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6.12 pm

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton): I listened with some surprise to the speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). I have listened to debates such as this for many years, but I have never heard the hon. Gentleman or anyone else suggest that, if the number of people excluded ever fell to 35, they would change their mind about whether to oppose the legislation.

I listened with complete amazement to the speech of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). I am sorry that the House is not full, because we have witnessed yet another instance of the undermining of the Labour's party's bid to be credible on law and order. It is almost mind-blowing that a spokesman for that party should argue at the Dispatch Box that it has changed its posture because the Government are setting up a review which is, in fact, irrelevant to Irish terrorism; that he should use as an excuse for the change of heart the fact that a review has been announced, when it was announced on 9 January, before a debate on emergency

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powers legislation whose Second Reading Labour opposed; and that he should be blissfully unaware that his party voted against Second Reading, insisting when I challenged that that was not so.

Miss Hoey: Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence: I hope that the hon. Lady will not mind if I do not. I have only 10 minutes in which to speak.

Mr. Straw: If the review has nothing to do with the situation in Ireland, why was it announced on Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland?

Sir Ivan Lawrence: The hon. Gentleman has referred to Mr. Rowe's report on the operation of the Act, in which it was made absolutely clear that Lord Lloyd's brief was

If the hon. Gentleman has not read that, however, I am not surprised, because he had not even read the report of the debate on the emergency powers legislation, and insisted that his party had not voted against it. That shows that the Labour party has no grip on the subject, that its members do not know what they are doing or saying and that, if there is a party fit to lead the country in the attack on terrorism, Labour is definitely not that party.

This is a fitting day on which to debate an Act that is intended to prevent the large-scale slaughter of innocent people. Most law-and-order legislation is directed at catching, convicting and sentencing the perpetrators of violent crime after their deeds have been done; if there is any element of prevention, it lies in establishing so fearsome a law that, if it is enforced efficiently, it may deter some would-be offenders. One of the strengths of this legislation is the fact that it meets the prevention of crime head on by proscribing terrorist organisations, and by excluding people suspected of involvement in terrorism from Great Britain and Northern Ireland as a whole.

Of course that is a form of rough justice, and it may be a denial of civil liberties; but there is ample justification for such action, and if the exclusion is directed in error in any particular case, no great harm is done.

Exclusion should not be seen as a punishment. It is a preventive measure, pure and simple. Moreover, exclusion orders can be reviewed by the Secretary of State if the independent adviser suggests it, or if fresh evidence appears that makes such a review necessary. They do not affect too many people, even if they affect them unjustly: the number of those excluded fell from 68 in 1994 to 35 in 1995--the lowest figure for 20 years. In fact, very few mistakes will have been made over those 35, because we have an exceptionally efficient Secret Intelligence Service.

This part of the legislation is not contrary even to the European convention on human rights. In the Gallagher case, it was made clear that the United Kingdom could derogate from article 5(3) in matters of exclusion and detention. John Rowe QC reviewed the operation of the Act even before the docklands bomb, and decided that it remained necessary to counter the threat of terrorism.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South): Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Sir Ivan Lawrence: No.

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Above all, if justice must be rough and the strict obligation to be sure beyond all doubt must be waived,it is because the IRA makes it impossible to obtain evidence for a court by terrifying witnesses. The IRA makes it impossible to secure convictions by terrifying people who, but for the Diplock courts, would serve on a jury. Civil liberties must also be considered from the victim's point of view: the victim of a terrorist attack is entitled to his or her civil liberties, too. So if rough justice is being done, the IRA has no one to blame but itself. And if errors are made, surely it is better to err in an effort to save innocent lives than to err in order to guarantee civil liberties.

It is no surprise that the police support exclusion orders, because their effect is to disrupt terrorist activity. There is no more vital and effective way of preventing terrorism than removing suspected terrorists from areas where they may well be plotting to slaughter innocent people. It would, of course, surprise anyone who did not know the Labour party that the party bidding to form the next Government opposed this order, on civil liberties grounds, for 13 years, and that even today some of its members propose not to go along with the leadership. That shows just how split the Labour party is. By doing that, it was saying, was it not, that it was justified in putting first the civil liberties of persons against whom there was evidence, even if it could not be adduced in a court, showing that they were parties to terrorism.

