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The publication of the "Framework for the Future" document means that there is now a comprehensive set of ideas to stimulate political dialogue among parties committed to constitutional methods. But the subject of today's debate is not the political process as such, but its implications for the future of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989. In particular, I wish to explain to the House why, more than six months after the start of the IRA ceasefire, the Government are seeking the continuation of the Act in its entirety for a further 12 months.
Our position since 31 August has been characterised by two complementary responses. As threat levels have reduced and the immediate prospect of terrorist violence has receded, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I have kept in close contact with our security advisers and have agreed to the lifting of restrictions which have no longer seemed justified in the new situation.
The broadcasting restrictions against Sinn Fein were lifted last September. In October, all the remaining closure orders on border roads in Northern Ireland were rescinded, and the exclusion orders against Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were revoked. Since then, the presence of the Army on the streets of Northern Ireland has been greatly reduced and the Metropolitan and City
Column 351police have been able to scale down the high -profile armed patrols which they had been operating in central London.
But we are not prepared to do anything which would expose the people of our country to unnecessary risk. The troubles of the past 25 years have claimed the lives of more than 3,000 people and have injured many more. It would in our view be wholly irresponsible to dismantle our defences while the paramilitary organisations remain intact, while they continue to carry out brutal punishment beatings, while their command structures, weapons and explosives remain in place, and while they retain the capability to resume violence at very short notice.
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): On the point about dismantling our security apparatus, will the Home Secretary comment on the words of the late Lord Diplock, delivered more than 20 years ago, about dealing with cases involving the security forces? He said: "the jury . . . should remind themselves that the postulated balancing of risk against risk . . . is not undertaken in the calm analytical atmosphere of the court-room . . . but in the brief second or two which the accused had to decide whether to shoot or not and under all the stresses to which he was exposed".
Does the Home Secretary agree that, in considering cases such as that of Clegg and the two guardsmen, judges should think about those words very carefully?
Mr. Madden: Will the Home Secretary tell the House how often he has visited Northern Ireland since 31 August, how many community and political groups he has met, and how many of those groups have urged him to renew today's legislation? I have paid two such visits to Northern Ireland--the most recent of which was last week--and all the political groups there, Unionist and republican, emphasised the fact that the suspension of the exclusion and detention powers would greatly reinforce the peace process. Why does the Home Secretary disagree with them?
The hon. Gentleman stretches the credulity of the House if he suggests that it would be more sensible for the House to base its judgments on his reports--after two visits to Northern Ireland--than on the very careful examination of the question which was undertaken by Mr. John Rowe, to whose report I am about to come. He undertook extensive consultation in Northern Ireland, he talked to many people, and he reached a clear view about the necessity of the provisions. I have not been to Northern Ireland since 30 August, but those members of the Government who have direct responsibility for Northern Ireland are there day after day, and they are in an excellent position--a position infinitely superior to that of the hon. Gentleman on the basis of his two visits--to form a view.
Against the background to which I have referred, let me return to the specific provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and explain why we believe it would be premature to allow any of its provisions to lapse.
Column 352First, we have given proper weight to the conclusions reached by Mr. John Rowe QC, who has carried out the customary annual review of the legislation. I am sure that members of all parties will want to record their thanks to Mr. Rowe for a thorough report, produced in the light of very widespread consultations.
Mr. Rowe's clear conclusion, reached at the end of an entirely independent scrutiny, was that the Act should now be renewed in its entirety for a further 12 months. He recognised that the moment might come when one or more provisions of the legislation would no longer be necessary, and he rightly observed that the making of this order would not rule out the possibility of change during the next 12 months. An order can be made under section 27 of the Act at any time to discontinue specific provisions of the Act, and he recommended that the Government should keep that possibility in mind. That was Mr. Rowe's recommendation. In explaining why the Government have decided to accept it, I want to deal particularly with the powers of detention and exclusion, which remain the most exceptional features of the legislation. I also intend to say something about the longer-term future of the legislation, if, as we all hope, the present cessation leads to a lasting peace. First, there are two aspects to the continuing need for the powers. Since 1984, a substantial part of the legislation has been available for use, in respect of not only Northern Irish terrorism but international terrorism. I need hardly remind the House that the single most devastating terrorist crime in this country was not an act of Irish terrorism, but the Lockerbie air disaster, in which no fewer than 270 people were killed.
