|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 255decision. So there is no guidance on how long the court believes a suspect may be held before being taken before a court. But my right hon. and hon. Friends will have my full support in dealing with the problems posed by article 5(3). We must provide protection for the British public.
The powers of exclusion have also attracted much opposition. I endorse the Home Secretary's views. If a prisoner deliberately tells the inmates of that prison, whether it be the Maze or anywhere else, that on his release he intends to bomb and kill, what are the forces of law and order expected to do? Should they ignore that? Are they supposed to allow him free access into the country so that he may form part of a cell, bury himself in a city here and slowly plan a bombing campaign?
Some hon. Members have said that no European country has similar legislation. In France, a convicted terrorist is required to reside in a special place for between two and 10 years. There is a similar restriction in Italy, with the added requirement of reporting to the police regularly. There is a great need for such protection. We should be able to know that terrorists, whether they be Libyans, Iranians, Iraqis or members of the IRA, can be excluded from Britain.
The fact that we need such a Bill is borne out by the events concerning my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, whose life was threatened by an IRA cell, by the 1981 bombing campaign in seaside resorts, which was foiled, by the Arab who tried to blow up an El Al jet at Heathrow airport and by the murders of WPC Yvonne Fletcher outside the Libyan embassy and the Israeli ambassador.
No one knows better than Conservative Members that extraordinary measures are needed to deal with an extraordinary problem. I am afraid that the official Opposition are offering nothing to the public tonight. We offer the police of this country the tools to combat terrorism. I have no doubt that my right hon. and hon. Friends are pursuing the right course in bringing the Bill before the House. 9.4 pm
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough) : Time is short and I will try to restrict my remarks so that someone else may speak. The prevention of terrorism legislation has been utterly useless. It has not prevented any terrorism. It has deepened the intensity of feeling in Ireland generally and in Northern Ireland in the minority community in particular. The legislation was born in the political climate of fear with a determination to wreak vengeance against someone.
I was in the Chamber that night when the first Prevention of Terrorism Bill was introduced. To its shame, the original Bill was a Labour Bill and it pandered to the hysteria at the time. Some Labour Members were completely against it. Indeed, one or two Labour Members from the midlands were physically frightened to oppose the legislation because they had to go back to their constituencies. They were afraid to vote against it although many of us wanted to do that.
Not only has this legislation failed to stem terrorism, it has increased it. Ordinary criminal law can handle those cases. It is well known in this place that the Government are now deeply committed to what the Labour Government realised was an error on their part. I share the
Column 256view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) about what is happening in the Labour party. This appalling Bill is pregnant with injustice and vendetta. It first appeared in 1974 when, as I have said, many hon. Members were afraid to express their views about it, although some did. They were not simply afraid to do that in the party; they were afraid of the reaction in their constituencies. Some hon. Members were frightened about what their management committees might say-- [Interruption.] It is rude to interrupt when I have only a few minutes to speak. I have argued against people like the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) for years because they are responsible for all this. The lack of democracy in Northern Ireland spawned the IRA. The deadly enemy of terrorism is not security measures, although they are important. The deadly enemy is democracy. The lack of democracy in Northern Ireland was caused by people like the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and his colleagues and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and his friends. They still want to return to that situation which spawned the IRA when they attacked the march against the lack of justice and democracy in Northern Ireland. Those people know that as well as I do. The powers of arrest and detention were described by the former right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead, now Lord Jenkins, as draconian.
I want to give my view about what my party has just done. I am at a total loss to understand how anyone could table a reasoned amendment--God knows what an unreasoned amendment might be--which justifies not voting against the Bill. Reasoned amendments like that to the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill yesterday and the one tonight should really cause us to vote against the Bill. I will be voting for the reasoned amendment, as I have done over the past 14 or 15 years, and I will vote against Second Reading because the Bill is draconian and causes terror and misery to many honest Irish people. That misery is caused by the people who want to go back to Stormont and the old policies which caused all the trouble. 9.10 pm
Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and others who have spoken briefly. I know that there is great passion among many hon. Members and they could have spoken for longer
There is always great sadness in the House when we discuss matters similar to this. We remember atrocities, murders and mourning and we even remember murders at times of mourning, at funerals and on Remembrance day. Those of us who know Ulster--and it is a part of the world that I love--know how terrorism is a cancer that infects an otherwise beautiful country. It is a disease, but it surprises many people who visit Ulster that they do not find everywhere they look evidence of atrocities. However, they know, as we do, that those atrocities and the danger of terrorism is never far away. On top of death and destruction, the threat scares away investors and employers, reduces the already poor employment opportunities and decreases the ability of the country to recover economically.
