|Previous Section||Home Page|
I was saying that I believe, as our predecessors did, that this power is fully justified in some cases to give the police time to complete often complex inquiries in order to establish whether an offence has been committed. In his report, Lord Colville set out 14 reasons why the police might need this period of detention in such cases. The extended period of detention has led to major charges in respect of a number of terrorist crimes. I shall give an example. Following the shooting at close range of an off-duty part-time RUC reservist, and, acting on information, the police detained a person in connection with the crime. A three-day extension of his detention was requested for questioning about the suspect's alleged involvement in the incident and to await the completion of forensic and fingerprint comparisons. But it was only after a further two-day extension- -up to the maximum--for the police to check out an alibi that the detainee could be charged with murder. He is now serving a life sentence.
Against the background of the terrorist campaign that this country continues to suffer, and the overriding need to bring terrorists to justice, we do not believe that the maximum time a detainee is available for interview under the terrorism legislation should be any less. We wish to ensure that the police continue to have the powers which they and we believe they need to counter terrorism. It
Column 211follows, as those familiar with the convention will know, that there are two ways in which we can proceed. We can decide to derogate under the convention in respect of the exercise of these powers, as provided for in article 15 of the convention ; or we can introduce a judicial element into the procedure for authorising extensions of detention in order to comply with article 5.3 of the convention. The court recognised the difficulties of judicial control over decisions to arrest and detain suspected terrorists. It acknowledged that these may call for suitable procedural precautions. It acknowledged, too, the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland.
Our system contrasts with that on the continent, in which examining magistrates supervise police inquiries and also, normally, authorise detention. I have no doubt that the House, as I would, would have preferred to see this matter resolved before debating the Second Reading of the Bill today. But it would not have been sensible to rush into hasty decisions on a highly complicated problem between last week's judgment and today's debate. I believe that the House will understand why we feel it necessary to proceed with a little more deliberation in this case. We are examining the problem with an open mind, and I shall bring forward our proposals, as the House is entitled to expect, before the Bill leaves this House.
Does the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) wish to comment on detention?
Mr. Mullin : Does the Home Secretary agree that at the root of many of the actual and alleged miscarriages of justice lie convictions based mainly--or entirely in some cases--on confessions obtained in police custody? Does he agree, therefore, that the longer a suspect remains in police custody, the easier it is for police to obtain uncorroborated confessions? Does he agree that that is an unhealthy aspect, which is common to many of the principal alleged miscarriages of justice, starting with Timothy Evans and finishing with the Birmingham and Guildford bombing cases?
Mr. Hurd : The hon. Gentleman's worries about these matters are to a substantial extent out of date. I believe that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and the changes in procedure as to what happens in police stations in Northern Ireland mean that many of those fears are now unfounded.
Lord Colville recommended that the Act should become permanent. We have considered his recommendation carefully and, of course, one can argue that after 14 years, if terrorism shows no sign of abating, Parliament should face the need for permanent legislation. We believe that it is right that exceptional powers, such as these, should be allowed to remain on the statute book only for as long as is absolutely necessary. We believe that Parliament should regularly have to take a conscious decision as to whether they should remain in force. That is why the powers in the Bill will, as now, have to be renewed regularly or they will lapse. They can be renewed wholly or in part, as Parliament decides, so that if Parliament takes the view at any time that a certain provision can safely be allowed to cease to have effect, this can happen. But we do not believe that it is necessary to have a new Act every five years. So we have returned to the position in the 1974 and 1976 Acts of annual review and continuance, but we shall give the Bill no expiry date.
Column 212There are two provisions in part V of the Bill which are new and which apply only to Northern Ireland. I shall mention them only in summary, because my hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with them in his reply. Those provisions refer to changes in the remission arrangements, which arise because of our growing concern about the number of people who return to terrorism after being released from prison. Those changes will not affect those now in prison and will apply only to those who commit offences after the Bill becomes law. We have decided first to reduce remission from one half to one third for people who commit serious terrorist offences and who are sentenced to fixed terms of five years or more. This will not apply to those sentenced to less than five years imprisonment or to those convicted of non-scheduled offences. We are also providing--remember that this is important--that people on conditional release from prison, who are convicted of a scheduled offence, will be required to serve first any unexpired period of remission relating to the previous prison sentence. These measures are designed to deter people from committing terrorist offences and, by restricting the opportunity for those convicted to become further involved on release, to protect the general public.
