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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I shall not keep the House more than a couple of minutes. I simply wish to say that it is not only on the Opposition side of the House that there is disquiet about the way in which the Bill has been brought forward and the fact that it is being rushed through Parliament in a couple of days. We all sympathise with the Prime Minister and the Government, as well as with the people of Omagh and Northern Ireland, in wanting legislation on the statute book to deal with terrorism. But I believe that it should be the right and correct legislation which will do good and do no harm.
There is absolutely no reason why Clause 5 should be introduced today. There is plenty of time to consider it. The matter is of far-reaching consequence and may impinge upon the freedom of the citizen. It merits a proper Bill, debated in proper time in both Houses of Parliament. It is probably too late for the Government to withdraw the clause now, but I wish to express the
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I must say with great trepidation that I am quite unconvinced that it is necessary and therefore right for this House to pass the Bill today. I fully recognise that the tide of public opinion must be caught in bringing forward such legislation, but I believe that the debate yesterday in another place, which many of us studied carefully, revealed the need for proper scrutiny. The list of 87 Members of the House of Commons who voted against the guillotine is impressive. It includes Mr. Benn, Mr. Edward Heath, Mr. Mates, Mr. Mullin, Dr. Paisley, Mr. Trimble, Mr. Dalyell, Sir Teddy Taylor, Mr. John MacGregor and Mr. Bernie Grant. They are not normally bedfellows.
This House has the ability to make the legislation much better. Surely it is not impractical for us to take the Second Reading today and have a proper Committee stage next week so that the mass of people in this House--former Secretaries of State from all the relevant departments--can improve the Bill.
Lord Elton: My Lords, in addressing the matter of urgency, will the noble Baroness the Leader of the House explain why it was necessary to include Clauses 5, 6 and 7 on a completely different matter from Northern Ireland? It seems to some of us to be about as appropriate as a healthy person hitching a lift in an ambulance.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Viscount and the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip for their support of the Motion and substantive business. Like the noble Viscount and other noble Lords who have spoken, I do not seek to spend the time of the House addressing some of the more substantive issues. I am absolutely confident that my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will address them in some detail and with great conviction in order to convince your Lordships on some of the points which have been raised.
It is important to respond to two issues of particular relevance to the business of the House. One was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich; the other by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the noble Viscount. The first was whether the Government intend to reintroduce the Bill in another Session. Although that is an intriguing idea, I am not sure that it is necessary in this case. As those of your Lordships who have had time to study it will perceive, the Bill provides for the workings of the Act to be laid before Parliament at least once a year. My noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will give some detail on the more general revision of terrorism legislation which is being undertaken at the moment. He will embrace some of the issues of concern which have been raised.
The second question concerned how we deal with emergency legislation of this kind--it was implicit in what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, and my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon--and the
However, my noble friend the Chief Whip is already considering such matters and I am sure that he intends, again in consultation with the usual channels, to take the issue further. Obviously, some of the points raised today have considerable reference to the future as well as the retrospective debate which we might all have about the question of precedents and their relevance to today. I hope that that assures your Lordships that we take these matters seriously and that the substantive points that have been raised will be addressed satisfactorily by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn.
I shall outline the compelling reasons for this Bill in a moment or two. Your Lordships know something about them--but not as much as the people of Omagh. Roman Catholics and Protestants throughout the years have lived and worked there together. Nineteen days ago, Roman Catholics and Protestants were murdered together as they innocently went about their daily lives.
The need for this legislation was described in another place yesterday. I repeat it. The Government's aim and purpose in introducing this Bill is to ensure that the necessary powers and provisions are in place to respond both to the murders in Omagh and the clear and present danger from international terrorism. Our legal advice has been that we could have introduced some of the measures contained in the Bill by order. That would have been wrong. It is vital to act without delay and it is right to recall Parliament to deal with this matter by primary legislation. I recognise and sympathise with the observations made by noble Lords that more time might have been desirable. We have had to judge what the appropriate course should be in difficult circumstances. We believe that we have done the right thing by recalling Parliament so that primary legislation can be passed.