Yet Opposition Members have said that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act has failed
Column 257because terrorism continues. That is madness. That is the type of argument that seeks to ban preventive medicine because disease has not been fully conquered, or ridicules home security because burglaries are still perpetrated, or bans prisons because they do not eradicate crime completely.
Those whose madness stretches to their tragic and pointless suicides in the hunger strike or leads to their self-humiliation in the dirty protest cannot be stopped completely by anything. Their belief and passion are fuelled by actions against them and they believe that they are right. Those who are dedicated to their cause believe that they are right, but I do not include here those who exploit that cause through fraud, theft, protection rackets and the like for personal greed. Those who have that passion for their cause will, of course, react against this Bill and against anything that tries to stop them and keep them within the law. Is that a reason for us not to introduce such legislation?
Our democracy allows for disparate views. What distances these people, and why we must do all that we can to counter them, is that they do not accept democracy and will not wait for a majority view in Northern Ireland, which might unite North and South. They will murder and maim to exercise a warped demonstration of their power--the power of the gunman over the unarmed and of the bomber over the school child, grandfather or farmer. Is that the way to gain respect or to win men's minds?
At least the Bill is a genuine and decent attempt to try to prevent terrorism and has not been introduced by skulking in bushes or with the benefit of hundreds of yards of wire. It has been introduced not in a cowardly or secretive way but in the full glare of parliamentary publicity and in open debate. That is democracy at work and it is anathema to terrorists. I welcome the Bill and I accept that limitations on liberty, such as the exclusion order, have not been taken lightly. We consider infringements of human rights carefully, but I know that many hon. Members would rather consider the human rights of those who have been killed or maimed horribly in the streets, in shops, in pubs, discotheques and even in public places such as the London streets during Christmas shopping.
The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland) and the great majority of senior police officers are said by Lord Colville to support the continued use of exclusion powers. Without exclusion powers, they would not have the physical resources to provide surveillance for all suspected Irish terrorists who might arrive. The retention of powers is regrettable, but essential. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) talked about the inconvenience, anger and bitterness felt by those who are stopped when travelling, those who are searched and who feel fear. I was stopped and searched once, not long ago, and I felt fear. Yet I was on the side of the security forces. I can understand what people must feel if they harbour republican views in their hearts. But we are implementing this legislation not because we like it or out of a sense of strange or quirky
Column 258authoritarianism. We are implementing it because we have a responsibility for all the people of the United Kingdom, including the peaceful people in Ulster.
There was a streak of remarkable honesty in the speech made by the hon. Member for Ladywood. There was a most impressive speech from the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)--one of the most impressive that I have heard from him. There was also a moving speech from the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). A debate of this sort is capable of lifting people to heights that we sometimes do not recognise.
This new Bill and its new powers will make a contribution towards peace and will at least stop us from apparent sterility in the battle against terrorism. I thoroughly approve of the financial assistance powers included in it. The onus of proof against those who are suspected of having collected money for terrorism is absolutely vital. It has been shown to work in the Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986. When I served on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, I recommended the measure and I am pleased that it has been such a success. If such measures help to stop the money flowing in from Noraid--with its misguided loyalty from those of Irish origins who wallow in the nostalgia of an Ireland long past, and for whom the details of death are dulled by distance--and if we can manage to stop other collections for terrorist purposes, we will have made a contribution in this battle.
