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Mr. Beggs: Would the driver of a getaway car, taking a bomber to a safe house, be reasonably described as a supporter, and does the hon. Gentleman agree that such a person should be subject to due process of law?

Mr. Cash: Emphatically yes, in my view. The person might be able to put up a defence--that he had been coerced, for example--but the fact remains that some people deliberately disguise the fact that they are members of an organisation. It is inconceivable that the Government should sell the pass in this part of the Bill. I do not know where their amour-propre comes from. What is the point of deliberately avoiding the opportunity to introduce words that were used in an Act passed only a few weeks ago for exactly the same kind of purpose, and allowing people who have taken part in a bombing, for example, to get off scot free? It is inconceivable. It is extraordinary, to my way of thinking, that the Minister can try to get away with that.

Mr. Öpik: Compared with our Bill, the Irish Offences Against the State (Amendment) Bill seems to have been written by the Plain English Campaign. Clause 6 of that Bill makes it an offence to be at any level in a proscribed organisation and the punishment is life imprisonment. Have that clause and others been considered in the spirit of marching in step with decisions in the Irish Parliament?

Mr. Ingram: Many amendments have to be considered and we have tried to make progress that will satisfy everyone's needs. Support for a proscribed organisation is not an offence, because it makes no sense to make support

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for a subset of proscribed organisations, in this case specified organisations, an offence. Much consideration was given to the Republic of Ireland legislation but, of course, we are dealing with our own specific measures. I do not know what else I can say about the matter.

The hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) is well known for detailed picking of the bones of everything. I am not prepared to move on the case that he has made and I ask the Committee to reject the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West): I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 21, leave out 'in England and Wales'.

The Second Deputy Chairman: With this, it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 10, in page 2, line 21, leave out 'in England and Wales'.

No. 13, in page 2, leave out lines 44 to 49.

No. 79, in page 2, line 46 after 'belonging' insert 'having belonged'.

Government amendments Nos. 61 and 62.

Mr. Gorrie: Amendments Nos. 3, 10 and 13 go together. We seek to clarify the position in Scotland because the Bill seems to alter Scotland's laws, which have hitherto always demanded corroborative evidence. Our concerns are shared by the Law Society of Scotland, which states in its letter to us that the Bill undermines the rule of corroboration that applies in Scotland.

As the Bill stands, a person can be found guilty of membership of an organisation on the say-so of a police officer or on the basis of some other evidence, plus the inference that is to be drawn from the person's failure to say various things. It may be a pedantic point, but an inference is not a fact and is not corroboration. As I understand it, the law of Scotland demands two witnesses to testify to facts that are relevant to the point to prove a person's guilt. The Bill changes that, to make one statement by a police officer plus an inference from a person's silence on certain matters sufficient. That is a material change in Scottish law, and it is a serious issue.

If there had been more time and the Bill had been presented in the normal way, we would have produced an amendment with better wording. As there was not enough time, we propose to delete clause 1(10) and to make two consequential amendments elsewhere to remove the drastic change in Scotland's law. One of my hon. Friends will propose an amendment to widen the issue so as to obtain evidence in addition to the police statement and the inference that will be drawn from a failure to speak. At the moment, we are trying to establish the proposals for Scottish law, because this material change should not be made lightly. We look forward to the Minister's reassurance on the issue.

1 am

Dr. Godman: Amendment No. 13 seeks to remove subsection (10) of new section 2A in clause 1. I have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Gorrie) said about the principle of corroboration, which is the cornerstone of the Scottish criminal investigation system.

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Does my hon. Friend the Minister accept that, to some extent, the principle of corroboration, which is such an important element in Scots law, is diminished by subsection (10)? I have no doubt that, given the opportunity, professors of Scots law in Scottish universities would argue for years over the wording of subsection (10). As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is not a lawyer, and in that regard we have something in common. But we are concerned, as, I am sure, are my hon. Friends the Members for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) and for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), because it is important not to diminish that significant element in Scots law.

Will my hon. Friend the Minister confirm that a suspect in a Scottish police station is advised of his right to remain silent when he is charged? I do not need to remind the Minister, but others perhaps should be reminded, that, in a Scottish police station, the suspect does not have the right to have a lawyer present during an investigation. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Bermingham), when I reminded him of that, said that perhaps in this instance Scots law should come into line with that which pertains in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps that should be taken on board by the Government.

Will the Minister also confirm that, as a result of this legislation, the caution delivered by Scots police officers will have to be differently worded, in contrast to the caution that is part of established police procedures? If so, we need a word or two about that.

I also remind the Minister--if he needs it--that interviews of suspects in Scottish police stations are always subject to audio recordings. If we are to bring our laws in the two different legal systems in the British Isles into line in terms of the best interests of civil liberties, perhaps audio recordings should be introduced in Northern Ireland.

There are concerns here. Is there a diminution in the principle of corroboration in subsection (10)? Is there to be a change in the caution given by police officers to suspects? Can the Minister offer us the possibility that Scots law will be changed to bring it into line with this legislation where a suspect has the right to legal representation when being investigated?

I seek that clarification from the Minister, because, as I told him and others earlier, I have serious reservations about the legislation and the likelihood that it might harm people's civil liberties.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West): The Committee is entitled to an explanation of the difference between the law in Scotland and that in England and Wales. Subsection (6) refers to the situation in England and Wales. I must admit that I find it easier to understand the situation there as described in the Bill, compared with the part of the Bill relating to Scotland.

Subsection (6) states:

relating to the question

    "whether the accused belongs or belonged at a particular time to a specified organisation".

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There is no corresponding clear statement about the situation in Scotland. Indeed, subsection (10) states, rather surprisingly in my opinion:

    "where the court draws an inference as mentioned in subsection (6) above any evidence that he belongs to the organisation shall be sufficient evidence of that matter."

How on earth can "any evidence" be "sufficient evidence"? Will the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence be classified as sufficient evidence to convict someone? I find that difficult to understand.

A situation could arise in a court in Scotland in which a superintendent said, "In my opinion this man or this woman is a member of a particular organisation," and some inference was drawn from the silence of the accused person. That would be deemed sufficient evidence to convict. Surely there ought to be stronger evidence before a conviction is obtained.

I could see a case, although I would not agree with it, for the Government saying that any evidence that a person belongs to a particular organisation shall be admissible evidence of that matter, but to say that any evidence is sufficient evidence is a contradiction of one of the basic premises of natural justice--that there ought to be sufficient evidence before a person is convicted.

It is a pity that neither the Lord Advocate nor the Solicitor-General for Scotland is a Member of this House, and it is a disgrace that there is no one from the Scottish Office on the Front Bench to give us an explanation of what legal advice, if any, the Scottish Office has had from the Scottish Law Officers. I realise that the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), represents a Scottish constituency, but he, like me, is not learned in Scots law. We are entitled to a detailed explanation of the legal advice that was given to the Government in the drafting of the subsection.

I notice that my name has been appended to the Liberal Democrat amendment. By coincidence, I happened to table an amendment identical to the Liberal Democrats' amendment, and the Clerks of the House simply added my name to the Liberal Democrats' amendment. I have no objection, but I say that by way of explanation. Subsection (10) should be deleted, unless we are given a satisfactory account of the reason for its inclusion.

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