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Column 316Strangford (Mr. Taylor) mentioned that in a recent debate, referring to what I suppose could be called the Irish dimension. This, too, should be taken seriously.
The Home Secretary referred briefly to the Downing street declaration, describing it as imaginative. The word that comes to mind--particularly given our experience of the declaration--is "fantasy", rather than "imagination". At the time of the declaration, nearly three months ago, the comment was made--on behalf of both Governments--that if terrorists failed to accept the opportunity that the declaration gave them, there would have to be a governmental response and a security response. We have now been waiting nigh on three months ; it is obvious that the terrorists will not accept the challenge of the Downing street declaration and abandon their campaign.
It is also obvious that the terrorists are engaged in stringing the Government along. I recall the Prime Minister visiting Belfast before Christmas, and saying very firmly that he would not be strung along by the terrorists. But he has been, and he still is. How much longer will Her Majesty's Government allow themselves to be suckered by the terrorists ? How much longer will they allow themselves to be strung along ? When will there be an appropriate response ? When will the Government screw up their nerve to act ? They must act ; they cannot allow the present situation to continue.
Specific legislative measures are necessary. I am glad that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is present. He will recall that in May last year the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary took the unusual step of calling publicly for certain changes in the law. I was informed recently that the Secretary of State was still thinking about those matters. I respectfully suggest that he has had long enough to think and should now be able to make up his mind. He may wish to consider some of the measures requested by the Chief Constable as an appropriate response to the current position.
As well as changes in the law, however, we need a change of policy. We need a clear and effective security policy directed at terrorism. It is not a matter of giving the terrorists deadlines ; it is simply a matter of acting. That action will have to be sustained by an appropriate political approach designed to disappoint the terrorists, not encourage them. I am sorry to say that far too many of the Government's action in the past year have, in fact, encouraged terrorism and been a disappointment to politics.
Finally, the Home Secretary referred to what is called "loyalist terrorism". It is something that we abhor and condemn. There has been an increase in loyalist terrorism in the past few years, which is something we regret and wish had not happened. I am not providing excuses or justifications for it, but it is important to note that, over the years, there has been inverse relationship between incidents of loyalist terrorism and the level of confidence in the Government. I can think of nothing that the Government have done in the past year that has increased confidence in their intentions and policies, but I can think of many things that have reduced confidence. I do not regard the Downing street declaration as the biggest problem in this respect. The biggest problem, and what has caused most dismay among my constituents, was the revelation of what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was pleased to call "contacts" between the Government and the Provisional
Column 317IRA--I believe that another word would be a more accurate description. Such contacts have significantly reduced the level of confidence.
I fear that, by their actions in the past few months, the Government have been sowing the wind. I hope that there will be no whirlwind. I appeal to all those who might be contemplating terrorist activities not to engage in them. I do not wish anything that I have said to be regarded as giving comfort to anyone involved, because my party condemns and abhors such terrorism. The Government have to think seriously about their responsibility in these matters. We wish to see terrorism defeated. We shall support the legislation tonight, but we see no good reason why consideration should not also be given to the details of the legislation and to ways in which they could perhaps be modified and improved to increase support for the legislation in the House.
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke) : It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). I listened carefully to what he said and I agree with much of what he said. In a moment I shall briefly pick up on one or two of his observations.
Some repetitiveness inevitably characterises these debates. As has been said, this is the fifth time that we have debated the renewal order, and the ancestry of the debate goes back 20 years. More seasoned participants adopt a well entrenched position. I want to avoid repetitiveness as much as possible and develop primarily a matter that has today received little attention. However, in passing, I throw out a comment to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). I listened with great care to the thesis that he propounded and I assure him that I do not for one moment doubt the absolute sincerity of his opposition to terrorism. However, his argument fails to convince.