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) : From the time that the right hon. Gentleman served in Northern Ireland, he will appreciate that the large numbers of young people who are in prison because they have been convicted of offences connected with terrorism tends to tie their families, those who live near them and whole sections of the community to support and loyalty to that individual and loyalty to the paramilitary organisation. He must know that because it relates to the concern to obtain the release of young prisoners. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that the Bill will simply tie even more people, for even longer, to loyalty to the person in prison and thus to the paramilitary organisation?
Mr. Hurd : The great thing is to prevent people from being swept into that disastrous cycle. Notions such as, "You are in the Maze, but not for so long and then you come back and join us again" are held by certain people. If the new added deterrents are known, from the start, by new offenders I believe that they could have the opposite effect to what the hon. Lady fears. I believe that they will effectively discourage people from getting involved in such horror. The new provisions on the finances of terrorism are complicated. I am truncating my remarks, but if there are any particular points that hon. Members wish to raise, as opposed to in Committee, my hon. Friend will deal with them later.
The existing Acts prohibit contributions to acts of Northern Irish terrorism and give a power to the courts to order the forfeiture of any money or property intended to be used for terrorist offences. In recent years, it has become clear that we must do more than that and that we need more extensive financial legislation to strike at the financial roots of terrorism. The Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir John Hermon, made that clear in his annual report for 1987. One estimate of the annual income of the Provisional IRA is put at between £3 million and £4 million a year. The provisionals need that money to buy arms and equipment because it is not all given to them by
Column 213Colonel Gaddafi. They need the money to support the members of their ASUs and their dependants and also to fund the work of Sinn Fein.
Because money is so important to the Provisional IRA, that organisation has devoted a good deal of time and effort to fund raising. We must halt and reverse its success. Such fund raising is partly a matter of extortion and armed robbery and, of course, that is already covered by law. However, the IRA has gone into apparently legitimate business that gives it an assured income and a firmer base. It is, for example, producing, on quite a large scale, pirate videos. It is engineering mortgage fraud through unsuspecting estate agents. The RUC is actively investigating those matters, but the Chief Constable believes that the powers contained in the Bill are vital if he is to tackle the root of such terrorist racketeering. It is not just the IRA which is involved in such things. We also have evidence that middle east terrorist groups have used the London banking system to their advantage. An Abu Nidhal cell was discovered in London in 1986 and it was run at a cost of about £50,000 a year. Money had been brought into the United Kingdom by couriers and maintained by the cell's leader to pay for safe houses, the travel expenses of the agent, as well as the salaries of the team. In the Bill we propose a range of measures aimed at intercepting the flow of funds to terrorism. We have built on section 10 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 to provide a comprehensive scheme of investigation, prosecution and forfeiture of funds or property destined to be used to finance terrorism. Under clause 9 of the Bill it is an offence to solicit, receive or to make available money or other contributions for terrorist purposes. It will also be an offence to enter into, or otherwise be concerned in, an arrangement whereby money or other property is made available to a person for terrorist purposes, which are widely defined in the Bill. That is intended to cover, for example, banking transactions involving payments to a customer's order. The offence will also cover an arrangement whereby money or other property is made available to a lawful business and either that money, or the profits of that activity, is intended to be used for terrorist purposes. I make it clear--it could become an important point--that those offences will apply to Northern Irish and international terrorism. Moreover, entering an arrangement facilitating the retention or control of terrorist funds will be an offence--the so-called laundering offence. In order to commit that offence the person entering into such an arrangement must know, or have reasonable cause to suspect, that the arrangement is related to terrorist funds.
We hope that, as with the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986, the police will have the co-operation of the banks and other financial organisations. We have discussed the proposals with the financial institutions of the banking world in London and Belfast and they accept the need for incisive action against funds passing through banks and other financial institutions. We are glad of that. The Bill will provide for the forfeiture of money or property destined for terrorist use or which was the subject of an arrangement for handling or laundering terrorist funds. It will prohibit dealings in property, which is liable to be forfeited, and the police will be able to apply for a
Column 214restraint order before a person is charged. That power to freeze has been extremely important in the case of drug trafficking and that power is crucial if anyone liable to be charged with one of the financial offences is not to frustrate the forfeiture procedure by shifting his assets abroad while the proceedings go on.
The Bill provides for Orders in Council to designate other countries whose forfeiture and restraint procedures will be enforceable in the United Kingdom. Those Orders in Council will be made as and when we manage to negotiate mutual enforcement agreements with other countries. We would hope to start that process as soon as the Bill becomes law. If funds can cross international barriers, the powers to intercept those funds must also cross those barriers. That is an obvious point that was also applied to drug trafficking cases and it is beginning to work out quite well.
