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Lord Dubs: The noble Lord has got it right. There is a difference in the position of the organisation in Britain and Northern Ireland. What the noble Lord says about the organisation being covered would apply to Northern Ireland, where it is a proscribed organisation.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: I am glad to have teased out the meaning. It seems an extremely odd situation that the LVF should be in a better position in Great Britain than it is in Northern Ireland under this legislation. If that is what the Government intend, I shall certainly not push the matter at this stage. The Government seem to have got themselves into a very odd position indeed by means of this Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, would have pointed out were he still in the Chamber, the position cannot be rectified because of the unduly precipitous nature of the discussion of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 not moved.]

Lord Cope of Berkeley moved Amendment No. 16:

Page 3, leave out lines 24 and 25 and insert--
("(b) is not complying with the Belfast Agreement as set out in Cmd 3883").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 16. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and I have debated this issue a great deal on previous occasions. I will not dwell on it at the moment but just explain what the amendment does.

The Secretary of State has the ability under these particular provisions of the Bill to specify an organisation for the purposes of this Bill which:

    "is concerned in terrorism connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland, or in promoting or encouraging it, and"
--and this is where my amendment is directed--

    "has not established or is not maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire."

We believe that the better definition is the one which appears in my amendment, that is to say an organisation which:

    "is not complying with the Belfast Agreement as set out in Cmd 3883")".

That provides, among other things, for complete decommissioning, within two years, of the terrorist organisations. That is part of what we mean by a ceasefire. It would be much better if the Bill were specific in this respect so as to emphasise the importance which we all attach--and which Ministers have attached, both yesterday in another place and here--to progress on decommissioning as soon as possible. It is a key to the success of the agreement and it is very important that we should emphasise it whenever the opportunity occurs. This amendment seeks to do just that. I beg to move.

Lord Dubs: Amendment No. 16 draws attention to the need for decommissioning. We expect all those linked terrorist groups who sign up to the agreement to meet their commitments on decommissioning. I welcome the recent steps taken in this regard by Sinn Fein. The process needs to continue and the Government remain committed to its achievement.

The present wording of the Bill makes it clear that the question at issue is whether groups are holding to a complete and unequivocal ceasefire, not whether they are complying fully with the Belfast agreement. The groups we are targeting are obviously outside the Belfast agreement and are seeking to destroy it. The key question is not compliance with the Belfast agreement but that they must hold to a full and unequivocal ceasefire. The point is that organisations are specified because of what they do rather than because of what they do not do, no matter how desirable the latter might be. I therefore ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: As I said to the Committee, we have discussed this matter many times before at considerable length. I do not propose to do so today. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Evidence and inferences: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 17 to 23 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Arrest and detention]:

Lord Hylton moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 5, line 34, leave out ("whether") and insert ("where").

The noble Lord said: I have already spoken to Amendments Nos. 24 and 25. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendment No. 25 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead moved Amendment No. 26:

After Clause 3, insert the following new clause--

Proscribed organisations: detention.

(". Schedule (Proscribed organisations: detention) shall have effect with respect to the detention of persons suspected of being a member of an organisation which is proscribed for the purposes of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1996.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is linked with Amendment No. 53. I am well aware that, when replying to the Second Reading debate, the Minister rejected the restoration of detention. However, he will remember that when he was replying to the debate on the removal of the powers of detention not all that long ago he declared that he could not foresee circumstances when the Government might want to use those powers. "Why retain them?" was his argument. When I intervened on that occasion asking the Minister whether he could foresee circumstances when he might have to return or might want to return to Parliament seeking the restoration of the powers of detention, he was slightly less confident in his reply. He might have given a different answer if we were dealing with that point today. But I am encouraged by the fact that in another place yesterday the Prime Minister, in response to the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition in the other place, seemed not entirely to reject such a suggestion. He seemed to leave that door open.