I share the conclusion offered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who has just left his seat, that the hon. Member for Sedgefield gives the impression that he is concerned primarily about watching his back and maintaining party unity. He does not convince us that the review of the type that he seeks is justified because the issues with which he is concerned are mainly those of the Executive, not the judiciary.
As for the Rowe report, I shall pass briefly over the emotive and controversial issues of exclusion orders, detention and the extension of detention except that I shall pick up on a theme raised by the hon. Member for Upper Bann. I do not share his negative assessment of exclusion orders. I noted with interest that on page 7 of the report Mr. Rowe writes :
"The general view expressed to me . . . is that the exclusion order is a useful device in the prevention of terrorism." I share that view because I believe that the value of exclusion orders lies largely in the fact that, when executed, they disrupt the command and communication structures of terrorist units. Without those command and communication structures being effective, the units cannot operate. In addition, the man or woman who is excluded becomes a marked person and it is then that much harder for a terrorist organisation to make use of him or her.
I wholeheartedly accept what the report has to say about detention orders and the extension of them. Page 14 of the report states : "My conclusion is that the power of extension of detention is necessary, and it should continue".
Column 318I am reassured by the argument that he summarises. He finds compatibility between the Act and article 15 of the European convention on human rights which refers to the exceptional circumstances of a
"public emergency threatening the life of a nation".
Also in passing, I mention video/audio recording. Page 14 of the report states :
"The RUC officers who have experience of investigation of terrorist offences express the view that their efforts would be impaired by a recording of interviews as suspects would be less ready to co-operate and give information."
I share that opinion. I acknowledge that it is a controversial issue and it is one to which Mr. Rowe said that he would return later.
It is important to realise the potential dangers of audio/video recording. One danger is that the identity of the interrogating officer might become known to terrorist organisations. Secondly, if a detainee co-operates and his co-operation becomes known to terrorist organisations, his family might be threatened. Of course, any public availability of interviews with detainees could well reveal intelligence sources and damage further security operations. One must tread very carefully indeed before embarking on compulsory video/audio recording.
The issue that I wish to emphasise is one that has received very little attention today. It is the chapter--if one can call it that--on how to attack terrorist funds. I regretted the fact that Mr. Rowe's comments on the matter were not more detailed. My main concern is that perhaps not enough has been achieved by the powers contained in the Act. On page 19 of his report Mr. Rowe states :
"The first batch of sections, on contributions and forfeitures, have not as yet produced many prosecutions."
That puzzles me because I was not aware of any successful prosecutions. Unless I am misreading the appendix to the report, I can see no reference to statistics of that nature. It might be helpful next year if statistics and details of what is happening in terms of attacking terrorist funds were added to the report. Mr. Rowe nevertheless concludes on page 19 :
the powers of the Act relevant for attacking terrorist funds "are not otiose ; and they should be maintained as a significant part of the Act."
He identifies two reasons for that. The first is as follows : "Voluntary disclosures under section 12 are a regular event ; there were 300 in 1993 . . . and the disclosures led to useful information."
On the following page, Mr. Rowe says that the machinery of section 17 and schedule 7
"have uncovered racketeering schemes (which fund terrorism), and have disrupted the flow of money to terrorists."
Quality intelligence and the disruption of the flow of funds to terrorists are important achievements but they are not the primary purpose of the Act. The primary purpose of the powers is the confiscation of terrorist funds which, it seems, is not being achieved.
I am told that it is currently relatively easy to identify a commercial or financial enterprise in which terrorists may be involved. It is quite easy to identify that funds are going from such an enterprise to terrorists. The difficulty lies in producing the evidence which would convince a court that the funds that are being extracted from that operation are being used for terrorist purposes. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will take note that that issue should receive serious attention.