The situation in Northern Ireland has changed. It continues to evolve daily. There is overwhelming support for the advancing peace process. It is not a creature owned by any single government. I am happy to say, as I have said on many previous occasions, that the predecessor government have behaved honourably. The previous Prime Minister and the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland devoted their imaginative energies to this over a period of years. They would say that they got loyal support from us when we were in opposition. Peace is now within view. Small,
At the same time there have been bombings of the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; there was a murderous attack on people having a meal in a restaurant in Cape Town. Your Lordships need no reminders and I do not offer them. We have to direct an unambiguous message to international terrorists that we in this country are vigilant. We will not allow them to use our country as a base for planning crime. I do not use the word "assassination", let alone the adjective "political". We are talking about conspiracy to cause explosions and to murder.
We have wide-ranging powers which have been developed over the years to fight terrorism in the United Kingdom, as two noble Lords have said. We have to maintain a constant review of that type of legislation. We have to be ready to move quickly to deal with practical deficiencies which become apparent on specific, particular occasions. When we were in opposition we actively supported the government of the day. We were right to do so. When that government extended to the police powers to stop and search in April 1996, that was in particular response to the Provisional IRA's resumed bombing campaign. I confidently expect that we shall have the support of all sections of your Lordships' House when dealing with this legislation today.
The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, raised a particular point. In response to his theme, I emphasise as strongly as I can that moving swiftly today to close what we see as specific loopholes is entirely without prejudice to the long-term need to look comprehensively at our prevention of terrorism legislation as a whole, which I fully recognise and restate. It has developed in the piecemeal way I described earlier; it needs an overarching review.
The former Home Secretary began this process in 1995 when he appointed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, to conduct a thorough scrutiny of anti-terrorism measures. I have said before, and respectfully repeat, that his report was a masterly production and was published in October 1996. On 30th October last year the Home Secretary made an interim statement, which I repeated in this House, that work is well advanced on preparing the public consultation we have promised. When that consultation is published, we will welcome all views about it and any suggestion for improvement in its proposals. There will then be the fullest appropriate and desirable opportunity to scrutinise the legislation brought forward. There will be that opportunity to deal fully with some of the more wide-ranging proposals for change. I hope that that will set at rest some of the doubts expressed so moderately and temperately this afternoon.
On that occasion we will have the opportunity to consider the practical effect of the particular changes proposed in this Bill. I hope that that explanation meets the point of some of the proposed amendments which I have seen. More fundamentally, I hope it addresses the spirit of what was spoken to, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich.
The object of this Bill is limited. We propose a tightly focused remedy to close off specific gaps. It can fairly be described as a measured response proportionate to present circumstances. After all, this afternoon I shall be speaking to the actual Bill and not to the conjecture of the newspapers, most of which has been remarkably consistent in being completely wrong.
I turn, first, to the provisions of the Bill which relate to Northern Ireland. All parties represented in this House are committed to the peace process. We supported the peace process in Opposition and I hope your Lordships will agree that the Prime Minister and Dr. Mowlam have been remarkably devoted to its promotion in government. That led to the Belfast agreement, which is the product of the efforts by different governments of different hues. The people of Northern Ireland supported the referendum and in the assembly elections they supported parties which were in favour of the agreement. So are their views, expressed in the clearest conceivable way, entitled to no effect because some small splinter group wants to destroy it?
The summer months have been difficult, with all those people being killed so recently in Omagh. That is intended to be the test of political will and democratic principle. I have to say, I hope without presumption, that the way the First Minister designate, David Trimble, and the Deputy First Minister designate, Seamus Mallon, responded to that test is a remarkable tribute to both men. We ought to recognise that speech and action here are not as difficult as speech and principled political decision in Northern Ireland.
This Government have duties. One is to make sure, so far as we humanly and decently can, that those who are bent on wreckage and cruel disaster shall not succeed. The Bill in this context is targeted at specified proscribed organisations. Those organisations must either be specified as defined in the Sentences (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 or designated in an order made by the Secretary of State. Your Lordships will know that there are four such specified organisations. They call themselves the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army and the Loyalist Volunteer Force. Your Lordships will know that three out of that four have claimed some form of ceasefire, but in our judgment they have not demonstrated that that represents a sustained and serious commitment to non-violence. Therefore, their intentions remain to be tested. Dr. Mowlam will consider changing that specification only in the light of real progress.
