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Column 240"We thrive with repression, but we cannot live with reform." He knows from where he gets his recruits and support. But what do we do? We provide abnormal courts and abnormal laws, such as those on the emergency provisions, the prevention of terrorism, the freedom of the press, the right to silence and, as of yesterday, elected authorities. On and on we go. That is the context in which terrorism thrives. Surely the Government must consider the oxygen of abnormality sooner rather than later.
Over the past few weeks this country and the Irish Government have developed an abnormal international profile because of a running sore. That sore has run not for one, two or three weeks, but for almost 800 years. I suggest with all the sincerity at my command that if a fundamental problem lasts that long, surely to heaven we all have the ingenuity and vision to start to see where the answer is, instead of putting the rubber stamp on abnormality each week as it goes by.
Under this legislation 656 people were detained and released without charge between April and September 1988. Surely that must raise questions, one of which must be : is this legislation being used not on "reasonable" suspicion or even suspicion, but to trawl for intelligence and information? I believe that it is. Two weeks ago in Newry, at 6 am, a schoolboy of 18 was taken in on foot for questioning about a little civil disturbance. Before he left the police station he was taken into a room by two people who questioned him about his neighbours and asked him to join Sinn Fein so that he could provide information. He was told that his call number was Roger, and Roger rang that night. That is how the legislation is being used. Like the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I have made an official complaint about that. I have been making official complaints for 20 years and not sustained one, and I do not have great confidence that I shall ever sustain one. However incompetent I may be, I do not see how I can get them all wrong. I ask the Minister to look into that because that is an example of what is happening.
I have one point to make on the European Court decision in the interests of this country and the standards of justice to which the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) referred. It is not an a la carte Europe where we can take what we like and leave what we do not like. If we subscribe to the European convention on human rights, we have a duty to listen carefully and to do what is required with good grace. We should not be dragged screaming and kicking so that once again the bedrock of justice in this country is questioned publicly and the country is embarrassed internationally.
There is the oxygen of duplicity. I cannot think of a better word so forgive me for using it. I have spent many years, as have members of my party and Church leaders in the North of Ireland, asking this and other Governments to introduce legislation on racketeering. We told them what was going on and asked why there was no legislation. Irony of irony, it was introduced as a result of good investigative journalism by Roger Cook--the type of investigative journalism which will be prevented by legislation introduced a few weeks ago. Why did successive Governments not introduce such legislation? There are two reasons. First, it did not suit this Government's propaganda. For them it was good that people should believe that all the money comes from the United States. Secondly--the Loyalist paramilitary experience in Northern Ireland points to this--where there is
Column 241racketeering on such a scale, one has a constant entry into the intelligence of an organisation. Let us not be self -righteous about this or feel that something great is being done. We asked for this many moons ago and it is coming now because of a brilliant piece of investigative journalism.
There is duplicity about the way in which racketeering has been presented. What about the racketeering of the official IRA? It is believed that £6 million a year is laundered through banks in Newry. I have been told that there is no official IRA now, yet at the end of the summer I found myself at a conference sitting with the political head of the same organisation, discussing how racketeering could be tackled. What will be done about that? What will be done about UDA racketeering? We have seen what is happening on the streets of Belfast. These are the problems that we are bringing to the Government and there is agreement that we have long asked for action.
I have experience at first hand. Four years ago a young builder gave me all the details of his case. The police did not want to know because they did not have the power to do anything and the Government did not want to know because they were not going to deal with the matter at that time. That young man is now out of business and has had to come to the mainland to work on a building site. That is what we mean when we talk about the oxygen of duplicity.
There is the oxygen of grievance, whether real or imaginary. One of the awful aspects of this legislation is that Irish people feel aggrieved by it. People coming through the ports are stopped and questioned. Lorry drivers are held for three days at Dover and their loads go bad. If one speaks with an Irish accent, especially if one is young, wears denims and has long hair, one is a suspected terrorist. That builds up a sense of grievance which showed itself this past week in the awful atavism that we have seen in Ireland. That frightens me as much as the atavism that I have seen from some Conservative Members. That caters for the lowest common denominator--something that borders almost on racialism in the two countries where we should be living as peaceful people, sharing our neighbourhood in a positive and constructive way, not as is happening at present.