Linked to the strong new proposals on finance are new powers for the police to carry out investigations into terrorism. The police may apply to a magistrate for a warrant to search for material on terrorism that does not include "special procedure" or "excluded" material or items subject to legal privilege. All those terms will be familiar to those who soldiered through the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill in 1984. The police will also be able to apply to a circuit judge for an order requiring specified material to be produced, including bank records or bank transactions.
In Northern Ireland there will be a separate option available to the Secretary of State where he considers that a court-based application for a warrant or order would not be appropriate. He may then issue a "Secretary of State's Order", but only after applying a rigorous test to the case in question to prove that the RUC investigations would be prejudiced, that a person's safety would be endangered, or, on a broader plane, that the safety of Northern Ireland would be endangered. In weighing up such an application, the same considerations then apply to the Secretary of State's order as would apply to a court application.
The new measures, which hang together to an extent, are complex and far reaching. They aim to prevent the flow of funds to terrorist organisations. They will apply to the funding of terrorism here or abroad. I believe that if we get them through and get them working properly, they will greatly reduce the resources of terrorism and thus the ability of the terrorist to kill and maim.
Ms. Short rose --
Mr. Hurd : No. I have already given way to the hon. Lady and I am coming to the end of my speech. I am also aware that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have a long list of speakers. It is already nearly 6 pm and the debate must end at 10 pm.
Finally, let us consider the point of principle. I hope that I have set out in summary, but nevertheless across the board, a convincing case for limited, special powers to resist terrorism, and, in particular, for the specific powers in the Bill. Some of those powers are familiar from similar previous Bills, but the provisions that I have spent the past 15 minutes outlining are new.
In recent years this subject has stoked up a great deal of anger and heat across the Floor of the House. Is it really unrealistic to hope that we can do better than that today? I have deliberately presented the case in uncontroversial terms and I have deliberately refrained from making the
Column 215kind of debating points that Opposition right hon. and hon. Members know that I could make, perhaps to some effect.
In answer to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), we do not say that the Labour party, here or in the country, supports terrorism because it has voted against the predecessors of the Bill. We simply say that, in our view, those who oppose the Bill have not thought through the nature of terrorism. They have not thought through the techniques that are at the command of terrorists, nor have they thought through the means that society, through the House and the Government, need to prevent the spilling of blood and to deal effectively with those who have spilt it. That is our charge, and it is a serious one. I hope that it can be met tonight.
It would be a great strength to this country if we could proceed on this matter with general agreement. There really is no abuse of power in the proposals. Lord Colville's scrupulous examination of how the powers have hitherto been handled confirms that. There is nothing tyrannical or abusive in the new proposals on finance. It is a carefully thought out response to the efforts of our enemies. I very much hope that the Opposition will, if they can, take advantage of the fact that it is a new Bill and support us tonight.
"this House, reasserting its determination to defeat terrorism and believing that the defeat of terrorism in Northern Ireland can only be achieved with the wholehearted support of law-abiding citizens, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which undermines the rule of law on which the fight against terrorism must be based ; and refuses to provide permanent powers either for a suspect to be detained for seven days without charge or for exclusion orders which effectively impose internal exile on British citizens, since such powers are wrong in principle and, by the offence they cause, aid rather than combat terrorists and terrorism ; and further asserts its support for the measures to confiscate terrorist funds since these are both consistent with a free society and likely to provide practical results."
We invite the House to vote for our amendment which, if carried, would deny the Bill a Second Reading. We wish to do that as a demonstration of our irrevocable opposition to the continuation of powers that we believe to be wrong both in principle and in practice.
The way in which the Home Secretary moved the Second Reading enables me both to follow Mr. Speaker's injunction to be brief and to attempt to match the reasonable tone that the right hon. Gentleman employed in advocating his cause. He was right to say that the dispute between us--and dispute there is and will remain--concerns the best way to defeat terrorism and the obligations of a free Parliament in a democratic society. I am delighted that he put on record the fact that that is the nature of our disagreement, thus repudiating a Conservative research department brief--"AH(88)37 enquiries to Steven Brindle"--which was prepared for the debate and which made a quite different point.
I shall attempt to match the right hon. Gentleman's tone of logic and reason by saying, categorically, that in a free society it is wrong in principle to detain a suspect for seven days without charge and that it is wrong in a democracy to oblige a man or a woman, through the use of exclusion orders, to live in parts of the country
Column 216stipulated by the Government. The application of both those measures is justified by those who advocate them, as they were justified by the Home Secretary today, as an undesirable but necessary encroachment on our liberties. To describe such powers as undesirable is grossly to understate the proper objections to such denials of our traditional freedom. To describe them as necessary misunderstands the way--and it is the only way--in which the war against terrorists and terrorism can be won.
Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham) : I do not want to raise the heat of the debate so early in our proceedings, but can the right hon. Gentleman explain why twice as many people were detained under the legislation during the five years of the Government of whom he was a member than have been detained while the Conservative Government have been in office?
Mr. Hattersley : I shall attempt to reach out across the Floor and conduct the debate in the way in which I believe that it should be conducted. I accept that I was a member of the Cabinet that supported the continuation of the prevention of terrorism legislation. If I so choose, I could construct arguments to show that matters were different then from now. However, that is not the point that I wish to make tonight. I believe that my Government were mistaken at that time, but the fact that we were wrong then is no justification for being wrong now. There are occasions when it is sensible for politicians to say that what we did 10 years ago was wrong based on present evidence. Indeed, I said just that about an immigration matter dating back to 1967, and I say it about this Bill. If we feel able to say that, we are more likely to have a rational debate than if we were required to defend everything that we have done in the past.
I could mention special considerations not about terrorism in general, but as it is associated with Northern Ireland. It was to defeat the Northern Ireland terrorists that the measures were introduced and have been continued. They are punitive after 13 years of application--and that is the difference--and are no longer intended to meet a brief emergency, but to be an accumulative and permanent part of our legislation. Their present effect is the reverse of the original intention. At that time no one said that the purpose was to defeat terrorism in the way that it is now described by the Home Secretary. The measures were designed to convince the British people that the Government of the day were acting robustly in response to the appalling Birmingham bombings. They were also designed--and this was said publicly--to protect the Irish population living in the United Kingdom against a potential backlash. Now, they are said to have a crucial part to play in the war against terrorism. The war against terrorism will be won only by the wholehearted support of the law-abiding population, including and especially the law-abiding population in Northern Ireland. Both seven- day detention and exclusion orders alienate and antagonise men and women whose assistance we need. If the Bill becomes law, it will impede rather than assist the defeat of terrorism and the suppression of terror that we all seek.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : I was a junior member of the Government in which the right hon. Gentleman served. He does less than justice to the motives of that Government who brought forward the legislation in response to the Birmingham bombings by
Column 217suggesting that it was simply to demonstrate an attitude of robustness to the troubles. He underrates the understanding of that Government that the measures, in themselves, would have a material effect on preventing terrorism--a view that was upheld two years later.
Mr. Hattersley : As I said, these matters were not whispered about in the Corridors that the hon. Gentleman and I habituated at that time-- they were fully aired in debate. I am not putting words into people's mouths, imagining what they said to me, or interpreting what might have been their motives. The Government's views were made clear in debate and I am not in any way describing them as discreditable. They had to meet the position at the time, but the passage of time has changed the position.
The measures that the Home Secretary proposes to make permanent are likely to alienate the very men and women whom we need to support us. They will make the right hon. Gentleman's task harder. We are prepared to support those measures that appear to have a practical application and to be consistent with the rules of a free society. Therefore, in Committee we will support clause 9 which makes it an offence to solicit, receive, or accept contributions of money or other property intended to finance or support terrorism. There are some legitimate concerns even about that clause. The libertarians are concerned about the way in which the powers will be used. In some circumstances, the onus of proof will be upon the suspect. If he is to be acquitted, he will have to demonstrate that the money or property under investigation was not intended to finance terrorism. I do not minimise the danger of requiring a suspect, innocent under the law, to prove innocence. I regret that this is the second time since the general election that it has been necessary--and I deliberately use that phrase--to switch the onus of proof so that innocent men and women are required to demonstrate that they have committed no offence. I believe, as I believed when the House debated the provisions to prohibit the carrying of offensive weapons, that when the need is desperate, desperate measures are justified to meet it. The power to prosecute those who financially assist terrorism and the matching power under clause 13 to confiscate funds used for terrorist purposes possess an advantage not enjoyed by other parts of the Bill. It will have a practical and positive effect and is consistent with the rule of law. We shall, therefore, support it. On the other hand, part II, which deals with the power to make exclusion orders, will have quite the opposite effect. It is for that reason, almost as much as for the denial of the basic liberties which it involves, that we shall oppose it. A good deal has been heard about Lord Colville. The Home Secretary mentioned him today, and no doubt we shall hear more as the debate continues. I join the Home Secretary in expressing thanks for the meticulous work that has been carried out ; but it is, I fear, Lord Colville's fate to be quoted and most admired when his conclusions coincide with those of the people who quote him. Lord Colville, let us not forget, recommended the abolition of exclusion orders. Sir Cyril Philips, who also examined prevention of terrorism legislation at the Home Secretary's request, made the same recommendation, and the Attorney-General in the Government who introduced the
Column 218orders described them as "tantamount to internal exile". An examination of Lord Colville's statistics on this subject shows how accurate that description is.
