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Rev. William McCrea: Does my hon. Friend know that the Government of the Irish Republic and Her Majesty's Government know that there are currently three dumps in the Irish Republic? They know exactly where the arms are. Those weapons have been lost to the terrorists and will be used as that gesture because the IRA can never use those weapons again.
Mr. Dicks: I understand--perhaps the hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong--that there will be no move to have Adams and McGuinness sitting round the negotiating table until every last weapon that they own has been handed in. Is that wrong?
Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies, may I point out that we are dealing not with the general state of the peace negotiations but with the renewal or otherwise of the provisions against terrorism? I hope that he will address that point.
Rev. Ian Paisley: Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker, but all the other speakers today discussed relevant matters, and I thought that I would also have the leniency of the Chair. I am glad that I got as far as I did, and I thank you for your leniency.
Rev. Ian Paisley: I agree that that is what I, and everyone, understood, but now we can see them weakening and weakening until we do not know when Ministers will sit at the table. That is the feeling.
There is a noticeable variance between what the Home Secretary says and what the Northern Ireland Office says. The Home Secretary hides behind Mr. Rowe's report, rightly. I agree with the report; I commend it. However, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland issued a statement on 17 February 1995, and he said:
"As Mr. Rowe himself makes clear, most of his work was completed before the PIRA cessation of violence and it was wholly completed before the loyalist cessation. His recommendations do not, therefore, take full account of the new situation which these events created, nor of the Government's working assumption that the ceasefires are intended to be permanent."
Column 373However, when we read the report, we discover that the villain--Mr. Rowe himself--makes an entirely different affirmation. He says: "It is said, at least as to Northern Ireland, that since the ceasefires terrorism has stopped, and talks have started and the Government has a working assumption that the ceasefire is intended to be permanent. The submission was made to me that the PTA should not now be used in any circumstance, and that no use should have been made of it from 31 August 1994 onwards. I have considered these points carefully, but my conclusion remains the same, and I am convinced of it."
I do not understand, therefore, why the Home Secretary comes to the House and praises Mr. Rowe and then that statement emanates from the Northern Ireland Office, saying that Mr. Rowe was not fully acquainted with the situation. He has studied the situation, and I believe that he has made a right assessment of what has taken place. Mr. Rowe says about exclusion orders:
"I . . . have seen a clear indication that exclusion orders can deter excluded persons from engaging in terrorist acts in Great Britain . . . there is proof that exclusion orders have disrupted the terrorists' plans."
Anything that can disrupt the terrorists' plans, anything that can keep a mass bomb from reaching its destination, should be welcomed by every fair- thinking person in the House.
On Victory in Europe day, Winston Churchill made one of his very few impromptu speeches in the House. He said:
"the strength of the Parliamentary institution has been shown to enable it at the same moment to preserve all the title deeds of democracy while waging war in the most stern and protracted form."--[ Official Report , 8 May 1945; Vol. 410, c. 1869.]
That is what we need to do. We need to wage war on those terrorists from whatever side they come, and we also have to keep to the rules of democracy. If a person sets out to take away the life of another person, I believe that the law needs to step in and stop that person committing that crime.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said in the House:
"I believe that we have a prime duty to defend the liberties of our constituents, but a Bill of Rights and a whole volume of liberties are of little value to someone who is 6 feet beneath the ground or someone whose body has been dismembered by a bomb."--[ Official Report , 28 November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 699.]
Of course at that time he was not so contaminated with IRA/Sinn Fein; he was speaking from his heart about what was happening in this part of the United Kingdom. I would say to the House today--
Mr. Mallon: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it right that an accusation of that type should be made against the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara)--that he has been contaminated by the IRA--and should not that remark be withdrawn, in the interests of the type of justice that you are talking about?
Madam Deputy Speaker: I think it was just about within the bounds of the way that we deal with things here, but I would caution all Members, especially in these delicate circumstances, to remember that we maintain the very highest standard of conduct and manners, especially when referring to other Members of the House.
Column 374treated as a body with constitutional politicians, I for one will call that person a person contaminated by Sinn Fein/IRA, without apology. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has said very nice things about me, with which the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) would quite agree. I am stating the facts, and I have read from Hansard , and if the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North wants to go back on his own word, that is for him to do. All I am saying to the House and to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I conclude my speech, which has been greatly interrupted--I should really be pleading for accident time--is that the House has a solemn responsibility to safeguard the people of Northern Ireland in the same way that it safeguards the people of the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Home Secretary said that he was a Unionist. As a Unionist, he should be as dedicated to keeping the people of Northern Ireland in safety as he is to keeping in safety any person in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): I do not need to reiterate the list of misery, death and mayhem that originally precipitated the legislation and has kept it on the statute book for so long. That has been done by other hon. Members.