I end by saying that terrorists are not freedom fighters. They have, if they want, freedom to act within the law, as we all do. Terrorists are anti -freedom fighters. They are anti-democratic. I hope that the Bill will help to preserve the freedoms that we hold dear and that we wish to protect for all the people of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South) : I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and to the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) for making much shorter speeches than they had planned, which has allowed me to be the last Back Bencher to have five minutes in which to make his speech, thus discarding nine tenths of the speech that I had intended to make. As a west midlands Member, I can remember vividly the events of 21 November 1974--those horrendous events that precipitated the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974. It is true that it was hastily conceived, but it was greatly demanded and supported. I feel no sense of guilt at having supported it.
However, having heard the debate and listened and read a great deal over the years, I feel that the Prevention of Terrorism Act has been nowhere near as central in the fight against terrorism or as positive as some Conservative Members have argued, nor, conversely, has it been as dangerous and superfluous as some of its critics have maintained. I have been reading carefully a book on the law and the prevention of terrorism by Clive Walker, which largely comes to the same conclusion.
Terrorism will increase, new groups will emerge and the fight against terrorism will become even more difficult in the future. Those who, in the dim and distant days of the early 1970s, hoped that the legislation would need to be merely temporary have had their naivety ruthlessly exposed.
Column 259We will never defeat terrorism. However successful we are in fighting it nationally and internationally, it will be with us for decades, or for as long as the human race exists. In our fight against terrorism it is vital that we pursue democratic means and maintain international co-operation, despite the many stresses. Whatever the criticism of Belgium, I do not think that any Prime Minister should receive such a public dressing down as Mr. Martens received. When Queen Victoria said of Gladstone,
"He addresses me as though I were a public meeting"
perhaps she had a foretaste of things to come.
Despite the crises and pressures, we must co-operate
internationally because that is the only way to minimise terrorism. That is why we should comply with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights. We cannot expect co-operation on some issues if we deny it on others. Other countries have complied. Spain had far more draconian laws regarding the powers of arrest than we have. Indeed, until last year it was possible to hold a suspect incommunicado for 10 days. That period is now five days, and the suspect must then appear before an examining magistrate. I believe that we should comply also.
I spoke today to Professor Paul Wilkinson, who is probably the leading academic expert on terrorism in this country. He takes a sane view on the problems of dealing with terrorism and suggested a way in which we might comply, which I hope will be considered carefully. He proposes a prevention of terrorism tribunal, with three senior judges who have great experience in dealing with terrorism. That would introduce a judicial element into the process. The tribunal could advise the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Home Secretary on reviewing legislation regarding the prevention of terrorism. It would provide a more regularised and systematic method of monitoring than we have at present. Above all, it would allow the police to go to the tribunal to request an increase in the number of days for which they could hold a suspect without formally charging him. That is possible, if the Home Secretary is prepared to be flexible.
I endorse those clauses that deal with the financing of terrorism. I had hoped that James Adams' book on the financing of terrorism would be reflected in the Bill. Some of these organisations are similar to multinational corporations. There is robbery, extortion, gambling, drinking, ripping off the state and setting up companies such as taxi firms and security firms. It is wrong to argue that Noraid and Gaddafi are the paymasters of the IRA. Infinitely more money is generated by the methods that I have mentioned.
The PLO is top of the league. Its assets are reputed to be in excess of $15 billion, with investments in property and impressive investment portfolios. It has property and farms and it is involved in all sorts of enterprises, which proves that the enterprise spirit has perhaps infected that organisation. We should hit them where it hurts. Clausewitz said that moneys are the sinews of war. If we use the experience of the USA and its experience in dealing with the mob and apply the techniques that are included in the Bill, despite its defects, we shall be more successful.
In his book James Adams said :
"As much effort should be devoted to tracing the sources of money--the bank accounts and the investments of terrorist organisations--as is spent on countering the bomber and the assassin."
Column 260The old Chinese proverb,
"Kill one and frighten 10,000,"
is regrettably valid. The costs of terrorism are high, but the costs of not getting the fight against terrorism right are even higher.