Since then, the threat to this country from international terrorism has not gone away. The car bombs outside the Israeli embassy and Balfour house last July were a reminder of the particular vulnerability of the Jewish community. The Iranian fatwa against Salman Rushdie remains in force, and, with the growth of Islamic radicalism, we need to remain vigilant against the possibility that Britain will be used as a base for plotting acts of violence overseas and raising money for terrorist purposes.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): In what way would the prevention of terrorism legislation that we are considering have done anything about Lockerbie? If the Government want the truth about Lockerbie, they had better talk seriously to the intelligence community, to Sir Peter Marychurch, Sir Colin Figures, American intelligence, Sir Charles Powell and, yes, the former Prime Minister.
It is no part of the Government's case that this legislation is the only, or even the primary, weapon in our armoury against international terrorism. The Immigration Acts and the general provisions of the criminal law have a crucial part to play. But if the Prevention of Terrorism Act were simply swept away without any thought to what might need to go in its place, we would undoubtedly be making the job of the police much more difficult.
Column 353We are not dealing here merely with theoretical possibilities. The recent charges in connection with last July's bombings followed arrests under section 14 of the legislation and extensions for 48 hours beyond the initial two days' detention.
Secondly, the Government agree with Mr. Rowe that it is too early yet to conclude that parts of the legislation are no longer needed in connection with Northern Irish terrorism. Let me take in turn the two key powers of detention and exclusion.
As a result of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Brogan, there is already a difference in the way in which the powers of detention operate between international terrorism and Northern Irish terrorism. The Act allows the police to detain suspects for up to 48 hours on their own authority, and up to a maximum of five days beyond that on my authority or that of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and for Scotland.
In the light of the Brogan case, however, we gave an assurance that, in international terrorism cases, the period of extension would not exceed 48 hours. We are satisfied that our practice in such cases is already fully consistent with the requirements of the European convention on human rights.
We concluded that we could not sensibly agree to a similar restriction in Northern Irish terrorism cases, given the exceptional risks posed to the security of this country. We therefore made a specific, narrowly drawn derogation from the convention to enable us to retain executive extensions of detention for a maximum of five days. The validity of that derogation was subsequently upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Brannigan and McBride.
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): This is what worries many of us who oppose parts of the Act. If people can be detained for seven days and nights, it will be possible to get anyone to confess to anything during that time. Does that concern the Home Secretary?
Mr. Howard: If there were any substance in the hon. Gentleman's allegation, it might indeed concern me. I must tell him, however, that the history of some of the questioning that has taken place during extended periods of detention gives the lie to his assertion.
Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): The point, surely, is not the length of the period of detention. Is it not a fact that, in perfect conformity with the European convention, those responsible for the Eksund activities were detained by the French authorities for two years, but it was the authority of a judicial officer that enabled them to be detained in that way? The idea that anyone detained for more than seven days will confess to anything does not accord with the European convention.
We have continued to keep the need for the derogation under review, and have considered the matter again in the light of the ceasefire. In the first eight months of last year, there were 377 extensions of detention throughout the United Kingdom, the overwhelming majority in Northern
Column 354Ireland. In the more than six months since then, there have been just 18 extensions, five of them related to international terrorism. The periods of detention have tended to decrease; the only instance in which detention has exceeded four days since the ceasefire involved the complex investigation of the Newry post office murder.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh): I wonder about the Home Secretary's figures. Page 1 of the "Home Office Statistical Bulletin" clearly tells us that 61 people were detained in Great Britain in 1994 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and that all but one were detained in connection with Northern Irish terrorism. If I heard him aright, the Home Secretary said that five people had been detained in relation to international terrorism. Is the Home Secretary right, or is the statistical bulletin right?
Mr. Howard: I think the hon. Gentleman will find that we are talking about different periods of time. I was talking about the period leading up to the ceasefire and the period since then. Provided that the ceasefire holds, there is every reason to believe that the number of cases in which the police will need to seek extensions of detention will be very small, and the number of occasions on which they request extensions of more than 48 hours smaller still. However, as the Newry incident illustrates, it is too early for us to be satisfied that these powers could be suspended, or our limited derogation from the European convention on human rights withdrawn.
The Northern Ireland paramilitary groups retain the capability to resume their attacks at very short notice, and investigations into past crimes continue on both sides of the Irish sea. The Government accept the view of the police that it would be wrong at this early stage to withdraw any of their existing powers of arrest and detention.
