively democratic path". The Prime Minister was careful to stick closely to the terms of the agreement, and so should we. The Government have clearly said that they will not accept any amendment which would depart from the terms of the Good Friday agreement. The amendment would do so, and for that reason the Government are resistant to it.

I should like however to clarify one or two other points which were raised during the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked about terrorists who had broken their links with the organisations to which they had previously belonged. Yes, any person who is not a supporter of a terrorist organisation and who otherwise meets the conditions in Clause 3 is eligible for release under the terms of the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Cooke, talked about the fudging of the conditions. A complete and unequivocal ceasefire means not a sham or a tactical ceasefire, but a proper ceasefire. We are in no way seeking to fudge that point. As to the substance of the amendment, I can only repeat that I believe, and the Government believe, that it would depart from the terms of the Good Friday agreement. It would depart from the terms of the commitment given by the Prime Minister by way of explaining how the Good Friday agreement would operate. As such, I believe that it would be wrong in principle for the House to accept it.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I agree with the Minister that the amendment makes a definite change to the way in which the criteria are to be applied. That is obviously its purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, suggested that I had overstated the case. I plead guilty to that in the sense that the amendment is not as strong as I would have wished, and, indeed, as some of the amendments we moved in Committee.

The amendment is, as I explained, an attempt to persuade the Minister to move in my direction. In that it has failed, whether I was overstating or understating it. I failed to move the Minister in my direction. He emphasised once again the agreement, but I emphasise once again that it seems to me that it is the whole agreement that matters. Decommissioning is equally part of the agreement, with the prisoner release part of the agreement. All of it should move in parallel. However, I have not persuaded the Minister that that is the case at this point. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Murton of Lindisfarne)

My Lords, I should point out that if Amendment No. 6 is agreed to I shall be unable to call Amendment No. 7.

Lord Dubs moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 2, line 40, leave out ("committed").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cope, has tabled Amendment No. 7 which is the same as one which your Lordships' House considered in Committee. At that time I undertook to reflect further on the matter and said that I would bring forward a further amendment myself if that would be helpful. That I have done in the form of Amendment No. 6.

Both amendments would have the effect of extending the scope of Clause 3(9)(c). The effect of that amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope, would be to require the Secretary of State to take account of whether an organisation was involved in directing or promoting acts of violence planned by other organisations as well as acts of violence committed by other organisations.

The amendment in my name achieves a similar effect but by a slightly different means; that is, by removing the requirement that an act of violence has been committed by another organisation. Now the focus is on the activity of the organisation that is under scrutiny, not the proxy organisation. The question is whether the organisation under scrutiny is engaged in directing or promoting acts of violence by other organisations. That could include general support through financial assistance as well as assistance with particular acts of violence which are planned or committed. As such, my amendment covers a wider range of activity than the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cope. The Government consider that their amendment fully reflects the commitment given by the Prime Minister in his Balmoral speech and that it remains faithful to the Good Friday agreement.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cope, for his help in drawing attention to this matter. I hope that he will agree that the Government's amendment is wider in its scope than the amendment in his name. Therefore, I hope that he will feel able to support the Government amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for taking up the point I made in Committee and moving his amendment. We move from a matter of principle to nitpicking over the wording. The noble Lord says that his amendment is wider, but I am not sure about that. Let us suppose that organisation A claims to be on ceasefire, but it becomes known to the Secretary of State that those in charge of its store of weapons, ammunition and explosives are allowing them to fall into the hands of organisation B, which is not on ceasefire. The only reason for organisation B having the weapons will be because it is planning violence. I believe that that action would slip through the Minister's new wording, which concerns me. However, if my wording were applied, such action would cause both the organisations, A and B, to fail the test.

Nevertheless, we should not nitpick too much across the Floor of the House when we are agreed on the principle which lies behind the issue.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 7 not moved.]