I do not want to dwell at length on the peace process and the current cessation of violence, except to say two things. First, violence has not ceased altogether in Northern Ireland, and several unpleasant incidents have taken place in that period, and therefore some of the Northern Ireland legislation may continue to be necessary for that reason.
Secondly, confidence needs to be maintained and built on, and that must include a decommissioning process whereby arms and explosives come out of the hands of terrorists so that it becomes clear to people that they are not about to resort to terrorism again, or to use the possibility of doing so as a negotiating ploy.
The problem with that is that we shall never know whether we have obtained all the Semtex and whether all the guns have been removed from either side. The world that one hon. Member described, in which not only every gun held by terrorist organisations, but every Army weapon, every RUC weapon and every licensed gun in Northern Ireland had disappeared, is not the real world.
Judgments will need to be made at some time whether the process that is taking place is one in which a return to violence becomes genuinely unlikely or even very difficult for terrorists to undertake. Whoever has ministerial responsibility at that time will have to make that judgment, and he will not be able to do so by simply saying, "It is fine now, everyone. I have got all the weapons; I know that we are all right." That will not happen. I do not envy anyone the job of making the judgment, but that process must begin. The other side of the coin to building confidence through decommissioning is that the political process must keep going, and all those involved have to be clearly engaged in that process to provide the basis on which confidence can be built on that side. It would be irresponsible to scrap the anti-terrorist legislation entirely with immediate effect. We shall therefore vote to renew it tonight, although we shall
Column 375continue to demand a general review of the working of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. That review should take account of the security position as it develops in the next few months so that parts of the Act that are not effective for security purposes can be scrapped. Anti-terrorist powers are major limitations on civil liberty, which can be justified only if they are essential for security. They should not be treated as bargaining counters in the peace process. Nor should they be determined by negotiations between the Conservative and Labour parties in the hope of enabling Labour to get off the hook in voting against renewal. I do not believe that Labour Front Benchers would recommend that their hon. Friends vote against renewal in the Lobby tonight if they thought that they could win that vote. The Labour party is making a point and, in part, I agree with it.
However, I am not prepared to make that point in that way because I believe that we must keep the powers on the statute book since they may be required for security purposes. We should continue to argue about the speed with which a review can be undertaken and changes made.
I turn to the key elements in the prevention of terrorism legislation. The very fact that the Home Secretary and the Northern Ireland Secretary have revoked a significant number of exclusion orders is a sign that those powers are no longer as valuable as they may have been in other circumstances. The powers should be relaxed on those grounds alone; they should not be relaxed as some kind of boost to the peace process or as an offering to the negotiations. It must be demonstrated that the exclusion orders are not appropriate for use in current circumstances. Such major incursions into civil liberty and such defiance of the Unionist principle of one United Kingdom are very difficult for the Government to defend unless there is an overriding security reason for doing so. We have so few exclusion orders now that we must be close to seeing their complete removal. We would have to make sure that we could cope with the security consequences of that move and ensure that the people from whom the exclusion orders had been lifted did not pose a threat to this country. There are ways of achieving that goal.
I submit that the powers of detention without charge will need to be either cut back, as has occurred in respect of international terrorism, or put under judicial control. There have been several references to the debate about judicial consideration of detention. Curiously, most of the countries with which we are compared in discussions about human rights have judicial processes for extended detention--a fact of which Mr. Nick Leeson is already aware. Other people who find themselves in trouble and in courts overseas become aware of them pretty quickly also.
We have a rather different tradition and, in some ways, it is a stricter one. In this instance, it has led to the Executive taking responsibility for detaining people without charge for longer than would normally be permitted. Mr. Rowe believes that judges might be seen to be acting as part of the Executive if they were brought into that process. If we must maintain powers for longer detention for any period of time, we may have to try to overcome Mr. Rowe's objections and work out how the judiciary can participate in the process without merely being a servant of the Executive. On the present evidence,
Column 376I do not think that we will be dealing with the number of cases that initially made that outcome seem very difficult, or impossible, to achieve.
I think that the powers relating to the proscription of organisations are of diminishing security value. Their main importance may now lie in the way in which proscription expresses the revulsion of people in this country at the activities in which terrorist organisations--both republican and loyalist paramilitary organisations--have engaged. People find it very hard to accept the fact that legally permitted organisations carry out acts of terrorist violence within our jurisdiction. However, I think that those powers are of limited usefulness as a security measure.