In chapters 5 and 7 of his report, Mr. Rowe analyses the arguments for giving the judiciary responsibility for determining both extensions of detention and exclusion orders. His conclusion is that these processes are properly executive in character and that a judge would
"be exercising a function which could be called judicial only because he happens to be a judge by occupation."
That point was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King).
This issue has been extensively debated in the past, and I do not intend to say more about it now, except that, while the need for these temporary provisions remains, we do not believe that it would be right or practicable to introduce an innovation that has been consistently rejected by all those who have taken an independent look at the legislation since 1974, at the invitation of successive Governments.
Exclusion has always been the most difficult part of the legislation, particularly for those of us who are proud to call ourselves unionists. Since the House first debated these provisions in 1974, there have always been some who, while wholly supportive of other parts of the legislation, have had misgivings about denying British citizens access to part of their own country.
Column 355I understand and sympathise with those concerns, but when faced with a determined terrorist assault on our most fundamental human rights, we have had, reluctantly, to countenance some measures which in more normal times would not be acceptable.
At the time of the debate a year ago, there were 80 exclusion orders in force, nine made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and 71 by me or my predecessors. By the time of the IRA ceasefire, the figure of 80 had reduced to 74. Since then, my right hon. and learned Friend and I have reviewed the case for each of the remaining orders in the light of the assessment of our security advisers.
My right hon. and learned Friend was able to conclude last month that all his remaining orders should be lifted. On 17 February, I announced that, with the help of the Metropolitan police, the RUC and the security service, I was considering all the 56 orders for which I was responsible. I have now revoked a further 16. There are now just 40 orders in force.
I have considered whether it would be possible to go further and lift all the remaining orders. I have not done so, for two reasons. First, it is clear that, if the ceasefires were to break down, we might receive very little, if any, warning, and without doubt many of the key targets would, as before, be on this side of the water. Secondly, the police remain satisfied that among those still excluded are some who would be likely to play some part in mainland terrorism were it to resume.
I welcome the shift in the position of the Labour party on exclusion orders. Last year, the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott), speaking from the Front Bench, described exclusion orders as an example of internal exile of a kind previously practised in this century only by Stalin, Mussolini and Franco. In a radio interview this morning, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) said that, although he dislikes exclusion orders, he accepts that I should be able to reactivate them with 24 hours notice if the ceasefires were to break down.
What the hon. Member for Blackburn overlooks is that, if all exclusion orders were to be lifted now, there would be nothing to stop those people coming here well before any possible breakdown of the ceasefire, to make preparations for renewed attacks. That is not a debating point. It is a point that goes to the heart of the exercise of these powers in the cause of protecting the safety of our people.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal with that point in the course of his speech. For my part, I shall continue to keep the need for each of the orders under review, but I am not prepared to take unnecessary risks at this stage, in the face of the clear view of the police and our other security advisers.
Let me finally say something about the way forward. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 are explicitly temporary pieces of legislation, and it has always been the Government's position that exceptional powers should not be retained any longer than necessary. There are therefore two questions that will need to be addressed if, as we all hope, the ceasefires continue to hold. First, how long will some or all of these exceptional
Column 356powers need to be maintained, whether in force or in reserve? Secondly, even in the longer term, will there be a need for some specific, permanent counter terrorism legislation in the light of the continuing threat from international terrorism?
On the first, the Government whole-heartedly accept Mr. Rowe's recommendation that they should keep the need for the existing powers under close review. If the moment comes when one or more of them could be discontinued, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or I can lay the necessary order under this Act or the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 at any time.
Moreover, Mr. Rowe's regular reviews provide a wholly independent assessment of whether the time has come for changes to be made. His PTA report is before the House, and he is now embarking on his separate, annual review of the Northern Ireland legislation, which the House will have the opportunity to debate in about three months. In addition, the House will need to consider next Session what to do before the emergency provisions Act reaches the end of its statutory life in August 1996.
