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Point of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During the weekend, the Home Secretary, in a well publicised speech made to his constituents, talked about immigration matters, and, yesterday, to listeners to BBC radio, he again made remarks which are directly connected with an article that appeared in yesterday's The Observer under the headline :

"Police set to raid sanctuaries".

The article reported what was described as

"a well-placed source in the Home Office's Immigration Service" as saying :

"the word is to go out and whack them. It is going to be like Mendis-- snatched and deported within 48 hours"--

Mr. Speaker : Order. I accept this is a matter for the Home Secretary, not for me. What is the hon. Member's point of order?

Mr. Madden : As the Home Secretary is now walking towards the Dispatch Box, can I plead with him, through you, Mr. Speaker, to make the statement that he refused to make last Thursday and Friday before the deportation of Viraj Mendis? May we ask him to make a statement about his policy on deportation, in view of most disturbing remarks by one of his officials, which The Observer published yesterday?

Mr. Speaker : That is a matter for the Home Secretary. I am sure that he has heard what has been said.

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Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill (Allocation of Time)

3.32 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : I beg to move

That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill :

Committee 1. (1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on 24th January 1989. (2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 24th January may continue until Eleven p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 25th January.

Report and Third Reading 2. (1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in one allotted day and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock ; and for the purpose of Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of that day as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House its Resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than 27th January 1989. (3) The Resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 80 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in subparagraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee 3. (1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.

Conclusion of proceedings in Committee 5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question. Dilatory Motions 6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith. Private business 7. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings

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on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings 8.--(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)--

((a) any Question already proposed from the Chair ;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill) ;

(c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment is moved or Motion is made by a member of the Government.

(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded ;

and on a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock-- (

(a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time ;

(b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion. Supplemental orders 9.--(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving 10. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall--

(a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution ; or

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(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Recommittal 11.--(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, recommittal.

(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

Interpretation 12. In this Order--

"allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day ;

"the Bill" means the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill ;

"Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee ; "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

There has often been a sense of routine about the timetable motions that I and my predecessors from both sides of the House have introduced in the past. They have usually been moved because the Opposition of the day had been making rather too enthusiastic a use of a legitimate weapon--time-- while the Government of the day, in the end, were entitled to get their business. Barring one or two occasions, such as the famous one in July 1976, the debates have followed a fairly standard pattern, with the Leader of the House explaining how reasonable the Government were being, and his opposite number claiming that the guillotine motion heralded the imminent arrival of a police state.

Today, however, is not one of those occasions. Since tabling this motion, further discussions have taken place through the usual channels, but before I discuss that, I wish to remind the House that today we are dealing with a Bill which, if not enacted by a specific date, will have repercussions extending considerably beyond an embarrassment to the Government at suffering delay to their programme, or a temporary boost in morale for the Opposition.

As the House knows, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 expires on 21 March this year. It is essential, if our society is to have adequate means with which to fight terrorism, that the current Bill receives Royal Assent on or before that date, and comes into force on 22 March.

If the Bill does not come into force on that date, arrest and detention powers and the power of exclusion will be lost, both of which would have extremely damaging consequences. Police throughout the United Kingdom would be without the power to arrest a person on reasonable suspicion of involvement in terrorism, and would have to wait until they had a reasonable suspicion of a particular offence. By that time it may be too late to prevent acts of terrorism occurring. The prevention of terrorism is a prime aim of the Bill. Furthermore, if the Bill is not enacted in time, not only would the people currently excluded under the 1984 Act be able to enter Great Britain or Northern Ireland freely, but

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there would be no power for the Secretary of State to exclude anybody now thought to be involved in acts of Northern Irish terrorism. Active terrorists could move freely about the country to prepare and commit further atrocities. Moreover, if the current powers of proscription were lost, the IRA could parade through the streets of Britain, recruit members openly, and even raise funds in public. There would thus be severe consequences, if the Bill were to fall behind its timetable.