Much approval was voiced today for the vast improvement in co-operation between the British and Irish Governments, particularly in security matters. Last week I distinctly heard the Irish Prime Minister, Mr. Ahern, reply to a question on whether he proposed to implement the powers of internment which he possesses. Perhaps I may paraphrase his reply. It ran roughly: "We cannot do so because Britain no longer has those powers and terrorists from the Republic would dash to find a safe haven in Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom". Surely we ought to be thinking about what the Irish Prime Minister has said. Perhaps our own Prime Minister had something like that in mind when he spoke in the other place yesterday. Mr. Ahern is probably the first Irish Prime Minister who has co-operated fully, and very courageously, with Her Majesty's Government in doing their best to counter

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terrorism, with the promise of more to come. Surely, we have a reciprocal duty to start thinking our way back to the position which we should never have deserted and restore the power of detention. I beg to move.

Viscount Brookeborough: Although we realise that this will probably not have any effect and will not be put into legislation tonight, it is ironical that for years we have been complaining that the Irish Republic would not take extensive measures against terrorists. They have been carrying out cross-border attacks which are well documented. Indeed, we believe that most of the munitions are still south of the border. We have continuously had the problem of there being no strength in their legislation previously or in the attempts to enforce it. Now we have had a really meaningful declaration by the Prime Minister and the parliament of the Republic stating that they will support our crackdown on terrorism to the greatest extent they can, but we have dropped the one thing on which they might have co-operated with us.

I am not opening up the argument of whether we should have used detention this week, last week or next week. We are trying to bring our legislation into line with one another. It seems rather foolish that we have dropped detention and prematurely, as we well know from what has happened since Christmas. It is only an example, but since Christmas we have had a large number of city centre or town centre bombs, many of which have not come to fruition, thank goodness. Tragically, of course, Omagh did.

Those bombings were committed by what we know to be a relatively small band. I know that I spoke about this earlier. It is a relatively small band of known people. In the fight against terrorism at all times, whether it has been through the Irish Republic or this Government, there has been a band small enough to de-activate or disrupt. By taking out the key people it would undoubtedly save lives. We had six months in which to do that when the band was well known. We did not do it because we had dropped the ability to detain people.

This evening we have heard arguments which suggest that these new laws are not going to work either. So we have the rough edge of both ends. It may well be that it is the people of Northern Ireland who will suffer. Although I realise that internment will not come about this evening, the Government should seriously think about this matter.

Lord Cope of Berkeley: As I made clear in my speech some hours ago at Second Reading, I believe that internment should have been kept on the statute book. It has some advantages over the proposals in the Bill before us. Until yesterday I had been discouraged by the fact that the Government had set their face against internment and abolished those powers a few months ago. But in the past 24 hours I have been encouraged to think that internment might come back into the frame as a possibility by the remarks of the Prime Minister yesterday, to which the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux, drew attention just now and which I heard with interest yesterday in another place. There is also the increased

3 Sept 1998 : Column 143

Anglo-Irish co-operation over security generally, which I hope is leading to the Irish Government pressing the British Government to agree to reinstate the power of internment so that it can be used if necessary. I have a great deal of sympathy with the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Molyneaux.

My question is whether the possibility of the reintroduction of internment will be included in the review of anti-terrorist measures which is now taking place so that we have a report on that matter as well as on the other matters in what is described as the "near future". Is internment to be included as one of the possibilities to be considered under anti-terrorist measures in that review?

12.30 a.m.

Lord Monson: I am happy to support these amendments proposing the re-introduction after a brief interval of the power to intern but with more safeguards built in this time round, thus bringing us once again into line with the Republic of Ireland, with whose anti-terrorist laws Her Majesty's Government are evidently in the process of harmonising our own to the maximum possible degree. In the Second Reading debate this afternoon it was striking to hear how many noble and learned Lords of enormous distinction supported the principle of internment in extremis, and they certainly preferred it to Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill.

If, over the past 30 years, between 48,000 and 49,000 people had been killed on the British mainland--that is the proportionate equivalent of the numbers killed in Northern Ireland--as a result of terrorist activity, one could be absolutely certain that internment and far more extreme measures would have been introduced on the mainland. Not a single marginal or semi-marginal seat would be safe unless the sitting MP had voted for such extreme measures. Because, thankfully, so few people have been killed on the mainland, and because Northern Ireland has such small representation, the theoretical idealistic opposition to internment was able to triumph. But realistically I think we know in our hearts that if proportionately the same number of people had been killed in England, Scotland and Wales, internment would have been introduced here. Therefore I think there is a good case for accepting these amendments, in particular because that would bring us once again into line with the Republic of Ireland.

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