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6.28 pm

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): We have heard a reasoned and sensible speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Sir J. Molyneaux) on the broad issues of terrorism. I should like to develop that theme a bit. This afternoon, we have discussed the terror inflicted on innocent children in a ghastly slaughter in Dunblane. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has returned from talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, where he has been discussing international terrorism, so it is especially apt that we should be discussing the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.

As has rightly been pointed out, we live in an increasingly dangerous world where buses blow up in Tel Aviv and in the Aldwych. We see much violence on our screens, be it fictional or showing real incidents. That violence may have influenced Mr. Hamilton, the maniac in Dunblane. Other influences, voices and propaganda encourage people such as Edward O'Brien, who was blown up in the Aldwych. We should ask whether society should have the powers to defend itself against organised terrorism.

That is why I welcome the review under Lord Lloyd. It is right and important to review counter-terrorist measures. Legislation should cover the whole of the United Kingdom, not just part of it. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act covers Northern Ireland. This part of the UK is covered by the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Legislation covering the whole country would be more logical.

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As the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said, international terrorism is a threat in the United Kingdom. There have been recent attacks against Israeli targets. There is a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. Organisations here have links with Hamas. Further back, Georgi Markhov was murdered on Hungerford bridge by the Bulgarian secret service. International terrorism poses real threats to life and limb in this country. We should have the means to defend ourselves and the necessary tools in the locker to protect society.

I differ from the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), who said:


Internationally, the development of emergencies is growing. We should be able to keep some of those powers in abeyance, but the world is not becoming safer, so at the moment we need them.

Some of reasons why we must have the emergency provisions Act have been mentioned. The reasons include the fact that terrorists are not reasonable people. Sinn Fein spokesmen deny the truth when they speak on television. Last month, I heard Martin McGuinness interviewed on the BBC. For more than a minute, he was not interrupted by the interviewer. When does a Cabinet Minister escape being interrupted for more than a minute?

Sinn Fein spokesmen will twist the truth and brazenly say that black is white, and that the Government are to blame for the end of the ceasefire. That is patently untrue. As has been mentioned, Sinn Fein-IRA rely on crime for a large part of their income, as well as on gullible United States citizens. They rely on racketeering and on corruption.

I welcome last December's Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, but Sinn Fein-IRA remain inextricably linked to crime, as do some Protestant paramilitaries. I was always opposed to the broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein and on the other paramilitaries. I should welcome some tough questioning. I wonder whether interviewers are intimidated by stony-faced terrorist sympathisers, some of whom are convicted terrorists with blood on their hands. I wonder whether Sinn Fein spokesmen have been schooled in resisting interrogation and being interviewed, because they stand there saying that black is white.

I make a plea to broadcasters, if any are listening. They should remember whom they are questioning, and be a little more forthright.

Intimidation is a real factor, which is why we need these provisions. There is intimidation against populations, voters, witnesses to crime on the mainland and witnesses in Northern Ireland, which Northern Ireland Members will know much more about than me. I remember bus drivers being held up with weapons and refusing to testify because they feared for their lives. There is intimidation here in relation to terrorism.

I should like to mention, in a slight digression perhaps, that there is intimidation against politicians in the House. Journalists have told me that some hon. Members are unwilling to speak openly on Northern Ireland. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, remembering the deaths of Airey Neave and of Ian Gow, to revisit the question of--

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Mr. McNamara: What about Robert Bradford?

Mr. Robathan: I have yet to finish.

I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to revisit the question of candidates' addresses on nomination and ballot papers. That was considered in early 1992.I understand that that was backed by the Labour party. We give a gift to terrorists.

Northern Irish politicians live with that nightmare the whole time. Mr. Bradford has just been mentioned. Several hon. Members have been attacked. Lord Fitt from the other place was attacked in Andersonstown. More recently, the right hon. Member for Strangford(Mr. Taylor) and others were attacked.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): The family of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea).

Mr. Robathan: I hear a sedentary intervention. Many hon. Members have been attacked and intimidated. I pay tribute to the bravery of hon. Members who still return here despite those attacks, but we should not assist terrorists, be they republican or loyalist, by giving them the gift of the home addresses of people who wish to speak out.

Here and in Northern Ireland, we need the extended powers that the EPA gives us. We are not dealing with cosy criminals from a "Dixon of Dock Green" wonderland. There is no honour among these thieves. The atrocities in Northern Ireland are too many to mention, but I recall the children murdered in Warrington. What brave boyos those murderers were. What courage they showed for the cause--another stain on the history of Ireland. A united Ireland is a respectable political aspiration, but those murders differed from those in Dunblane only in the number killed.