When the hon. Member for Blackburn says that Labour's change of heart is to stop the wrong message being given to the IRA, he is making it clear that for years the party was giving the wrong message to the IRA and to the nation. In an article in Tribune on 8 March,the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North(Mr. McNamara) said:

How on earth can anyone call a decision to abstain, which I understand Labour intends to take, a clear message to the IRA?

It is obvious that Labour has woken up to the fact that it is suffering in the public eye by being soft on crime and its causes. It has decided to give a clear signal to the British people that it is "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime"--by abstaining.

Part of the legislation helps to protect innocent people from international terrorism--one of the blots from which the world is at present suffering. As new nation states emerge and states become unstable, international terrorism may grow. Terrorism is being used at the moment to undermine the peace in the middle east, with the most horrific acts of violence in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv and other parts of Israel. We have to play our part in helping to defeat international terrorism. We have pledged ourselves to do that by international treaties and agreements, and we are doing it by this legislation.We do it by helping to plug the hole in current legislation--

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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse): Order. I call Sir James Molyneaux.

Mr. Mullin: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have been debating the Act for almost two hours. Forty minutes from now, the Front-Bench spokesmen will begin to sum up. The House has not yet heard anyone who is opposed to the Act. I hope that in the next 40 minutes someone will be permitted to put the opposition case.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I call Sir James Molyneaux.

6.22 pm

Sir James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley): I shall not seek to follow that point of order, but it seems to me that a great many groans, moans and supplementaries showed a fair measure of dissent from the side of the House on which I sit.

In last year's debate on this legislation, my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) expressed the hope, which was shared by many of us--perhaps all of us--that there might be no need for the renewal that we are debating. He said:

That has been the consistent view of my party for well over 20 years. It was because of our concern for the protection of the United Kingdom that the right hon. Enoch Powell persuaded a Committee examining the Act to extend its scope to deal with international terrorism. Not for the first time was he criticised, and not for the first or last time was Enoch Powell proved correct in his prediction. For what other reasons would the leaders of the world's nations gather in Egypt this very week?I imagine that the British delegation will have been surprised by the resolute approach of some other participating nations, most of which regard Britain as a soft touch for evil-doers. They may have derived that impression from making the mistake of reading Hansard in their native tongue.

In the House, there has been a marked reluctance to recognise the enormity of the challenge of international terrorism to democracy and civilisation. Wishful thinking clouds judgment to an extent that confounds many of our friends elsewhere. For example, several months ago at an Australian international airport, I complimented the security chief on the rigorous checking system employed at the airport. Innocently, I asked him whether it was intended to relax the measures in view of the IRA ceasefire. His reply was significant. He said, "No. The IRA ceasefire is only a small blip. We have to develop even more effective measures, mindful of the known fact that international terrorism will be a permanent affliction." Glancing at my boarding pass, he said, "Well, have a good trip, but remember that the jumbo jet is the most vulnerable element in modern society." That was a chilling thought to take home with me.

There are those who are ever-vigilant in their concern for the protection of human rights. They have been consistent, and one must admire their stand. They highlight, for example, exclusion orders, seven-day detentions and powers of arrest and search. But those are

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mere infringements that are reversible and have proved to be reversible--all of them. However, the obliteration of the human right to life is totally irreversible. What right of appeal was open to the Lockerbie victim, and what redress is available to an Israeli child who has been blown to bits? What can compensate the murdered newsagents at Canary wharf? It is of no avail to say that two wrongs do not make one right, but that is not the equation. The seven-day prisoner will be released, but the murdered citizen cannot have his life restored. The longer Governments dither over mere inconveniences, the more murders and mass murders there will be. That is the real, true moral challenge to all of us.

For the second half of this century, the NATO shield protected the free world from the horrors of both conventional and nuclear wars. We now have to ensure that this week's summit in Egypt leads to the establishment of a mechanism that is just as effective in its own way, as was NATO, in protecting democracy and civilisation from terrorist machines every bit as deadly as old-style warfare.

In my maiden speech in 1971, I explained that in Northern Ireland we were seeing for the first time in Europe a demonstration of urban guerilla warfare. The pattern evolving at that time and the product have been successfully exported to many parts of the world.It follows that the civilised world must construct a counter-terrorist organisation on the lines that were mentioned today by the Prime Minister during questions. We were all greatly encouraged to hear him say that the first step towards that goal would take place within a fortnight.

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