Column 319I should have thought it advisable either to assume that a known terrorist is using at least a portion of what he or she draws from commercial activity to promote terrorism, or to reverse the onus of proof so that commercial activities of known terrorists are assumed to be used to finance terrorism, unless he or she can prove otherwise. That point is worthy of further consideration. Finally, perhaps the point most worthy of mention is that the renewal order should receive our full support. I regard it as an essential weapon in the armoury of the fight against terrorism. 5.40 pm
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : The procedure which Parliament has in place for the annual review of this extraordinary legislation, which curbs normal liberties to which we adhere and regard as part of our civilisation, is necessary and important. It is important because it gives the House the opportunity to consider the justification for its continuance and to put forward any considerations that have arisen since it was last reviewed, which may lead to a change of view about its relevance and importance to the task to which it must contribute.
Since the past debate on the renewal of the PTA, the general picture of terrorism in Great Britain and in Northern Ireland must still give rise to deep concern. In Great Britain, there have been 49 terrorist incidents, three deaths and 124 persons injured. In Northern Ireland, there have been 730 incidents, 84 deaths and 826 people injured. In those circumstances, it must be said that terrorism remains a present threat, which we cannot in any way diminish.
The debate allows a further opportunity to pay tribute to all those in the armed services and in the security services who take enormous personal risks on behalf of us all and to whose judgment and advice we must pay especial attention.
Since we last considered the order, there have been two matters which merit consideration in the debate. The first is the Downing street declaration. It is with that and the Sinn Fein's response to it especially in mind, that I regard the initiative of the Labour party spokesman, the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), as neither timely nor appropriate. His proposal that we should
Mr. Maclennan : I heard him say, and perhaps the Official Report has recorded, that he said that I was out of step. My view, which is widely shared, is that the proposal that there should be an inquiry is untimely and would send precisely the wrong signals to Sinn Fein, which is plainly not taking steps to distance itself from its military wing, and which rejected as recently as at its conference of the past weekend, the opportunity to pick up the challenge to renounce terrorism, put to it by no one more honourable than the leader of the SDLP, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). When Sinn Fein is showing no willingness to do that, it seems inappropriate that the House should
Column 320communicate any doubts about the necessity of continuing the battle against terrorism and of using those instrumentalities which the security forces in the country regard as appropriate for that task. It is extremely unfortunate that we have not seen more progress towards the ending of terrorism in the past year, which may have made it appropriate to consider the effectiveness of especial aspects of the PTA. I am afraid that it is clear that those who are in charge of the security of our citizens have not in any way modified their view of the necessity of the Act in all its aspects.
That view is supported robustly and clearly by Mr. John Rowe in his report. It is playing with words to suggest that it is not any part of his job to consider the appropriateness or necessity of the measures contained in the Act. He quite explicitly states that the Act must be continued and makes no exception to his general view in the context of his consideration of its particular components.
Mr. Howard : On that point, does the hon. Gentleman accept that, in previous years, points have been put to Mr. Rowe's predecessors on the scope of powers and the need for them, as well as the way in which the powers work in a practical fashion, and that, in the parliamentary answer which I gave, observations were invited to be submitted to Mr. Rowe when I announced his appointment ? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the proper course for the Labour party to have taken, had it been serious about its intention of having the points which were raised by the hon. Member for Sedgefield considered by an independent person in the context of an independent review, was to put them to Mr. Rowe ?
Mr. Maclennan : That is a perfectly reasonable assumption. It was open to the Labour party to raise the points if it had thought it appropriate. It would have been open for it to ask Mr. Rowe to consider whether a wider inquiry, involving more people, would have assisted him in the discharge of his task. I see no evidence that the Labour party chose to do that.
Whereas in previous years I may have been more sympathetic to the Labour party's proposals--on previous occasions I have also spoken of the desirability of an all-party approach to such matters--its current proposal is completely untimely and remarkably inapposite. It is not only inapposite in respect of the general operation of the Act, but in respect of the especial provisions to which the hon. Member for Sedgefield drew attention.