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) : There can be few more important debates than the one we are conducting today. It has been a thoroughly good debate. I have learnt a great deal from it. The Bill penetrates to the heart of our constitution--how we conduct and maintain our democratic system in the face of threats, bombs and bullets, which are the methods of the terrorists, whom all hon. Members despise.
How, then, shall we be able to preserve our historic and hard-won rights and freedoms while at the same time successfully confronting and overcoming those who would use violence as a political weapon? Many of these rights and liberties have become the hallmark of decent, civilised and democratic societies. They include the right to freedom from arbitrary arrest and from detention without trial, the right to freedom of speech and assembly and free political activities under the law--the freedom under the law, of which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) reminded the House.
These core freedoms and liberties of citizens are more important than any of the other matters that we discuss in this place. They are more vital than any of the other items in the Gracious Speech. Without them, we cease to be capable of controlling our political destiny. We shall be unable to speak freely, to organise ourselves politically or to advance our political arguments openly, and thereby persuade our people that we are worthy of their trust, hope and support.
In all democracies the threat to those core freedoms often comes from the direction of a restrictive executive power that believes that liberty means licence, that free expression breeds disorder and, above all, that individual rights and liberties can be sacrificed for some greater good-- some desirable goal that the nation must achieve at whatever cost, whatever price. Too often such Governments promise that the loss of rights and liberties will be only for the short term, for emergency periods only, or just as an interim measure until the national goal has been achieved. The lessons of history teach us that for power-hungry executives "temporary" becomes "permanent" and that Governments rarely willingly give back to Parliaments and people what they have taken away. Normally those rights and liberties have to be campaigned for with the utmost vigour if they are ever to be genuinely restored to the people.
We on this side of the House view with dismay the Government's decision to give the prevention of terrorism provisions a permanent place on the statute book. That is clear from our reasoned amendment. First, it represents a further encroachment on the rights and liberties of all the people of our country. It is a further step down a tragic path to a less democratic and a less free society. Secondly, we see it as the sign of a Government who have, perhaps inadvertently, given in to terrorism. I do not say that in a petty or particularly partisan fashion because, by and large, the debate has tried to steer away from that level. Former Governments, both Labour and Conservative, have introduced and perpetuated preventive
Column 261measures to counter terrorism because they genuinely believed that they were the correct and appropriate responses at that time. Most of us still remember that ghastly night of the Birmingham pub bombings that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) described with such poignancy. We remember the outcry for action that was part of the aftermath and horror felt when so many innocent men and women were cruelly slain. Year after year we have seen similar cowardly attacks that have wrecked innocent lives. As I have said, we can understand why some Governments acted in that way. However, time goes on and the world has changed in many respects since the draconian powers of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 were passed through the House as a temporary measure. That was 14 years ago and surely it is now time for a proper re-evaluation.
The Opposition believe that the time is right for a dramatic change in the way in which we combat and defeat terrorism. The way in which the Government now orchestrate their policies is profoundly counter-productive. I do not doubt that the Home Secretary genuinely believes--as do many Conservative Members--that passing the Bill through the House will do something to prevent terrorism. The Opposition do not agree. Time has not stood still, and we have argued that our knowledge of and capacity to combat terrorism has improved dramatically over those 14 years.
At the time of the Birmingham pub bombings the police were relatively inexperienced compared to their proficiency today. It is now a very different ball game. Not only has the professionalism of the police and the armed forces in Northern Ireland improved, but criminal law has altered quite dramatically under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Those two factors alone are crucial in the case for ridding ourselves of the prevention of terrorism provisions.
Perhaps more significant than the practical differences is the fact that we have now learnt much more about the terrorist mind. Several hon. Members have referred to that. Most significantly, we have discovered that it is the repressive counter measures introduced by the Government and the reduction and curtailment of ordinary people's rights that the terrorist sees and celebrates as a sign of his success. The more repressive and draconian the measure and the legislative and Executive response, the better the terrorist likes it. That is the truth, and many hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with that.
The hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) talked about wanting tough, resolute and determined measures. The Opposition want them too. However, we profoundly disagree about the way in which to achieve them. The oxygen of repressive legislation, not the oxygen of publicity, is what terrorists crave and that is what they get from the Government in increasingly large doses.
