|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Norris : I note that the hon. Gentleman is nodding, so I will not labour the point. Suffice it to say that the public would be outraged if they felt that those convicted of crimes of violence and crimes demanding sentences of more than five years were not to be kept in prison, on the grounds that their continued detention would allow them to practise their criminal skills.
Everybody who deals with crime and the judicial system accepts that, to some degree, prison is a university of crime. I do not believe that any serious attempt should be made, however, to exclude serious crimes of violence from the due process of the law and the due sentences of the court.
In the absence of parole, the real inequity is that since the announcement in 1983 by the then Home Secretary, Sir Leon Brittan, a terrorist convicted of an offence in the United Kingdom will serve two thirds of his sentence in prison, whereas in the Province it is possible that he will serve only one half of his sentence. Surely that is inequitable. The Bill will rectify that omission.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : For much the same reasons as have been advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Norris), I cannot commend the amendment to the House. We need to be clear about the nature of what we are doing.
First, the provisions are not retrospective ; they are prospective only. Secondly, they apply to scheduled offences in respect of which sentences of five years or more have been imposed. It will be helpful to remind the House of the classes of crime that fall within the list of the scheduled offences. They are murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated burglary, robbery, membership of a proscribed organisation, and explosives, firearms and hijacking offences. One can understand at once that they are offences that are capable of being the most serious kind. For the purposes of the Bill they must attract a sentence of five years or more.
The purpose of the Government's change in the law, as set out in the Bill, is to reduce remission from 50 per cent. to one third. In answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), that brings the situation in Northern Ireland broadly in line with that in Great Britain. As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest rightly said, the position on parole has changed substantially as a result of the statement made in 1983 by the then Home Secretary, Sir Leon Brittan. He made it plain that, normally, parole will not be granted to offenders who are convicted of offences of drugs or violence which have attracted sentences of five years or more. As a general rule in such cases, parole will not be granted. Consequently such people must serve either two thirds or nearly two thirds of the sentence imposed by the courts.
If we accepted the amendment and left the present situation unchanged, we would have a bizarre and unacceptable state of affairs. People convicted of terrorist-type offences in Great Britain would serve longer than those convicted of similar offences in Northern Ireland. That cannot be right. It is against that
Column 93background that the Government have introduced the proposals in the Bill which will make persons convicted of offences in Northern Ireland serve, broadly speaking, the same period of imprisonment as will be served by persons in Great Britain convicted of like offences. That is right.
I have a personal regard for the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). We served on the Standing Committee for a long time and I know his personal integrity. However, in this matter I cannot agree with him. We are dealing with people who have been convicted of abominable offences, for which long sentences have been imposed by the courts. The idea that people convicted of such offences should leave prison after having served only half the sentence that the court thinks appropriate makes no sense and is abhorrent to most people who reflect on it. I make no apology for saying that the criminal law is, at least in part, about punishment. That is a perfectly proper part of the criminal law.
Ms. Mowlam rose --
Mr. Hogg : I shall not give way, because we must finish by 9 o'clock. Deterrence and retribution are also perfectly proper parts of the criminal law. I see no reason why we should not say to people convicted of serious terrorist offences for which they have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, "You will have to serve a substantial part of the sentence imposed by the court." To tell them that they will have to serve only 50 per cent. of the sentence makes no sense. Two thirds is wholly right and anything less would be wrong.
It being Nine o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker-- proceeded, pursuant to the order [23 January] and the resolution this day, to put the Question already proposed from the Chair.
Mr. Deputy Speaker-- then proceeded to put forthwith the Question on the remaining amendment moved by a member of the Government.
Amendment made : No. 22, in page 64, line 4, at endinsert-- (4) In section 14--
(a) in paragraph 5, for the words "section 12(1)(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984" there shall be substituted the words "section 14(1)(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989" ; and
(b) in paragraph 6, for the definition of "the terrorism provisions", there shall be substituted--
" the terrorism provisions' means section 14(1) of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and any provision of Schedule 2 or 5 to that Act conferring a power of arrest or detention.".'.-- [Mr. Douglas Hogg.]
Order for Third Reading read. 9 pm
In commending the Bill to the House I propose to be brief, not least because the Bill and its predecessors have been scrutinised in considerable detail in this Session and on previous occasions. If time permits, and with the leave of the House, I shall seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if any points require further clarification.