With regard to the extension of detention, I was among those who argued most strongly in the House with the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Foreign Secretary that steps should be taken to seek to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the Brogan case. I talked at length with the right hon. Gentleman about the practicality of so doing. I am certain that it is right that the extension of detention, under the terms of the Act, amounts to an executive decision and is not a purely judicial matter.
In order to try to bring the matter within the European convention, because I see how the fact that we have had to seek to abrogate our obligations under the convention could lead to our being put in the international dock of world opinion, I was prepared to go to great lengths to discover whether there were practical alternatives. However, with the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Upper Bann, to whose views on such matters I always listen with great attention, I am not greatly attracted by the
Column 321proposal that we should create a new executive role for judges--or at least, an executive role to be discharged in the name of a judge. It seems to me that either there is an executive procedure or there is a judicial procedure. The hybrid proposal made by the hon. Member for Upper Bann might satisfy certain civilian lawyers on the continent, but it would not alter one whit the reality of what happens.
The practical objections that have been raised are profound and important. Having heard the views of those charged with the ultimate responsibility, not least those of the Foreign Secretary, whom I believe gave the matter considerable attention, I believe that the Government have taken the correct course.
I hope that it will not be necessary for us to continue with the provisions much longer, but that must depend on the success of the war against terrorism. I feel fortified in holding that view by the Brannigan and McBride case, which the hon. Member for Upper Bann mentioned. That case makes it plain that the European Court of Human Rights has understood and accepted the case for derogation, and considers that our action is entirely in line with the European convention.
It is extremely unfortunate that--to use the words of the court--there is a
"public emergency threatening the life of the nation".
However, in the year of the Bishopsgate bomb in the heart of the City and many other appalling episodes, not least the Warrington killing, it is hard to quarrel with the view expressed by the court. So, with great regret, I see no option but to accept that the powers to extend detention for five days beyond the original 48 hours must be continued.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield rested part of his case for review on the exclusion orders, but I have discussed the practical effects with senior security officers in this country and I have been wholly persuaded by what they said about the practical necessity of retaining exclusion orders.
The hon. Member for Upper Bann spoke about detailed surveillance as a possible alternative to exclusion orders, but it appears to me that detailed surveillance is what exclusion orders may make possible, certainly in the Province. I doubt whether without exclusion orders detailed surveillance in Great Britain would be possible--whether it would be within the capacity of our security services to carry out effective surveillance of all the people currently subject to exclusion orders.
I hope that we shall be able to return to a consensual position on this matter as soon as may be. I hope that the Labour party will reconsider its position ; it is only right that it should do so. The House and the country would be reassured if that party could accept that, notwithstanding the peculiarity and exceptional nature of the measures, it is necessary to give them our endorsement for another year--another year in which great political developments may alter the face of terrorism in our country.
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : Listening to the debate, I feel that we should spare a thought for the families of the victims--the widows, the mothers and the children--who have had to listen to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) seemingly putting the terrorist before the civil liberties of their loved ones. [Interruption.] It is all very well for Opposition Members to say, "For God's sake," but all I can say to them is : think of those whose lives we are still trying to save and of those who have already lost their lives.
Column 322I do not believe that in, his heart of hearts, the hon. Member for Sedgefield really wants to stop terrorism. If he really meant what he says, he would pull out all the stops and close all the loopholes to prevent terrorists from crossing the country to carry out their evil deeds. He gave us a series of crocodile tears.
I shiver slightly to think that the Labour party really imagines that it could one day be a party of government. Could it really be so irresponsible as to defy the advice of the police and the security forces and open the floodgates to seriously active terrorists ? That is the body of people we are really discussing. The fact that the Labour party is carrying out that policy to satisfy its own extreme elements is sickening and appalling.
As John Rowe pointed out in his independent report on the PTA, the whole point of the prevention of terrorism Act is to prevent an attack before it happens. I find it spurious that we should be faced with a smokescreen dismissing that respected report, as if we could string out events and find another report better tailored to the interests of the Opposition. Mr. Rowe emphasised how important it was to deter terrorists :
"to make it more difficult for them to put their plans into action".