We believe that it is time to stop feeding the terrorist habit, to cut off the supply of oxygen and steadily to return to the relative normality of combating terrorism vigorously using the weapons available under the normal criminal law--not a special law for terrorists, but that which applies to every man and woman in the land. To do
Column 262so would be a far more effective way of fighting terrorism and it would simultaneously arrest the increasing pressures on the rights and liberties of our people. We would have two for the price of one. Those pressures apply not just to the rights directly affected by the powers granted under such Bills. The rights affected are not merely the direct rights in Northern Ireland. The restriction of the rights and freedoms of some of our people cannot be isolated and contained in one part of the United Kingdom.
Time and again restrictions have been introduced initially in Northern Ireland and then spread to the rest of the United Kingdom. The removal of the right to silence is a case in point. It was removed in the House almost by stealth at night a few weeks ago. A few days later the Home Secretary was reviewing and looking favourably on removing the right to silence in the rest of the United Kingdom. The right to trial by jury was replaced by the Diplock courts in Northern Ireland. We heard on the radio only this morning that it finds favour with the Home Secretary in certain cases in British courts.
Finally, the censorship of the media, so arrogantly imposed by the Government on Northern Ireland, has distinct parallels with the insidious developments in the media in the rest of the country. At times it would appear that Northern Ireland is used as a test bed for legislation that the Government hanker to apply more widely to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Bill shows the Government at their very worst. It shows us a Government no longer able to think clearly about the problems they seek to confront, a Government reduced to what Simon Jenkins in The Sunday Times last Sunday described as :
"Blitzing the political agenda with an array of anti-IRA measures which seem wholly unjustified by any new public terror or threat thereof."
Mr. Jenkins seems to understand, and the Government fail to comprehend, that so much of this activity may produce the opposite effects to those intended and desired. As Mr. Jenkins notes : "One last push against terrorism may be a good slogan but hurling more money and more laws at the IRA graces it with a mantle of aspiring tyranny which it ill-deserves."
We do not anticipate the Government changing their mind this evening. We do not anticipate a Pauline conversion. However, the Government have been given a very interesting opportunity. Before they use their majority to bludgeon the Bill through the House and through Committee, we appeal to them to seize the opportunity uniquely presented by two occurrences.
First, the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights gives them perfectly good justification for ditching a whole section of the Bill that the Opposition find so regrettable. The European Court of Human Rights has given the Home Secretary the opportunity to say, "We will obey and we will conform. We will not dodge, we will not fudge ; we will change the British law." One section of the Bill would be removed and that would give us far greater respect and co-operation internationally.
The Home Secretary knows that such a sign of international co-operation in Europe will do a great deal to mend the fences that have been torn down by the behaviour of the Prime Minister recently. We will get far greater respect if we conform to the European Court. That would also restore the fundamental right of our people not to be put into detention without being charged. The Government have failed to comply with the recommendations of two--not just one--independent assessors of the
Column 263working of the former Acts. The Home Secretary was partial in his quotations from Lord Colville's strong recommendation. Lord Colville is not exactly a radical figure. He is a former Conservative Minister of State. On exclusion powers, he found on two occasions that the right thing to say was
"I review my recommendation made in the annual report on the Act for 1986 that part II of the Act should not be renewed in 1988 or not replaced in the new Bill".
The Home Secretary appears to be a liberal Home Secretary. In the salons and exclusive dining rooms of London he is regarded as one of the remaining civilised members of the Conservative Cabinet. But, for all the image that he may project, he is presiding over the whittling away of and damage to rights and civil rights in this country--the worst that has occurred under any Home Secretary this century. If the Government bow to the judgment of the European Court on the requirement that anyone arrested on suspicion of terrorist acts must be taken promptly before a court, and if they bow to their own independent assessor, Lord Colville, on the iniquitous power to exclude United Kingdom citizens from certain parts of their own country-- part of the United Kingdom--what point would there be in the Bill with the heart ripped out of it? We would be able to cover the other aspects of the Bill in a quite different way.