The second question--what permanent counter-terrorism legislation, if any, might be needed if a lasting peace is established in Northern Ireland--is one on which the Government have an open mind. At the right moment, there would need to be a wide-ranging look at all the options. There are a number of ways in which that could be done, but we are persuaded that it would be premature at this stage to try to address these longer term issues. The priority for now is to make much further progress down the road of securing a lasting peace. There is a better chance now than at any time in the past 21 years that an end may soon be in sight to this long series of annual debates. But the prospects remain uncertain. It is the Government's unshakeable conviction that we must not lower our guard until we can be satisfied that Northern Irish terrorism is really at an end. If, as we earnestly hope, that day comes, it will be in no small measure due to the skill and fortitude which the police and security forces have shown down the years, fortified by the exceptional powers entrusted to them under this legislation. I pay tribute to them for their work, for which we are all enormously indebted to them. I commend the order to the House.
Mr. Dalyell: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At 23 minutes past 4, according to the Chamber clock, it was the Home Secretary and not I who brought into the debate the subject of Lockerbie. Does he not owe it to his colleagues at least to explain what relevance the measures that we are discussing have to the Lockerbie bombing?
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes): I was not in the Chair at the time. I am quite sure that, if Madam Speaker had thought that there was anything amiss, she would have drawn it to the attention of the House.
Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn): Terrorism is a scourge of far too many societies across the world. It can be an especial cancer for countries that aspire to be democratic, because the measures that are sometimes necessary in a democracy to fight terrorism and reduce terrorist acts can collide with some of the most important features of those
Column 357democracies, such as the liberty of the subject before the law and the paramount need for an independent and transparent system of justice that applies equally to all.
Every hon. Member shares a complete abhorrence of terrorism and a desire to see it eradicated from all parts of the United Kingdom. It is the Opposition's fervent hope that there should be bipartisan agreement on the measures that are necessary to defeat terrorism. Unfortunately, such bipartisan agreement has proved no easier to achieve this year than last, but our endeavours to obtain such an agreement will continue beyond tonight's vote.
We all owe a particular debt to those in the police and armed forces and in the security and intelligence services for their dedication and for their daily risks. Many of them have paid with their lives in the fight against terrorism, from whatever source. In opening the debate for the Opposition this time last year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), who is now the leader of the Opposition, said:
"It is not in dispute, and never has been, that we need anti-terrorist legislation. It is not in dispute that the powers . . . of detention"--
of terrorist suspects--
My right hon. Friend also supported the continuance of the proscription of terrorist organisations and the
"attachment of terrorist funds."--[ Official Report , 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 300.]
Last week in a Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, and this Monday on the Floor of the House, the Opposition approved without a Division an order made under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 in respect of international terrorism. Three things, however, are in dispute: the power to make exclusion orders, which are a form of internal exile; the absence of a judicial element in decisions to extend detention; and, above all and especially important at this time, the need for a general and comprehensive review of anti-terrorist legislation.
Had such a review been announced, and had it been able to take into account our concerns in relation to the first two matters that I raised, we should not have voted against the order tonight, but the renewal of the Act comes before the House in a single,
take-it-or-leave-it order that the House cannot amend. In those circumstances, and as we have been unable to make progress on any of the matters that I have specified, a parliamentary committee of the Labour party had no alternative but to advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the order.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): I understand and share some of the hon. Gentleman's reservations, but would he give the same advice to his right hon. and hon. Friends if he believed that they would win the vote tonight?
Mr. Straw: If I believed that we would win the vote, we would be in government and the question would not arise. I have dealt with the point. This is a take-it-or-leave-it order. A Division is the only way in which the Labour party can put on record its serious reservations about the way in which the Government have responded to its proposals.
Although the Act to which the order directly relates was passed in 1989, legislation to counter terrorism was first introduced by the then Labour Government in
Column 358November 1974, four days after the Birmingham pub bombings. That measure passed through all its stages in the House and in the other place in the near record time of 48 hours. There was unanimity on the need for that legislation to deal with what the then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins described as a "wholly exceptional situation" and a "clear and present danger", but, equally, there was wide understanding of the enormity of what the House was doing. Roy Jenkins, now Lord Jenkins, described the provisions as "draconian" and said that they were "unprecedented in peacetime". Parliament has rightly determined that the use of and justification for such powers must, in consequence, be kept under continual review. Powers were therefore laid down requiring what amounted to annual audits of the exclusion and detention orders made under the Act. In recent years, those audits have been carried out by John Rowe. From time to time, wider, more fundamental reviews of the merits and future use of those powers have been undertaken by distinguished figures in public life such as Lords Gardiner and Shackleton in the 1970s and Viscount Colville in 1987. Each of those wider reviews re-emphasised the intention that those powers should be temporary. The Secretary of State referred to that earlier when he said that the measures were explicitly temporary.