He added that resulting intelligence had enabled the security forces to discover a bomb factory, and so to prevent bombing incidents.
The protection of law-abiding citizens should be put before arguments about the civil liberties of terrorists. What about the civil liberties of the victims ? I have in my pocket something that I choose to keep with me all the time--a piece of shrapnel that I picked up in a Dungannon housing estate that had been blasted by an IRA mortar attack. What could be more significant and memorable than the sharpness of that nasty little item ?
We need to remember the catalogue of incidents. I am grateful that the Home Secretary reminded us clearly of all the events in the past year. On the mainland of Great Britain alone three people have been killed and 124 injured. The police in Great Britain alone--this takes no account of incidents in Northern Ireland--engaged in anti-terrorist operations and recovered 2.5 tonnes of explosives and 400 weapons. We must think of the catalogue of disaster and tragedy that could have followed if the police had not been able to uncover those items and if they had been inhibited by the lack of a prevention of terrorism Act.
If the Labour party were serious about being tough on crime, it would stop whingeing and twisting to please its own side. Turning internal exile and exclusion orders for terrorists into injury to a person's liberty completely misses the point.
Mr. Rowe also said :
"There are strong arguments in favour of retaining the exclusion order. Terrorist activity continues with as much ferocity as ever." As he points out, a significant part of the Provisional IRA campaign takes place in Great Britain, and acts of terrorism perpetrated in Great Britain are regarded by the IRA as highly important. An exclusion order made against a terrorist who has expertise and experience makes it more difficult for the PIRA to use that man or woman over here.
Arguments in favour of civil rights and the liberty of the citizen must be balanced by the threat of terrorism, which is as great as ever. There is a high risk of death or injury from these people, and it is our duty to save lives whenever we can.
Column 323We should show our gratitude to the security forces--to the Army, the Metropolitan police, to special branch and to the national joint unit based in New Scotland Yard. We should be especially grateful to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which has to bear the brunt of this work. Indeed, I have seen the great dedication with which its members carry it out. I have seen the attention to detail given by the security forces : they check, check and check again. They maintain an enduring vigilance.
I have visited Castlereagh police station and discussed the work of the police officers who deal with terrorist suspects. I endorse the remarks in this respect of my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), who referred to page 14 of the report, on the subject of closed circuit television monitoring of interviews. It would be well nigh impossible to record those interrogations, because that would seriously inhibit terrorists who might otherwise provide vital information.
In the fight against terrorism we depend on intelligence ; very largely, that intelligence comes from the people who are interviewed.
Lady Olga Maitland : It is. We should follow up every line of interrogation in order to save lives. Not unusually, after some days of silence suspects suddenly decide to talk. What they say is often most revealing--it can save many lives--but that would never happen if the suspect felt that his colleagues might discover the fact that he had talked about their activities--if he believed that he and his family might be dead within days. As my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke said, the lives of interrogation officers would also be seriously put at risk.
The police need skill and patience to deal with difficult suspects, who sit in silence for days on end. They sing tunes, they deliberately perform degrading acts in front of the interviewing officers as a way of insulting them and the law, yet we expect the highest professionalism from the RUC as its members continue to perform their difficult tasks.
I have nothing but praise for the security forces, who do so much at such great personal risk to save so many lives. I deplore the attitude of anyone who chooses to vote against renewal of the prevention of terrorism Act. Doing that, I fear, could send the wrong message to Sinn Fein and the IRA, whose members might believe that they could string us along again and attempt all sorts of devious machinations. They would hope that by continuing in that vein they might be given succour by the Labour party if that dreadful day ever came to pass when it became the party of government. I believe that this debate will ensure that the public will vote again and again for a party with a responsible attitude to terrorism.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : I am one of those whose attitude, by definition, will be deplored by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland), because I am going to vote against renewal of the Act, just as I have always done.
Column 324I detected a remarkable contradiction in a point made by the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and by two subsequent speakers. Enthusiastically they support this prevention of terrorism legislation, which has been on the statute book for 20 years ; at the same time, they question the efficacy and wisdom of the joint declaration, which has been in existence for two and a half months. That is to ignore the central point about the joint declaration, which is that it was not written for Sinn Fein or the IRA, or for the loyalist paramilitary groupings. It was written for all the people on the island of Ireland. It embodies a set of principles that form a basis on which agreement can be sought. Hon. Members who question the declaration in this contradictory fashion clearly misunderstand its purpose.
I have listened to a number of these debates over the years. Today the old allegation has been repeated again--that those who oppose the legislation are at best misguided and at worst soft on terrorism. I find that objectionable, because that line of thought sees this type of emergency legislation not for what it is but as a litmus test for sound, anti- terrorist credentials. As the Evening Standard of 10 March observed, this legislation is used as a litmus test to establish who is soft on terrorism and who has sound anti-terrorist credentials.
I will take no lessons from anyone on the subject of terrorism and violence, or my opposition to them. I have lived in the midst of terrorism all my life, and I spent 25 years working in politics against those involved in violence--not from the cosiness of a television studio or a forum such as this House but on the streets and in the towns. I know what it is to have my name and face plastered on walls and to be described as an informer and a traitor--as someone worthy of execution. That is why I need no lectures about being strongly against terrorism. Nor do I need lectures on the rights of Members of this House to question any legislation.
I believe that this legislation must be questioned, first, because in three fundamental respects it deviates from normal law. It is therefore right and essential to criticise it. It has been effectively criticised by many speakers, not least the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) today. Such deviations from the norm must certainly be subjected to questioning.
The legislation should also be questioned on the ground that it involves a derogation from the European convention on human rights, in respect of the seven-day detention period--a provision supposed to be implemented only in time of war or other emergency. That in itself is reason enough to question the Act, and I intend to do just that. I also question the Act because ours is the only country in Europe that allows for internal exile--a curious way for the Conservative and Unionist party to express its profound commitment to the Union. What does that tell us about attitudes to nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland, and about attitudes to unionism ? The Conservatives' point of view seems to be, "We will have your votes, thank you, when we need them, but you can have the terrorists and all that that entails." It is an affront to all the people of the north of Ireland that this type of internal exile should be permitted. Irrespective of its merits or otherwise in legal terms, the sheer political implications to which it gives rise demand that we question it.
The third reason is that its application and implementation has created a context within which appalling miscarriages of justice can take place, and have taken place. We should not overlook the context created by
Column 325emergency legislation. Since the implementation of the prevention of terrorism Act 20 years ago, at least 15 cases brought under its terms have been deemed appalling miscarriages of justice--not by me, or by nationalist opinion, but by the highest courts in this land. That must give rise to disquiet within every hon. Member who values the highest standards and integrity of the judicial and legal process.
I believe that the Act does something else. There has been an abject failure to bring to justice those responsible for the miscarriages of justice, because the attitude of mind that we have heard from the Floor of the House today does not allow those responsible to face and be subject to justice themselves. I will give examples. In the Birmingham case, the powers given to the police under the legislation in effect corrupted the people who were charged with upholding the law. Hon. Members should not take my word for it--that has been established beyond doubt in terms of the decisions made within their own organisation. The same applies in the Guildford case. The most appalling part of it all in terms of the miscarriages of justice is the consequent impossibility of charging and convicting those who did carry out those crimes.
The imperative within the legislation and its urgency means that, in effect, the people who carried out the Birmingham and Guildford bombings and the other murders in the Judith Ward case are walking scot free. That is not as a result of the legislation, but because of the context in which the legislation placed the police and the process of justice, and the determination to get results.
