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Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wilshire: No. I am very sorry, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to disagree with me when he makes his speech.

I end by saying a few words about the Labour party and its decision to abstain, which it wants us to believe is proof that it is tough on terrorism. What signal does the Labour party believe that that sends? What signal does it send when it does not have the guts to have an opinion? I gather that what I see as a spineless gesture of abstention is intended to avoid giving Sinn Fein-IRA an excuse to bomb. Have the Opposition not noticed that Sinn Fein-IRA does not need an excuse to bomb? It has been bombing for the past 25 years, and it promises us another 25 years whether or not the Opposition vote today: it does not need an excuse.

Mr. Soley: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wilshire: No, I shall not. I am very sorry.

Mr. Soley rose--

Mr. Wilshire: The hon. Gentleman has had his10 minutes. I now hope that he will let me have mine.

I believe that there is only one honourable course at the end of the debate: to vote one way or the other. I believe passionately that voting in favour of renewal of the pRevention of terrorism Act is the right thing to do. That said, I am willing to admit that I respect the integrity of those who have the guts to vote against it.

6.1 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): The Liberal Democrats will vote in favour of the renewal of the legislation tonight, as we have in previous years. We shall not abstain.

Since voting similarly last year, there has, of course, been a resumption of the IRA's bombing campaign, with all the terrible results that flow from that. Any ceasefire,

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even if it were still in operation, would have some uncertainty about it. An industry of violence has developed in Northern Ireland around the paramilitary organisations. There are, indeed, people who have a habit of violence, which the organisations seem to be having some difficulty in controlling. I have my suspicions that at least some of the assaults and attacks that took place during the ceasefire were carried out by members of the IRA who had nothing better to do and whose determination to continue using violence was channelled into those supposedly disciplinary activities, which,of course, had no shred of justice or legality associated with them. They were a form of intimidation.

Even if the ceasefire were continuing, we would have to keep in place some emergency measures for quite some time. As the Lloyd inquiry assumes, we would need, for the foreseeable future, some anti-terrorist provisions of wider application, which are relevant to other forms of terrorism that are happening around the world and that have some effect in this country.

Mr. Barnes: The IRA has suggested that it may engage in another 25 years of terrorism. Does that mean that the principles that are currently contained in the prevention of terrorism Act and to which the Opposition object so strongly should be in place for another 25 years? Would that help the process?

Mr. Beith: It means that the character of the legislation that we would have for the next 25 years would be influenced by the background of security that it was intended to deal with. It is difficult to speculate about whether the precise powers in the order would continue to prove useful or whether we would need others, which might involve other incursions into civil liberty. Civil liberties in this country will be damaged for as long as a terrorist organisation targets citizens as a means to exert political power. That is utterly deplorable, but it is a harsh reality.

We do not like this legislation, as it involves a curtailment of civil liberties, but bombs in cities curtail civil liberties absolutely and utterly. Therefore, we have to find ways in which to combat those who bring bombs, while minimising the risk to the civil liberties of others, recognising, however, that the threat to most of our citizens is profound. How far can we contest and combat terrorism and maintain our civil liberties? To a large extent, I hope.

What must be clear, of course, is that the legislation and what we keep on the statute book to deal with terrorism is not a part of the negotiating process. It is not part of attempting to secure a renewed ceasefire. It is the subject neither of threats nor of concessions. It is simply what we feel we have to do to protect our citizens. We should neither ease it to obtain concessions from the other side, nor, indeed, attempt to portray it more harshly in the belief that that will somehow frighten or intimidate. We judge it against the clear security background of what is necessary to protect our citizens.

We very much welcome the fact that the Lloyd review is taking place. It is what we asked for. It is a wide-ranging review. The Home Secretary, in his anxiety to make a different point, may have appeared to restrict the significance of Northern Ireland in the Lloyd review. I think that he was trying to make the point that much in

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the present situation cannot be resolved by the Lloyd review, because he is looking to a period in which we can assume that a long-term peace has been secured. That seemed to imply that Lord Lloyd is not concerned about Northern Ireland; he is, of course.