In his 1975 report, Lord Gardiner said that the continued existence of these powers should be
"limited both in scope and duration".
In 1978, Lord Shackleton said:
"It would be highly regrettable if the view were to gain ground that these powers should in some way slide into part of our permanent legislation. I do not think that they should."
Today, the Home Secretary echoed the same point that he made this time last year, when he said that, since 1974,
"it has been the hope of successive Home Secretaries that the day would come when the circumstances which made these exceptional powers necessary would cease to exist".
He went on to say:
"for most of the past 20 years, that has been very much a hope rather than an expectation."--[ Official Report , 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 292.]
Of course, he was right in his opening remarks today to refer to the continuing terrorist outrages that took place on the day of the debate this time last year right up until the IRA ceasefire in August; but, in the 12 months since that statement in 1994, something exceptional and remarkable has happened. Thanks to the extraordinary tenacity first of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and then of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), and thanks to the commitment, to which we pay tribute again, of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the determination of all the communities in the Province, effectively there has been a peace, however temporary, since the IRA ceasefire in August. For the first time in 25 years, people in Northern Ireland are enjoying something of the normality of life that we in Britain have taken for granted.
I hope that no hon. Member is sufficiently naive to assert that the situation in the north of Ireland is so stable that lasting peace is now a certainty. Of course that is not the case, and of course it is a fact of life that the paramilitary organisations in both communities remain intact and have the same access to arms and explosives as they had before the ceasefires came into effect. Now is not the moment for complacency; but, to pick up the
Column 359phrase used by the Home Secretary last year, as the distant "hope" of peace has been replaced by a clear "expectation" of peace, in our judgment now is the time to establish a comprehensive and fundamental review of the future need for prevention of terrorism measures. The review should be conducted on the basis, to use the words of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, of the
"Government's working assumption that the ceasefires are intended to be permanent."
The review would be established to consider in the changed circumstances and on the Government's working assumption the need generally for there to be anti-terrorism measures on the statute book and the extent to which it was desirable or practical to include some of them in the general law on police powers and criminal procedures. We would wish the review to consider, among other things, issues of concern relating to exclusion orders and decisions on the extension of detention. We proposed that the review should be conducted by a High Court judge or someone of similar standing and that the process of the review should be as open as possible, given the subject matter.
As I believe the House is aware, we pressed the case for such a review with Ministers well in advance of today's debate. We believe that in this area, more than almost any other, it is far preferable for matters to be treated on an all-party basis, and, as I said, had such a review been accepted, we would not divide the House tonight. The Secretary of State's response to our proposals for a review has fallen into two parts, as I observed during a number of interviews that he and I have given. On the one hand, in an interview earlier this morning, the Secretary of State appeared to claim that the J. J. Rowe review into the operation of the Act in 1994 had already met our request but, on the other hand, he appeared to concede our case for a separate and much more fundamental review, as he did a moment ago, but with the caveat that it should not occur yet. Let me deal with those two points in turn.
There has, in fact, always been the clearest distinction between the kind of fundamental review that is now needed, and which was carried out in the past by Lord Shackleton, Viscount Colville and Lord Gardiner, and the annual reviews now carried out by Mr. Rowe. As Mr. Rowe concedes in the opening paragraph of his report, the review examines the operation of the Act in 1994. Although he considers whether there is a need for the Act to continue, he reaches his conclusion exclusively on the basis of how the Act has operated in the past, not on the circumstances in which it might operate in the future.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said that the House had to
"take full account of the new situation"--[ Official Report ,17 February 1995; Vol. 254, c. 833-34 .]
which the ceasefires have created; but Mr. Rowe said that, in making his judgment, he took account of the new situation. He said in paragraphs 2 and 3 of his report:
"I cannot have regard to such things . . . I am not part of the peace process".
Column 360However, no fundamental review of the kind that we seek could conceivably do its work unless it did take account of the facts and the reality of the peace process.
The issue of human rights is central to the argument in a democracy about the use of anti-terrorist powers which involve a specific dilution of an individual's human rights. Mr. Rowe says that he "should have regard" to human rights which, he said, he kept "in mind", but he draws his readers' attention specifically to the absence of human rights considerations in his formal terms of reference. However, no fundamental review could possibly exclude such consideration from its terms of reference, because issues of human rights are at the heart of any fundamental review.