That oxygen of grievance is to be found in those young people who are affected by the removal of 50 per cent. of remission. We are not comparing like with like when we say that we are simply seeking to bring Northern Ireland into line with the Republic of Ireland or Britain. Here and in the Republic of Ireland parole is available after one third of a sentence has been served. That is not so in the North of Ireland. People are not sentenced by Diplock courts here ; they are in the North of Ireland. They are not sentenced generally under emergency legislation here, but they are in Northern Ireland. Those grievances build up. As someone once said, that turns Nationalists and Republicans into terrorists. We live with the results of that.
Column 242Gentleman reconcile what he is saying with the grievance that would be present if the views of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland were to be overridden by the sort of arguments that he is putting forward?
Mr. Mallon : I cannot fathom the rationale behind that question. I wish that I could, because I know of the hon. Gentelman's interest in the Irish situation. May we discuss the matter outside the Chamber, because I do not understand his question sufficiently to answer it? I am not sure whether anybody else understands it either.
Finally, there is the oxygen of emotion, and that is a cogent factor in the type of problems that the Minister knows we have to deal with on a daily basis. That emotion can substantially carry people away. Exclusion is central to that emotion. We are to have internal exile in the days of glasnost and perestroika. The world is opening up as this type of legislation closes us in. Is there not something ironic about that? Unionists and Nationalists alike find it offensive.
The Government will never defeat terrorism, because they cannot. They have to go down the road of derogation which will damage the Government and the country more than it will damage terrorism. I make that as a serious point. I am in no way supporting terrorism ; I am simply making the point that terrorism will not be defeated by such an approach or by this type of legislation. What will defeat terrorism, or, to put it in a more positive way, create real and lasting peace in Ireland is when there is consensus among Irish people on the island of Ireland. Then we shall see terrorism defeated so quickly that we shall wonder what we have been doing for the past 20 years.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury) : No hon. Member will doubt the personal integrity and courage of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). However, it is slightly sad that, although he told us what he does not like in the Bill and what he does not like about what the Government are doing, apart from his latter comments, he told us nothing about what he and his party would wish the Government to do. It is sad that Opposition Members are always saying no--no to the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill, no to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill, no, in due course, I have no doubt, to the Northern Irish equal opportunities legislation. There is very little that they say yes to in Northern Ireland. They say very little about how they would seek to combat terrorism. It is all very negative. They do no more than knock copy.
Let me briefly comment upon why the Bill is necessary. Hon. Members have asked whether other powers for arrest and detention are available. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) suggested that those powers are available under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. But Lord Colville's report shows clearly that the ordinary powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act are not adequate to prevent acts of terrorism because they can be activated only when an offence has been or is being committed. For the victims, it is too late if the police cannot take action until a bomb has gone off. Therefore, the police need a pre-emptive power to arrest on reasonable suspicion at the preparatory stage of terrorist crimes.
Nor is it sufficient to say that in such instances the police should arrest on suspicion of conspiracy to murder
Column 243or to cause explosions and matters of that kind. The police frequently do not have sufficient evidence to prove an agreement with another person or persons to commit an offence, as the law requires.
The police frequently do not have sufficient evidence to prove an agreement with another person or persons to commit an offence as the law requires, but they may have grounds for reasonable suspicion that a person is preparing to carry out an act of terrorism.
It is suggested that it is wrong to lock up a person for a period without access to a solicitor or without being able to notify his family of his whereabouts. A balance has to be struck bearing in mind the seriousness of the potential offence. Clearly people in police detention have the right to have someone informed of their whereabouts and to consult a solicitor. But it is essential that the police, on the authority of a senior officer, should in certain circumstances be able to delay the exercise of those rights for up to 48 hours. There are undoubtedly cases where, if it becomes known that a person has been arrested, the police could have difficulty in preventing an act of terrorism or would be seriously hampered in investigating terrorist crimes and arresting other suspects. Lord Colville is right to say that a suspect's right to notify his family of his whereabouts and to have access to a solicitor should not be delayed a moment longer than is necessary and that the detained person should throughout be kept informed of his rights and the authority for their deferral if they are deferred. In that context it is important to realise that schedule 3 gives effect to Lord Colville's recommendation that the regime for detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be brought closer to that of people detained under other police powers.
The Bill includes new safeguards because throughout the review officer has to consider whether the reason for delay remains valid, at all times seeking to do the best to strike a difficult balance between the rights of the person detained and the rights of the community to be protected from terrorist offences.