Opposition Members support powers to confiscate terrorist funds of those who are likely to provide help and sustenance to the IRA and other terrorist organisations, whether they be in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the world. We want to look closely at the fine detail of how the Government intend to proceed, because there are some real difficulties in the way in which that can be carried out. We also oppose the proposal to grant terrorists the very separate status that the Prime Minister has so many times said that she wishes to avoid giving members of the IRA, whether or not they are convicted members. We will oppose a separate status under a new system of remission on prison sentences. Such matters will be debated in Committee.
Having been closely involved in it, Mr. Speaker, you will know that we are in the last three weeks of our celebration of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
Mr. Lawrence rose--
We are in the last three weeks of the celebration of the Glorious Revolution of 1688, which produced the Bill of Rights. We must remember that that event was directed against the executive tyranny of James II. Surely in this tercentenary year we cannot repudiate our long-cherished rights of citizens against star chambers and autocratic Governments. We hear much from the Government about individual freedom. They talk of lifting Government restrictions on liberty. However, such talk is always limited to economic life. We owe it to those who, for 300 years, have been committed to individual freedom and rights in political life to be true to that heritage. We, the first nation to recognise the basic rights of citizens--men and women
Column 264--must not after 300 years repudiate those fundamental principles. Our reasoned amendment gives Conservative Members the opportunity to vote against the Bill and to join Opposition Members in the Lobby this evening.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Ian Stewart) : I have pages and pages of detailed notes about many of the technical aspects of the Bill, but I assure the House that I do not propose to read through them.
None of us who has taken part in this debate has perhaps had as much time as we might have chosen, but at least that makes us concentrate on the essence of the question that the House is considering. If the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) were present, I should like to say to her that neither my right hon. Friend nor I have made any smear about the Labour party supporting terrorism. Our criticism, which is entirely valid, as this debate has shown, is that, although we have spent another day on the whole question of the prevention of terrorism legislation, we have not heard from Labour Front-Bench or Back-Bench Members any serious arguments to counter the points made by my right hon. Friend today and all Ministers who have ever spoken on this legislation over the past 14 years about the need for special legislation to deal with the special circumstances caused by the campaign of terrorism in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
Last night the Opposition acted in three different ways on the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill. Some voted for a reasoned amendment, others voted against the Bill, and some abstained from voting on Second Reading. I have listened to almost everything said during this debate and it sounds as though much the same sort of performance will take place tonight. The reason is not that these matters have not been fully aired during our debates, but that Opposition Members seem to have been addressing the wrong question. They have argued that this or that part of the prevention of terrorism legislation has caused this or that difficulty in certain respects, but they have systematically failed to deploy any case against the overwhelming arguments in favour of having special provisions to deal with the unusual and unwelcome circumstances in Northern Ireland and of terrorism generally. I wish that that were not so and that we had a much more united House on this subject. To the world outside and to the men of violence, a much more unanimous approach would convey a stronger message, particularly as many Opposition Members supported legislation of this kind when they were in government.
It is no good the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) or the hon. Member for Ladywood saying that the whole of the prevention of terrorism legislation was some sort of instantaneous response to the Birmingham pub bombing, that it was spatchcocked at the last minute and so, by implication, the Labour Government gave no serious thought to what it contained. Of course they did. They would not have re-enacted it in 1976 if they had not given serious thought to what it contained. Naturally some aspects of the original legislation may have been put together in a hurry, but I do not blame them for that. Under the pressure of public opinion and the practical need to do something to deal with the terrorist threat at that time they had to accept that legislation of an exceptional character had to be
Column 265introduced. They did that and they should be given credit for having done so. But after a year of so they reappraised the matter and brought forward a more considered Bill, which they tidied up, and that is the legislation that has been on the statute book in substantially similar terms ever since. They cannot get away from that.
Mr. Lawrence : Unfortunately, I could not be present throughout the debate. Did my hon. Friend, who has valiantly been here throughout, hear any Opposition Front-Bench spokesman pledge to repeal the legislation, because I think that they have undertaken to do so in their manifesto?
