Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Orr-Ewing: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. Is he going to try to justify the 2,500 civilians--many of whom were women and children--who have died as a result of terrorism? It is not a road block; it is a dastardly effort to reduce any peace chance in Northern and southern Ireland.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, one of the matters we must look at is what is the practical reality of our actions. We are talking about the renewal of the draconian powers--that is how they were described when they were first introduced--called the Prevention of Terrorism Act. We have had 22 years, less a little bit, of terrorism. The new situation with which we are presently faced, which is part of the reason I am speaking tonight, is that, because of the European ruling, the Government have seen fit to amend the Prevention of Terrorism Act in regard to exclusion orders and effectively bring in a new power of detention prior to operating the exclusion orders.

I am sure that there are other ways in which the Government could approach the issue, but they have chosen to introduce this new power of detention. On my immediate reading of it, it would appear that there is no time limit. It is supposed to be carried out "reasonably quickly", but no specific time limit is placed on the powers of detention. That gives rise to a number of questions.

First, will the detainees have the safeguards of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act? Will they be able to consult a solicitor and contact their families? How will the Home Secretary be safeguarded against charges of abuse of unfair executive powers? Finally, who will be

19 Mar 1996 : Column 1240

the person nominated by the Secretary of State to conduct the investigation and the review of those powers of the provisional detention order, if I may describe it like that?

In concluding my remarks, I believe that the Prevention of Terrorism Act effectively discriminates against Irish people and acts as a recruiting sergeant for violent Irish nationalists, and that is the reason why I take a principled stand against it.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, would he accept that this Act would become unnecessary if the IRA would adopt a democratic procedure?

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, as I understand the noble Lord's question, what he is effectively saying is that, if the peace process in Ireland can progress so that all the parties agree and an effective peaceful situation can be arrived at, then, by implication, there would be no need for the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Unfortunately, we have heard a number of people around the House tonight effectively saying that, whatever happens in Northern Ireland, this is going to carry on. I think we do need to have a very serious look at how we deal with this. Yes, there are problems of terrorism, of international terrorism, of people taking violent acts, but I would hope that we would not ride roughshod over the principles of civil liberties that have been established over centuries in this country in the process of dealing with that problem.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, first, I am grateful to all those noble Lords who have spoken in favour of these orders. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that I welcome what he said and I understand very well the particular point the noble Lord made when he said that the measure was not so much welcomed as seen as a necessary measure to counter terrorism. I think that is a very appropriate way to describe these measures.

I may also say that we have heard the many voices of the Official Opposition, the Labour Party, tonight. We heard them in another place but we have heard them again tonight. I do want to put it on record that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, speaks with some very real insight, understanding and experience of that land and knows exactly and appreciates, I believe, the importance of these measures. As for the noble Lord, Lord Mason of Barnsley, we all know in this House of the distinguished service that he gave in very high office in Northern Ireland and of his incredible courage and bravery, and I believe he has been entirely consistent throughout and sees the full force of the need for this legislation.

I have to say that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will have given succour to only one set of people tonight. They are the terrorists and the Provisional IRA. Much of what he said was very much more in their interests than in the interests of people who walk free in our country.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, have expressed concern about the exclusion power. They had objections to it on the grounds of civil liberties or as an unacceptable form of

19 Mar 1996 : Column 1241

internal exile. As I have already said, this is a power which has been used sparingly and has been used carefully over the past year. There are only 33 exclusion orders currently in force, and that is less than half the number in existence at the beginning of 1995. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, accepted this and recognised it, but he nonetheless believes that they are wrong. However, it would be naive and irresponsible of the Government to abandon the power completely while the Provisional IRA maintain their weapons and maintain their explosives and, indeed, maintain their will to use them. I wish it were not so, but I am afraid that we have to face hard realities.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the second order as a Henry VIII order. The amendments made by the second order are not Henry VIII provisions. That is a type of provision that I know and he knows well allows you to do whatever you like. The amendments are made under Section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. That provision entitles us to make regulations to implement our Community obligations, and that is what these regulations do in response to the European Court of Justice's ruling in the Gallagher case.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, if the Minister will allow me, I really do not want to detain the House but of course a Henry VIII order is not one which allows you to do what you like. It is the amending of primary legislation by means of secondary legislation. It is a very specific thing and the reason why I did not object to it was because intrinsically it is right and, although I did not expand on it, also because it is required by the European Communities Act 1972.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Lord has done battle with me across this Box on many occasions; he has always referred to them as being open-ended and sometimes the use of a Henry VIII clause can be seen because one has to rely on the Secretary of State to use a power in the appropriate way.

I confess I am not impressed by arguments about civil liberty if we are talking about the civil liberty of a person to travel around the United Kingdom to commit what acts of terrorism he pleases. The Government and, I am sure, the vast majority of the population are far more concerned with the civil liberty to run a newsagents in Docklands without the roof being blown off on top of you or the civil liberty to catch a No. 171 bus without it and its passengers being blown to bits in the Strand. As for the extensions of the detention order under Section 14 of the Act, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary gives his personal authority for any detention beyond 48 hours. In doing so, he looks at the case put forward by the police, including, for example, the need for further inquiries or for searches to be made or, with foreign suspects, for suspicious material to be translated, and he takes into account any intelligence we may have which might justify the inquiries where an extension of detention is necessary for investigative purposes. It is authorised for that purpose.

This is a decision which cannot be subject to a judicial process, some have argued, since the full intelligence picture, which alone enables an informed

19 Mar 1996 : Column 1242

judgment to be made, could not be revealed to the detainee. The noble Lord, Lord Mason, certainly understands this and the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, referred to it specifically. It would not be susceptible to examination or challenge. No reasons could be given for a judicial decision and, as Mr. Rowe wisely pointed out in his review of the operation of the Act in 1995, a judge would be acting as such in name only and, in essence, he would--and I quote the report:

    "have every appearance of being an arm of the executive".
I am sure that noble and learned Lords would agree with me that this would be a most unsatisfactory outcome. The idea of introducing a judicial element has in fact been rejected in reviews of the Act by Lord Shackleton in 1978, by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe in 1983 and by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, in 1987.

Perhaps the most difficult area to address is the funding of terrorist operations in other countries. Whatever legislation is in place, it is extremely difficult to get the evidence to secure a conviction. Money is laundered through various routes and some may indeed be used for humanitarian purposes as a cover and, as soon as one supposedly innocent fund raising activity is exposed, I regret to say that the collecting tins will come out under another guise. To tackle this, we need close and careful international co-operation and, in many cases, it may be best to tackle the fund raiser rather than the fund he establishes, excluding or deporting when my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is satisfied that the activities concerned are effectively funding terrorism elsewhere. It is an area to which the Government will continue to give very close attention and, if there are ways of tightening up our practices which will make a real difference, we will put them into effect speedily.

We all regret the necessity for this Act. It is only on the statute book because of the activities of terrorists. So long as there is terrorism there must be prevention of terrorism. It is a reasonable defence against the very unreasonable acts of terrorists, and I think most people in the country would welcome the renewal of the Act as a way of making life more difficult for the terrorist and helping to prevent further outrages.

In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell's questions: yes, detainees, as now, are able to seek a solicitor and have an interview with an independent adviser, and the PACE rules, as I understand it, do apply to the exclusion order provision.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act is our principal legislative defence against terrorists of every description. I commend the two orders to your Lordships to make sure it remains so.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page