Column 94We need to try to define the truth of the matter. The plain truth from which the debate must start is that we are likely to face the threat of terrorism for some time to come. That threat is most acute in Northern Ireland where more than 3,000 people have been killed since the troubles began. However, as the tragedy of Lockerbie reminds us, the threat is not confined to Northern Ireland or to the affairs of the Province. Terrorism threatens us all and no person, however young or innocent, can be said to be safe.
We should be failing in our duty if we did not take such steps as we properly can to meet this assault on democracy. That was the view of the Labour Government in 1974 and 1976 and in 1978, when they passed the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. It remains our view today. I entirely reject the idea, now apparently the official policy of the Labour party, that the ordinary powers of law are sufficient to meet the exceptional challenge and threat of terrorism. Nobody who has had or now has direct responsibility for these matters believes that the ordinary powers of the criminal law are sufficient. That fact may be regrettable, but it is true. The reputation of the Labour party is on the line. Opposition Members proclaim their hatred of terrorism. They must give us a practical expression of that assertion. They must give us the statutory powers that every Government since 1974 have deemed necessary. If they will not or cannot, they will be judged by their failure.
Ms. Mowlam : There has not been any disagreement on the need for a firm stand against terrorism. There has been no disagreement on the need to protect the people of Northern Ireland and Great Britain from the threat of political violence or on the need to bring the paramilitaries to justice.
In moving the Third Reading the Minister in some ways misled the House, because there has been clear agreement on the goals. However, there is a fundamental difference--we heard it on Report and in Committee--about the most effective method of attaining those goals. I ask my hon. Friends to vote against Third Reading not because there is any disagreement on the ends or the goals but because there is disagreement on the means.
We oppose the Bill for many reasons, and in view of the many arguments that we have heard, I shall comment on only three. The first is that the Bill is ineffective in tackling terrorism. On Second Reading, the Home Secretary told the House that this is a prevention of terrorism measure, rather than a punishment of terrorism measure, which is what the Minister suggested it is. In that case, the Home Secretary must justify the 1,784 deaths that have occurred in Northern Ireland since the temporary provisions Act came into force. It is unacceptable for the Government merely to point to the existence of terrorism as the justification for the Bill. The test of any legislation must be its effectiveness and what is the evidence for the effectiveness or the success of this legislation? All we have is the level of deaths--1,784--that have not been prevented.
In previous debates, the Government's argument, backed by Tory Members, has been that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act works like preventive medicine. We believe that the Government's medicine is far from preventive. We would argue that it seems to make the patient's disease worse. Far from
Column 95effectively combating terrorism, its major achievement has been to alienate large proportion of the Northern Irish population. Far from being effective, it is counter-productive.
Under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act a total of 30,178 people have been arrested and released without charge in the past four years. Over 344,000 house searches have been carried out since the Act was introduced, and they increased by 29 per cent. between 1986-87 and by 100 per cent. in the first half of 1988. Those figures suggest not prevention of terrorism, not winning over the population of Northern Ireland to the cause of peace, but alienating people--achieving the exact opposite of what the Act set out to achieve. Terrorism can be effectively defeated only by undermining support for terrorism in the community.
With this legislation, the Government are trying to out-terrorise the terrorists. We must instead try to understand people's motives for supporting the terrorist force, however weak. Is it hard to understand why a family who have had their front door smashed in with a pick axe and their sitting room floor taken up with a pneumatic drill by the Army in a fruitless search will be less than co-operative with the security forces? Is it difficult for Tory Members to appreciate why children who have seen their parents searched in a reasonably rough fashion by the RUC grow up being distrustful of or doubting the system of criminal justice? The Act has been high on repression and low on results. Therefore, it is not working effectively.
The second reason for our opposition to the Bill is that it represents an unacceptable erosion of civil liberties. I understand that in a democratic society a balance has to be struck between individual rights and the power of the state to fight terrorism. I accept that that is a difficult balance for the Government to achieve. However, under the Act, it is far too easy for the Government to suspend the normal workings of the criminal justice system, to reduce the rights of citizens and to heap more and more exceptional powers on to the security forces. It is far more difficult, but far more effective, to address the fundamental causes of terrorism-- something that the Government are not doing with this legislation. The Minister acknowledged that a military solution in itself is not sufficient. We have to address the root causes of the problems of Northern Ireland.