Mr. Dicks: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that rights and obligations are two sides of the same coin? If we take a certain Mr. Gerry Adams, how can we be concerned about his so-called "right" to come into this country when he has refused to accept his obligations to the rest of society? The hon. Gentleman cannot talk about rights without accepting that obligations go alongside them.
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman is, of course, correct to say that rights are balanced by duties. It is a fact of life with which the House and Ministers have had to wrestle since the IRA bombing campaign here in the early 1970s and just before that in Northern Ireland. The basic liberties that we take for granted have been assaulted by terrorist operations. I accepted and acknowledged that in opening my speech. Of course we take account of that. We also, however, have to recognise--this point was made extremely eloquently in Viscount Colville's fundamental review in 1987--that, if we stoop to the level of the terrorist and abandon altogether those fundamental liberties, we have lost the battle against terrorism.
Mr. Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke): The hon. Gentleman may, inadvertently, have done an injustice to Mr. Rowe. The hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Rowe did not take into account the changed circumstances. I draw his attention to paragraph 15 on page 7, where Mr. Rowe makes that very point.
Mr. Straw: Indeed; the hon. Gentleman may draw my attention to paragraph 15 because I was coming on to deal with exactly that. I hope that I have done every justice to Mr. Rowe's report, because no purpose is served by seeking to alter the sense of what he said. In one interview this morning, on breakfast television, the Secretary of State sought to elevate the Rowe review by saying that I had given evidence to it. The implication was that this turned the Rowe review into the fundamental review that the Labour party had sought. Would that that were the case! It is perfectly true, as Mr. Rowe records in the appendix to his report, that he separately saw my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) and me.
However, those meetings were informal conversations. In no sense were they formal meetings to take detailed and forensic evidence about the future need for this legislation. Moreover, they took place when Mr. Rowe completed his report. I saw him on 31 January and my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar saw him on2 February. Mr. Rowe formally submitted his report to the Secretary of State on 3 February, the very next day.
Column 361To deal directly with the point raised by the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter), in paragraph 2 of the Rowe report, Mr. Rowe wholly detaches himself from the peace process. He says:
"I am not part of the peace process: I not a member of the Government"--
"I am not bound by any Government policy."
In paragraph 15, however, he makes an important concession to the reality of the peace process and to our argument. As we have heard from the Secretary of State, Mr. Rowe says that, although the whole of the prevention of terrorism Act is needed now,
"I do not ignore the facts of the ceasefire or the talks, and if events occur so that one or more provisions of the PTA is no longer necessary, section 27(6)(b)"--
which allows provisions to be put into cold storage, as we have heard--
"can be used . . . the Government should keep this section in mind during the coming year."
I said a moment ago that the response by the Secretary of State to our calls for a review was to claim at first that the Rowe review was sufficient. Twenty minutes later on the "Today" programme, and again in the House this afternoon, the Secretary of State said something very different, implicitly acknowledging that the Rowe review was not the same thing as a fundamental review. On the "Today" programme he said that, although he hoped that the ceasefire would be permanent, we would still need some anti- terrorist powers, an issue that is not in dispute across the Floor of the House. He said that we faced dangers from international terrorism; of course we do. He then said:
"I accept that in that situation there will be a need to look very carefully and to have a review as to what powers we will continue to need for the long term."
That is exactly our case for a fundamental review. However, the Secretary of State finished by saying:
"But we are not at that point yet."
There we have it. The Secretary of State accepts the need for a long-term review. He said earlier this afternoon that we needed a wide-ranging look at all the issues and that he did not consider Rowe to have provided that. The only issue is one of timing. The view of the Secretary of State is, yes, there should be an independent review, but not yet.
I simply do not understand his argument. There were two fundamental reviews in the 1970s and one in the 1980s, despite the fact that the overall security situation remained unchanged and dangerous. However, there has been no fundamental review since Lord Colville's in 1987. Even if there were no ceasefire, a fundamental review would have been well overdue. Indeed, that point was made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition this time last year. With the facts of the ceasefire, the case for the establishment of a fundamental review seems to us to be unanswerable and overwhelming.
As I have repeatedly made clear, Labour Members do not, of course, say that, pending the outcome of the review, the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism Act as a whole should be put on ice; rather, we say that, on the working assumption of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the ceasefires will turn out to be permanent, the review's recommendations should be available to