Mr. Stewart : I shall have to look in Hansard tomorrow to see whether any such passage appears in the speeches. The important point is not so much what the Opposition might do in office, but that, if they treat legislation in the way that they are treating this legislation, they will have no right ever to hold office again. It is an important test of a responsible Opposition that they should look at the central purpose of legislation before deciding to vote against it or to produce what is called a reasoned amendment.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) rehearsed in slightly different terms some comments that he has made from time to time about security measures not solving the problems of Northern Ireland. Of course, security measures alone will not solve the problems of Northern Ireland, but that is an entirely different argument from saying that we do not need security measures at all. If we were to abandon the sort of security measures that are represented by this legislation, there would be an immediate and uncontrollable situation which at present is substantially contained by the powers that are available to the Government.
I want to emphasise something that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has said on a number of occasions : that our approach to the future of Northern Ireland and the situation there does not simply include security. Of course, security matters dominate the headlines. I am afraid that that is inevitable. But we should not overlook the fact that Northern Ireland's future depends on economic, social and political progress and on elected representatives taking a more direct part in Northern Ireland's political life. All those things we want to see, but to suggest that merely because security measures alone will not solve all those problems security measures by definition are not needed is a travesty.
The British people, and the people of Northern Ireland in particular, owe the security forces a tremendous debt of gratitude. Every day, members of the RUC and the UDR, in addition to the regular British armed forces, put their lives at risk to protect the community, and the threat against them does not end when they go off duty. They face constant danger, and we ask them to risk their lives on our behalf so that the cycle of violence may be broken. I am sure that the House will join me in paying tribute to the brave men and women of the Northern Ireland security forces, especially those who have died or been injured in the course of their work or the duties that they perform.
The aim of the Bill is to give those to whom we entrust the rule of law in Northern Ireland the powers that they
Column 266need to defend society from the brutality of the terrorist. Nowhere is it more important for us to do that than in Northern Ireland. We should not doubt the scale and nature of the terrorist threat. There have been substantial finds since the beginning of this year. The RUC has so far recovered 500 weapons, nearly 90,000 rounds of ammunition and more than 9,000 lb. of explosives. In the south, the Garda has found nearly 300 weapons, 140,000 rounds of ammunition and 1,100 lb. of explosives. I pay tribute to the work of the Garda Commissioner and his force, as well as to the RUC, for their success this year in seizing terrorist munitions. These are good finds, but the serious threat remains. That is why we need to review the prevention of terrorism provisions. They are not permanent, as has been suggested by some Opposition Members during this debate. Mr. Maginnis rose--
Mr. Stewart : I am short of time, so I shall not give way. The provisions will be renewable in whole or in part each year and any part which is not renewed will then fall. The need for regular scrutiny has been accepted by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. There has recently been a major review by Lord Colville, which has been much quoted in this debate and has been of great value.
The effectiveness of such measures cannot be proved or disproved by statistics of either incidents or convictions. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) suggested that the Anglo-Irish Agreement had led to a significant increase in violence. If he wants to talk in statistics, I must tell him that in 1986, the year after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, in Northern Ireland there were 61 deaths from terrorism and 172 explosions. In 1984, the year before the Anglo-Irish Agreement, there were 64 deaths from terrorism and 193 explosions--higher by about 10 per cent.
Mr. Maginnis rose--
Mr. Maginnis : If the hon. Gentleman wishes to quote statistics, will he listen to someone who knows those statistics off by heart? Does he realise that the year before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was not 1984, but 1985, and that there were 47 terrorist killings in that year? There had been a constant decrease in terrorist killings from 1981, when there were 101. In every year since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, the death toll has risen--from 47 in 1985, to 59 in 1986, to 80 in 1987 and to 84 up to 15 November of this year. The hon. Gentleman should be accurate if he quotes statistics.