The Government have fallen into the trap of dealing with the symptoms of terrorism without properly and effectively tackling its causes. We argue that the Government fail to understand that terrorism can be defeated only by winning the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of the population in Northern Ireland. Every time the Government tighten the screw of security, every time there is a further act of suppression against the majority of people and every time that democratic rights are denied, we argue that support for the solutions to the Northern Ireland problem becomes more and more difficult and the defeat of terrorism all the less likely.
Ms. Mowlam : Given the numbers of house searches and of people detained without charge, the legislation appears to be working in the opposite direction. The majority of people believe that their democratic rights are being denied and that the ways in which they could be defended are in fact working against them. An Act designed to prevent terrorism is therefore creating an alienating environment and the opposite situation to that which it was intended to achieve.
Ms. Mowlam : I accept the right hon. Gentleman's point. The prevention of terrorism legislation affects both communities and both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland. Those people can be stopped and searched day in, day out, and can be stopped on entering Northern Ireland. The community does not want to live in those conditions. There may be some satisfaction with the present legislation, but the impact on daily life affects the majority of the community.
Conservative Members will acknowledge that it is difficult to strike a balance between liberty and security. It is difficult, for example, to tell a woman whose husband has been shot dead by terrorists that the people suspected of the murder must have their rights protected. That may seem a heartless response which it is impossible for the wife to comprehend. However, Conservative Members should not lose sight of the fact that there is a two-way process. Civil rights include both sides of the community. If we care about the mother whose husband has been shot dead by terrorists, we must also care about the mother of Michael Tighe who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was shot by the security forces. Unless we accept that civil rights are a two-way process, we shall not acknowledge the importance of civil rights and of the need for the criminal justice system to be seen to give legal redress to both sides of the community.
Mr. Maginnis : I should be grateful if the hon. Lady would clarify the point that she was making a moment ago. I agree that we should have sympathy with victims' families irrespective of which side of the community they come from and of whether they are victims of terrorist killings or of accidental killings or misjudgments by the security forces. Will she explain what she meant when she illustrated her argument by quoting the case of Michael Tighe and explain the connection with the prevention of terrorism Act?
Ms. Mowlam : I gave two examples to try to prove my point. First, we can feel sympathy with a woman whose husband has been shot dead by a terrorist. Our hearts go out to her immediately, and we realise that it is difficult for her to understand when Opposition Members talk about civil liberties. But we should also consider the mother of Michael Tighe, against whom there seems very little evidence. It appears that he was in a barn, in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was shot by security forces. Out hearts must also go out to that mother, who may find it equally difficult to accept that Conservative Members are willing to sell his civil liberties down the line. We must take into account that civil liberties are a two-way process, regardless of the origins of the case.
Column 97I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be thinking of the parents of the Army lads killed at Ballygawley, who had to spend Christmas without them. But, whether we think of them or of the mother of someone killed by a terrorist, we should legislate not on the basis of emotional stories or historical prejudice but on rational fact. We are here to prevent terrorism, but the Bill will not do that. It is ineffective, it erodes civil liberties and it may have the opposite effect to that which is intended.
My final objection is to the way in which the Government are making the existing Act permanent. That clearly signals to the people of Northern Ireland that the Government lack a precise or positive strategy for their future, and that what has been acknowledged since 1974 as a temporary suspension of normal democratic conditions has now become long-term legislation. We are sending a public message to the Irish people that the current level of violence is here to stay. What clearer message could there be that it is no longer the United Kingdom Government but the men of violence who are setting the agenda for Northern Ireland?
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will live to regret the time when we made the prevention of terrorism Act permanent. It is no good the Minister saying that there will be an annual review. Opposition Members know what that means : Northern Ireland business will be debated late on Thursday night, marginalised, and there will be no requirement for a Committee stage and debates such as this in the House as would happen if the legislation were renewed every five years. Surely that is the least that we can do in view of the lives that are lost in Northern Ireland.
In Committee, the Minister acknowledged that when a Bill goes on the statute book it becomes far more difficult to change or to repeal. In the 1984 debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said prophetically :
"Can the House really be sure that when the new Act expires, some time in 1989, it will not immediately be replaced by yet another version, which may be scheduled to last even longer or may even be intended to be permanent, but which may still be called temporary? A six-month Act was finding a permanent place on the statute book for powers which the Home Secretary"
it was the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) at the time--
"describes as wholly unacceptable and inimical to our tradition of civil liberties."--[ Official Report, 25 January 1984 ; Vol. 52, c. 1013.]