The Dail in Dublin has been meeting at the same time as another place. The simultaneous recall of the two assemblies, the Commons and the Dail, and now of your Lordships' House, is a powerful demonstration of how co-operation can be made to work on a cross-border basis. The same is true operationally. There have been significant successes in the Republic, Northern Ireland and Great Britain, relying very heavily on operational co-operation. The tightening of the law that we propose today is to support that operational co-operation. We think that we have a duty to act without delay.
Secondly, the court may draw inferences from a failure to answer relevant questions in respect of that membership offence. That, again, will not be enough to secure a conviction on its own. Thirdly, the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act will be re-aligned so that a police officer in Northern Ireland will have the same powers of arrest and detention in Northern Ireland as presently obtain in England and Wales. The Bill gives the courts new power to order the forfeiture of property following conviction for membership or support for a proscribed organisation. The court will be able to order the forfeiture of any form of property if it is satisfied that it has been used in connection with the activities of a group like the Real IRA or it believes that this may be used in the future. There are severe penalties at present--up to 10 years' imprisonment and unlimited fines. We believe that this new provision is a valuable and justified reinforcement. It emphasises the gravity of the offence and it pulls away the practical props which these groups need to support their devices and schemes.
There will be safeguards. It is for the judge to decide, not the Executive. Forfeiture may not be appropriate in every case. Anyone who has an interest in the property is to be heard before the judge makes the order. But if the judge comes to the conclusion on the whole of the evidential material before him that forfeiture is necessary and appropriate, he will have that power.
The provisions in the Bill relating to evidence, inferences and forfeiture extend to the whole of the United Kingdom. It is right to remind your Lordships that prosecutions for membership offences have been much less common in Great Britain. That will not necessarily change. But it is important to have the ability there if required.
Perhaps I may re-stress this point. The judicial process is paramount and remains such in all these changes. We are not taking emergency executive action. Decisions on guilt remain solely for the courts. I believe that to be a fundamental principle and one that we have adhered to. It is for the judge alone to decide on the weight he attaches to any evidence and how he makes his assessment of the quality of the evidence. The burden of proof remains on the prosecution throughout. The standard of proof remains the same--beyond reasonable doubt. We believe that we have to demonstrate--I hope we have--that the rule of law and our commitment to it is one of the significant differences between a principled democracy and an unbridled terrorism.
I repeat the Home Secretary's assurance that no prosecution will be launched without the personal sanction of the relevant Director of Public Prosecutions. I say that in particular in response to concerns which have been raised by the Law Society and the Bar in Northern Ireland. I repeat, if I may, that it is for the trial judge to come to his conscientious conclusion on his judicial oath. He will have to direct himself that the burden of proof is on the prosecution throughout, that the standard of proof is a high one, and if the standard of proof is not achieved, he will be obliged, on his oath, to return a verdict of not guilty.
The judges, the lawyers and the legal system in Northern Ireland deserve our congratulations as well as our support. I know only a little about the strain and stress which judges live under. They have discharged their duties admirably; indeed, I would say that they have done so nobly.
Let me offer an example of how this new provision might work in practice. I know that noble Lords--for instance, the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham--have publicly raised a question or two about how things might be seen to work. I offer a scenario. There is a charge of membership. An officer of the rank of superintendent or above swears on oath--that is, does not deliver a certificate--his belief that the defendant is a member of a proscribed organisation which is specified. That is cross-examinable by or on behalf of the defendant and by the judge if he thinks it appropriate, and I expect that many judges would do. He may say, for instance, "My opinion is based on reports which have come from others", and that would be examined. Was it first or second-hand hearsay, and what was the virtue and value of the informant. The same officer may be able to say, "I also formed my belief because I saw this defendant at a distance at the funeral of a Real IRA man. I do not know what he said. He was at the graveside. The usual insignia were there--that is to say, the black berets and the black glasses. He gave the oration. But I do not know what he said".