The constraint on time for the Bill means that it must finish its passage through this House by the end of this month, so as to allow another place a proper amount of time for its consideration of the Bill. I recognise that this is a tight timetable, but nevertheless it was originally possible through the usual channels to negotiate an agreement on how the Bill should be discussed in Committee. The latest confirmation of the agreement was made through the usual channels on the morning of 10 January, but during the afternoon sitting of the Committee the Opposition took a different view, giving as the reason the Government's reaction to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Brogan case. That had been announced by the Home Secretary to the Committee more than two weeks previously on 22 December and confirmed by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department in a letter to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) on 9 January.

The Brogan judgment was extensively discussed at the sittings following the Christmas recess when my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State advised the Committee that there was little prospect of the Government's final response being available before the Bill was through Parliament. That was an honest and realistic appraisal of the position. It was intended to be helpful to the work of the Committee by eliminating any uncertainty about the timing of any proposals we might want to bring forward.

Earlier in Committee, the hon. Member for Huddersfield had referred to the Opposition's aim of keeping to

"a schedule that facilitates the timetable of the Bill that we know the Government must meet"--[ Official Report, Standing Committee B, 22 December 1988, c. 236.]

By 12 January he was saying that the Opposition

"could no longer co-operate on a timetable"--[ Official Report, Standing Committee B, 12 January 1989, c. 439]

and to underline that, was giving the Committee a lengthy homily on airport security, together with an anecdote of how he once wind-surfed from Majorca to France. Since then there have been extensive discussions through the usual channels and I shall listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) to see whether the Opposition find that they can co-operate with the Government on this timetable motion. I very much hope that we shall be able to agree to it without a Division.

So small a margin for flexibility, however, remains with this Bill, that I still consider the timetable motion vital. As the House will remember, there was a variety of opinions, both for and against the Bill, expressed on Second Reading and a substantial minority of the Opposition voted against it. I have every faith in the word of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, but in view of the formidable delaying powers of his hon. Friend the Member for

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Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), which we witnessed recently, I should sleep more easily if I had the insurance policy of a timetable for this Bill.

The Committee has now sat for about 52 hours and has discussed 25 clauses. There are two clauses remaining, in addition to five new clauses tabled by the Labour party.

Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar) : Will the Leader of the House give way?

Mr. Wakeham : I was about to refer to the hon. Lady and I shall finish what I was to say before she intervenes.

The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms. Mowlam) helpfully stated in Committee that by the time clause 17 had been reached, the meat of the Bill would have been dealt with.

Ms. Mowlam : I would hate the right hon. Gentleman to mislead the House. It is not a question of five new clauses being left to be debated, having been put down by the Opposition. We have debated nearly all of them. Only two new clauses are left, which we could have finished debating if Conservative Members had been prepared to sit late last Thursday. They were not, so we are having to go through all this now. We should blame the inefficiency and incompetence of Conservative Members, rather than hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House.

Mr. Wakeham : That, I think, is a recommendation for the timetable motion, because there is adequate time to discuss those two clauses. What the hon. Lady said in Committee is now the case, and in view of that I do not think that there can be much exception to the terms of my motion, which would allow another full day, up to 11 pm, in Committee tomorrow, followed by a full day for the remaining stages. I said that this was not a normal timetable motion. To fail to get the Bill on the statute book by 22 March would leave the country without adequate defences against terrorism. Recent events, from Lockerbie to the discovery of arms and explosives in Battersea, should have convinced hon. Members that our society is still gravely threatened, as much as it was when the Labour party passed the Prevention of Terrorism Acts in 1974 and 1976. To defeat the motion would make it impossible to achieve Royal Assent by the necessary deadline, and would enormously weaken our ability to prevent terrorism. That is simply unacceptable. Therefore, I invite all right hon. and hon. Members to vote to maintain our weapons against those who seek to destroy both our democracy and many of our people, and to join me in the Aye Lobby in support of the motion.

3.40 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : As the Leader of the House has said, this is an extraordinary guillotine motion. It asks us to curtail debate tomorrow on the Committee stage of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill, when that Committee stage would have ended last Thursday if only the Government had let it. I suggest that it is a case of closing the stable door to stop the horse from getting into the stable.