It is vital to recognise that the Bill is essentially pre-emptive. It is designed to prevent acts of terrorism because its powers are often exercised while terrorist crimes are still in preparation. In some cases, preparation will not have gone far enough for a charge to be brought. We must recognise, too, that in some cases the information on which the determination was based may be too sensitive to bring before a court. However, the detention will clearly have been justified in preventing the terrorists' operation going any further. Let us be clear, as Lord Colville said in his review of the operation of the Act in 1986. Criticism of the Act based on the number of charges, which result from the operation of the detention powers, is misconceived and flawed, because it misses the central point that this Act's powers are pre-emptive in attempting to prevent terrorism. After all, it is the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, and, by definition, powers must be exercised in advance of the terrorist act, which is its entire purpose. That may mean that the preparation has not gone far enough for sustainable evidence to be available for substantive charges.
Column 244When considering statistics of charges for offences under the legislation--we have heard something about this--it is misleading to say that, simply because only a few charges are brought under it, this legislation is defective. The Act creates very few offences and they are generally ancillary, such as making a contribution to terrorism or withholding information about terrorist acts. This legislation is about preventing terrorist offences from taking place. If a terrorist offence has taken place or it can be proved that it would have taken place, those crimes--such as murder or explosion offences--will be prosecuted under other legislation. There is an adequate body of substantive criminal law. This Bill is about measures to prevent terrorist offences from ever taking place. There must be a reasonable suspicion of involvement in terrorism for a detention to take place. There should not be any shadow of a sustainable suggestion that the police are using their powers improperly. Indeed, we have not heard any such suggestion. In the recent case which was referred to the European Court of Human Rights, it was accepted that the arrests were proper. Lord Colville concluded that the allegations of abuse of this legislation were not justified. In any event, the Bill contains new powers for review of detention during the first 48 hours, similar to the tried and tested procedures contained in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. If a suspect feels that the police have it wrong, there is the statutory police complaints procedure, both in the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland, under which any complaints of alleged ill-treatment are thoroughly investigated. It is interesting to note that in all the thoroughly investigated cases mentioned in the 1988 Amnesty International report no evidence has yet been found of any justification for those complaints.
When one puts this legislation in the balance and considers what it is seeking to achieve, one sees that it is the Prevention of Terrorism Bill and, as such, when one analyses what it is doing, as against the ills and evil which it seeks to combat, I believe that it is a sound and balanced piece of legislation which the House should swiftly put on the statute book.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : The continuance of organised international terrorism has shown no sign of abating. Many instances have occurred in the United Kingdom in recent years which show that there can be no loosening of the necessary measures of protection required to safeguard the British public. Terrorist groups associated with Northern Ireland continue to show a capability to inflict murder and mayhem in the Province and in Great Britain. The casualties have certainly fallen from the highest levels of the early 1970s, but the threat and the actuality of outrage is ever present. It is against that background that Parliament again reviews these exceptional measures.
The provisions of the Bill are for the most part not new. However, they are exceptional in their treatment of those suspected of involvement in terrorist activity. The powers of detention and exclusion, especially, are not those which would be considered appropriate in other circumstances. It is, therefore, right that their effectiveness and acceptability should be under constant review both by Parliament and independently. I am glad that the Government have
Column 245decided not to accept the recommendation of Lord Colville in his review of the 1984 Act that the core controls provided by the legislation should no longer be subject to annual renewal by Parliament. Lord Colville argued that the temporary nature of the controls fuelled what he called
"the unnecessary controversy that surrounds them",
making it more difficult to provide proper facilities at the ports and airports.
The controversy that surrounds these measures is not unnecessary. It is a continuing and healthy reminder that the measures are exceptional and cannot be taken for granted. This debate has shown that these issues are still alive--and so they should be.
Internal banishment--that is what the power of exclusion provides for--is a power that we would not wish permanently to associate with the criminal legal system of the United Kingdom. That is why the Government are right to have provided--designed to replace the existing statute--that this Bill should expire under the provisions of clause 26 on 22 March 1990, and be renewable only if Parliament so decides by an affirmative resolution on an annual basis. This arrrangement is a reversion of the provisions of the 1976 Act and seems preferable in that it does not assume the necessity for the legislation to continue for a five-year period, even though that may be more likely than not.
Lord Colville called for annual reviews. I believe that it is proper that Parliament should pronounce on the outcome of those. I am glad that it has been agreed that Lord Colville will continue his role of providing Parliament with an annual report--which I hope will continue to be a thorough one--on the effective operation of the Act. Lord Colville's review was the third major examination of the workings of this legislation since its inception, and I believe that it was of great value. I am glad, however, that not all of its recommendations were accepted. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) suggested that, because the Government had departed from the recommendations, they were calling in question the value of them. I say to him that to accept the recommendations without cavil or question would be to deny Parliament and the Government any part in the review process, which is patently absurd. The Home Secretary was right to retain the offence of withholding information, which might be of assistance in preventing the commission by another person of an act of terrorism in Northern Ireland or in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person in relation to such an act, notwithstanding Lord Colville's view that it should go.
