HC Deb 24 February 1998 vol 307 cc176-7W
Angela Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to publish the report from Mr. J. J. Rowe QC on the Operation in 1997 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989; and if he will make a statement on the future of the Act in the light of Mr. Rowe's report. [31503]

Mr. Straw

I have today arranged for copies of Mr. Rowe's report to be placed in the Library. Mr. Rowe recommends that the legislation should be renewed in its entirety for a further 12 months. A draft Order is being laid before the House today which continues in force most provisions of the Act for a further 12 months. In accordance with the announcement I made on 30 October 1997,Official Report, columns 1027–37, I have decided not to renew the exclusion order powers under Part II of the Act. This recognises the limited use which has been made of the powers in recent years. 248 orders were in force in 1982, falling to 74 in 1994. No exclusion order has been in force in Northern Ireland since February 1995. No order was made in 1996 or 1997 against anyone who had not been previously excluded despite the fact that the ceasefire had ended. By May 1997, 22 orders were in force. No orders are in force now. It has long been our view that the powers are of limited value and objectionable on policy grounds.

There is nothing in Mr. Rowe's report which leads me to change that view, nor has it been the practice of this or previous administrations automatically to follow the recommendations of reviewers. In 1987 a recommendation by Viscount Colville as part of his fundamental review of anti-terrorist legislation that exclusion orders were "draconian" and should be removed from the statute book was rejected by the government of the day.

The consultation document which is being prepared on future permanent United Kingdom-wide counter-terrorism legislation will provide an opportunity for discussion on whether the powers should be retained permanently or abolished. Our overall aim will be a framework of laws that are both effective and proportionate to the threat. This Government will never drop their guard in the fight against terrorism.