Of course, the guillotine motion does not stop there. It is designed to curtail debate on Report and Third Reading, so that the Act can in operation by 22 March when the existing law expires. I am afraid that, if the Leader of the House is bothered about the tight timetable that he faces and wants to find a culprit, he need look no further than

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his own mirror, with perhaps a furtive glance at the Home Secretary. The Government have known since 1984 that the existing law would run out on 22 March this year. They could have introduced the Bill in the last Session. After all, there was plenty of time : the last Session dealt with fewer Government Bills than the first Session of any Parliament since the war.

But the Government did not bother. Instead, they decided to introduce the Bill in this Session. That did not leave much time for it to be considered properly because the Session started so late, the Queen's Speech being one of the latest on record. That was because the previous Session dragged on for far longer than usual--despite, as I have said, being faced with the smallest amount of legislation on record. It was the Government who gave themselves so little time to get the Bill through all its stages.

The problem has been made much worse by the Government's own failure to decide how to respond to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Brogan case . The court decided that part of the present law that we are being asked to re-enact is contrary to the European convention on human rights--that is, that this country is breaking the law. Admittedly, that judgment was made just before the present Bill was published, but the Commission had held the present position to be incompatible with the European convention as long ago as May 1987.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : The hon. Gentleman has made an important point, and I am making a genuine inquiry. He said that if we did not abide by a recommendation by the European Court of Human Rights we were breaking the law. What law are we breaking? Do we not make the laws ourselves here?

Mr. Dobson : Yes, and one of the laws that we have undertaken is to obey and fall in line with the European convention on human rights. [ Hon. Members :-- "No."] Yes, we have. That is why, if we are not going to do so, we need to derogate formally from it. But the Government appear to do no contingency planning. They seem to have ignored the likelihood of the court upholding the Commission's views, because the records of-- admittedly--successive British Governments before the European Court of Human Rights is that we lose more cases than we win. The Government even ignored the promptings of Lord Colville of Culross, when he reported to them in December 1987 on the working of the Act. He suggested that the Government, in preparing the new Bill, should take into account what he mildly described as the possibility of the court upholding the opinion of the Commission.

The Government appear to have done nothing of the sort. Instead, the court's decision seems to have taken them by surprise. On Second Reading, the Home Secretary said that he would give the Government's response to the court's decision before the Bill left the Commons. He indicated that the Government's proposals would be in time to be debated in Committee. He then went to the Committee and said that Britain would derogate from the court decision--that is, not comply with it--until he had managed to sort out some solution. After Christmas it was made clear that derogation would prevail for longer than had been originally indicated.

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Therefore, today, when the Government are seeking to curtail further debate on the Bill, we do not know what the Government are asking the House to do. Are they saying, "Pass the Bill as it is and then, after it becomes law, we will amend it to comply with the European court ruling", or, on the other hand, are they saying, "Pass the Bill as it is, because we have no intention of complying with the court ruling"? We know, however, that the Government propose to curtail debate on either alternative. Any suggestion that a slight extension of this guillotine motion today might permit the necessary discussion seems to us to be absurd. If we are to obtain from the Government a proposition that might meet the requirements of the European court ruling, it certainly merits longer discussion than would be provided for under this guillotine motion.

We say, too, that for the Government to derogate from the court ruling is a most serious development. To do so, the Government must claim to the Council of Europe that the present situation in this country was

"a public emergency threatening the life of the nation"-- an emergency akin to a time of war.

Whatever is the situation in Northern Ireland, to assert that the IRA or any other of the terrorist groups pose a threat to the life of this nation as a whole is to attribute to those murdering psychopaths a significance that they do not deserve, but in which they themselves revel. It would accord to those who shoot to kill and bomb to maim a status that their actions alone will never achieve--a threat to the life of this nation. Their bombing does not do that. A mature democracy, which has survived far worse dangers than any posed by the IRA, can surely survive what it is threatening.