The new special search provisions for use in a great emergency appear to be of potential value in making effective the new measures to deal with financial assistance for acts of terrorism. I am glad that the Bill contains these measures, because there is no doubt that the huge financial resources that have been available to the terrorist organisations have sustained them as effectively as the outside intervention of other Governments. Many of these resources are traceable and I hope that these provisions will enjoy universal support.
Column 246The Colville report did not go deeply into the proposals contained in part III of the Bill, but they appear to follow fairly closely in principle and in operation those already introduced in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986.
Undoubtedly, the most controversial departure from the Colville recommendations is the Home Secretary's decision to retain the provisions relating to exclusion in part II of the Bill. The exclusion power is the most draconian contained in the legislation. Lord Colville reports the firm view of the Scottish and English Associaton of Chief Police Officers and all senior police officers to whom he spoke, who believe that it is essential to retain the exclusion powers. They believe that, without that power, effective surveillance of Irish terrorists could not be maintained. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West believes that that evidence is lacking, but I believe that it has been provided by the police officers--there can be no more authoritative evidence than that. In an earlier part of his report Lord Colville made the general observation that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984
"is basically a deterrent, something very hard to prove or disprove."
I believe that that observation is right. I believe that the exclusion provisions, although the most exceptional and unattractive provisions of the 1984 Act, are the most difficult to dispense with. Therefore, I cannot take issue with the Home Secretary's judgment about their necessity at this stage.
It has been satisfactory that the provisions of the 1984 Act have, hitherto, not been held to be inconsistent with the European convention on human rights. It is intrinsically important that, even in the extremely dangerous circumstances of Northern Ireland, this country has striven to adhere to the standards set for the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms in that convention. It has been a shield against charges of inhumanity and it has helped to sustain our cause in other countries. Therefore, the decision of the European Court on Human Rights on the Brogan case is one to which the Government must respond with great care.
The Democrats urge upon the Government the overwhelmingly strong case for seeking to reconcile the detention procedures with the requirements of article 5(3) of the convention that an arrested or detained person
"be brought promptly before a judge."
If the Government seek, instead, to derogate from the convention under article 15, following the example of the Labour Government in 1978, they risk bringing this necessary legislation into obloquy. It will also greatly increase our difficulties in sustaining support abroad. I believe that the Government should provide arrangements to bring those arrested or detained under the provisions of the Act before a judge. In an earlier speech the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) made a number of suggestions as to how that might best be done. I hope that those parts of his speech will be closely considered by the Government before the Minister makes a statement in the House about the judgment of the European Court. I agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that that statement should be made in this House before this Bill goes into Committee, but, unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I do not believe that it would have been reasonable to expect the Government to come up with a practical response to the judgment of the European Court
Column 247before this debate. There is no doubt that many practical considerations must be borne in mind, but the principle of seeking to adhere to the operation of the convention should not be in any doubt.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) made one of the most powerful speeches of this debate. He speaks with personal experience of the horrors of terrorism in Northern Ireland, which few in the House can share. For that we thank God. He asks us to judge this Bill by considering whether it will create peace or whether it will defeat terrorism, but those are the wrong questions. The Bill, of itself, cannot do either.
The provisions of the Bill may assist to remove the sense of powerlessness that many in Northern Ireland feel against the ever-present threat to life, limb, happiness, family unity, safe travel and the security normally enjoyed by others in the realm. The Bill may--it is impossible to demonstrate--make it easier to prevent the commission of acts that, were we to rely upon the normal provisions of the law, would be carried out. Then, it would be too late to do anything but offer our sympathies in this House to those who have suffered and have been bereaved. Because the Bill seeks to ward off such atrocities and because law enforcement officers believe that it will have a material role in achieving that aim, we accept its unattractive provisions, which we can regard only as temporary. Parliament must review the provisions annually and reconsider their effectiveness and the manner in which they are carried out. Given the provisions in the Bill, the Democrats accept the Government's view that it is a necessary part of their armoury to defeat terrorism in this country.
I applaud and endorse the sentiments expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), not least because he drew the House's attention to the remarkable and disgraceful remarks of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) who said that the IRA does not constitute a threat to our national security. I hope that those words receive due attention and condemnation.
