Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Does that mean that the prevention of terrorism Act, or its basic principles, will remain in place even if a permanent peace is established in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Howard: That is precisely why the Government set up the inquiry that is being undertaken by Lord Lloyd of Berwick, which I should like now to consider.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced to the House on9 January, Lord Lloyd agreed to lead an inquiry to consider whether--and, if so, what--specific counter-terrorist legislation would be required if and when a lasting peace is established in Northern Ireland. His review is under way. Both the PTA and the emergency provisions Act will be examined in the consideration of what may or may not be needed in future. We shall consider his conclusions when his inquiry has been completed. I understand that he hopes to report before the autumn.

The Government's first priority must be to protect the public. To do that, we have to give the police the powers that they need to combat terrorism effectively. The PTA is needed to help prevent the terrorist from taking action and restocking his armoury and to deprive him of funds and a place to hide. I believe that the Act must be renewed for the full period of 12 months that is allowed. I therefore commend the first order to the House.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): The Home Secretary mentioned the work of the police. Will he enlarge on how, in future, national elements to which he has referred elsewhere, such as a national crime squad and a national criminal intelligence service, will be related to the existing mechanism by which police forces co-operate to fight terrorism through national joint units? A reply from the Minister of State suggests to me that the national joint units will still be in limbo, so it would be helpful to know how the police will be given the structure for the necessary national co-operation.

14 Mar 1996 : Column 1130

Mr. Howard: The right hon. Gentleman is anticipating the debate that we shall no doubt have when we produce detailed proposals for the national crime squad. The point to which he has referred is clearly relevant to the establishment of that squad, but we shall deal with it at the time. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will understand that I prefer not to anticipate that debate.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): Did the Home Secretary see the "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4 last night, in which it was proved that British companies have been involved in the sale of weapons of terror to despotic regimes abroad and that those weapons are used to torture political prisoners? Will the Home Secretary join me in calling for a full investigation to make sure that that does not happen?

Mr. Howard: I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady, but I did not watch Channel 4 "Dispatches" last night, so I cannot comment on the allegations that were made in it. I am sure, however, that the hon. Lady will take the matter up with whichever of my right hon. Friends is appropriate.

The second item before the House amends the procedures in the PTA that govern the making of exclusion orders. When the European Court of Justice delivered its judgment in the Gallagher case on30 November, I made it clear in an oral answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) that the judgment did not affect our powers to exclude, but made a limited criticism of the procedures. I said then that we could adapt our procedures without difficulty, and the order does no more than make the necessary changes in the way in which the procedures are carried out.

The power to make exclusion orders may be used only to counter the threat from Northern Irish terrorism and, as Mr. Rowe points out in his report, it has proved a valuable tool over the years in disrupting terrorist plans. Particular individuals can be barred from entering Northern Ireland, Great Britain or the United Kingdom where the Secretary of State is satisfied that they would take advantage of their presence there to commission, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism in connection with the affairs of Northern Ireland. The use of that power not only hampers terrorists' ability to travel but, because their identity and activities are known to the security forces, it limits their overall usefulness to the terrorist organisation to which they belong. Once an organisation becomes aware that the activities of an individual have become known in that way, his usefulness necessarily diminishes.

It has been argued that keeping people under observation would be more effective than exclusion and less of an infringement of their liberties, but the resource implications of mounting a surveillance operation in every case would be enormous and in most cases it is not a realistic proposition.

Others suggest that the process of exclusion is arbitrary and unfair, but Mr. Rowe's report makes it quite clear that it is not. Before any order is made, a considered report is sent to the relevant Department. Mr. Rowe refers to the further scrutiny of the case for exclusion by officials and by the Secretary of State. That scrutiny is robust.Mr. Rowe found that each participant in the process

during the year under review.

14 Mar 1996 : Column 1131

There are currently 33 orders in force. As the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) pointed out, that is the lowest number since the power was introduced in 1974. I cannot rule out the possibility that further orders will be made. As now, each case will be considered carefully on its merits.

The need for the exclusion power is proven. It is effective. It is an essential weapon in the counter-terrorist armoury and it would be irresponsible to relinquish it.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North): Am I right in my interpretation of new regulation 5A(1) of the regulations--that a person may be detained without charge and without suspicion of committing an offence for an indefinite period and, in any event, for more than seven days without any charge being brought against him?

Mr. Howard: I am coming to the detailed provisions of the second order, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the detention powers in it are no greater than the present ones, although the timing is different.

As the House will know, we have already made it clear that certain changes will be made to the procedures governing the making of exclusion orders to bring them into line with European Community law following the ruling of the European Court of Justice last November in the Gallagher case. Those changes are set out in the second order. The regulations are to be made under section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972, which makes special provision to facilitate the amending of legislation to bring United Kingdom law into line with European Community law.

Under the present arrangements, the law requires that where an exclusion order is made, the person affected must be notified of that fact if he is in any part of the United Kingdom. If he wishes to make representations against the order, he has seven days from the date of notification in which to do so, or 14 days if he is outside the jurisdiction from which the order excludes him. Independent advice must be sought once representations are made. An independent adviser is nominated to consider the representations made and the case for exclusion, and to advise the Secretary of State accordingly. His report is taken into account in any decision to confirm or revoke the order.

The House will recall that the European Court found no fault with the substance of the power to exclude when it ruled on the Gallagher case. Its judgment simply requires the Secretary of State to obtain independent advice in every case where he is considering whether to make an exclusion order before the decision is made, rather than shortly after, as he is required to do now if representations are made.

The procedures set out in the regulations, therefore, require the Secretary of State to serve written notice on any person in the United Kingdom against whom he is considering making an exclusion order, to refer the matter for advice to one or more independent persons nominated by him to give advice on such matters and to take into account the advice that he subsequently receives when making his decision. A person who is being served with such a notice may make written representations setting out

14 Mar 1996 : Column 1132

his objections and can ask to be interviewed by the independent adviser before the latter reports to the Secretary of State.

Historically, persons detained under the Act have often been at an advanced stage of planning a terrorist operation. The decision to arrest them will have been taken either because surveillance has been compromised or because there is uncertainty as to the exact timing of a terrorist attack. That can sometimes mean that the individual is detained before sufficient evidence is available to secure a criminal conviction. In such cases, it is often the case that the police apply for an exclusion order.

Those people can be dangerous, committed terrorists involved in an operation at an advanced stage of planning. It would not be right to release them back into the community pending the procurement and consideration of independent advice.

Mr. Mallon: Will the Home Secretary explain who will appoint the independent advisers?

Next Section

IndexHome Page