A majority of the men and women excluded from Great Britain have been convicted of no offence. They are innocent under the law, yet they are exiled to Northern Ireland or to Ireland. We do not know--we are not told and we are told that we cannot know--the reason for their exclusion, but we are told that the right to appeal to the Secretary of State's advisers should reassure us that exclusions, in Lord Colville's words,
"are only enforced when they are absolutely essential". Will the Minister who replies give us even a hint of the criteria by which it is judged absolutely necessary to exclude men or women from this country? Such criteria must involve the inability to prosecute these men and women for offences or proposed offences under the law. I understand, for instance, that members of an Irish folk dance society were prevented from making a reciprocal visit to Wales by the application of exclusion powers. A dozen jokes immediately come to mind, but I fear that the joke is on Great Britain as the IRA asks its rhetorical questions about British respect for Ireland, Irish men and the rule of law as it is applied to them.
It is equally true that many members of the majority community in Northern Ireland find exclusion orders offensive. The idea that terrorists can be excluded from the mainland of the United Kingdom and be required to live in the six counties of the north is wholly inconsistent with the idea that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and should be treated like other parts of it. There is much resentment at the idea of Northern Ireland being used as a repository for terrorists, who are left free to walk the streets of Belfast and Derry but not to walk the streets of Birmingham or Derby.
I admit at once that the resentment caused in the majority community is nothing compared with that felt by innocent Irish men and women who, because of part IV, clause 16, risk being treated like suspects if they visit Britain. The system on which port controls are based--cards filled in by a proportion of randomly selected passengers--is interpreted by many Irish passengers as a sign that general suspicion hangs over the whole country. All hon. Members who represent large numbers of Irish constituents know how their relatives feel about the checks to which they are subjected. They think that the checks are carried out merely because of their Irish origins and accents. I do not claim that their resentment drives them into the arms of the IRA--they are far too honest and sensible for that--but it erodes the feeling of wholehearted support for the rule of law which is essential if the war against terrorism is to be won. Our complaint against the exclusion orders is based on the same principle as our complaint against detention : coercive powers are applied to men and women who have been convicted of no offence. The common response--I was going to say the weak-minded response--to this complaint is that because of the nature of terrorism in general and Northern Ireland terrorism in particular normal judicial conviction is often impossible. Translated into honest English, that amounts to the assertion that in some situations policemen and politicians must be allowed to override the rule of law, the necessity for evidence, the obligation to convince a jury, the duty to persuade a judge of the propriety of the proceedings and the discipline of justifying all those actions in public. With detention orders
Column 219--part IV--all those aspects of proper judicial process are missing, and that is not acceptable to the Opposition. We have argued against it for seven years and now our opposition, at least to the length of detention, has been echoed by democratic world opinion as represented by the European convention on human rights to which this country is a party.
Mr. Hurd : I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to go down a wrong path. It is not the length of detention that is the matter between us and the court--in many European countries people are detained for much longer than seven days. The question is whether there should be recourse to judicial proceedings.
Mr. Hattersley : I am referring to the length of detention under this process without charge and trial. I shall continue to describe such detention as the result of Executive, not judicial, action ; and the length of detention as well as its method is crucial. The Home Secretary's response to the decision by the European Court of Human Rights was wholly unsatisfactory. The Government have been found guilty by a court whose powers they endorse and whose jurisdiction they accept. It is the Government's clear duty to accept the ruling and abandon the practice of imposing detention without charge or trial. I do not want to heighten the temperature of the debate, but I must say that the Government's refusal immediately to accept the ruling of the court shows their true relationship with the rule of law, both national and international. From the sinking of the Belgrano to the police raid on the BBC's Scottish studios the Government have shown that they support the rule of law when it is convenient for them to do so.
The Home Secretary should have made an announcement about the Government's intentions today--whatever they may be. His failure to do so naturally and inevitably raises the fear that the Government intend, once the debate is over and the Irish extradition treaty is out of the way, to apply for a derogation on the wholly spurious ground, that the IRA is a threat to national security throughout the United Kingdom--the only terms on which a derogation is possible. To claim that the IRA is a threat to national security throughout the United Kingdom is to elevate it so far beyond its real importance that that provides it with a victory in itself. Were the Home Secretary to have recourse to that alternative, the IRA's greatest victory would be won in the propaganda war. I can offer the right hon. Gentleman the headline now : "Britain defies human rights court". That message would reverberate throughout Northern Ireland and the republican clubs of North America.