Ms. Short : That point has already been made by a number of Conservative Back Benchers. The hon. Gentleman does not understand that, to derogate from the convention, we must tell the world that the security of the United Kingdom is endangered by the IRA. That gives the IRA more status than my right hon. Friend and many of his hon. Friends believe is due to it. That is my right hon. Friend's argument.
Mr. Hunter : I am well aware that that is the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but I entirely reject it. The hon. Lady's intervention has given me the opportunity to do so once again. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said that the Government can never defeat terrorism, but I agree with the comments that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) made about that. I believe that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has missed the essential point--that
Column 248this measure is not the sum total of the campaign against the IRA. It is one particular, important measure. Past anti-terrorism legislation has played a significant part in controlling the curse of terrorism.
I believe that the Bill should be greatly welcomed. It is another stage in the intensification of the process against terrorism that started with the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, and continued with the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. We have listened to counter arguments from Opposition Members. I am inclined to give credence to their former colleague Lord Mason, who was recorded in The Times as saying :
"There is no telling how many lives the legislation has saved." It is right and proper that the provisions of the 1984 Act should be re-enacted.
We note Lord Colville's apprehension about part I of the Bill, which deals with proscribed organisations, but the Government rightly accepted his conclusion that it would be wrong to deproscribe. Lord Colville rejected the proposal for exclusion orders under part II, as did Sir Cyril Philips in an earlier appraisal of existing legislation. That was not the conclusion of Lord Jellicoe when he reviewed the legislation in 1983. He said that exclusion orders had "materially contributed to public safety in the United Kingdom." I was intrigued by the argument of the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) against exclusion orders, because without them surely there would be a greater flow of international terrorists into Britain. I was bewildered by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's reply to Lord Colville on that point. He wrote :
"The power to exclude someone from all or part of the United Kingdom is one of the most important powers in the prevention of terrorism legislation I believe it is right only to employ this power in cases where I am sure that excluding a person will prevent acts of terrorism."
My right hon. Friend's letter is ambiguous. I understand that paragraph to mean that he is referring only to terrorists connected with Northern Ireland and that he is not thinking of applying it generally to terrorists of other countries. Perhaps that point could be clarified in Committee.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh gave credit for part III--which deals with financial assistance for terrorism--to a journalist. There can be only an indirect connection because the recommendation first came from the Hodgson committee and it was also included in Lord Colville's report. It is basically the application of the powers in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 to terrorism and terrorist organisations.
Part IV, which deals with arrest, detention and control of entry, tackles a delicate and serious problem. However, when dealing with the exceptional circumstances of terrorism, exceptional powers must be taken. Although we note and respect the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, arguably it has overlooked the human right of the individual to look to the state for protection against terrorism.
I support virtually everything in the Bill, but I have one misgiving--the Bill's response to the increasing phenomenon of international terrorism. International co-operation exists between the anarchist and Communist cells in Europe. The Red Brigade, the Red Army Faction,
Column 249Action Direct, INLA, the CCC in Belgium and the IRA meet, conspire and co-operate ; they use the same weaponry and armaments. I have taken advice about the relevant clauses of the Bill and I understand that they do not preclude terrorists from other countries meeting in the United Kingdom to plot to carry out an act of terrorism in another country or to encourage others to do so--provided that they do not commit an act of terrorism or any triable offence in the United Kingdom. If that is correct, there is a serious loophole in the legislation that would allow the United Kingdom to be used as a base for the planning of terrorism in other countries by foreign terrorists.
That loophole could also be used by another form of international terrorism --the liberation movements, many of which have the backing of the Soviet Union and are a manifestation and an adjunct of Soviet policy. When those liberation movements commit acts of terrorism they cease to be liberation movements and instead become terrorist organisations. Some of them have offices in London. It is questionable whether the Bill gives the Government the power to prevent acts of terrorism being planned in this country by so- called liberation movements.
I welcome the Bill, although I have my doubts about whether it sufficiently tackles the phenomenon of international terrorism. I hope that some of the matters that I have raised will be discussed in greater detail in Committee.
Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood) : We have experienced the working of the Prevention of Terrorism Act since 1974, and it does not prevent terrorism. It has led to the arrest and detention of literally thousands of people who subsequently have not been charged with any offence. Since 1977, 4,358 people have been detained, of whom 3,701 have not been charged with any offence. The details of the minority who were charged show them to have been charged with offences for which they could have been arrested and charged under other legislation.