Mr. Marlow : The hon. Gentleman is giving a lot of importance to the European Court of Human Rights. Will the hon. Gentleman say how the goings on in that court can be the laws of this land? At what stage did Parliament enact anything that obliges us to follow that? When have Members of Parliament debated it? How is it part of the law of this country? When was the country consulted as to whether we should be obliged to follow those particular

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Ask the Prime Minister. She decided that.

Mr. Dobson : If the hon. Gentleman wishes to obtain the details, he had better rush off to the Library. This country has undertaken to abide by the European convention on human rights. If we do not accept that court ruling, we shall have formally to say that we are not complying with it. The hon. Gentleman may not like that situation, but that is the situation which prevails.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : It might be as well to recognise at this stage that a British Government played a central role in setting up the European Court of Human Rights. Not only that, they played a central role in drawing up the European convention under which it has been found that this Government are guilty, because of the way in which they are detaining people.

Mr. Dobson : It has always been my understanding that it was a great source of pride that this country was the first signatory to the European convention on human rights, which is all the more reason for us to attempt to uphold it at all times.

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Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that, when we enter into international agreements, they are invariably done under preogative power. By and large, both sides of the House have accepted the right of the Executive to enter into those agreements on behalf of the nation as a whole. Therefore, when they are entered into, the House wants to support them. It is right that the House could take it back, but, by and large, we thought that this was a proper area into which executive government, on behalf of us all, could enter.

Mr. Dobson : I thank the hon. Member (Mr. Shepherd) for his assistance.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) is correct, we should have incorporated the European convention into our municipal law? In those circumstances it would have served to bind this country and all persons within it until Parliament took a decision to make a change. As we have maintained that convention as an international treaty only, it is open to Her Majesty's Government to derogate from it, and there is nothing disgraceful in so doing. Mr. Dobson : The European convention on human rights specifically provides for the "high contracting parties", the Governments who have signed it, to derogate from it if they wish, but I shall consider the significance of that in a moment. The issue of derogation brings me to the difference between our response to terrorism and that of the Government. Everybody recognises that everyone has a duty to prevent terrorists securing their objectives. It is from that desire to deny terrorists their objectives, however, that our dilemma, in a democratic country, stems. Shootings or explosions may be the immediate object of a terrorist attack, but that is not the end of the story. The death or destruction directly caused by a terrorist is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. What the terrorist wants to do against a democratic society is to bring about a reaction from those in authority which reduces the openness of that society, undermines its normal democratic values and casts doubt on its normal judicial processes.

The terrorist also seeks a form of prestige--the prestige of being acknowledged as an extremely dangerous threat. We must bear in mind those long-term objectives of terrorists when we decide how to respond to their acts. Whatever benefits the supporters of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 claim for it, there is no doubt that that law reduces the openness of our society and undermines our normal democratic procedures.

To announce to the world that the very life of our nation is at risk certainly accords the IRA and other groups the loathsome privilege of being acknowledged as a very dangerous threat. We believe that that is too high a price to pay. We also believe that, although our democratic instruments and institutions may inhibit our ability, as a country, to take direct, immediate and deadly action against terrorists, they are also a strength and a source of national pride. I remind the House, as I have done before, that although dictatorships have been undermined by terrorist methods in modern times, no

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democracy has fallen to terrorists. The strength of democracies may be less apparent, but they are deeper and more lasting.

Although we support the new proposals aimed to reduce the funds to which terrorists have access, we oppose the rest of the Bill. Its provisions for detention breach the European convention on human rights. They invade civil liberties and alienate large numbers of otherwise law-abiding people. The exclusion provisions amount to a system of internal exile, which Lord Colville, in his review of the workings of the Act, felt did more harm than good.

The right of the Executive to bar people from a part of their country without judicial interference bears an uncanny resemblance to provisions in countries whose human rights records are rightly criticised by both sides of the House. My objections, however, go further than that. The situation in Northern Ireland poses terrible problems for the people living there, for the people of England, Scotland and Wales, for the Government, for the police and security forces and for the institutions of democracy.