In August 1919, Siegfried Sassoon wrote a poem entitled "Aftermath". It stated:


I say to Opposition Members who are considering voting against these measures--have they forgotten the Baltic exchange, Canary wharf, the mortars at Heathrow and other outrages? Has anyone been caught? I fear not, but at least we give the security forces all possible assistance.

The rule of law has been mentioned. The Government must act within the rule of law. Where they do not do so, or where their agents do not so, the judiciary should and does act. Generally the police have acted reasonably with the powers that have been given. The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) may disagree, but the police are well motivated and reasonable, in marked contrast with the opponents they face.

Was Edward O'Brien 21? I think so. He was recruited by the lies and deceits of the IRA, destined to blow himself to bits and injure others, including a poor unfortunate fellow Irishman. Some hon. Members would say that that is no justification for giving the police the powers to stop and search someone whom they suspect, yet there are other sleepers and other IRA cells in this country. We must have the power to stop, search and detain if necessary. The Bill allows the exclusion of suspects. This country's population want the police to defend them and have the other powers that are given.

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This is not a totalitarian measure. It is to protect the citizens of the United Kingdom. Hon. Members who oppose it show how gullible they are. I would accuse most of the Members who will do so this evening not of having sympathy for the IRA, but of extreme foolish and misguided ideology. The hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) talked of political prisoners. That says more about his gullibility, blinkered views and instincts than anything else. I hope that his comment is duly published in the newspapers.

The Labour party, I regret, is not backing this measure. I hope that it will convert at the last moment, support the Government, and show that it is not soft on terrorism.

6.38 pm

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North): Today, we celebrate the release of the Birmingham Six. That terrible explosion was the cause of this legislation. Many of us were panicked into voting for it because we saw it as a means of protecting the Irish population in this country against what was happening to them as a result of that terrible episode. This is the fifth anniversary of release of the Birmingham Six, and the people who perpetrated that foul bombing are still at large. They have not been captured, for all the years that we have had the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.

The last time we debated the Act, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) moved an amendment. It said:


The question we have to ask today is whether that position has altered in respect of the reasons why the Opposition voted for that reasoned amendment and against the Bill. My hon. Friends the Members for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) would argue that it has, and that the change has been the result of the Government's decision to appoint a commission, presided over by Lord Justice Lloyd and assisted by Mr. Justice Kerr, to determine what anti-terrorist legislation we might need in the event of a cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland.

There is no cessation of hostilities in Northern Ireland.I regret that very much; I wish there were. I wish that the terms and conditions under which Lord Justice Lloyd is looking at these matters really existed, that the premise was there--but that is not the case. It is standing logic on its head to say that the Labour party reverses its position because of a Government decision based on a proposition which, sadly, has not become reality. Like everyone else,I hope that there will be an unconditional ceasefire today, but that has not yet happened. Therefore, the premise on which the Labour party has decided to abstain tonight does not exist.

Let us take the matter one stage further, and suppose that Lord Justice Lloyd produces his report in a vacuum and recommends that we should retain detention for seven days

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and exclusion orders. Do we then suddenly change our position and say, "Well, the referee, that impartial judge who has been appointed, does not accept our principles, so we must either accept what he says or reject what he says and vote accordingly"? Where is the consistency in that? There is none, so it is wrong of us to think or act in those terms.

During my happy days on the Front Bench, I spent some time looking at the question of a judicial commission. We did so in an attitude of trying to help a Government who seemed to be impaled upon the horns of seven-day detention and exclusion orders. We wanted to get away from those. However, the principles behind our suggestions were never accepted by the Government.

There was never any inter-party agreement to sit down and talk through the issues, which was our first proposition. Our second, for an independent commission, was never accepted while the fighting was continuing and the terror still existed. During that time, there was an elision of the principle of being against seven-day detention and internal exile, and a sudden belief in the "principle" of a judicial inquiry. Surely that is not in any way a principle.

If we get a decision we like, is there any guarantee that the Government will come through with it? From what we have heard from the Home Secretary today, it seems that the Government are implacably of the belief that they must retain exclusion orders and seven-day detention, without a judicial element. Did the Home Secretary say today that, if Lord Justice Lloyd came out with such and such a proposition, the Government would immediately embrace it? Has he given an undertaking that, when we get the result of the inquiry in the autumn, if it embraces certain suggestions we will have immediate legislation to put them into effect? Far from it. Considering the proposition for an independent judge is just putting off the problem until after the next general election. It is an easy way out.

We supported the proposition for a commission, but we never said that the exclusion orders and seven-day detention were anything other than wrong in principle, wrong in their effect. As a recruiting agent for the IRA, they have been without parallel.


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