The powers for the confiscation of funds, the investigation of funds and the transfer of money and money laundering are potentially of continuing importance--especially if there is a possibility of a return to violence. They are also of great significance in relation to terrorism that is not related to Northern Ireland. As has been mentioned already, the House dealt with an order relating to terrorism from the Indian sub-continent only a few days ago. Those powers and the powers of investigation associated with them under section 17 and schedule 7 may be needed in the future.
I think that the border controls and stop-and-search activities at points of entry are likely to prove of continuing importance. If exclusion orders are dropped, it may still be necessary to keep a fairly careful watch on who is crossing from Northern Ireland to Britain or who is travelling in the opposite direction. Those powers may serve a continuing purpose.
Most members of the public, when subjected to the inconvenience created by the powers, recognise that they are important--perhaps more readily than they would in other contexts. When there is broader debate about passport and border controls, I often wonder whether hon. Members know how irritated some of my constituents get about delays with border controls and passports. However, in the context of Northern Ireland terrorism, I think that people are appreciative of the reasons for the powers and co-operate readily when showing their passports or in allowing their luggage or their vehicles to be searched.
The Government will have to review the separate Northern Ireland emergency provisions. If Ministers have to come back to the House for another renewal of the present prevention of terrorism legislation without undertaking a full review, it will be a sign either that the peace process has failed-- leaving a heightened security threat--or that they are not keeping up to date with current security requirements. I do not believe that the mix of security requirements which makes up the legislation in its present form is likely to be what we will need a year from now. Other forms of terrorism may be become more important than Northern Ireland terrorism, so a different mix of powers will be required and we will rely rather less on this emergency legislation than on the general body of law.
I believe that a review is essential, and the Secretary of State recognised that in his remarks today. He believes that a fundamental review of the powers is appropriate, but he does not want to embark upon it as quickly as I would wish. We shall pursue that area of difference with him and we will continue to emphasise our view that some of the features of the legislation must not be regarded
Column 377as permanent fixtures of our statute book because they represent major incursions into civil liberty. However, we believe that we must ensure that the powers are intact while the review process takes place.
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): I wish that I did not have to support my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary in the Lobby tonight, but I must support him for the following reason: the Irish Republican Army is still in being. It still
"maintains its arsenal; is still recruiting; still targeting; still training; still researching improvised weapons".
They are not my words; they are the words of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. There is an additional reason which he did not list when making his speech in the United States: the IRA is still fund-raising.
"Extortion and blackmail, and intimidation and the collecting of funds, all for terrorist purposes, still goes on".
They are not my words, but the words of Mr. Rowe in his report. In researching for my speech in this debate, I used two very helpful briefing documents: first, a case for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 from the Committee on the Administration of Justice in Northern Ireland; and, secondly, Mr. Rowe's report. I studied both documents very carefully. The CAJ report makes some very interesting points. I share its wish that the Act could be scrapped. I accept that its provisions result in a departure from the ideal standards of civil rights and natural justice. But bombers and murderers deny their victims the most fundamental of human rights: the right to life.
As much as I respect the case advanced by the CAJ, I reject it because it is founded on a false premise. It claims that Northern Ireland's emergency is over; but it is not. As the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) explained, the emergency is certainly not over. All that has changed since we debated the Act last year is that there is a temporary ceasefire which has been called by some--but not all--of the organisations concerned. Would-be negotiators are still supported by evil psychopaths with guns in their pockets and Semtex in their briefcases.
The other document that I considered was Mr. Rowe's report. His research is meticulous and his objectivity is impressive. The report has persuaded me that all of the provisions in the Act must continue for at least one more year. His general conclusions are deeply disturbing. In paragraph 9 of the report, he states:
"Since the ceasefires there have been assaults and intimidation, which are terrorist related; likewise robberies of shops and of the person; and they continue to take place. There is extortion still going on, and racketeering, by terrorists: and there are still collections of money being made for terrorist funds".
That leads him to a very clear and simple conclusion:
"In short there is activity and threat."
I find that disturbing, but I find his detailed conclusions on each of the provisions equally disturbing.
He turns first to proscribed organisations and states in paragraph 18:
"The organisations which are proscribed are still in existence. It is known that they maintain their structures in place, and INLA has not announced a ceasefire. The IRA has done so; but after a robbery in Northern Ireland in the Autumn, and after the ceasefire, when a
Column 378considerable sum of money was stolen, the IRA acknowledged that it was responsible: a public appeal was made for the return of the money taken, but nothing came of that".