We have outlined three of the many reasons why we consider that the Act will not achieve the goals that both sides of the House would like to see.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) put it clearly in an earlier debate when he said that, if we wanted to evaluate the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill, we must ask, "Does it prevent terrorism? Does it work towards peace in Northern Ireland?" It fails on both counts, so we shall vote against it. 9.20 pm
This is one of the most important Bills that I have discussed in Standing Committee. It makes Britain a safer
Column 98place in which to live, and protects the public from those who would take up arms against the state and kill and maim for political purposes. That is an honourable cause which should commend itself to all hon. Members and the public.
I shall take up one point made by the hon. Member for Redcar. She said that we should not introduce legislation to prevent terrorism because one group in the community in Northern Ireland will feel that it works against it. That is a fatuous argument that falls to the floor when closely examined, because that group is as protected against terrorism as every other section of our community. If we take the line that we should not legislate because one group will feel offended or aggrieved, those who kill and maim will be able to hide among the legitimate, honest, straightforward members of the community and not be brought to justice for their terrible crimes. We have a duty to protect those innocent people and ensure that the terrorists are brought to book.
Terrorism is extraordinary. I agree with the hon. Lady and many of her hon. Friends who opposed some aspects of the Bill. We are forced to take extraordinary measures to protect the community in which we live. The Bill is designed to last only five years because the House recognises that it contains extraordinary measures. In the past, temporary provisions Bills were introduced because of the serious nature of the measures that they introduced into the law of the United Kingdom.
I say to hon. Members representing Northern Ireland that the Bill does not deal only with Northern Ireland. When the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill was introduced in 1974, hon. Members probably thought that it related only to Northern Ireland. However, circumstances are different today.
Since the early 1970s we have seen the rise of international terrorism. It was brought home to us forcefully in the recent Pan Am disaster at Lockerbie that we must take international terrorism seriously. For the British public, this legislation has not merely an Irish dimension, but an international one.
The Bill provides the police with extraordinary powers to outwit, outmanoeuvre and uncover the terrorist whenever possible. Recently, careful policing probably resulted in saving the life of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Clearly, a jury at the Old Bailey thought that a group of people were setting out to assassinate him. That is a typical example of legislation being used to detain them and provide for forensic examination of their clothes and hands to produce the necessary evidence to convince the jury that they were guilty of conspiracy to assassinate the Secretary of State. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends were in the Grand hotel in Brighton when a bomb exploded that was designed to assassinate the entire Government. Again, the PTA was used to uncover a series of cells and terrorists who were actively trying to operate a bombing campaign in our seaside resorts. The Brighton explosion was an example of the campaign working in part.
We have seen the searches that have been carried out at airports. The finest example of that was provided by the El Al jet at Heathrow airport, where a middle eastern terrorist was happy to give a bomb to his pregnant girl friend, which he know would blow her and 300 other passengers to smithereens in a Boeing 747, irrespective of his feelings for her or his child. He was prepared to take that course for the simple reason that there was a political
Column 99advantage to be gained. Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary responses from the House, and I believe that the Bill is adequate to deal with such circumstances.
The powers of arrest and detention for seven days are important provisions, but I have no doubt that we shall re-examine them in the light of the comments of the European Court of Human Rights. All members of the Committee considered the provisions extremely carefully.
The relevant powers of checks at our ports include detention for 12 hours, examinations and strip searches. These are important provisions to ensure that terrorists who enter and leave the country are detained and necessarily brought to justice. Exclusion orders prevent the IRA from organising cells and continuing its bombing campaign againt the mainland population. I support exclusion orders without shame, in the knowledge that I am carrying out my duty in protecting my constituents. For confirmation of that it is necessary only to ask the relatives of the victims of bombing campaigns on the mainland whether they consider it necessary that there should be exclusion orders. Such orders are not made by Cabinet Ministers because they do not have information that individuals in Northern Ireland are involved in terrorism. They know, however, that the witnesses who could convict them will not come forward because they fear persecution and threats of violence to them and to their relatives.
We must satisfy ourselves that we can prevent terrorists from coming over to the mainland. It is not a satisfactory approach but, unfortunately, it is the only one that is available to us to deal with the problem. Again, it is an extraordinary measure to deal with an extraordinary problem. I hope that all my hon. and right hon. Friends will vote to secure the Bill's Third Reading.
