HL Deb 01 March 1999 vol 597 cc154-5WA
Lord Eames

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What circumstances, if any, would lead to a cessation of early releases of prisoners under the Belfast Agreement. [HL1063]

Lord Dubs

The accelerated release of prisoners is part of the implementation of the Belfast Agreement and will continue, or cease, in accordance with the legislation passed by this House last summer.

Under that legislation, the Secretary of State must review the list of specified organisations from time to time, and must specify any organisation which she believes is concerned in Northern Irish terrorism, or in promoting or encouraging it, and has not established or is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire. In forming her belief, she takes into account all relevant factors, including those drawn from the Prime Minister's speech at Balmoral and set out in the Act. Decisions on individual applications by prisoners are for the Sentence Review Commissioners in accordance with the criteria set by this House.

In addition, the Secretary of State has the discretion under the Act to make an order suspending the operation of the whole scheme. This is a difficult judgment which the Secretary of State has to make in the round, taking into account all relevant factors pertaining at the time.

This, and other related issues under the Sentences Act, and under the Belfast Agreement, are kept under careful review.