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Mr. Corbyn: There is great concern, especially among Labour Members, at the suggestion, especially by Ulster Unionists and some Conservative Members, that internment should be reintroduced. Does my hon. Friend think that the Bill would give power to the RUC to take people into custody and hold them for a very long time

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on remand, which would in effect be a form of internment, knowing full well that the chances of getting a prosecution were extremely limited?

Mr. Bermingham: No. Under the prevention of terrorism Act, the maximum holding time is seven days.

Mr. Corbyn: Until charge.

Mr. Bermingham: Until charge. People cannot be held week after week; they must be charged. If my hon. Friend does not take my word for it, he should ask the Attorney-General, who has been in the game longer than I.

Dr. Godman: The game?

Mr. Bermingham: I thought that the time had come for a little levity in the proceedings.

There comes a time when a suspect must be charged or released. If he is charged, the case must go before a court and it is then subject to investigation by the court. There is the opportunity to apply for bail, which will be granted on the basis of the strength of the evidence and other matters. My hon. Friend asks whether the Bill proposes interment by another name, but that is not so: it is an alternative to internment. A specific allegation must be made against the defendant. He cannot simply be locked up, given no rights and let go at the end of an indefinite period. That is what brought the hatred and horror in Ireland. That is the point that I tried to make earlier, but I did not get much approval from the Ulster Unionists.

If a person is to be incarcerated, he has the right to know why. That is why the Murray case was decided as it was. If the Home Secretary wants to keep clear of the European convention on human rights and all the other jurisdictions, all that he needs to do is to put in the Bill the right to a solicitor, and allow the solicitor to remain present and the proceedings to be tape-recorded. The prisoner's rights will then be protected and there will be no further trouble in that respect.

Dr. Godman: Will my hon. Friend confirm that, when he speaks of a suspect in a police station being accompanied by a lawyer, he is referring to an English police station? A suspect in a Scottish police station does not have the right to be accompanied by a lawyer during the investigation.

Mr. Bermingham: That is tragic. The law in Scotland should be amended. The English law is correct in that respect. I am asking the Home Secretary to extend it to Northern Ireland, so that the law is equal in every part of the country for all crimes, terrorist or non-terrorist. I do not like the word "terrorist". A crime is a crime. If I blow someone up, it does not matter whether it is for his political beliefs or because I want to blow up his property. I am still a criminal and he has still been blown up. People should remember that. Crime is crime, and it ought to be dealt with.

My attempts to understand clause 5 began as a nightmare. Well, I took the advice. I did what most good lawyers do. I went and talked to my friends. One takes one's piece of paper with one and says, "Hey, Jim," or "Hey, Jane, what does this mean?" I spent the whole of

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last night--not literally--walking around various places in the Temple. I will not report where, or what the beverages were, but I gathered from many senior colleagues their interpretation of clause 5. They were not very polite until we began to understand the language. Then it became obvious what clause 5 was all about. It is, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said earlier today, a means of bringing into effect an anomaly that already exists.

When previous attempts were made in various private Members' Bills to prosecute people abroad, I was worried about the incitement provisions. The Bill does not include incitement. It avoids that pitfall. It says in simple language that, if something is a crime in England and a crime in, for example, Patagonia, the legislation applies. But if it is not a crime in England or not a crime in Patagonia, the legislation does not apply. That already happens, for example, in drugs cases. Again, I declare my interest. I have been involved in such cases. In one case, drilling pipes in Spain were found to be full of cannabis, but the conspiracy originated in the United Kingdom. My client happened to be somewhere near. He was acquitted, I do not know how, by an English jury. In another case, a lot of bootlegging was going on. If someone is bootlegging in Spain, France or Belgium, he can be tried in the United Kingdom on the conspiracy count because he conspires to commit a crime in the European area.