The very existence of the legislation and the way in which Irish people are harassed under it and the fear that when they travel to Ireland they might be stopped and detained causes an enormous sense of injustice, alienation and anger. I seriously believe that it enlarges the sense of grievance that the system is unfair and that there is some justification for paramilitary activity. It broadens the group of those willing to advance those arguments. There is a sense of injustice and alienation under the system.
As I have said previously in the Chamber, I was working in the Home Office when the first Bill was introduced. Indeed, on the night that it was first debated I sat in the Civil Service Box under the Gallery. The last time I said that, Hansard deleted it from the report of my speech. I should be grateful if it would leave it in this time. I do not understand why we should not refer to the fact that civil servants sit in the Box under the Gallery.
I remember that night well, because it followed the Birmingham pub bombings. I well remember those, too, because I was in Birmingham that weekend and one of the pubs bombed was used regularly by one of my brothers. When the radio reported the bombings we thought that he had been blown to bits. There was tragedy for others, but
Column 250luck for us because that did not happen to my brother. I well remember the way that the atmosphere in Birmingham turned and Irish people were blamed and attacked. As was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), who wrote a book about the miscarriage of justice for the Birmingham Six, it was the worst mass murder in British history.
The sense of anger both in this House and in the country led to an enormous demand for the restoration of capital punishment. The then Home Office Ministers feared that mood and a Bill was cobbled together, at short notice and in a short time, to appease that mood. I sat in the Box that night next to the man who had cobbled it together and we talked about it. He said that he had slung in as many ideas as he could come up with. That is the true origin of the legislation. The reasons for wanting to appease the mood and the reasons for the anger about the Birmingham pub bombings are understandable. Brian Walden, at that time the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, was asked by Home Office Ministers to make a fervent speech against capital punishment in that debate, as his speeches in this place were so famous. He made a fine speech that night, and in that case, too, the speech was set up, such was the degree of fear. That was the Bill's origin ; that was why the Labour Government put it together. It was drafted at enormous speed to appease justified anger and to buy off a demand for the return of capital punishment.
Then the legislation started to operate and we started to learn about its operation. Year after year the statistics came in showing hundreds of arrests--but no charges. The Labour party was big enough to learn from that and to realise that the Act was malfunctioning, was unnecessary and was generating injustice and a sense of injustice. My party was big enough to admit that the Act had failed and should be repealed. The Labour party is entitled to be proud of that. It is not honourable to go on doing something wrong merely because it was done before. That is dishonourable for any party or political person.
Conservative Members say that if the prevention of terrorism legislation were not in place things that we do not know about would have happened and more terrorism would have taken place. That is what they assert : we can never know it. The horrible path down which that leads is the erosion of more and more civil liberties and the use of the emotions that people feel against terrorism to justify a continuing invasion of those liberties.
I remember going to Turkey in 1983. There, members of trade unions and other political activists, such as people in the peace movement, had been arrested and beaten up in police stations. Confessions had been beaten out of them. I remember the sense of grievance and injustice in that society ; and it is to those things that this sort of argument points. These arguments are dangerous. Conservative Members--and the Home Secretary tonight--continually tell us that there would be more terrorism without this legislation. That is a circular argument of which there is no proof.
The paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland is a dreadful tragedy. I feel deeply about all the bombs and all the innocent people who are slaughtered because I feel strongly about the politics of Northern Ireland and the need for a peaceful settlement there. My father came from Northern Ireland and that was part of my route into politics. I believe that, especially now, the IRA's activities are absolutely counter-productive to achieving its declared
Column 251aim--the reunification of Ireland. Its members should stop their campaign, go for political activity and seek unity with the Unionist community in Northern Ireland--because all the people who live in Ireland must share. The IRA is wrong. I want a united Ireland because I want peace and justice in Ireland. But I also understand why mostly young men--and some young women--in Northern Ireland are willing to join paramilitary organisations. Their sense of grievance and injustice and their belief that Britain will not listen, so there is no political route to justice, makes them willing to engage in paramilitary violence.
This violence comes from both sides of the community. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) showed that about 64 per cent. of the deaths are the responsibility of Republican organisations and 27 per cent. that of Loyalist paramilitary organisations. The hon. Gentleman would not allow me to intervene in his speech. I wanted to ask why he was willing to parade with members of Loyalist paramilitary organisations while denouncing violence. But it is all a tragedy that must be brought to an end. When I was in Northern Ireland a couple of months ago I found that people who would count themselves as firm Republicans were criticising the tactics, strategies and activities of the IRA more severely than ever before. That gave me great hope. Anyone who follows these matters and reads the literature knows that a debate has been growing up within Sinn Fein. I am sure that it was hastened by the SDLP talks with Sinn Fein ; I honour the SDLP for having gone into those talks to determine whether the violence could be brought to an end. This growing debate has concerned whether Sinn Fein should stop what it calls the offensive use of force. I desperately want that to be encouraged. I want people in Northern Ireland who feel aggrieved and who want a united Ireland to work politically for that aim and to believe that it is possible.
The sort of measures that the Government have brought in in recent months weaken the argument for political action. The broadcasting ban, the ending of the right to silence, and so on, make those who oppose political campaigning tell the others not to be silly, because the British Government will not allow them to be politically active. They will tell them to look at the new oath that must be taken and at all the other changes, concluding that the Brits understand only one thing : soldiers going home in coffins. That is a nasty argument, but it is the one used. Decent people put forward such arguments. If we want to stop violence and terrorism, we have to try to understand why people engage in it. We must win people over to politics within which there is space for them to express their views fairly. Legislation such as this leads to all sorts of young people being picked up, interrogated and unjustly detained, and that makes them angry and willing to support, vote for and, in some cases, join and be active in paramilitary organisations.
The series of measures introduced in recent weeks by the Government is a package that has been cobbled together in the same way as was the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, which was brought forward to appease the public mood after the Birmingham pub bombings, after which the Prime Minister asked for political initiatives of any kind. It is highly likely that this package and the anger about it will lead to an escalation of violence in Northern Ireland. I fear and expect that
Column 252more people will die as a consequence of these measures. Most politicians rarely visit Northern Ireland and do not care a damn about the violence there--as long as it is contained there. It is almost useful to be able to pontificate about terrorism and to denounce it. I regret to say that I sincerely believe that most politicians in the House do not care about Northern Ireland or about the dreadful fact that these measures are likely to lead to more violence there.
The Home Secretary, who is unlike most other members of the Government, gave a fair presentation of the case for his Bill this evening. But it is usual Tory tactics to try to smear the Labour party. Tory Members continually smear those of us who honestly believe that this sort of legislation is counter-productive ; so does the nasty press, which supports them and is owned by their friends. The argument runs that if we are against a measure entitled "The Prevention of Terrorism Act" we must be in favour of terrorism. That is a lie, but Tories deliberately use it all the time for political ends. Given all that, I cannot and will not back off and lend my support to these indefensible and counter-productive measures which are likely to lead to an increase in terrorism and paramilitary violence. I am unlikely to be swayed by the threat of this sort of smear argument.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) made a superb speech in which he put the case against the Bill extremely well. Indeed, his speech could not have been bettered, but I believe that my party's tactics tonight are extremely foolish and will send out a muddled message from the House about the Labour party's position on the prevention of terrorism. I, like others, am not in principle against action to take away the property of paramilitary organisations that has been improperly obtained. I am worried about the provisions in the Bill which say that someone has to prove that he did not come across property illicitly.
Not long ago a woman whose husband's shop went bust came to my advice bureau. Her husband had engaged in some drug selling and was arrested and imprisoned. The authorities threatened to take away her house in which she lived with her children. I am not in favour of that sort of thing. I am perfectly willing to look at the principle, but we must also look at the details. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook said, putting the onus of proof on the person whose property is to be confiscated is wrong.
The Labour party's decision on the Bill was caused by Tory smears and lies and I am afraid that the Labour party gave in to that. We should not give in on such serious matters because of smears and attacks made in the press, or we will end up going ever backwards and defending the indefensible. I deeply regret that my party gave in to that. I respect the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, but I shall vote against the Bill, as will many of my hon. Friends. The measure is counter- productive.
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : Before the hon. Lady finishes her speech, perhaps she could address her mind to a problem that I face. I walked behind a policeman's coffin the other day. The brother of that policeman's widow was murdered a few years ago as well. The hon. Lady has said much about her worries about persons being harassed. Will she tell the House and my constituents what she would deliver to the widow and the
Column 253orphans? Other hon. Members are trying to raise other matters, but I am asking a straightforward question and I am sure that I will get a straightforward answer.
Ms. Short : I apologise to hon. Members who are waiting to take part in the debate. If the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) had been listening to my speech he would know my answer. Those deaths are tragedies and each one is a personal tragedy in whichever community it occurs. I desperately want to see peace for all the people of Northern Ireland. The Bill will escalate the violence and will not bring peace. That is my sincerely held view. As I say, I shall vote against Second Reading.