For the first time, we have a Bill that will enable us to attack in their pocket the terrorist, his banker and all those who are involved in collecting and retaining money for the propagation of terrorism. If we attack the terrorist's pocket, he will not have the means to buy guns and bombs to perpetuate his campaign. In that way we shall restrict the activities of the IRA and like organisations and of international terrorism when we catch their representatives on the mainland.
This is probably the most important Bill with which we shall deal during this Session in seeking to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens. Let us vote for it against the background of the Battersea bomb factory and the tragedy at Lockerbie. I am sure that such happenings will remind us of the importance of what we are doing when the House divides. I am sure also that my right hon. and hon. Friends will proceed in the full knowledge and satisfaction that they are doing the right thing. They will feel that in their hearts when they think of those who died and their relatives, especially those at Lockerbie. I commend the Bill as a move forward in the fight against terrorism.
I hang my two arguments on the debate about derogation under article 15 on the grounds either that we are at war or that there is an emergency threatening the life
Column 100of the nation. Have we ever considered the effect on the morale and psyche of the people against whom the Bill is aimed of stating that they are waging war or creating an emergency that threatens the life of the nation?
It is a matter of concern to those of us who live in the north of Ireland and know those people for what they are that we are telling them that they are capable of waging a war against Britain or of creating an emergency that would threaten the life of the nation. It is not just any old war but one that has gone on for five times as long as the second world war. Is it any wonder that people are saying--this is part of Provisional IRA support- -"Look at how the lads have kept it going for longer than Hitler, longer than the Kaiser, longer than Korea, or Vietnam, or Afghanistan or the Iran- Iraq war"? That is the type of morale booster that is given to the very people against whom the Bill is aimed. That is what they need.
The irony is that, despite everything, what the IRA is short of on the ground in the North of Ireland are street issues. This issue suits them down to the ground. They are telling the people of Northern Ireland on both sides of the political divide that they can go on for another 20 years-- that would be eight times longer than Hitler kept the war going. How many times longer than Korea or Vietnam would that be? That is a massive booster for the morale of those engaged in violent activity for their own political ends. Not only is derogation central to clause 14, but it is central to the search for peace in the north of Ireland. For that reason alone, it is a massive mistake.
My second argument is that the measure of any society is its ability to retain its high standards in justice and legal practices, in the police service, in the Army and in its dealings within that society so that not only does it punish the person who has transgressed but it protects the innocent person as well. By passing the Bill and other such legislation, we throw away those high standards. Instead, we work to the hidden agenda written by those who organise the paramilitaries. We are being led by the nose down a path where those high standards, which many people have fought to preserve, are being thrown out at the whim and according to the strategy of the people against whom the Bill is aimed.
Let us not forget that that is nothing new. Since partition in 1921, when the North of Ireland was formed there has never been a day when emergency legislation has not been in force. If, after so many years, we are still doing the same thing and still trying to solve the problem in the same ways --ways that have failed since the state was formed--it is time to ask the fundamental question : is there another way?
I believe that there is. If we continue in this way, and if we could transport ourselves to a Monday night 10 years from now in the House when matters have not improved, violence has continued and the war that the Goverment have now determined is taking place is still taking place, we would ask what would happen then. What will the Government do then? How much further will they go down the rake's progress of trying to make legislation be what it was never intended to be? If we go further down that road, what steps shall we introduce then? The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) will advocate internment without trial, but that has been done and has failed, too.
Shall we reach the stage when the Provisional IRA and the men of violence bring the Government to the point
Column 101where they have nowhere to go in terms of legislation, the Army or the police, or will the Government, or a Minister, shout "Stop!" before it is too late and think again about whether there is a way other than the one that has failed consistently since the state was formed? We have had the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984, Diplock courts, internment, the supergrass system, the removal of the right to silence and the removal of the freedom of the press, and the open electoral system has been tampered with. Those are only a few of the actions that have been taken, so where do we go now?