Individual measures which may seem justified in response to the threat of terrorism can, taken together, amount to a threat to our democratic institutions. Our sensitivity to incursions against our liberties becomes literally calloused by the repetition of horrifying events and our responses to them. We become used to things that, 20 years ago, were unthinkable anywhere in this land--trials without juries, detention for seven days without redress, internal exile, the abolition of the right to silence, newspapers supporting the shooting of unarmed people and even the Prime Minister announcing that suspects are guilty. Each of those is an understandable response to the horrors of terrorism, but taken together they amount to an erosion of all that our country has fought and argued for throughout the 20th century.

What is more important--I address this remark to the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton)--they damage our reputation abroad in a way which makes the fight against terrorism harder. Whatever one's point of view on the merits of the Patrick Ryan case, it demonstrated our dependence on the Governments of other countries. It demonstrated that our reputation for good or ill affects their judgments and their willingness to co-operate with us. Clearly, the maintenance of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and a permanent derogation from the provisions of the European convention of human rights will undermine and add doubts to the willingness of other European Governments to assist us in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South) : Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether, when the Labour party was in power, it ever derogated from the European convention on human rights, if it did so, why and in what circumstances?

Mr. Dobson : Various Governments, including Labour Governments, have done so in the past. The hon. Gentleman appears not to know that the derogation has never applied to England, Scotland or Wales. In some cases it applied to Northern Ireland and in previous cases to colonial territories during states of emergency. The hon. Gentleman should bear that in mind.

If I lived in Northern Ireland, I might think that what is happening there was a threat to the life of that part of the nation, but the Opposition believe that the threats or

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the actions of the IRA ought not to be portrayed to its advantage as a threat to the life of the nation. That is why we believe that, on balance, the provisions of the Bill will do more harm than good. That is why we oppose the Bill and the guillotine.

3.57 pm

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South) : I shall support the motion as briefly as I can. Strictly speaking, this afternoon we are debating what we know formally as the timetable motion, but which most of us call the guillotine motion. It is an odd title. When I was talking to some of the more Right-wing members of my constituency party during the weekend and I told them that I had to get back to London promptly to speak in support of the guillotine in the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, the reaction of a constituent who is not particularly supportive of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in these matters was, "At last the Government have got it right in dealing with the affairs of Northern Ireland."

The debate is important in itself and for the attitudes, beliefs and feelings which it exposes in the Opposition. Despite all the images that they present on television, the Opposition remain the party of the past. Rather like the Bourbon kings and queens, they have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. I enjoyed tremendously the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) making it absolutely clear to the House that the Opposition totally oppose the Bill.

The Labour party proclaims in ringing tones that it wants to defeat the evil of terrorism, yet it consistently opposes, fights and rejects the very measures which have a chance of doing just that. Labour Members resent it tremendously--as they did in Committee--when we justifiably remind them that back in the 1970s a Labour Government, supported by what was then a loyal Conservative Opposition, first enacted an anti-terrorism Bill. The Opposition's reaction then was in marked contrast to their reaction today. Their reaction now is irresponsible. They believe in freedom of opposition. Long may the Labour party adopt that policy of irresponsibility and freedom of opposition. It says that there is no need for measures such as this, yet it fails to accept that, sadly, in the last 10 years terrorism has got worse, not better.

It is extraordinary that the shadow Leader of the House should have said that derogation is acceptable in relation to Northern Ireland--at least, it was acceptable when the Labour party was in power ; I do not know whether that applies today to Northern Ireland--but that derogation is unacceptable for the whole of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom as a whole faces a terrorism threat. I do not need to set out at length all the incidents that support that contention. Although Northern Ireland faces a far worse threat, sadly the mainland is not immune from it.

Sensible members of the Labour party abhor the men of violence, yet there is a sizeable minority within its ranks who welcome representatives of the men of violence into their midst and give them tacit support. What are we in this House and, more important, what are people outside it to make of the fact that a Bill such as this is in this position today? The Bill ought to have all-party support and it ought to be warmly welcomed by the Labour party. I suggest that the Labour party of 20 years ago would have

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