He turns to exclusion orders and states in paragraph 22: "there is proof that exclusion orders have disrupted the terrorists' plans."
That leads him to support the continuation of the power to make exclusion orders.
Regarding his comments on the funding of terrorism, there is no need to labour the point again, as it has been covered in the debate.
When he turns to arrest and detention, he states in paragraph 42: "At the present time there is still terrorist related activity, and a threat . . . and therefore there is a continuing need for the power of arrest . . . and the power of extension of detention." Finally, turning to his comments on port controls, he states in paragraph 68:
"It seems to me that . . . these powers of examination are vital, and my conclusion is that they should be continued."
In other words, an expert who was asked to examine the working of the Act during 1994, having done his research, concludes that every part of the Act is still necessary.
There is another reason why I support its continuation. It is a reason that I deeply regret having to raise in the debate, but I am afraid that I take yesterday's statement by my right hon. Friend and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland as a weakening of his stance on the surrender of weapons and explosives. If I understand him correctly, it seems to me that terrorists will be allowed to keep their arsenals for some time to come. All they have to do is make a small gesture of good faith. Can we expect good faith from bombers or good faith from assassins? When in the history of the IRA has it ever shown good faith to anybody?
Sir Patrick Mayhew: Of course I never said, and of course it is not the case, that terrorists are allowed to keep their weapons for some time to come. I have said, and the Prime Minister has said, that there is no case for anybody retaining arms which are illegally held. That is abundantly clear and there is no change whatsoever in the Government's position. I said that, before we could sit down with Sinn Fein in the substantive, inclusive political talks, there had to be substantial progress made on the decommissioning of arms. That was said not only by the Prime Minister but by Mr. Bruton. I also said: "In a democracy, parties will not sit down, must not sit down, with another party that implies that if it doesn't get its way, it is prepared to condone a return to violence."
Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for saying that and I am sorry to continue to labour the point, but a press statement from the Northern Ireland Office, which I assume he authorised, stated:
"In order to test the practical arrangements and to demonstrate good faith, the actual decommissioning of some arms as a tangible confidence building measure and to signal the start of a process." If I understand that correctly--I am willing to give way to be told that I do not--I take it to be a weakening and I believe that to be wrong. I am sorry, but I cannot support my right hon. and learned Friend in that.
It gives me no pleasure to speak in these terms and I sincerely hope that nobody in the House will have to talk in the same way in a year's time. We have come a very long way since last August and I pay unreserved tribute
Column 379to all those who have been involved in the process, but the ceasefire has not yet become permanent. Terrorists have not yet called an end to their evil activities. The Act therefore remains necessary.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary asks for my support. I assure him that he has it for as long as he needs it. 6.4 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): We in Northern Ireland have enjoyed six months without serious terrorist incident. That is something for which the entire community is profoundly grateful. There has been a continuation of some terrorist activity, but none the less, the existence of the ceasefire is very welcome. Despite that, our judgment, together with that of other parties that have spoken this evening, is that tonight the House must renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
We are not out of the woods yet. We still have terrorist organisations which are armed to the teeth and regularly threaten a return to violence if they do not get their way. Scarcely a week goes by without Mitchell McLaughlin issuing a fresh threat of a return to violence.
The hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) quoted from the speech by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in Washington recently. The part that struck me as significant was the reference to the IRA "still researching improvised weapons". The fact that they are still researching and trying to develop new weapons is clear evidence of the danger that exists.
It is not just our judgment in the House. The Irish Government have formed the same judgment, but although they have repealed the so-called state of emergency dating back to 1939, they have retained the "offences against the state" legislation that provides for special criminal courts and internment. They have retained their legislation, and we must do the same.
I shall not rehearse our arguments on previous occasions, but I shall briefly touch on parts of them. I shall not repeat our position on exclusion orders. We find them objectionable in principle. They are not new. They were not invented in 1974; they were also contained in the 1939 Act, on which the 1974 Act was based. Then and now, they were the recourse of lazy authorities that lit on that provision because it seemed an easy way of introducing control.
As to seven-day detentions, I still remain of the view that it is possible to introduce a sufficient judicial element. There is a problem here that can be solved. I am aware of Mr. J. J. Rowe's comments about judges, but that is not the issue. We are addressing how to introduce a judicial element, not the present High Court judges. That is not the appropriate point. Mr. Rowe's approach is that of one who sees only difficulties rather than trying to find a solution, and I am sure a solution can be found.