The Home Secretary has told us that he will announce the Government's response to the European Court's ruling before the Bill's Committee stage is over. He said that he wanted proper time to give appropriate judicial consideration to what is a difficult problem. Exactly the same argument was used to me in Dublin a week ago, when I was pressing for the early extradition of Mr. Ryan. Leaving that aside, it is wholly unacceptable, and should be unacceptable to the House, to be told that we shall be given the Government's view on how they will, or might, amend the crucial aspect of the Bill before the Committee stage is over. The Government's intention must be announced before the Committee begins, and it must be
Column 220announced to the House. I trust that if they refuse to make such an announcement the Chair will protect us against such a clear abuse. I have tried as best I can to advance the pragmatic arguments against the Government's proposals, which will alienate the support that we need and provide our enemies with a propaganda victory. These pragmatic arguments against the Government's intentions are overwhelming. But the argument in principle is equally irresistible. The extent of the offence against our traditional liberties can be demonstrated simply by stating last year's figures. In 1987, 184 men and women were detained in Great Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 and 17 were charged with committing an offence either under that Act or under other legislation. Some of those charged might have been acquitted, but at least 104 were innocent under the law. However, they were held in custody by Executive authority.
In Northern Ireland during the same period 1,479 men and women were detained and only 343 were charged with any offence. That means that throughout the United Kingdom 1,663 men and women against whom no charge could be laid, let alone sustained, were detained in custody by Executive action. It is not altogether surprising that Lord Colville reported :
"I have been told that there are worrying indications in the level of charges brought as a proportion of detentions made under the Act."
Whoever expressed the worries, I fear that it was not the Government because when they were arraigned before the European Court they attempted to justify holding a suspect without charge for up to seven days on the most spurious ground imaginable. The Government's case submitted to the European Court is the most disturbing of all the possible answers. I shall read from the Government's submission which they are reported to have made to the court to justify prolonged detention not endorsed by courts. They insisted that they could not make the necessary evidence available and said, "If it is produced,"--that is, the evidence--
"there is a strong risk of compromising the source of information--perhaps even with fatal consequences. If it is not produced, there is an equally real risk that terrorists will go free notwithstanding the existence of evidence against them."
In simple language, that means that, despite the lack of evidence to warrant a formal charge, politicians and policemen believing a detainee to be guilty can hold him in the hope of drumming up enough information to make a formal charge possible.
Mr. Hattersley : If there is reasonable suspicion a person can be taken to court. That is the case that we are struggling to make. Our case is that if it is possible to take a man or woman to court, that should be done. If it is not possible, it is the beginning of a most dangerous slippery slope for politicians and policemen to say, "We may not be able to convict them under the normal process but because we know that they are guilty we shall take special measures."
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) : Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would weigh what he says against the facts. I shall give him an example. The people who exploded the bomb on the Ballygawley road that killed eight of our young soldiers and injured many
Column 221more had been brought in for questioning again and again because high-grade intelligence had shown that they were guilty of terrorist offences. Unfortunately--or perhaps fortunately for the cause of justice--the courts require greater proof than simple high-grade intelligence. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the people to whom I refer were, within a short time of the bus bombing, killed by troops as they carried out another act of terrorism. He must weigh the detention of suspected terrorists against the vast number of people--2,800--who have died in Northern Ireland during the present troubles.
Mr. Hattersley : Of course I appreciate that and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me credit for doing so. I do not minimise the strength and passion of the hon. Gentleman's question and I shall answer him in two ways.
Mr. Hattersley : The hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) may not have heard the intervention by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and I propose to answer that first. My first point-- and I hope that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone will not regard me as unacceptably idealistic in making it--is about my opposition to and terror of the concept of high-grade intelligence being used to say that a man or woman is guilty. If it is not information that can convict in a free, open and democratic court, it should not be used outside such a court. I understand the pressures to accept such a system, but if we begin to accept it we shall begin to accept a view of justice and democracy that should be unacceptable despite the price that has to be paid.
My second point is a pragmatic one. I am aware, as hon. Members must be aware, that to defeat for ever terrorism and terrorists--which is our mutual objective--we must have the overwhelming support of the majority of the law-abiding minority population in Northern Ireland. Acting outside the judicial system by saying that security reports may convict a person even though the courts could not and that he will be detained or excluded makes success over terrorism further away than it would be were we able to carry the whole majority population with us.
I have heard many questions about British justice and the way that it is applied in Northern Ireland. Like the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, I have done my best to say what I believe, that British justice is fair and even-handed and that normally, with the inevitable human exceptions, does what is right and proper. However, we have to create that impression in sceptical minds and the idea of convicting people without using the courts is one of the ways in which we will undermine confidence in British law. That confidence is essential to the defeat of terrorism and without it terrorism will not be defeated.