Incidentally, the crime has to be one that carries a sentence of more than two years in prison. Petty matters are not covered. I hope that when we consider the matter--perhaps it should be considered again in some detail--we will bear it in mind that, in the European context, there is a limitation to crimes subject to a two-year prison sentence. The crime has to carry a sentence of more than two years, so we do not get bogged down with petty crimes.

As I understand it, the Bill deals with crimes that are crimes in this country and in other countries. I was thinking earlier today what a farce it was that we could prosecute someone in England for conspiring to import from Spain £100 million-worth of cannabis, as in the case to which I referred, but we are stuck if we want to try someone for conspiring to import £200 million-worth of cocaine from Colombia. That is lunacy. This attempt by the Government to recover their position is a worthwhile attempt which needs support.

I concede immediately that the drafting of clause 5 leaves much to be desired. For example, one proposed subsection refers to a judge of the Crown court. The cases with which we are dealing are, in my respectful submission, so serious that, under proposed subsection (10), which says:

the judge has to decide not only what is or is not a crime in this or that country but in certain cases whether the Government of a country is de jure or de facto. Take Burma as a classic example. Is the junta the Government of that country or are the democratic persons elected some years ago the Government? Those are the questions which will have to be considered. Therefore, I suggest that clause 5 needs further amendment and consideration. I hope that, even though we may pass the Bill into law in the next few days, it will be brought back to the House very soon. I seek again from the Home Secretary an

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assurance that it will be brought back soon so that it can be considered in the light of further discussions and advice, and amended accordingly.

Clause 5 is horrendous. It is designed to deal with criminal conspiracies when the country in which the crime is intended to be committed and that in which it is thought up are different. I have tried to be as brief as possible. I have some reservations. I promised the Attorney-General that I would put formally on the record my view that, while he is the Attorney-General, I am not too worried about bad cases getting into court. However, I will be worried in the future. [Hon. Members: "Distant future."] The distant future, I hope. I hope that the matter can be reconsidered later and that the technicalities and other matters can be tidied up in a way that makes plain what we seek to do.

For once, I wish a Bill on civil liberties a fair passage.

9.44 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): There seems to be among some hon. Members a strong conviction that, after Good Friday, everything changed in Northern Ireland. They should look at what we have been through since Good Friday. The people of Northern Ireland have a right to question the strong and fierce language used against them when they say anything that does not side with, condone or support the Good Friday agreement.

Since Good Friday, 37 people have been murdered by the terrorists. Since Good Friday, every paramilitary group supposed to be on ceasefire has breached the ceasefire and the terms of the Mitchell principles of non-violence, so much so that two groups had to be expelled from the talks because of their misbehaviour.

Six hundred and ninety-one people have been injured as a result of paramilitary-inspired violence. There have been 75 separate bombing incidents that include the atrocity at Omagh, Banbridge and Moira, as well as a growing list of largely unreported fire bombs and incendiary devices, many of which have destroyed businesses. There have been six car bombs; there have been 89 separate punishment shootings carried out by all the paramilitary groups; there have been 55 serious assaults carried out by paramilitary groups; and more persons are detained in custody this year than during the mid-1970s when the troubles were at their height. We might say, "Some peace process!"

The Government claim to be doing everything possible to counter those violent acts, but there is little evidence to prove the Government's claims. The Government are not tough on terrorism or the causes of terrorism. The quarterly report on the working of the prevention of terrorism Act indicates a severe dropping off in activity by the security forces to prevent terror. From Good Friday to July, the Government's own figures show that the police and courts failed to charge or convict one person for one single act of terror, for withholding information or for assisting the flow of terrorist funds. In the same period, only one person was charged under section 9 of the Act. That is a record not of success, but of failure; and there is little prospect of the record being improved, given the Government's lack of will to tackle the terrorists.

The concession process has seriously compromised the Prime Minister's ability to deal with terrorists. The people of Ulster are asking how long the concessions to the

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terrorists will go on. We heard the hon. Member for East Hampshire (Mr. Mates) say that there was no such thing as a good terrorist. I agree with that, but there is a difference in the Acts that we are producing. One set of terrorists is put on one side and one set is put on the other. Someone said, "Aye, but they had declared a ceasefire." It is some ceasefire when they are still carrying out those terrible acts of terror.