While the Act has to be renewed for a further year, it must be the hope of hon. Members that this will be the last renewal, and that, despite the worries and concerns of so many hon. Members about whether the present temporary ceasefire will become permanent, it is important that we do not lose the protection that the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Northern Ireland
Column 380(Emergency Provisions) Act provide with regard to terrorist acts. It is not wise to leave the United Kingdom without some permanent protection.
There will always be the danger of a renewal of republican violence, and there are also threats from what we have this evening called international terrorism. I shall mention just a few examples. Groups involved in the civil war in Algeria are said to be using London. There was a murder last week in London which has been linked to an extreme Islamic group, which I understand is banned in some other countries. We may want to consider banning it here. The Pakistani Christians whose death sentences were quashed in Pakistan and who had to leave Pakistan because they would no longer be safe there, could not come to the United Kingdom because they would not be safe here. They had to go to Germany. That is a reflection on our country.
Therefore, while the Act has to be renewed for this year, in the coming year we should undertake a major review of the legislation for the purpose of considering what permanent provision should be made. It remains to be seen whether it will be possible to move to that permanent position in the course of the year, but it is now appropriate for the Government to move in that direction. I imagine that, if consideration was being given to what permanent provision is needed to deal with terrorism, we would want to retain the port and entry control powers. The powers relating to arrest, search and special offences in the current legislation might be put in cold storage, but available if needed--with, of course, appropriate parliamentary safeguards. Such a review could not be confined to the PTA; it would have to involve the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991.
Sir Patrick Mayhew indicated assent .
I believe that the form of the review should follow the precedent set by the 1979 Gardiner committee. I do not think it appropriate to involve a High Court judge. We have already expressed that view to the Home Secretary, and I gather from the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that the Labour party tried to persuade him to follow the same line.
I understand the Home Secretary's caution, and I understand that there are still matters for him to consider; but I hope that he will not delay his action for too long, for action must be taken. He has acknowledged the need for permanent provision, and he has also acknowledged that a review is the best way in which to consider what that provision should be.
As for the stance of the official Opposition, I find it amazing--although we agree with the Labour party on some specific points. The hon. Member for Blackburn said, after referring to the need for a review, that, had such a review been announced, there would have been no vote against the order.
The Home Secretary and others acknowledge that such a review is necessary and will be carried out. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the only problem was the issue of timing. Is that so important that he must divide the House, and send the wrong signal to terrorists?
Column 381I pay tribute to the way in which, over the past couple of years, the Leader of the Opposition has tried to change Labour's position. He has succeeded to some extent, but I am sorry that neither he nor his spokesman have had the courage to travel the rest of the way. We know the reason: the Opposition Back Benches contain a number of-- well, "scoundrels" might be the appropriate word, but I am not sure whether it is in order, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Trimble: I happily bow to your judgment, Madam Deputy Speaker, and withdraw the term. A number of Labour Back Benchers, however, would defy their leader because of motives of which I do not approve. I shall go no further.
As other hon. Members have pointed out, the peace process depends on the surrender or decommissioning of weapons. Through my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), we have made what we consider to be a positive proposal, but time precludes me from giving the details.
I join the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) in deploring the confusion that seems to have crept into the Government's position. In his statement, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland seemed to be saying that, if some arms were surrendered, Sinn Fein and the rest of the IRA could take their place at the table and talk. Apparently, however-- according to what I have been told--the Minister of State said on this morning's edition of "Today" that two stages were involved: "Surrender some weapons and you get into direct talks with Ministers; to get into the all- party talks, you must surrender a substantial number of weapons."
I must caution those outside the House that involvement in all-party talks will require more than a decision by Her Majesty's Government. It will require a decision by other parties--and we ourselves will have to be satisfied that those taking part in all-party talks are committed to exclusively peaceful methods. The onus will be on those other parties to satisfy us of that. Following the differing statements of two Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office, I have been informed that, in a briefing today, the Government have told the press that they are about to move into bilaterial ministerial talks with the IRA. I hope to hear more about that when the Minister winds up.
I would have liked to explore the matter further, but time prevents me from doing so. I understand that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) is anxious to speak.
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington): Let me reassure my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary that I shall support him in the lobby. I feel, however, that, after the confusion caused by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the whole issue could be cleared up for good if he could reassure us--reassure me, in particular--that he will not sit down with any member of Sinn Fein or the rest of the IRA until the IRA has surrendered its weapons.