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West) : I admire the determination of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short). We appreciate her point of view and her determination to put it forward, and we respect her conviction. However, like many of my hon. Friends, I disagree with what she said. She was correct to say that probably many people outside will interpret the stand taken by Labour Front-Bench Members as being the result of pressure from Conservatives. I would put it further. It is the result of public opinion and the real horrors of terrorism which, I accept, all hon. Members reject. The difference between the hon. Lady and many of her hon. Friends and Conservative Members is that we feel that we have to give the police the tools to deal with terrorism. That is why the Bill is necessary.
I am afraid that the Labour party shows a cavalier attitude to the safety of the British people and an inability ever to unite to formulate a coherent and strong anti-terrorist policy. Every Government must be prepared to have a policy to protect its citizens. Many Northern Ireland Members have spoken from the bottom of their hearts and have almost pleaded with the House to ensure that the security forces in Northern Ireland have the tools to do the job. We must give the police the powers that they need to fight terrorism. The fig leaf offered by the Opposition of partial agreement to the Bill is not enough.
We have to look at the nature of terrorism. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) advised us that we could use the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to deal with detentions so that the police could inquire into terrorist activities. We are not dealing with ordinary crime. There is a fundamental difference between criminals who commit offences for personal gain and terrorists who commit acts of violence to perpetuate a cause. The terrorist is blind to reason or compassion and sees the gun and the bomb as his only way to overcome constitutional law and achieve his ends. The ordinary criminal is out for personal gain and, as I say, the difference between the two is fundamental.
We have to look at the people we are dealing with when we talk about interviewing terrorist suspects. Many terrorists, and especially those in the IRA, are trained in Northern Ireland and some of them have experience of camps in Syria and the Lebanon. They are trained by the PLO or by other Palestinian organisations. One of the fundamental parts of their training is the ability to resist interrogation by the security forces, police or military. We are dealing with an extraordinary type of person, and that requires extraordinary measures.
Column 254Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen are not listening. Perhaps if they did they might learn something. They advocate the use of the normal courts to deal with persons charged with terrorist offences. They say that we should forget the Diplock courts and that if we do not have the evidence we should not use the exclusion orders which are a fundamental part of the Bill. The Opposition forget, but I am sure that my friends from Northern Ireland will remind them, that in Northern Ireland witnesses will not come to court to give evidence in the way that witnesses do in the rest of the United Kingdom in the normal course of judicial proceedings. That is because of intimidation and the threats of violence towards the families of witnesses. We are not dealing with normal judicial proceedings, and that is why extraordinary measures have to be used. The Bill is one such measure.
My right hon. and hon. Friends who will take the Bill through Committee will have a major problem in dealing with the decision by the European Court of Human Rights. Before I deal with that, it is worth mentioning that in a way the decision of that court is typical of the problem facing the forces of law and order in dealing with terrorism in the United Kingdom. Four men applied for judgment, first by the European Commission and then by the European Court. Terence Brogan was suspected of killing two police officers. Dermot Coyle was responsible for bomb attacks, especially in Tyrone. William McFadden was suspected of murdering two soldiers. Michael Tracey was involved in several armed robbery offences.
The fifth man who went with them was called Charles English. His case was withdrawn fron the European Court after he was killed when a rifle-launched grenade exploded prematurely. The newspaper of the Republican movement described him as an active service volunteer in the Derry brigade with 21 years' experience. The problem for the forces of law and order was that witnesses would not come forward to give evidence in such cases.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has two options. He could introduce judicial intervention to get round the problems posed by article 5(3), which sets out the need to get a suspect before a court as promptly as possible. My right hon. Friend should remember that, before the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, suspects being interviewed at length by the police were regularly taken before magistrates when requests for detention for further investigation were made. That procedure could be restored. My right hon. Friend will have my support if he introduces that or some alternative to derogation.
We should remember that the British Government have twice asked for derogation from decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. In 1971, the Conservative Government asked for a derogation on internment. In December 1978, the Labour Government asked for a derogation in relation to the powers that were included in the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978. That Act would not have got through the House had it not been for the support of the Conservative Opposition, because 35 Labour Members voted against it. Tonight many Labour Members will vote against this Bill. Their opposition is nothing recent. It goes back over 10 years.
My right hon. Friend has no guidance from the European Commission or from the court. The Commission said that four days' detention without coming before a court is perfectly all right, but that five days is not. The case was taken to the full court. Although it agreed with the Commission, it gave no reasons for its