"The defendant, X, following a murderous bombing, left home the next day and did not return for some weeks. We executed a warrant, on lawful authority, at his house. We found material there which in other circumstances would be objectively neutral. We found paint in his house, which is quite common. It can be bought at B&Q. But a speck of that paint was related by other evidence to an explosion which was carried out by the Real IRA. He had pegs which were used for detonators. He had rather a lot of alarm clocks of a similar type that had been used to detonate other explosive devices".
The defendant gives evidence at the trial and tells lies. The judge disbelieves him and concludes that those lies are designed to hide guilt; or he does not give evidence at all; or he gives evidence producing a completely different story that he never mentioned before.
I have put forward those examples because I hope they will be found to be helpful. I know that many of your Lordships sit judicially full-time and there are others of us who have sat judicially, and still do, part-time. If one were sitting judicially with that spectrum of assertion on oath, cross-examined too, and that gathering of inferences which could be legitimately drawn, I would say, and I maintain, that it is legitimate and proper to say to oneself, "The prosecution has to prove it beyond reasonable doubt. On this material, bearing in mind the seriousness of what I am doing, I record a verdict of guilt". I believe I can say to your Lordships that that is not a perversion of the rule of law but an example of the rule of law at work in practice to safeguard the lives of our fellow citizens. I stress again--because it is important--that this is the drawing of judicial inferences; namely, proper inferences from relevant questions. It is a difficult task and it is one that judges can discharge.
We have taken care to make sure that this Bill is consistent with our commitment to human rights and the particular requirements of the European convention. We have written into the Bill the necessary consequences of the judgment of the European Court in the case of Murray, where the court found that adverse inferences should not be drawn from silence prior to access to a solicitor. That is a safeguard which your Lordships see on the face of the Bill in subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 1 and in Clause 2.
I now deal with some other specifics. One of the matters which has been reasonably and properly raised is the questioning regime for terrorist suspects. We do not close our eyes to the fact that past miscarriages have sometimes arisen because of improper questioning. The present practice about audio recording in the United Kingdom is not uniform. Only in England and Wales are interviews routinely audio recorded. There is no legal requirement for that but it happens in fact virtually invariably. The United Kingdom is not obliged to have a regime of audio recording by any international obligation. I am happy to make it plain that in Northern Ireland there is no dispute as to whether interviews should be audio recorded. It is a legal requirement there because of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1998. The only question is how soon the system can be put into place.
The law requires a code of practice to be drawn up and for that code to be approved by Parliament after a period of public consultation. That takes some time. There are logistical and practical matters about soundproofing interview rooms to make sure that sound quality is good. Of course, one needs to make sure that the equipment is tamper-proof. That said, it is agreed now with the Chief Constable of the RUC that the process will be accelerated and that audio recording will become operational administratively even in advance of the code of practice receiving formal approval. Therefore, we accept, in summary, all the arguments for audio recording. We shall pursue the introduction formally of that recording in Northern Ireland with haste, but we have to bear in mind that the practicalities need to be got right as well. Audio recording is undoubtedly a very useful safeguard. It is a useful
The solicitor's presence is another question. There is no statutory right in the United Kingdom for a solicitor to be present during interview. This matter will be explored as part of the Government's wider review of new counter-terrorist legislation. We have promised to issue a consultation paper this autumn. Practice varies. In England and Wales solicitors normally sit in on an interview. I repeat that the arrangement is purely administrative. In Northern Ireland each case is considered on its merits. I have mentioned the consequences of the Murray decision and I do not think I can assist your Lordships further on that matter.