Mr. Stewart : I said that the statistics for deaths from terrorism and for explosions in 1986, which was the year after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, were both lower than the figures for 1984, which was the year before the agreement was signed. I merely say that because it is a fact, and I believe that it shows that statistics cannot be used to demonstrate such trends. I say, too, that the exact number of incidents, convictions or explosions from year to year cannot in any sense represent the effectiveness of the prevention of terrorism legislation, because the most important, continuing factor in the level of terrorism is the capability and the determination of the terrorists together
Column 267with the level of resources acquired. We all know that in recent years the terrorists have received substantial supplies of arms and explosives from Libya and elsewhere, which is a major part of the threat faced by the security forces.
Remission is a new element in the Bill, which especially relates to Northern Ireland. Under the current arrangements, a person serving a fixed sentence in Northern Ireland for a terrorist offence would, as a matter of course, be released earlier than if he had committed the same offence and received the same sentence elsewhere in the United Kingdom. In the light of experience of reinvolvement, we do not believe that that should be allowed to continue. The changes in remission are being made against a background of increasing terrorist violence. We have found that a significant proportion of people released from prison on remission have become reinvolved. However, I emphasise that, unless they commit a new scheduled offence after release, none of the existing prison population and no one awaiting trial in Northern Ireland will be affected by the new provisions, because the one third remission and the new rules of reactivated remission will apply only for scheduled offences committed after the Bill is enacted. As I have heard suggestions to the contrary, I should also add that the changes will have no effect on prisoners held at the Secretary of State's pleasure or on lifers. They apply only to determinate sentences, and so they should.
The measures on finance that have been included in the Bill have been generally welcomed on both sides of the House. I am glad about that, because I believe that they have a particularly important part to play in cutting off resources to terrorists and so making it much more difficult for them to finance their campaigns of violence. There will be new offences set out in the Bill and new powers of investigation. We have improved our machinery for co-ordinating the various agencies that are involved. Such measures have worked well in the case of drug trafficking, and I am glad that we are able to extend them to apply more widely to terrorism and violence. Much of today's debate has focused on the question of exclusion. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook asked about the criteria for exclusion. The Bill states that the Secretary of State must be satisfied that a person
"is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism"
or is attempting to enter the country with the intention of becoming so involved. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would not make an order unless he was convinced that the individual concerned had been actively involved in or preparing for terrorism, either because of conviction for terrorist offences or because of reliable intelligence.
A great deal of interest, of course, has also been expressed about detention. I should tell the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook that he confuses detention with trial. Detention is used as a preliminary to trial. People are not tried for offences under the prevention of terrorism legislation ; they are detained with the intention of charges being made and brought forward under the ordinary criminal law. Throughout the debate the Labour party has failed to establish any means by which those who have been brought to justice as a result of the detention and arrest powers in the prevention of terrorism legislation could have been dealt with by using the ordinary process
Column 268of the law. The Labour party has simply not addressed itself to that question and therefore it is not surprising that it has not come up with a coherent attitude to the Bill.
During the 21 months from the beginning of last year until the end of September this year the statistics show that, of those detained for less than 48 hours, 17.5 per cent. were eventually charged ; of those detained for more than four days, 35 per cent., or double the proportion, were charged. That is a measure of the practical value of such provisions in the fight against terrorism.
The question before the House is why the prevention of terrorism legislation is needed. We face a continuing large-scale campaign of systematically organised murder and violence. To do nothing to deal specifically with such crimes would be to neglect our duty to society. Whatever the Opposition may say about their intentions, the practical consequences of the Labour party's objections to the Bill would be to make a decisive shift away from the needs of the forces of law in favour of the men of violence.
Not to have the powers contained in the Bill would enlarge the opportunities for terrorists, increase the risks to members of the public as well as to the police and the Army, put more lives in jeopardy, hamper the efforts of the security forces to tackle terrorism and make it more difficult for the communities of Northern Ireland to achieve the necessary economic and political progress to grow out of the tensions and troubles that have beset them for so long.
For all those reasons I ask the House to give the Bill its overwhelming support.
Question put, That the amendment be made :--
The House divided : Ayes 199, Noes 311.
Division No. 9] [9.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cunningham, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin