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Rev. William McCrea : I accept whole-heartedly what the hon. Gentleman said. I raised the question in the House during an earlier debate and I am still waiting for a reply--it may be lost in the post. Perhaps I can look forward to the Secretary of State telling me why, after two major programmes which went out across the airwaves, Martin McGuinness has not been questioned. If one considered the question, one would have to say, "How could he have been questioned when he was the front man for the terrorists in their negotiations through the back door with the Government ?"
Column 288forces with the evidence, including sworn affidavits from people who were witnesses to Martin McGuinness's involvement in terrorism ? The security forces therefore had the evidence in their possession and, at the very least, should have brought him in to question him.
Rev. William McCrea : I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, with which I whole-heartedly concur. I know that the Secretary of State has also heard my hon. Friend's remarks and the evidence that he has presented to the House and that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will keep that in his thoughts when he is replying to specific questions. I can assure the House that the Province waits with interest to find out what the Secretary of State's response is. I conclude my remarks by saying that, for the people I represent, the violence, murders and destruction go on. Can anyone understand what it is to visit their homes ? They ask, "When will it end ?" Unfortunately, under the present policy of the Government, the end is certainly not in sight.
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East) : Few hon. Members can match the passion or direct experience of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) and I do not intend to try. However, even if one does not bring to these matters that same passion and experience, that does not excuse the House from considering carefully the terms of the proposal before us and, in a responsible way, reaching a proper conclusion on whether the provisions should be renewed yet again for 12 months.
If there is a Division, I shall advise my right hon and hon. Friends to vote for the order. We shall not do so with great enthusiasm but rather because we regard it as a regrettable necessity. Indeed, we shall vote for the order with considerable reservations because we profoundly believe that the rights, protections and civil liberties of all United Kingdom citizens should be the same wherever they live and that only in the most unusual circumstances can a departure from those principles be justified. On the evidence that we have heard in the debate so far, quite apart from our own knowledge, I must conclude that the circumstances still obtaining in Northern Ireland justify renewing the order once again. Indeed, they justify powers that, in other circumstances, might be regarded as draconian. Those powers should not be maintained for an instant longer than is necessary. They should be grudgingly tolerated and we should work, with all the power available to us, to withdraw them at the earliest possible date, for they represent a serious incursion into the rights that citizens throughout the United Kingdom are entitled to expect.
The powers continue to be justified only because the cancer of terrorism still lies at the heart of life in Northern Ireland. They will not eliminate that cancer ; at best, they may contain it. Unless and until a political settlement that commands the support of the whole community of Northern Ireland is achieved, we are likely to continue to face the kind of terrorist outrages that so affect our judgment of these issues.
As always, I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). I was sorry to hear him say yet again that, because of the existence of the power of internment and certain defects in the legislation, he and his party are not disposed to support the order. I am surprised because I
Column 289should have thought that, at a time when the joint declaration has been published and the clarification sought has been provided, a unilateral act by the British Parliament to withdraw those powers would appear singularly inappropriate.
I assume that, in pressing the motion to a Division, the hon. Gentleman hopes--perhaps even expects--that the Government will be defeated. The logic of that position is that, were he to win the vote, those parts of the order that he supports and acknowledges are necessary for the security forces would be denied to the security forces after 16 June this year. I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but it is an unusual position to adopt in the light of the present circumstances and the logical consequences of his position.
Mr. Campbell : Certainly, were it to be in use. The point to which the hon. Gentleman fails to give sufficient weight is that, although the power exists, it is not being implemented. Were the power to be implemented, my judgment is that its use would be counter-productive. It might give rise to the kind of response from certain parts of the community in Northern Ireland that the hon. Gentleman predicts. I return to the question of logic. When the Division is called, if the hon. Gentleman succeeds in what he sets out to do he will deny to the security forces those powers that he says they are entitled to have. That seems to me to be quite a difficult position to sustain, particularly at this time.
I make a number of criticisms of the existing arrangements. In relation to Diplock courts, I believe that there is a compelling argument to have not a single judge, but three judges. I believe that insufficient use has been made of section 27--the charge of directing terrorism--to which some reference has been made already. I think that efforts should be made to ensure that the power is utilised impartially and more effectively.
With regard to the confiscation of the proceeds of
terrorist-related funding, it seems to me that the House might well be entitled to ask the Secretary of State what has happened in the past 12 months and whether he is satisfied that the existing powers are adequate to deal with the problem.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : If there are all these reservations about the order, how will we amend it ? We have an order on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. If it is offensive in some way, we could reject it and ask the Government to produce a fresh order before the date that it is required.
Mr. Campbell : I doubt whether the last part of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is feasible in the time scale available. He is quite right to say that it is an unamendable order. If his argument is that we should legislate for Northern Ireland in a different manner, he will find ready support from me.
I return to the point I made earlier. At this time, is it to be seriously argued in the Chamber that the House should say to the security forces that they cannot have powers that it is unanimously accepted on both sides of the House are powers they ought to have ?
Column 290My view is rather different from the Secretary of State's on the question of taping interviews. This is not a matter upon which one ranges one individual against another and says, "Take your pick". Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, Lord Colville and Mr. Rowe have taken a different view on the question whether interviews should be either audio or video taped. Clearly, the Chief Constable's view carries great weight, but sometimes those who stand back and who are not directly in the front line of these matters are in a position to have a more objective and informed view.
There are a number of other aspects on which, if time permitted, I might express criticisms of the legislation. However, I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House--some with more direct knowledge of these matters than I--wish to speak. At the outset of my remarks I described the order as a regrettable necessity. On that footing, I believe that it is entitled to the support of the House. 10.27 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) : As some hon. Members have said, this is a rather ritual occasion which does not really provide an adequate substitute for proper scrutiny by the House of the operation of the legislation. I still believe that at some point we shall have to consider how to scrutinise the legislation in a better way. While it is a ritual occasion, it still has its surprises. I must record that I had at least one surprise this evening when--if I heard correctly, and I hope that I did-- the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) suddenly said something at the end of his speech with which I profoundly agreed, and something that I had never heard from him before in any debate. He seemed to announce that his party had commissioned a study of the effectiveness of the legislation, apparently with a view to ensuring that it is more effective. He said that, in so doing, particular regard would be given to the experience in Europe. I am delighted to hear that the Labour party is to undertake a serious study to find out how we can have effective anti- terrorist legislation, with the emphasis on the word "effective". I especially commend the study of the experience in Europe because the Government have much to learn about the reasons for success in Europe in contrast with their own comparative failure.
I wish to discuss some of those reforms, drawing partly on the European experience, which ought to be considered. I shall not refer to the matter at length as I have had occasion to refer to those reforms before, but I shall briefly mention some of them. The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) referred to proposals about hearsay. An excellent speech on the general subject of evidence was made in the other place by Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor and I believe that he said all that has to be said. I should especially like the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler), to read that speech in view of his reply to me the last time we debated that subject. On the suggestion made by the Chief Constable to extend the powers of authorised investigators, the Secretary of State said that he was reluctant to make--indeed, would not make--so important a change in our criminal justice system. I think that I quote him correctly. But the change has already been made : the right to silence has been abrogated with regard to certain offences. If that
Column 291is too important a change to make, does the Secretary of State propose to repeal the provision already in the Act that we are discussing today ?
The Act abrogates the right to silence in relation to certain offences. We are suggesting that we extend the abrogation not to less serious offences, but to more serious ones. If it is not right to extend it to the more serious offence of directing a terrorist organisation, why do we have it in relation to the financing of terrorism ? The exception has already been made, the precedent has been established and there is no logic in the Secretary of State's refusal to follow that precedent.
On the other hand, I commend the Secretary of State for keeping a sympathetic mind with regard to "wire-tap evidence", as we have used that phrase. The issue is more than simply that of intercepted telephone communication ; it relates to electronic surveillance generally. I noticed that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North had a generally favourable approach to it. Electronic surveillance--eavesdropping--is being used and the resulting evidence is being brought before the court. Indeed, that was one of the major sources of the evidence presented to the court to enable the remand to take place in the one case of directing terrorist organisations under section 27 that was heard by the courts in Northern Ireland as recently as last week. Apparently, some of the evidence is of conversations tape-recorded unbeknown to the suspect, the tape recordings being made by the police officers to whom he was speaking, by means of microphones concealed about their person. Electronic surveillance is therefore admissible without the battery of safeguards that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North suggested. We need to reconsider that more seriously.
A general welcome has been given to the report of Mr. Rowe. Especially as I was critical of his report on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989, it is only right that I should welcome his report and say that those of my colleagues who have had the opportunity to study it in the short time in which it has been available were impressed by it. I disagree, however, with Mr. Rowe's proposals on the audiotaping of police interviews. I acknowledge that there is a potential saving here and the potential saving is significant with regard to obviating the need for the voire dire, which is a substantial argument, but Mr. Rowe misses the point. He says that under the present system it is possible for terrorist organisations to ascertain what has been said in an interview. As he points out, that could happen because the interviewee co-operates with the terrorist organisation during a debriefing and also because a copy of the formal record of the interview can be obtained. That is correct. If the interviewee co-operates with the terrorist organisation, a certain amount of information can be obtained.
One of the grounds for police worry is that apparently the police regularly obtain information from suspects who are anxious to conceal that co- operation with the police from the terrorist organisation. I understand that such information is regularly given on the basis that it is not written down and not incorporated in the formal record of the interview. The minute one brings audiotaping into the picture, one loses that co- operation. The police say--and I have no reason to disbelieve them--that this is an important source of intelligence information. It must
Column 292therefore be given considerable weight. I find more sympathy for the view expressed by Lord Colville in earlier reports on the question of having video but not audio taping. As I have said on previous occasions, I would be prepared to look in that direction if I had to make a choice for an experiment.
Section 27 of the Act deals with the offence of directing terrorist organisations. This was a major innovation of the Act of 1991. Since then, we have complained about the failure to use the provision. As has been said, one charge has at last been brought. I shall not comment on the particular case, which is now a matter for the courts, save to say that we have no complaint about the bringing of the charge.What we do complain about, and what other hon. Members have complained about during the debate, is the apparent immunity enjoyed by the godfathers of republican terrorism.
I do not intend to cover again ground that was covered by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), but essentially the hon. Gentleman is right. Regrettably, the Secretary of State, in his intervention during the hon. Gentleman's speech, did nothing to allay people's suspicions, particularly with regard to Mr. Martin McGuinness. It is ironic that only about 10 days ago--the right hon. and learned Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong--the Secretary of State himself, in a speech in Dublin, described Mr. McGuinness as a leading member of the IRA. In this context, the real question is : why has there been no follow-up, no inquiry ? If this man is a leading member of the IRA, as the Secretary of State himself says, he is guilty not only of membership but of directing a terrorist organisation. I do not know anybody who doubts that. The only possible legitimate reason for failing to bring a case against McGuinness is lack of evidence, but why should there be no questioning ? Why should there be no attempt to find out and to follow up the material to which the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster has referred ?
Then there is Mr. McGuinness's close colleague--Mr. Adams himself. The Sunday Times story last week shows clearly that Mr. Adams's close associates in his advice centres in west Belfast were key elements in the recent wave of so-called punishment shootings against people allegedly involved in drugs. One of the persons injured on that occasion said that Mr. Adams's bodyguard was the man who decided whether or not someone would be shot. Has there been any follow-up on that ?
In an intervention, the Secretary of State asked the hon. Member for Mid- Ulster whether he was suggesting that the Chief Constable and the Director of Public Prosecutions are not impartial in respect of these matters. I am disturbed by a Northern Ireland press report from what I regard as an authoritative source. This report said that, following the "Cook Report", the RUC in Londonderry wanted to interview Mr. McGuinness, but that instructions came, through special branch, from higher places--the implication was that the source was political and not the Chief Constable-- that he was not to be touched. That is a matter on which I should dearly love to hear the Secretary of State speak frankly.
Then there are the godfathers in Belfast, who are all well known to journalists, to the police and to members of the public. There is the commander of the IRA in Belfast, Mr. Brian Gillen ; there is the IRA's Belfast intelligence officer, one of the Finnucane brothers ; there is the gentleman who probably planned the Shankill road bomb, one Eddie Copeland. Why have there been no inquiries into those
Column 293people ? Why have they not been questioned ? Who grants such immunity ? A national newspaper suggested recently that the Minister of State has told the RUC to concentrate on preventing specific incidents and to give lower priority to the targeting of IRA godfathers. Will the Minister of State comment on that in his reply ?
The comparative failure to charge under section 27 reminds one of the comparative failure with regard to terrorist finances--a matter mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). There have been no cases. Have any accounts been seized ? Has any money been recovered ? The authorities have claimed that terrorist financing has been disrupted. Here I am reminded of words used in another context : where is the beef ? Where is the money ? Where are the proceeds ? What has been seized ? We need some information about that.
There is a matter that touches on the criticism in Her Majesty's inspectorate's report on the RUC. I refer to the suggestion that there was an absence of policing strategy aimed at putting terrorist criminals behind bars. Too much of the present activity appears to be intelligence oriented- -aimed at spoiling terrorist operations rather than eliminating or, as the present Home Secretary said, extirpating the terrorist organisations. The reluctance to charge with regard to funding and the reluctance to use intelligence information in court points in that direction--if so, it is wrong and should be changed. As well as being even handed in the pursuit of terrorists, the so-called "peace process"--I hope that that appears in inverted commas--must also be even handed. Many of us regard that process as being essentially bogus, for it involves making political concessions to terrorism. Not only would that be morally reprehensible ; it would not be successful, for to reward terrorism would only encourage more terrorism. It would be even worse to appear to reward one terrorist faction while ignoring its rivals.
The Downing street declaration focuses essentially on the interests of one section of the community and deals only with the interests of the greater number of the community incidentally and by implication. As a consequence, it has presented itself in a lopsided manner to the public in Northern Ireland. That has accelerated what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) described in a statement on Friday as the race to achieve a balance of terror. In that statement, my right hon. Friend said that interpretations of the declaration had missed a significant point in paragraph 10, which explains the consequences that would follow a cessation of terrorism. It draws no distinction between republican and loyalist paramilitary organisations : once a commitment to a permanent end to the use of, or support for, paramilitary violence is established and verified, any such organisation becomes eligible to enter exploratory discussions on how it can, in due course, be considered for participation in the democratic process.
It was on the basis of that reading of the declaration that my right hon. Friend felt entitled to demand an immediate halt to the race to achieve a balance of terror. I would appreciate it if the Minister, in his reply, would comment specifically on that matter, and on the construction advanced by my right hon. Friend. Failure to do so will be seen as endorsing the one -sided interpretation of the declaration and all that that entails. I would hope that the two Governments who set their hands to the declaration have thought the matter through. They have not said how
Column 294they would expect a one-sided approach to terrorism to work. Have they taken account of the possibility that one reason why republicans have not responded may be fear for their personal survival ? I say that to emphasise the need for consistency.
In my view, those terrorists have not and will not respond positively. I say that because the declaration and the recent Northern Ireland Office statement stress that there will be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. That means that, whatever might be discussed, there will be no change in the fundamental constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.
By acknowledging the principle of consent, the Irish Government have accepted that the views of the people of Northern Ireland are paramount, but there is still work to be done. The Irish Government have not yet put that principle into practice--that means publicly respecting the oft- repeated expression of the views of the people in favour of the Union. One cannot say that one respects people's views and, at the same time, advance proposals that run contrary to those expressed views. If one says that one accepts and respects those views, one must do so and carry that into practice. It is possible that one reason for the failure, so far, by the Irish Government to put that principle into practice is that Her Majesty's Government's endorsement of the Union has been so muted ; that, too, must change. There was one significant event in the corresponding debate last year--the contribution of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath). He made a powerful speech in which he called for a unified drive against terrorism throughout the United Kingdom, under the control of a single Cabinet Minister directly responsible to the Prime Minister. That view found considerable echo on these Benches. I am sorry to say that, so far, there has been no action and the anti-terrorist drive in the past year has had the same lack of success as in previous years. We should return to that suggestion. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup also said that the politics and the use of military force must go together--in other words, they must pull in the same direction. Currently, they lack coherence. The root cause of terrorism is the hope and fear that it can achieve change. Force exercised by authority, designed to defeat that by showing it, will not achieve change. Anti-terrorist force cannot succeed if the Government's policies hint at or promote the very change in question. The ambiguity must be removed. The use of police and military force and political measures must be aligned. By all means we can couple that with giving people the opportunity of joining the political process, but that must be done not on a false basis, but on the basis of an honest appreciation of the realities. If we encourage people to enter politics, we must show that politics in Northern Ireland can work. That means having representative political institutions which can actually do something, in which all who want to can play a meaningful part, and we in the Ulster Unionist party have done so in the blueprint for stability. It is high time that that, too, was taken up by the Government and implemented.
Column 29510.45 pm
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) : Tonight's debate is bound to be seen by many inside and outside the House in the context of the Downing street declaration. Some people will inevitably ask whether that declaration makes the order unnecessary. Others will ask whether the order will make the peace process more difficult. However, those are not the key questions. For me, the declaration is relevant tonight only in so far as it offers one possible route to a permanent end to violence. That and only that will make the order unnecessary. I am totally persuaded that a permanent end to violence must come first and Labour's refusal to agree to the orders by voting against them tonight plays into the hands of terrorists and signals that violence can pay if one sticks at it long enough.
For me, the key questions when deciding how to vote tonight are not about the peace process or the theory of democracy but are quite simple : is terrorism currently continuing and will the order help to counter it ? Nobody who follows the events in Northern Ireland, whether living there or from across the water, can be in any doubt at all that the answer to the first question, "Is terrorism continuing ?" has to be an unequivocal yes. We have heard the statistics tonight. There have been 32 murders since the declaration was signed. That is more than in the same period last year before the declaration.
We are not only talking about murder : extortion, intimidation and maiming continue. The 32 deaths are simply the tip of the iceberg. Terrorism continues and we have to address it, whatever is happening in the peace process. I am persuaded that the answer to the second question, "Will the order help to counter terrorism ?" is also yes. The Secretary of State set out the case earlier this evening. It fits with my knowledge and experience. I accept that the order is necessary and I will not repeat the arguments again at this time of night.
I am only too well aware that some people would dispute my conclusions. There are those within the Labour party who believe that such powers make violence worse and that the order would lead to the abuse of power. Worse still, there are even some people in the Labour party who believe that the orders turn us into terrorists as well. Year after year, those same Labour Members have voted against these orders. That is a complete and utter disgrace. I hope that they sleep soundly in their beds, because if I opposed the orders, I would feel that I was condoning murder, maiming and extortion.
I shall spend a moment answering each of what I consider to be bogus points. The first allegation that is made against people who say as I do and vote for the orders is that it will make violence worse. As I understand the affairs of Northern Ireland, it was not the orders that caused the violence ; they came about as a response to it. If I understand anything, the violence has been going on for 25 years. Yet these particular powers date back just three years, and others for 16 years. It was only after trying for nine years without them that the House took action. I believe that that is the answer to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who said, "Beware of knee-jerks." Given the nine-year delay before taking those powers, I do not judge them to be remotely a knee-jerk reaction : they are the inevitable response to people who will not respect the rule of law and the discussions in this House.
Mr. Mallon : Would the hon. Gentleman like to re-examine what he said recently--that those who oppose the Bill condone murder and extortion ? In the light of the responsible attitudes that have been shown down through the years from this side of the House, would he like to rethink that statement and reflect on the enormity of it ?
Mr. Wilshire : I will always reconsider what the hon. Gentleman asks me to. I do not doubt or question for one moment his sincerity and views. Similarly, I hope that he will show me the respect of believing that what I say is what I believe. I will reconsider, but I very much doubt whether in the morning I will wish to rephrase what I said.
The second allegation is that the order will offer a cloak for further abuse of power. We are all well aware of the allegations that are made about the abuse of physical and legal power, and I see no need to repeat them here. But we must also all be aware that the Government have responded to those allegations by setting up the opportunities for people to complain, for investigations to be carried out and for public reports to be made. Earlier in the debate, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State responded to that process. He made announcements ; he announced decisions. I believe that they will go a long way to reassuring the people who are prepared to consider such issues with an open and fair mind. The third allegation is that the order makes us as bad as terrorists. It is all too easy to deliver lectures on the theory of democracy from the relative comfort of the House and the relative safety of the mainland, but I judge that psychopathic murderers, be they acting in the name of Catholicism, Protestantism or anything else, are not amenable to rational argument and democratic debate. It was not the state that recently murdered an elderly woman. It was not the state that recently maimed a three-year-old child. It was terrorists and terrorism. No lectures on democracy will wipe those facts from the history book.
At the outset, I rejected any attempt to put tonight's debate in the context of the Downing street declaration, but there is one context that I hope that the Government may be willing to think about and act on as quickly as possible. I believe that we could and should make the future renewal of these provisions part of a package that is designed to do not the one thing that happens at the moment, but two things. The first thing that it should do--as we have been doing each year and will, I hope, continue doing until terrorism is overcome--is make it clear that we in this House are determined to resist debate by semtex, and that we are determined to prevent change coming via the barrel of a gun. But I hope that the second part of a package for future debate will present an opportunity for democratic debate in a locally elected forum in Northern Ireland. I hope that the package will ensure that there is real and proper scope for change by peaceful, agreed consent.
I support the order--perhaps with some regret, but none the less willingly. I support the belief that terrorism must never be allowed to pay or be seen to pay, or be supported by any hon. Member, regardless of political persuasion. I would support proposals to allow the people of Northern Ireland to settle their own future, through democracy, in their own Province.
Column 297Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). I am prompted to do so by the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea). He used powerful language to condemn the murder in Armagh city of a young soldier from Cookstown, and eloquently described the funeral and the effect on the family ; he used the word "scum".
In an intervention--I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing it--I said that I agreed : I, too, would use that word to describe the people who had committed the murder. I asked the hon. Gentleman whether he would also use the word to describe members of the loyalist community--the so-called loyalist paramilitaries of the UDA or the UVF. He did not answer my question. I am not criticising him, but I would have been happier if he had used the word in that context.
I am not in the numbers game, but I believe that more people have died as a result of violence in my constituency than in any other constituency in Northern Ireland--or, for that matter, in any other part of these islands. I am talking about people who have been murdered. We have heard a good deal of talk about Sinn Fein tonight ; most of its leaders are within yards of my advice centre in west Belfast, as is the advice centre--I hesitate to use the term--of the Sinn Fein president, Mr. Adams.
Not very far away--just over the so-called peace line, but also in my constituency--are the hard men of the UDA and UVF. On both sides of that so -called peace line, there has been a frightening number of murders over the years. Unfortunately, I cannot give the exact number. The people who live there worry every day and every night about their families--their sons and daughters.
I, too, have stood beside the graves into which young people have been lowered, and have seen the tears of families--not only as a public representative, but as a medical practitioner in the area for many years.
I understand the position of the police, and have great sympathy for them. Policing a divided community is fraught with difficulty. However, I must make a couple of comments about the Castlereagh interrogation centre.
I deeply resent any action or legislation that in any way helps a paramilitary organisation, be it the IRA or the UDA. The vast majority of the police are doing their best in very difficult circumstances. But it is a fact that, over the years, people have been assaulted in the Castlereagh interrogation centre, or holding centre ; I do not mind what it is called.
I take no pleasure from saying it, but many of my constituents have been assaulted over the years. Some may have been guilty of terrible crimes, but many were not. That is why I make my point about helping the godfathers of the paramilitary to exploit young people and bring them into their organisations.
Hon. Members will remember the Bennett report, produced some years ago, about people assaulted in Castlereagh. The last thing I want to do is undermine the police, but it must be said that in all those years not one policeman has been charged and found guilty of assault in Castlereagh. We are all aware of the number of cases that have been settled out of court.
Police and soldiers carry out searches every day of the week. Such searches are necessary--we all understand that. Very often, information is obtained in places such as Castlereagh. Sometimes, it is correct ; but sometimes it is wrong. Often a young person under pressure will not give information about a paramilitary colleague. Instead, he will give information about some other family--he will name
Column 298some family who are not involved. As a result, police or soldiers will arrive at their house at 5 o'clock in the morning and a search will be carried out.
I understand that. But let me emphasise to the Secretary of State and the House that when such a mistake is made, it is simple for either a senior Army or a senior police person to call to see that family in the following few days to say sorry and to explain that the wrong information had been received. This has to do with the dignity of the family and of young people. Young people become easy prey to paramilitaries. Over the years, I have found that such situations, in which there is inevitable confrontation with the security forces, only lead to young people joining the IRA or the UDA. I am sure that the House will agree that that is what the paramilitary organisations want. They want confrontation with the security forces. That is the history of terrorist organisations around the world. It is important that the Government and those in charge of the security forces should be aware of that.
I totally support the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh about the intimidation of solicitors, but I would like to add one point that is a wee bit opposite to it. We all want law and order in Northern Ireland and we want the paramilitaries off our backs. However, as I have said many times over the years, it is unfortunate that the great legal profession in Northern Ireland, for which I have tremendous admiration--the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland representing the solicitors and the Bar Association of Northern Ireland representing the barristers--has never on one occasion that I can recall over the past 20 or 25 years pointed to the harassment or to the beatings that have taken place in Castlereagh. Those organisations have never acknowledged it in any public way--it would have come out in various court cases--which I deeply regret.
I fully understand the great difficulties that the police have and it is fair to say that the people on the ground, including those in west Belfast, will support the police as long as they are seen to be supporting the people on the ground.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : I have attended many debates on Northern Ireland over the past six years--probably as many as any other Back-Bench Member. In that time, I do not think that I have ever heard as impassioned a speech as that made by the hon. Member for Mid- Ulster (Rev. William McCrea). I have come to appreciate the problems faced by the Protestant community in Northern Ireland and the violence that is directed towards it. However, there was a very meaningful moment in the hon. Gentleman's speech when the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) intervened--a moment to which the hon. Member for Belfast, West referred. He asked the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster to respond in a similar way to the activities of the UFF and the UVF as to those of the IRA. We did not hear such a response.
Although I expect members of the Ulster Unionist parties to stress IRA violence and members of the SDLP to stress the violence of the UFF and UVF, I also expect all hon. Members to stress in their speeches that they condemn all the violence equally. I hope that our attitude is that we are opposed to violence from any avenue--from any sectarian force or any force involved in the state--and that we must seek to stop it together. That is more important
Column 299than the measure that we are discussing or where we stand in relation to the prevention of terrorism provisions and their extension, whether we are for or against them. Arguments can be made for either case, but, whatever our attitude to the provisions, we should condemn utterly the people involved in violent and sectarian activity, from whichever side it comes. I hope that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster will do just that so that the passion that he expressed in cases relevant to his own community becomes more broadly based. I would also ask representatives of the SDLP to do likewise. 11.4 pm
Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan) : I have listened to almost the entire debate, except when I made a brief visit to the toilet. I listened in particular to the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), whom I have known for many years and whom I respect. I hope that on reflection, in the cool of the morning, he will feel it necessary to withdraw or at least to amend some of his comments which, I believe, were directed either at the Social Democratic and Labour party or at myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). I shall deal with that matter in a moment. I wish that we did not have to renew the prevention of terrorism Act and the emergency provisions year after year. I look around the Chamber and I think that, apart from the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), only my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and I were in the House 21 years ago when the legislation was passed.
I have listened carefully to the speeches made in the debate and, as is now traditional, we heard the Government recite their standard justification for the emergency powers, despite the fact that the legislation has patently failed to suppress terrorist activity in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Spelthorne in particular implied that the Labour party's opposition to the renewal of the provisions was evidence that we are soft on terrorism. That is a gross misrepresentation of the truth, and I refute it. It is fair to say that all parties and all hon. Members are opposed to paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland. The very nature of the campaign to seek political ends through violence must be abhorrent to any democrats. To suggest that the Labour party in any way condones unspeakable acts of violence is to make a cheap political point of an issue that is too important to be reduced to such a level.
The Labour party is united in condemnation of all acts of terrorism, from whatever quarter they come. We do not disagree with the Government that terrorists need to be defeated and brought to justice, but we disagree on the method by which that objective is achieved. That is perfectly legitimate. Conservatives may not approve, but surely they cannot deny that we have a right to examine what the Government are proposing.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, I support and commend the work of the security services, the judiciary and the prison service,
Column 300representatives of all of whom my hon. Friend and I have met and will continue to meet. They deserve our support for doing their job in a dangerous and stressful environment.
In a democracy, the duty of the Government is to protect the civil rights of their citizens. If those rights are to be infringed or suspended, there must be overriding and compelling cause. We accept that there may be a need for emergency powers to counteract the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland. However, we believe that the powers in the emergency provisions Acts weaken the core principles on which civilised society is based. That in itself is of assistance to the terrorists in their evil campaign of violence.
Regrettably, we must continue to oppose the legislation while the power of internment remains on the statute book. In spite of what the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) said in his thoughtful contribution, the power of the Executive to imprison without charge or trial is an affront to democratic principles. It places the Executive above the rule of law, and undermines the criminal justice system--the very system that the terrorists are waging a campaign to defeat.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North outlined in detail why the Labour party favours the introduction of video and audio taping of interrogations in the holding centres. As the Government's own adviser has now argued, mechanisms can be established to limit the disclosure of such tapes so as to protect both the detainee and any sensitive information. The introduction of those safeguards in the holding centres would protect the security services from false allegations by detainees, and would immeasurably improve community relations. The safeguard of audio taping terrorist suspects is already in place here in Great Britain, and the Government have still failed to provide a reasonable justification for their refusal to introduce similar safeguards in Northern Ireland.
After listening to the contributions to the debate, and having further considered the report by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, I tell the House that if the Government again refuse to introduce audio and video recordings, suspicion in Northern Ireland will be compounded. That is all the more important because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has already explained, regrettably the security forces do not have the support of the whole community in Northern Ireland. In order to build up trust and confidence in the forces of law and order and in the judiciary, justice must not only be seen to be done but be seen inevitably to be done.