I make a prediction--which is always dangerous in politics--that in 10 years' time this war will still be continuing, because the right weapon is not being used. The right weapon is not repression and legislation like the Bill because it is clear as a pikestaff to anybody who wants to see clearly rather than to indulge in the self-righteousness and attitudinising that we have seen from Conservative Members day after day and the posturing and indulging in squelchy sentimentality, however sincere, about what is happening in the North of Ireland, that the Government should take a cold, hard, clear look and ask themselves "Where do we go in 10 years' time?" The Government have exhausted all the measures that can be used. The Under- Secretary shakes his head ; no doubt he will tell us about further measures. They will probably include hanging, and there will probably be more mistakes. I beg hon. Members to think before they go any further down that path. Somebody will have to put the North of Ireland together again, and it will not be hon. Members but the people who have to live there-- people of whatever political or religious persuasion. They will not achieve that on the basis of the Bill because the north of Ireland cannot be put together again on that basis. We must create a north of Ireland based on peace, justice and compassion. It must bind wounds rather than make them, it must integrate our society rather than alienate it and it must build a new society rather than more new prisons.
Mr. Barry Porter : It appears that we are all against terrorism--so I am told. It appears that our ends and goals are all the same and that we all want to take a firm stance against terrorism. I am sorry to say that I have heard little from the Opposition tonight that leads me to understand what they mean by a firm stance. I apologise for having missed part of their contributions, but I was told that their first objection to the Bill was that it was ineffective. The hon. Member for Redcar (Ms. Mowlam) said that 1,784 people had been killed in Northern Ireland since the Prevention of Terrorism (Emergency Provisions) Act 1984 came into force. That is clearly true. She went on to assert that the Bill had made the disease worse. What evidence is there for that, apart from a belief? She went on to say that the Bill and the Act were counter-productive. How can she assert that without evidence? Has it not entered her mind that the position could be--and in my judgment will be--worse?
Ms. Mowlam : The hon. Gentleman seems to have missed my point. He can assert what he wants, and I can assert what I want. He cannot disprove my statement. The legislation has been on the statute book for 14 or 15 years, and if it is not working, surely it is time to look at it afresh.
Mr. Porter : I cannot prove a negative any more than the hon. Lady can. I am asking her to consider that, on all the evidence available, it is certainly a possibility from her point of view, and a probability from mine, that without the powers that are available under the current legislation, the position could have been a good deal worse--
Mr. Porter : If the hon. Lady is willing to accept that as a possibility, can she and her hon. Friends take the risk of allowing the police and the security services only the ordinary powers available under the law in that extraordinary situation? I have no responsibility in this matter and with the greatest possible respect to the hon. Lady, neither has she, except in an alternative role. It is not a risk that I would wish to take.
When I think of the intelligence and information available to successive Secretaries of State and other Ministers, not one--from any party--has been willing to surrender the powers that they now have. That information is not available to me, and that intelligence is not available to the hon. Lady. However, perhaps she might think--as I think--that if people as intelligent, honest, decent and honourable as those who have held such positions in the past are not willing to take the risk, that she should advise her hon. Friends that they should not take that risk either.
The hon. Member for Redcar went on to say that the Bill is an unacceptable erosion of civil liberties. Certainly, the legislation would be an erosion of civil liberties in an ordinary and normal United Kingdom and in a normal and peaceful Ulster, but neither of those situations exists. There is murder and mayhem in Ulster and on the mainland. The erosion of civil liberties is a matter of judgment. It is there for those who care to look, but to me it is not unacceptable if it helps in any way to deal with the problem. I repeat what I said in one of our earlier debates : by voting against Third Reading, the Labour party will give a message to the men of violence which is simply that the alternative Government of the United Kingdom have thrown in the towel and do not wish to take a "firm stance" against terrorism. I have not heard tonight that there is anything more to be done about terrorism or that there are any more methods to employ against terrorism. The Opposition have merely attacked the Government's stance.
In conclusion, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said, of course this is not the only way to deal with the problems of Northern Ireland, and of course political arrangements can be made and political persuasion used. Although he and I would probably disagree about the arrangements--the hon. Gentleman is entirely right to say that--not everything has yet been tried. However, whatever those political activities may be, they must be paralleled by a clear determination on the part of the United Kingdom Government, backed--I hope--by every Member of the House, that terrorists must be deterred and defeated. If that takes the 10 years that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, so be it. In the meantime, he and others in Northern Ireland, with the proper backing of everybody who is interested in the Province and in the unity of this kingdom, should give any talks and
Column 103negotiations their full backing. In the meantime, the terrorists--the minuscule minority within the Province--must be shown that the House is intent on their defeat.
Mr. Maclennan : The Labour party's opposition to the Bill seems to be based upon the fallacy that, because it cannot of itself prevent terrorism, it is not necessary. Alas, every time the House has considered such measures since the original legislation was introduced by a Labour Government in 1974, it has come to the unpalatable conclusion that, although they constitute an erosion of normal civil liberties, they are necessary. The House will come to the same conclusion tonight, and it will do so on the best evidence available to it, which is not the speculation of individual hon. Members but the careful scrutiny of the provisions of the Bill by a man who has been slighted by Opposition Members. I refer to Lord Colville. He has looked closely at all the provisions of the Bill and their working. Although he has differed from the Government in certain respects, notably in regard to the continuance of exclusion, he has recommended that the measures be retained.
It is right that the legislation be put on a new footing. It is a reversion to an earlier arrangement that prevailed when the Labour Government were in office, that the Bill be subject to annual renewal. It has not been helpful that the Bill has been wrongly presented as a piece of permanent legislation. It is not permanent legislation. It is subject to positive renewal by a vote of the House. It must have continuing scrutiny. I am glad that Lord Colville has agreed to do in future what he has done in the past. The House will not accept the continuation of the measures for one day longer than they are seen to be necessary.
It is unfortunate that the Government have not been able to respond more promptly to the judgment of the European court in the Brogan case. As with the Labour Government, the present Government's position has been greatly strengthened by the fact that the measures had not been held to run counter to the provisions of the European convention on human rights to which we are a party. That has helped to buttress international understanding of the necessity for what we are doing.
It is possible to take the necessary step to provide judicial interposition to scrutinise the detention beyond two days of those who are held under the provisions of the Bill. It is the Home Secretary's intention to seek such a measure as quickly as may be. We shall look to him to be as good as his word.
I take some satisfaction from the fact that the Bill is capable of being amended in part by statutory instrument. If certain provisions which we shall agree tonight are no longer seen to be necessary, they may be dropped. It is right to look at all aspects of the Bill separately and in the round. We shall have carefully to consider each year the operation of the exclusion and detention provisions. It cannot be said that the general background of terrorism has greatly improved in this country or in the rest of the world since we last debated these measures. Alas, the case for again implementing these exceptional measures is no less strong than it was the last time we considered them. The attitude of the Labour party is no
Column 104more comprehensible against the background of continuing terrorism and the need for a response which cannot be provided by the provisions of our ordinary law.
That being so, I hope that the House will give the Home Secretary and the Government the support that they seek, for the greater the strength and resolution of the House in the face of these threats to our civil order and civil liberties, the greater the impact of a unified response to it.
I was singularly ineligible to take part in the earlier stages of the Bill, but I have welcomed the opportunity to engage in these deliberations at this late stage. I should like to place on record during a debate on legislation involving the Province of Northern Ireland the respect and affection in which the House held my predecessor in the constituency of Epping Forest, the late Sir John Biggs-Davison. He was that unique combination of Catholic and Unionist. He was a man of many contradictions, of firm principle and unshakeable integrity ; he lived as a member of the late Airy Neave's shadow team in Northern Ireland under the constant shadow of terrorism and terrorist violence, and he faced it bravely and with his accustomed sincerity.
The new powers in the Bill significantly improve our ability to deal with terrorism in Northern Ireland, particularly the financial powers. Let no one under-estimate them. The House has deliberated on the merit of attacking the drug pusher and drug runner where it really mattered--not just imprisoning those who were caught, but getting at the funding of that evil empire. The powers in this Bill will allow that power to be used against terrorists.
I am as concerned as the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms. Mowlam) that a Bill of this sort should be for an indefinite period. It is not, as she asserts, a piece of indefinite legislation. She knows well that the Bill is subject to a regular annual review wholly or in part. [Interruption.] I have both preceded and followed the hon. Lady in this House and if she believes that the House will ever consider amending the Bill late on a Thursday night when there is no interest and everyone has gone home, as she described it, she severely under-estimates the House of Commons and the importance that it will attach to dealing with the crucial affair of the security of Northern Ireland. She said, "Let us not trade emotional stories about Northern Ireland." Many Conservative Members greatly regret that the Labour party's early clear commitment to the prevention of terrorism, as evidenced by its introduction of the temporary provisions Act and support for it in 1976, has been diluted into a rather emotional reaction to the reality of terrorism.
I commend the Bill to the House as providing the Government with the necessary powers to deal with these exceptional circumstances and this exceptional evil.