Mr. Howard : I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely and with great interest. I am sure that he would not want to give a misleading impression. Will he accept that the powers which we are discussing were not used in either the Birmingham or the Guildford case ?
Mr. Mallon : I accept that readily, but I am talking about the context which it creates where there is an imperative on the police to get results. That, and the pressure of public opinion, was responsible for a lot of the reprehensible action. We must guard against that in all types of emergency legislation.
Perhaps one of the most pertinent insights into the retention of this legislation in its present form was given by the then Home Secretary, Sir Leon Brittan, in 1983. He gave two reasons for the retention of the powers of detention. The powers acted
"first, as a deterrent to persons other than the people who have been detained".
The implication of that, and the enormity of that implication, is that detaining people and taking away their freedom without any judicial input for up to seven days should be a legitimate means of deterring other people from crime. The fact that that was said by the then Home Secretary seems to be an appalling statement for someone who was in charge of the implementation of the highest standards of law.
The second reason which Sir Leon Brittan gave, and which was reiterated by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam, was that it "enabled information to be obtained that was of direct value in the battle against terrorism, even though it did not lead to action against the people concerned."--[ Official Report , 24 October 1983 ; Vol. 47, c. 55-56.]
Is it right to detain innocent people for the purpose of obtaining information from them ?
Column 326The enormity of that can be seen in the figures for the north of Ireland. In 1993, 1,641 people were detained, and 379 people were charged. That means that 1,262 people were not charged and were released in the terms of the law of this country that they were innocent until proven guilty. I wonder how many of those 1,262 people were being used as a trawl for information and how many were being questioned while detained on reasonable suspicion that they may have been involved in and concerned with terrorist activity. That is the corrosive effect that such legislation can have on those who are charged with implementing and upholding the law.
Exclusion orders are perhaps the most odious powers accorded to the Home Secretary through the Act. Great play has been made of the fact that the number of exclusion orders currently in force is the lowest at the end of any year since 1975. Let me say that 71 exclusion orders is 71 too many.
Leaving aside the dubious legal ethics of such orders, do the Government believe that by imposing an exclusion order they are solving the problem ? At most, they are shifting the problem to Northern Ireland, where they seem content to let it fester. In any event, where is the redress of an innocent person who is condemned to exclusion on the say-so of the Home Secretary ? Where is the fundamental right of a person to present his or her side of the story ? The Home Secretary does not need a burden of proof, and he does not even have to state his reason for excluding someone. There is no possibility that a person excluded can realistically challenge his exclusion. If ever there was a patent need for a review of this legislation, that surely must be it.
I have one simple question for all hon. Members : by and large, who are the people who are subject to this legislation in Britain ? Lorry drivers, ordinary people going on their holidays, young people who just happen to wear jeans and have long hair and people going about their business normally, as any person would or should. Such people make up the vast majority of those who are detained for short periods under this legislation. They have the stigma of detention on them when they return home, and we know what that can mean in Northern Ireland terms.
Let me refer to the extension of detention. The power to extend a person's detention under the Act is one which I think is manifestly exercised in a rather automatic way by the Home Secretary. It causes traumatic experiences for the detainee, who may not have had an opportunity to speak to anyone other than the police for 48 hours, not to mention a lawyer.
In 1993, not a single application for extension submitted by the police in Britain to the Home Secretary was refused. There were 29 in all, and that is more than double the number in 1992. That strongly suggests the need at minimum for a more rigorous examination of the applications for extension. The review of Mr. Rowe states that, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary apply to the Northern Ireland Office for an extension of detention, the usual explanation offered for the request is "reliable intelligence".
The fact that 77 per cent. of detentions in Northern Ireland do not lead to criminal charges must cast some doubt on the "reliable intelligence" which is offered by the RUC. Although the reviewer of the Act states that he could find no correlation between the length of time specified in the request for extension or detention and the time needed, he explains that by referring to the uncertainty of forensic