The is why the Labour party believes that mechanisms to hold members of the security services properly accountable, too, are vital. No one must appear to be above the law. We support the calls by the Independent Commission for Police Complaints for its powers of investigation to be strengthened, to enforce its credibility and effectiveness. Clearly, as has already been said, the reason why so few complaints are upheld against the police and the Army needs to be further investigated. Reforms such as those advocated by David Hewitt and the Independent Commission for Police Complaints need to be considered as a matter of urgency by the Secretary of State. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 was passed quickly through Parliament 21 years ago as a temporary measure in extreme circumstances. The very fact that it is still on the statute book is damning evidence
Column 301of the ineffectiveness of the powers within it. I can tell the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who challenged my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North a little earlier, that the Labour party has for some time been calling on the Government to join us in developing a more coherent and effective counter-terrorist policy, with due regard to the basic civil rights of the citizens of this country. Thus far, the Government have refused to countenance such a review.
Rightly, the Downing street joint declaration has been mentioned. It is my view and that of my party--certainly it was the view of my late lamented leader, John Smith--that the declaration is to be welcomed. Indeed, it is the only game in town as a starter for the peace process. It is regrettable that Sinn Fein has not responded more positively to the clarified Downing street declaration. It is also regrettable that the DUP and its leader have made this an issue in the European elections. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is stomping around the Province saying that a vote for him is a vote against the joint declaration. On television, when he left Downing street he said that he would be back on 10 June with a mandate from the people of Northern Ireland because he is standing in the election against the Downing street declaration. He is making it an issue.
Mr. Stott : No, I will not give way ; I do not have time. If that is the attitude of the hon. Member for Antrim, North, I suggest that he look at page 24 of the Labour party European election manifesto where we clearly state our support for the Government's join declaration. Every Labour candidate who stands in the election will be standing on the manifesto. Labour candidates in the rest of the United Kingdom will get millions of votes for standing on our manifesto which expressly supports the joint statement.
Mr. Stott : At the previous election, the leader of the DUP polled 160,110 votes ; the Labour candidates polled 6 million votes. We will probably do even better than that ; we will probably get up to 8 million votes. If the DUP wants a referendum on the joint statement, the Labour party will give them one.
Mr. Peter Robinson : Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many votes the Labour party got in Northern Ireland in the last election ? Does the issue of consent mean anything ? Is the Labour party looking for the consent of the people of Northern Ireland ? How much consent will his party get in Northern Ireland at the election ?
Mr. Stott : The hon. Gentleman knows that the British Labour party does not organise in Northern Ireland, and he knows the reasons why we do not do so. The hon. Gentleman and his party cannot have it both ways. He claims his loyalty and his Britishness. The British people will have their say on 9 June, and they will vote for candidates who support the joint declaration. [Interruption.] That certainly livened up the debate.
For the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and I have given, it is
Column 302regrettable--I say this sincerely--that we cannot find a consensus in the House on these issues, and therefore we will reluctantly vote against the order tonight.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler) : I shall forgo the pleasure of a discourse about the relative merits of the manifestos for the forthcoming European elections and concentrate on the provisions before the House.
Tonight, the House has had an opportunity to give its full and open consideration to the powers in place to continue the fight against terrorists from both sides in Northern Ireland. I agree with the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) and other hon. Members who have spoken in the debate that, sadly, these powers remain necessary. They will be used resolutely for so long, but only so long, as terrorism persists. They are kept under review and are subject to the annual review process, which we have been debating tonight.
This year, our debate has been informed by the published reports of three independent and eminent figures. All three are welcome and objective reports. They will be studied with care. That such reports are available is a testament to the Government's determination that our security policy and its implementation should be as open as possible.
It is essential that those not involved in pursuing their aims by killing people should have nothing to fear. It is important that they should have confidence in the processes involved in defeating terrorism.
The nine Back-Bench Members who have spoken this evening raised many valuable points and I shall seek to touch on as many as I can in my remaining time. I welcome the support of the hon. Member for Wigan for the joint declaration. At least there is unity in the House about the overwhelming desire for peace in Northern Ireland and an end to the killing.
The hon Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), raised the question of codes of practice. I remind him that statutory codes of practice dealing with civil and criminal proceedings governing the detention, treatment, questioning and identification of terrorist suspects in police custody came into effect on 1 January this year. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has also decided to introduce, under sections 61 and 62, a code of practice to cover the police and armed forces' powers of stop, search and seizure under part II of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. A draft code is in preparation.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North gave as his chief reason for urging that the Opposition should vote against annual renewal the fact that he opposed the continued part played by detention in the 1991 Act. The making of this order has no effect on its availability, which can continue to be activated by separate order unless and until principal legislation removes it from the Act. To justify opposing this order by saying that Opposition Members are against detention is disingenuous nonsense and simply does not wash. When the time comes, I am sure that hon. Members will be clear about that and will have no difficulty in supporting the order. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North also referred to video recording of people interviewed in the