Any long-term view must take into account the fact that the possibility of any ceasefire will produce dissident elements who may be willing to resume acts of terrorism. We may need legislation on the statute book to cope with that. Lord Lloyd will have to consider what elements of the legislation will need to be in place in the longer term. We have talked to him about that already and expect to do so further. As was implicit in my reply to the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), there will be problems even if we secure what we hope is a long-term peace, because there will always be those with the possibility of disrupting that peace.

We particularly dislike exclusion orders, to which much reference has been made tonight, and increasingly they are seen to have limited value. The resumption of hostilities on the mainland is, perhaps, the least propitious moment to bring about the final removal of exclusion orders from the mechanisms of counter-terrorism, but it is something that we should consider as soon as possible.

I regard the new procedure, following the Gallagher case, as an improvement. There is an argument to be made about whether it is a good idea to have a judge. It is important that we have someone who is seen to be independent. Judges carry out such work in relation to interception of communications, and their standing gives greater authority to what they do. I do not believe that it has to be a judge. Much hearsay evidence has to be considered in those matters, so we should not pretend that it is a judicial process. It is an independent review of the Executive, and it must be seen to be so. The detention element arises in part from the existence of an appeal procedure. The possibility of people being detained, when it remains possible that they will be allowed to go wherever they want, exists because they are able to challenge what the Home Secretary might otherwise do, which was not previously possible.

It is not a happy state of affairs, and it is not something that I want to keep on the statute book, but as long as it is there, I would like greater safeguards than there have been hitherto, so I support the second order, which provides that.

Detention for up to seven days is an unwelcome feature of this legislation. It is sometimes adversely compared with countries that allow longer detention without charge than is normal under our system. Nevertheless, I would not want to see it as a long-term part of our counter-terrorism legislation, because it has damaging effects, which the hon. Member for Hammersmith(Mr. Soley) described, when it impinges on people who have no involvement in violence or terrorism.

The legislation contains uncontroversial provisions with which we do not wish to dispense--for instance, the provisions relating to the control of explosives, fund-raising and the confiscation of funds. There has been a good deal of public discussion about whether funds are being raised for terrorism in the middle east, and whether Hamas has channels for funds in this country. I hope that, if appropriate, the powers in the Act will be used to deal with any such developments.

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The Home Secretary spoke of the work of the police and the Security Service, which have a key role in the fight against terrorism. As I said when we discussed the Security Services Bill, there must be no let-up in the counter-terrorism work of the Security Service for as long as the current bombing campaign continues. I would be worried by any significant transfer of personnel from such work to dealing with organised crime: in the present circumstances, the counter-terrorism campaign should be an absolute priority for the Security Service.

In a similar debate last year, I said that it would be irresponsible to scrap the anti-terrorism legislation entirely, with immediate effect. That is what would have happened if a vote against the Government had been carried that night. I said then that we would vote to renew the Act, although we would continue to demand a general review of its working. Now that there is to be a general review, I feel even more determined that we should ensure that the legislation remains on the statute book, while working for a peace that will mean that at some point in the future our counter-terrorism legislation can make fewer incursions on civil liberties, and can be more directed towards some of the longer-term terrorist threats that will probably always exist.

We must constantly strive to achieve a balance between protecting our citizens from the total destruction of their civil liberties that being bombed, shot or maimed involves, and ensuring that, in providing such protection, we do not create some aspects of the society that the terrorists are wishing on us. We must ensure that we do not further their interests by reducing our civil liberties. Some terrorists, indeed, use the exploitation of the loss of civil liberties as one of their political tools. The more they think that they can make a country ungovernable, the more they think that they can exercise political power from the barrel of a gun or from their bomb-making activities.

That is a difficult balance for any Government to strike, and we shall continue to criticise when we feel that it could have been struck differently. Nevertheless, we do not consider it responsible at this stage to remove the powers that we are using against terrorism from the statute book.


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