Mr. Hind rose--
Less than 22 per cent. of men and women held in detention by Executive action are charged and taken to court. That demonstrates a gross infringement of the
Column 222liberties of Britain. More important, there is a profound and fundamental danger in policemen and politicians acting as though they know that a man or woman is guilty even though the guilt cannot be proved in court. Without proof acceptable under the law, men and women are innocent and must be treated accordingly, but under this legislation they may be kept in prison for up to seven days. Paragraph 36 of Lord Colville's report says :
"The reasons adduced by the police for an extension"--
from the original 48 hours to perhaps seven days--
"included a few alibi enquiries, some requests for an identity parade and a substantial number of forensic investigations." Those things in themselves are not arguments for using special power. All those procedures are features of the normal system of criminal justice. Lord Colville also said that "broadly" application for detention
"was based on suspicion of involvement in a particular crime". That is what normally results in prosecution under the criminal law. I shall give a non- contentious example that I gave when we last debated this. I am open to convincing that it is my ignorance that makes me incapable of understanding it, but I do not understand why the persons convicted of the attempted murder of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could not have been prosecuted under our normal criminal law. People loitering in private gardens with no reason or purpose for being there are arrested every day, held in custody and their cases pursued.
Dr. Maire O'Shea, an elderly psychologist in my constituency, was arrested under the Act, charged and acquitted. Nobody who looked at the charge sheet could doubt for a moment that she could have been prosecuted in the normal way. Perhaps the Minister who replies to the debate will explain exactly the point that was made by the Home Secretary. He told us about a policeman shot at close range and a suspect held under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and eventually convicted.
What happens in the United Kingdom if a policeman is shot at close range, not by a member of the IRA but by a bank robber? The idea that it is necessary to have special powers to convict a man who shoots a policeman does not bear close analysis. But, in the spirit of rational debate which the Home Secretary urged us to follow, I am open to conviction when the Minister replies.
There are other explanations of why the processes of normal justice are unnecessarily bypassed in detention cases. One certainly applied to the case of Dr. Maire O'Shea. Detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was the easy way to facilitate her arrest and to begin prosecution. But another reason, which many people fear is why detention without subsequent prosecution is so widespread, is far more sinister. Detention without normal access to a solicitor or the full use of custody sheets is a way of obtaining information from innocent men and women who may have a passing, peripheral, innocent association with terrorism. That is an intolerable use of the powers.
On detention, the Government seem to believe that one safeguard should satisfy us. That is the need to obtain the Secretary of State's fiat if detention is to be extended beyond 48 hours. I mean no disrespect to the Home
Column 223Secretary or to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when I say that they are wholly unsuited to the task. It is not the job of a politician to decide, on Executive authority, that a man or a woman who has not been before the courts can be held in detention for a further five days. If the job must be done at all, it is a job for the judges.
Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, special rules apply to terrorist suspects. They can be held for 48 rather than 36 hours without access to a solicitor. Yesterday The Guardian argued that the law should be amended to allow terrorist suspects to be held, as now, for 48 hours on the authority of the police alone and that judicial agreement should be required for their further detention after that time.
I do not advocate that as the solution to the Home Secretary's dilemma. I believe that the European Court ruling should be accepted in toto. But if the right hon. Gentleman will not go that far, what is the possible objection to the judicial review that The Guardian suggested yesterday? Some people fear that it will involve the judiciary in Executive decisions. That argument is wholly wrong. Judges would be brought in to protect us from Ministers usurping the judges' proper role. I assume that no one believes that a judge sitting in camera would run to the IRA with the evidence that the police provided to justify the extra five days' detention. The only conclusion that can sensibly be drawn is that the Government want to detain men and women for that extra period on evidence and on a basis of which the judiciary would not approve. That is wrong in principle and is unlikely to help in the war against terrorism.
If we are to defeat terrorism, as every Member of the House wants, we must never be seen to adopt tactics or policies that provide terrorists with the opportunity to claim, here or abroad, that the democratic processes are denied to them and that violence has become their only avenue of expression.
At the time of the atrocity in Enniskillen, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said with great courage that to oppose the reintroduction of internment, which many Conservative Members demanded then-- [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] They say, "Hear, hear." That confirms my point.
Mr. Hattersley : The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said with great courage that the reintroduction of internment without trial would act as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA. The Opposition agreed with and supported him. We believe that the Bill will have the same effect. That is why we shall vote tonight for the reasoned amendment, which if passed would deny the Bill a Second Reading. That is why, if the Bill is not drastically altered in Committee, we shall vote against it on Third Reading.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : I wish that the position in Northern Ireland could be described as normal. The Opposition spokesman, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), has been dealing with normal circumstances, but they are far from normal in Northern Ireland.