Before I turn to Clauses 5 to 7 I shall touch briefly on some issues following the Omagh bombing. The first is the question of evidence obtained from interception--telephone tapping. At present there is a statutory prohibition in Section 9 of the Interception of Communications Act 1989 against using intercept material as evidence in court. Some of the intelligence which leads a police officer to assert his belief that someone is a member of a designated organisation may have come--and may in future come--from intercept material. It has been suggested--I recognise the force of the suggestion--that we ought in this Bill to have altered the law on intercept product. We understand that view. There are contrary views, including the risk of damage to operational effectiveness. There may also be difficulties in limiting changes to specific offences. We came to the conclusion that this Bill was not the occasion to alter the law on intercept. However, we acknowledge again the case for returning to this regime. Quite apart from anything else, we shall have to revisit the question because of decisions in the European Court. Electronic communication develops so quickly that we need to look at it in that light also.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, in his report made recommendations for a limited change and plainly we are considering that. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced yesterday that he had already initiated a comprehensive review of the interception regime earlier in the summer. He proposes to issue a consultative document on that subject also in due course.
Secondly, there is the question of even wider powers to confiscate the assets of terrorists. The Republic of Ireland is further ahead on that matter than we are. We think that any wider change should be looked at in the context of confiscation in the range of all criminal cases, not simply terrorist cases, because there is strong public feeling that often if you want to hit all criminals a useful starting point is to strip them of their assets which they may have acquired illegitimately rather than simply allow them to go to prison and then emerge to live on what most of us would consider enormous fortunes.
The third issue is the power of internment. The Prime Minister has said quite plainly that he would consider such a step if circumstances required it and if he believed it would be an effective provision. We do not believe that present circumstances oblige us to do that.
Conspiracy is dealt with in Clause 5 and subsequent clauses. These provisions are designed to close off a gap which has been recognised for some time in our response to international terrorism and other international crime. In our country it is not always an offence to conspire to commit criminal acts outside this country. This section of the Bill deals with those people who try to use our country as a safe place to plot the commission of terrorist offences or other crimes abroad. Terrorism and other forms of organised crime cannot be contained by a line on a map. Crime in one country is often instigated and planned in another. We think that there should not be a hiding place in our jurisdiction for terrorists, those who traffic in arms, drug smugglers, money launderers or counterfeiters. We have a tradition of tolerance in this country--I hope we have borne that in mind--but we do not propose to tolerate criminals who want to use our jurisdiction as a safe place for planning crimes abroad.
Some powers already exist in this field. Extra-territorial jurisdiction is available for some offences such as computer misuse and sexual offences against children. Other offences are covered, but only in relation to certain countries, under the Suppression of Terrorism Act. I give an example. If the recent murderous, terrorist attacks in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa had been plotted and planned here and uncovered at an advanced stage of planning, the hands of our police would probably have been tied. I cannot justify that. We have thought about these provisions. I hope I may again quote the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who said,
A Private Member's Bill was introduced in another place in 1996 which would have criminalised conspiracy. It fell for technical reasons. We thought it was rather too widely drawn. Your Lordships will find no prohibition of incitement in this Bill. That is deliberate as we did not wish to interfere with a tradition which remains valid, noble and distinctive to our country; that is, that political dissent is important and should be allowed, even when it is disagreeable; in fact, particularly when it is disagreeable. We do not want a situation where people like Mr. Mandela, had he been a refugee in this country, would have been liable to prosecution simply for the offence of incitement, which is very widely drawn. We have included safeguards in Clause 5 and subsequent clauses. The principle of dual criminality--in other words, the conspiracy to commit the unlawful act--depends on the act being unlawful in the foreign country and also in our own domestic jurisdiction. As we proposed in Opposition, we have included a requirement for the Attorney-General's consent for prosecutions. As I said, we have covered only conspiracy to commit offences abroad and not incitement.
I am conscious of the fact that I have spent a little time seeking to explain the provisions of this Bill, not least because of the preliminary discussion we had in your Lordships' House today. We believe that this Bill
I deal finally with the question of review and renewal. Clauses 1 to 4 are temporary provisions. They will have to be renewed by Parliament every year after a debate in each House. The first debate on prevention of terrorism will be as early as March of next year and the second on emergency provisions will take place in June of next year. We are not talking about a long time. We accepted an Opposition amendment in another place--your Lordships will find this measure in Clause 8--which obliges the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament at least once a year a report on the working of the Bill. In any event our review of terrorism legislation will take into account the practical workings of the consequences of this Bill. I commend this Bill to your Lordships.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I shall endeavour to be brief. However, despite the warning by the noble Lord the Government Chief Whip that we should try to restrict our speeches to eight minutes, I think I shall have some difficulty complying with his request. I imagine that that will be true of many other speakers. I must tell the noble Lord the Chief Whip and the noble Baroness the Leader of the House that we are in for what will be a pretty long session. We have some 39 speakers. We have some 48 amendments, and I dare say there may be more to come.