That record makes the people of Ulster afraid of what will happen in the days ahead. The House must face up to decommissioning. Once again, we have heard talk today about decommissioning and statements about what was said in the agreement. To hear some hon. Members, one would think that the agreement was strong on decommissioning. What does it say? It states:

mark these words--

    "any influence they may have, to achieve the decommissioning of all paramilitary arms within two years following endorsement in referendums North and South of the agreement and in the context of the implementation of the overall settlement."

Mark those words:

    "to use any influence they may have",

but not to use all their influence and not to take any steps. So, nothing in the agreement says that participants must decommission within two years.

As long as arms and explosives are available, we will have repeats of Omagh. I am sad when I hear politicians saying, "Surely this is the last time. It will never be repeated." They said that about Moira, after that they said it about Banbridge and after that, about Omagh. God alone knows where the next strike will come.

The House needs a baptism of reality, and it needs to face up to what is really happening in our troubled Province at present. On the Prime Minister's most recent visit, my colleagues and I told him that he had the opportunity at that juncture to deal with the matter and to tell all the paramilitary groups, "No prisoner releases until the guns are handed in." I was amazed at the right hon. Gentleman, who replied, "Would you keep innocent people still in prison?" I said, "Innocent people! The people you are letting out of prison are not innocent. They are as guilty as the people who carried out the Omagh bombing."

The IRA prisoners who are coming on to the streets of Northern Ireland are intent on joining the Real IRA. We have only to look at the names of people in the Real IRA to realise that--people such as Michael McKevitt, who was the IRA quartermaster-general and a man with immense influence over those who are at present in prison but are about to be released. What about Liam Campbell? I have also mentioned the three people from the Omagh area who were taken in by the police.

I asked the Prime Minister a simple question: if the law that we are asked to pass had been on the statute book, could those prisoners have been held and taken to court to prove themselves guilty or not guilty? The right hon. Gentleman did not give me a yes or no answer. If the Bill is to act properly, those people have to be rounded up, but the tragedy is that they will have disappeared by the time we get through the business.

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I have heard some talk here about internment. I was in the House when internment was in force, and I believe in Executive internment. I believe that it is an act of a Government; it is not a judicial act, and it is not carried out in a judicial way. The Government say that they will put a certain person away, and they put him away.

People talk about the failure of internment, but what did the Government do at that time? They sewed on to the exercise of internment a quasi-judicial commission. People said, "We never knew who made the accusations against us, but we were put away." What did the Government do then? They hung up an army blanket in a room in the prison. If someone who had been interned wanted to appeal against it, he stood, and all he could see was the brown boots of the fellow behind the blanket. The commissioner asked, "Do you know this man?" and a voice from behind the blanket said, "Yes." "Is he a member of a terrorist organisation?" "Yes." All right, down he goes.

That procedure would have riled any section of the community, and Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews who were interned were angry with the system. It went against any iota of decency and democracy--but that is not what we are talking about with the Bill.

Someone said that we were advocating internment. No; as the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham) rightly said, the person will be charged, but will have an opportunity to answer the charge. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann(Mr. Trimble), the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, told us why that law is not working now in the south of Ireland, because of the change of approach. It is true that it is not working, yet we are now putting our hand to this measure to bring us into line with that law.

I hope that, when the Bill is passed, we shall see action by the Government, and such people will be taken out of circulation--but they will still be given the opportunity to go to court and stand trial. They will be able to have their day in court. No one wants an innocent person behind bars, but everybody wants the murderers of all those people behind bars.

Our trouble today is that many such people are to be released into our community. This is not a good day for our Province, or for the House. None the less, I shall vote for the Bill, because at least it is sending a signal, and saying, "You bombers of Omagh cannot do that without our taking these measures against you."

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