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Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire): I start by thanking the Home Secretary for his courtesy in giving me an early sight of his statement. I join him in praising the bravery, courage and fortitude of our police, emergency services and security forces in the face of

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terrorist attack. I know that he will understand if, as a former Northern Ireland Minister who had the privilege for some time of being responsible for the security forces in Northern Ireland, I pay especial tribute to them for the work that they do; in particular, I single out the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

I also join the Home Secretary in expressing appreciation for the behaviour and character of the British people, in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who have controlled their temper in the face of vicious attack and provocation, and have refused to be swayed from the rule of law by the men of terror.

I assure the Home Secretary that we stand with him in resolutely rejecting international terrorism. I hope that he will agree that those on both Front Benches share a determination not to allow the United Kingdom to be used as a haven or a base for international terrorists. Does the Home Secretary also accept that we agree with Lord Lloyd on the need for on-going legislation, and that we look forward to the consultation paper?

The Home Secretary said that he had long opposed exclusion orders. Whatever his personal views may be, his party voted against the annual renewal of the PTA from 1983 to 1995--not acts that inspired much confidence in the Labour party. It abstained for the past two years because it sniffed an election coming. Does he accept that, while that ambivalence makes his commitment to permanent legislation the more welcome, it also means that, when his proposals emerge, they will need to be examined more carefully than usual because of Labour's record?

I have four further questions. The Home Secretary reminds us that he is required by law to examine each exclusion order. Given that 12 were revoked today, what political considerations did he take into account in deciding that they should suddenly be revoked?

Secondly, I hope that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will not misunderstand me if I say that proposals such as those just outlined to the House, introduced perfectly legitimately by Government as a review of existing legislation but while the peace process is continuing, are bound to raise--at least in the minds of some--the possibility of linkage between the two events, especially as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been associated with the Home Secretary's statement. In coming to this decision today, has he or the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland received representations from members or officials of any other Government or from Sinn Fein that in any way influenced the Government's judgment in today's statement?

Thirdly, can the Home Secretary reassure the House that the decision to drop exclusion orders fully took into account any advice that he may have received from his security advisers?

Fourthly, I note that a consultation paper will appear early in the new year, and we look forward to reading and examining it, and to responding to it. Does the Home Secretary recognise that the new permanent legislation to which he referred should not be determined until the outcome of the Northern Ireland talks process is known?

The Home Secretary understands that we are fully supportive of the talks process, and I know that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland realises that, too, but the Home Secretary himself pointed out that the

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outcome of the talks is uncertain. Will he assure the House that no change to permanent legislation will be made until the outcome of the talks is known, so that the outcome of the talks can influence the judgments that go to make up the final proposals? Finally, does the Home Secretary accept that, in the meantime, we welcome his determination to keep so-called emergency legislation in place?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. I should like to place on record on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and myself a reinforcement of his expression of gratitude, particularly to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whose bravery and courage in dealing over 25 years with an appalling terrorist threat has no equal anywhere in the world.

The right hon. Gentleman tried to rework old debates about our attitude to the prevention of terrorism Act. I have only to remind him that it was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who said:

That was never the issue between our parties when those matters were debated.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me four questions. I want to give him precise answers to each one. He asked whether I took any political factors into account when, as I was required to do, I examined the merits of each of the outstanding 12 orders that I have decided today to allow to lapse. The answer to that is no.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we had received any representations from any other Government or from Sinn Fein asking us to make a statement such as this. The answer on behalf of both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and myself is no.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether the decision on dropping exclusion orders took account of the views of those who advise me on security matters. The answer to that is yes.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me, lastly, whether I would undertake not to introduce any permanent legislation in the House before there was a clear outcome to the talks process which is currently taking place in the north of Ireland. The answer to that is also no, and I want to explain the reason for that.

In his second question, the right hon. Gentleman sought to know whether there was any direct linkage between what I have announced today and the talks process. I gave him a categorical undertaking that there was not. What we seek, and what I believe, by their actions, the previous Government sought to do, is to establish a base of permanent anti-terrorist legislation which is sufficiently robust and strong to cope with both periods of relative peace in terms of the internal threat and emergencies such as the failure of the ceasefire, and to deal with the continuing international terrorist threat.

I give the right hon. Gentleman an undertaking that there will be sufficient time after the publication of our consultative document to take full account of the views expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): As the Home Secretary knows, Ulster Unionist Members have long

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been in favour of a single permanent United Kingdom-wide anti-terrorism law. Is not the reality that, under the fine words of the Home Secretary, the substance is a significant relaxation of the stance of the Government with regard now to exclusion orders and also to internment, and the changes foreshadowed on arrest and detention powers? Does not considerable naivety underlie that?

As both Secretaries of State must realise, as terrorists in Northern Ireland realise that their desire to set aside the consent principle will not be satisfied, we shall see a return to violence in Northern Ireland. Indeed, we have seen violence today in Londonderry. Can the Secretary of State give us any further information on the bomb in Londonderry? I believe that Semtex was used in the bomb, which is available only to the Provisional IRA. That may be a significant development.

The Home Secretary referred to Lord Lloyd's report. He knows that, in that report, Lord Lloyd recommended change in the law on the admissibility of wire-tap evidence, something that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has sought for a long time. I know that there are arguments and foolish attitudes on the matter in some quarters, but could we not at least ensure that the law is changed in Northern Ireland, as the previous Government undertook to do, in advance of permanent legislation?

Could we also see something happen with regard to witness protection schemes? Far too often in Northern Ireland we have seen cases collapse because witnesses would not come forward. The Home Secretary paid tribute to the RUC. RUC men have been murdered and their killers not brought to justice for precisely that reason. That is something on which measures need to be taken.

Exclusion orders were a lazy and not particularly effective form of control. We need more effective forms. Can we really have that without the practices that are common elsewhere in the European Union with regard to identity cards and checks on movements of persons?

Mr. Straw: Let me deal with each of the hon. Gentleman's points in turn. He accused us of relaxing our views on anti-terrorist legislation. No one listening to my statement could objectively take that view. He confirmed his long-held opinion of exclusion orders. In reaching this decision, I took into account the view which, for example, he expressed in the House on 9 March 1994, when he said:

He went on to make the point in respect of non-British citizens, which is an important point, that action to exclude non-British citizens

    "is possible under immigration law."--[Official Report, 9 March 1994; Vol. 239, c. 314.]

That remains the case. Later this afternoon, a Bill will come before the House to provide a proper process to give effect to such orders to exclude.

The hon. Gentleman asked about Lord Lloyd's proposals in respect of section 9 of the Interception of Communications Act 1985. That is a complicated issue. Lord Lloyd sought to distinguish between interception evidence that arose in respect of a national security investigation--which he said should be adducible in evidence--and other interception evidence, from a customs, police or Security Service intercept, in respect of the investigation of a serious crime, which he said should not be adducible in court.

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That is one of the most complex of Lord Lloyd's recommendations. Many take the view that it is very difficult to draw the distinction in practice. There is much to be said on both sides of the argument about whether intercept evidence should be adducible in court; I continue to consider the matter carefully, and will be happy to take advice from hon. Members, particularly those who have had experience of the matter.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the composition of the explosives used in the bomb in Londonderry. I am afraid that I have no firm information, but as soon as we have information I shall ensure that he is informed. He also asked about the need for witness protection. The protection of witnesses in connection with anti-terrorist measures is a general but acute problem, and we are giving it careful consideration.

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