I start by joining the noble Lord the Minister and all speakers in another place yesterday in condemning on behalf of these Benches and the whole House the atrocity in Omagh on 15th August, one of the worst in all the 30 years of the troubles in Northern Ireland. It was made even worse by its timing. So many of us were hoping that we were beginning to see the end of violence and murder. I repeat what has been said by members of my party. We remain committed to the peace process and will continue to offer our support to Her Majesty's Government in all they wish to achieve in that respect. I also take the opportunity on behalf of these Benches of welcoming the release announced yesterday of Guardsmen Fisher and Wright. That was long overdue, as many in this House, on a number of occasions, have argued.
It is the atrocity of 15th August that brings us here today. The Bill is one of the Government's responses to that criminal act. I make clear, as did my honourable and right honourable friends in another place, that we support the Government in their attempts to defeat terrorism and find peace in Northern Ireland. But that support will not always be uncritical. The Government, as I think they would be the first to admit, have no monopoly of wisdom. But we believe that if we are to ensure that criminals such as the bombers of Omagh are not to achieve their aims, it is vital that we present a united front against terrorism.
We also believe, as the Government have made clear, that it is of great importance that Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland work together. We welcome the signs of ever-increasing co-operation between both governments and between the police forces of both countries and at all levels. For those two reasons we on this side of the House shall give our support to Her Majesty's Government to ensure that this legislation reaches the statute book. But it is important to make clear that we have misgivings and exactly what those misgivings are.
The first and most important misgiving relates to the process with which we are involved. As my right honourable friend made clear yesterday, and I think it was something of an understatement, this is not the ideal way of making law. We were first informed by the press last week--on Monday, I think--that Parliament was likely to be recalled. On Tuesday I was officially notified by my noble friend the Opposition Chief Whip that we were to be recalled this week, on Wednesday in the case of the House of Commons, and this House the following day. We then had further press comment on the likely contents of the Bill. We are now assured by the Minister that this was not government inspired and most of it was incorrect. I accept what he has to say.
On Wednesday of last week, as the noble Lord will appreciate, I spoke to his office to ask when the legislation might be ready and whether it would be possible for me to have sight of it in due course. At that stage, as the noble Lord will be aware, his office informed me that it did not even know whether it was to be the Home Office or Northern Ireland that was in the lead, though I understand from statements made in another place yesterday afternoon and from some remarks made by the Leader of another place that as early as last Wednesday the Liberal Democrat Party was certainly being informed of the general likely provisions of the Bill. I make the point only to indicate that I was not informed as to what were to be the likely provisions of the Bill.
We were also informed by the press at an early stage--I should welcome the comments of the Minister who is to reply--that a letter was sent to all Back Benchers of the noble Lord's party in another place explaining why such legislation was necessary. Again, I make the point merely that it was only Back Benchers of the government party who seem to have been the recipients of the letter. I certainly received no such letter although I would have greatly appreciated the chance to have some early idea of the Government's intentions.
The first I saw of the Bill, and this will be true of many others, was the draft that appeared on Tuesday. I think it was an early draft on Tuesday afternoon. Another draft appeared at 6.30 and was then republished with, I believe, some amendments, though I am not sure, the following morning. That same morning--yesterday--the noble Lord's office kindly arranged for myself and my noble friend Lord Cope to have half an hour with an official to be briefed on the contents of the Bill. But even at that stage the Home Office could give no guarantee that that was to be the final version of the Bill that was to come before another place at 2.30 that afternoon.
Another place debated the Bill and, as is proper, made amendments to it, finishing at something like six or seven o'clock this morning. It has sent the Bill on to us. We, in the course of this afternoon and what I can assure the noble Lord the Chief Whip will be a sitting that continues into the evening, night and possibly early hours of the morning, must debate the Bill, consider it in detail and make amendments where necessary. We must then send the Bill back to another place and possibly await its consideration of our amendments. All of this in under 48 hours for a Bill that most of us only saw late on Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning. It is, to say the least, deeply unsatisfactory. Having made clear that we consider the process unsatisfactory, we must accept--precedents have been given--that there will be occasions when emergency legislation is necessary and when all the dangers attendant on such legislation have to be put to one side. We accept that on this occasion the outrage of Omagh and the desirability of keeping in line with the Government of the Republic of Ireland make it necessary for us to proceed with some speed. I just wish that the Government could have allowed us a little more time and provided us with a great deal more information at an earlier stage.
The Bill, as we have been informed, divides naturally into two parts. The first four clauses and Clause 8, inserted last night or in the early hours of this morning in another place, deal with terrorism and Northern Ireland and result, obviously, from the atrocity to which reference has been made.
The second half, comprising Clauses 5 to 7, deals with international terrorism. I wish to deal with those clauses first following on from my remarks about the undesirability of the process. My right honourable friend yesterday made clear that we support those provisions. They were the subject of a Private Member's Bill supported by us when in government which, for various technical reasons, as I think the noble Lord put it, and one might refer to them as technical reasons, failed to reach the statute book. We do not intend to oppose those clauses now. However, I make this clear. We do not see a case for including them in emergency legislation. It would not be right on this occasion to seek to delete them from the Bill as that might imperil the whole Bill. But we believe that they should be subject to proper scrutiny in due course. That is why we shall be seeking proper scrutiny at a later stage. I give the Government and the Minister notice that whenever they bring forward the next criminal justice Bill--I imagine that is not far off and that it is highly likely that there may be one next Session--we shall take the opportunity to give Clauses 5 to 7 the proper parliamentary scrutiny they deserve. That is the proper parliamentary procedure. It is no good saying, as the Home Secretary seemed to imply yesterday, that the provisions have been around for 18 months, had in part gone through another place as a Private Member's Bill and therefore did not need much further scrutiny as everyone was familiar with them. The provisions need and will go through the proper process if noble Lords can find the appropriate amendments during debate on the next criminal justice Bill.
I shall move a number of amendments later tonight to ensure that all three clauses cease to have effect next year, bringing in what one might call a sunset clause; or, like the remainder of the Bill, that they should be subject to renewal by the affirmative resolution procedure each year. I reserve further comments on those clauses to the Committee stage. However, many speakers this afternoon may have much to say on those clauses.
I turn now to the main part of the Bill, Clauses 1 to 4, and the new Clause 8, inserted last night by another place I believe as the last piece of business before the House adjourned as time was up. I have not read through the debates in Hansard of another place in great detail, but I think that I am right in saying that the provision was not discussed. Therefore it will be necessary for us to go through Clause 8 in some detail in Committee.
As my right honourable friend made clear in another place, we do not oppose what the Government are doing in their attempts to fight terrorism and to bring members of proscribed organisations to justice. I am sure that there will be a large number of questions as to the effectiveness of the measures. Those questions will be put no doubt by noble Lords from all parts of the House, even those sitting behind the Government Front Bench, and by those who are often far better qualified than myself to ask them. I hope that in due course the Government will answer those questions. I have to say this to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs: this is one occasion when we shall be grateful for full responses. The House will not be satisfied with the promise that responses will be made through correspondence later.
I have a number of brief questions that I wish to put at this stage. No doubt there will be more later. The first relates to Clause 1, and the policeman giving his opinion about who is or is not a member of a terrorist organisation. The Bill states that the policeman should be above the rank of superintendent. I shall be interested to know whether the police, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, were consulted, and what their views were.
Secondly, Clause 1(4)(a) deals with inferences being made as a result of the accused failing to respond to certain questions; in other words, he remains silent. What caution will now be given to the accused under that clause? The former caution that "Everything you say will be taken into account and may be used against you" will no longer be valid if his silence is also to be used.