Column 224I give two simple illustrations, and I wonder how hon. Members would feel if this happened in their constituencies. Last Saturday week, my telephone rang at 12.30 am. A distraught parent was on the other end of the phone saying, "We have been burned out for the second time. The shed in our farmyard, which contains about 1,000 tonnes of potatoes, has been put to the torch. We telephoned the Antrim police at 7 o'clock when it happened. At half-past 11 the sergeant telephoned us and said that he could not come out until the morning. When the police arrived in the morning, they said that they were unable to enter our area without Army backing, so if anything happened during the hours of darkness they could give us no protection." That was not on the border ; it was not in Crossmaglen ; it was two miles from Belfast airport. It is not normal that people can be burned out, yet the police can do nothing for them in the hours of darkness.
The second example is the tragedy on the Ballygawley-Omagh road. I was in the area last week. The road is again closed to police and Army vehicles. It was closed six months before the tragedy, and it is closed again. It is practically a no-go area for the police, but it is an all-go area for the IRA. That is not normal. In abnormal circumstances, unpleasant things must be done that ordinary people do not like and that I personally do not like, but they are necessary to defend lives and to look after people's safety.
During the three to four years before 1985, the graph of violence in Northern Ireland was going down. There was less violence, less murder and less terrorist activity. Then in 1985 the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed and immediately there was an upward spiral in violence.
Replying to yesterday evening's debate, the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) said :
"In a democracy, political change must come as a consequence of discussion and through the ballot box."--[ Official Report, 5 December 1988; Vol. 143, c. 101.]
The Anglo-Irish Agreement did not come about as a result of discussion amongst the people of Northern Ireland ; nor did it come through the ballot box. From the day that it was signed, the upward spiral recommenced.
Let us consider the tragic figures. In 1985 there were 54 killings. This year, until 6 December, there have been 91. The figure has almost doubled. In 1985 the RUC lost 14 members. This year it has lost four. In 1985 the RUCR lost nine members. It has lost two members this year. In 1985 two members of the British Army were killed. This year 21 have been killed. In 1985 four members of the UDR were killed, this year 11. In 1985, 25 members of the general public were killed, and so far this year 53 have died. We have now been warned by the Chief Constable of the RUC that there will be horrific murders and IRA violence up to Christmas. We do not know what lies ahead for the people of Northern Ireland.
I want to present some figures to the House tonight which will be of much interest to Opposition Members because they were not prepared by a Unionist. They were put before the SDLP annual conference by that party's leader, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), who is not in the Chamber at the moment. I will quote from a typescript of the speech that he made to his party. No one can say that these are Unionist prepared statistics to put a gloss on the situation. The statistics were given by the leader of the SDLP. Around this place I find people who
Column 225seem to think that the UDR is concerned with shooting and killing Roman Catholics and that the RUC is engaged consistently in an anti-Roman Catholic campaign.
The leader of the SDLP said, when he addressed his party conference on 26 November :
"Up till last Saturday 2,705 people have died in the 20-year period of the current troubles who killed all these people?"
His answer was :
"The statistics are devastating. 44 per cent. were killed by the provisional IRA and 18 per cent. by their fellow travelling republican' paramilitaries."
That makes 62 per cent. killed by the IRA and their fellow travellers.
"27 per cent. were killed by Loyalists. 10 per cent. were killed by the British Army. 2 per cent. were killed by the RUC and 0.28 per cent. by the UDR. In short people describing themselves as Irish republicans have killed 6 times as many human beings as the British army, 30 times as many as the RUC and 250 times as many as the UDR. And wait. One of their main claims"--
referring to the IRA--
"is that they are the defenders of the Catholic community. Of the 1,194 members of the Catholic community who died, 46 per cent. were killed by Loyalist paramilitaries, 37 per cent. by people describing themselves as republicans and 17 per cent. by the security forces. And in the last 10 years since 1 January 1978, of the 306 members of the Catholic community who have lost their lives, 112 have been killed by people describing themselves as republicans In the last 20 years republicans have killed more than twice as many Catholics as the security forces and in the last 10 years have killed more than the Loyalists."
Those are the facts as the hon. Member for Foyle sees them and as he presented them to his party conference. That puts a different slant upon what is propagated in this country about the position in Northern Ireland.
As I consider those figures, I am bound to ask why there is such agitation to get the UDR and the RUC off the roads of Ulster when their term of killing is nothing compared with the other people mentioned by the hon. Member for Foyle in his representation to his party conference.