Thirdly, I wish to probe the Government on the power to introduce internment. The Government desire to keep in line with the Republic of Ireland. I made clear that we agree with that. Foolishly, earlier in the year the Government removed the power to reintroduce internment. The Republic of Ireland is now introducing it. Why will not the Government consider doing the same? I appreciate that the Government may not wish to lose face by restoring something they removed only a few months ago. But when we are going to so much trouble to keep in with the Republic of Ireland--we debated these matters yesterday and do so today, the
I do not make a case at this stage for bringing in internment now. I simply say that the Government could have taken this opportunity to restore the power should they wish it alongside the Government of Ireland. I believe that they have made a great mistake in failing to do so, just as I believe that they made a great mistake in removing it some time ago.
Fourthly, the new Clause 8 was introduced last night in a hurry as an amendment by my party. We think that it could be improved further. We shall seek to do so at Committee stage. However, when the noble Lord responds, I should be grateful if he will say more about the review that will be conducted. Will it be an independent review? Who will produce the report? Shall we merely have an internal Home Office report or will it be one in which we can have greater faith--despite the faith I have in the Home Office--because it is independent?
That more or less completes my questions. Another came to my attention relatively late in the day. It relates to the comments of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee published some time this morning. We should all be grateful to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee for taking the trouble to consider the Bill in some detail. It is to be regretted that in the 39 minutes during which the noble Lord introduced the Bill, he made no comments on the remarks of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.
For those noble Lords who have not seen the committee's report, it turned to Clauses 5 and 6. As the noble Lord made clear, any prosecution under Clauses 5 and 6 needs the agreement of the Attorney-General. It was made clear by the Home Secretary last night. I think that most of us who heard the Home Secretary make that point were satisfied that the Attorney-General would be involved. Unfortunately--it was spotted by the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and others--after the subsection which insists on the consent of the Secretary of State, subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 5 and paragraph (6) in Clause 6 overrule that and allow the Home Secretary to dismiss the need for having the Attorney-General's consent. As the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee stated, it can find no prior legislation where, the safeguard having been introduced, the Secretary of State is then entitled to dispense with it by secondary legislation. In the absence of the explanatory memorandum--in less pressing circumstances it would have been provided by the Government on the delegated powers in the Bill--we do not know why the power is sought. It may be that the Minister was able to give cogent reasons which override our present misgivings on the issue, but we think it right to draw these misgivings to the attention of the House.
It is important that we hear the Government's response to that point. I give an assurance that we have put down amendments to deal with that problem at Committee stage of the Bill. I hope that they will be given a sympathetic hearing by the Government when we deal with them.
Finally perhaps I may say a word about decommissioning and the release of prisoners. May we have a categorical assurance from the Minister, when he comes to respond--an assurance which my right honourable friend sought in another place, but an assurance that I am afraid he did not receive--that there will be no releases without progress on decommissioning? The two must go hand in hand. That is what seemed to be promised by the Prime Minister in May and that is what we want. I believe that that is what all the people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom want and it is what we deserve.
As I said, we support the peace process and wish it every success. We shall do what we can to assist it, and it is for that reason, despite the misgivings we have, that we shall support the Second Reading of the Bill.
Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for his comprehensive introduction to the Bill this afternoon. I am duty-bound to make the position of these Benches clear initially before I raise one or two specific matters for the Government.
We intend to support the new anti-terrorist legislation in Northern Ireland as being both necessary and, generally speaking, timely in response to the murderous incident at Omagh, to which reference has already been made. But that does not mean that we do not have specific reservations, both in terms of process and substance, that we shall raise now and at Committee stage.
I was slightly concerned about the reference that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, made to the fact that the Liberal Democrats had been consulted over recent weeks about the response to Omagh in this legislation. It was certainly the practice under the previous government, which I am glad to see has been maintained by this one, that there was regular consultation between the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and those spokesmen who deal with Northern Ireland matters. I welcome that. I do not see anything out of the way about it; and I am slightly puzzled that the Conservative spokesman for Northern Ireland did not have parallel consultations. Was he perhaps abroad?
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