Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Vivian: I strongly support the two amendments. I think the Committee is aware that I am deeply disturbed by the Bill. I patrolled the streets of Belfast in 1973 and 1974. If I had had to explain the provisions of the Bill to my soldiers, I would have found it very difficult. The Bill can only damage the morale of our servicemen, especially in relation to the inquiry chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville. By disclosing the name of any person providing relevant information to the commission, there is some likelihood of building up a case against murderers. However, I must stress, as have some of your Lordships, that to allow anonymity to the IRA or to those providing relevant information and to reject it for those members of the Armed Forces who were carrying out their duties and who may be witnesses in the Bloody Sunday inquiry, is nothing but scandalous.

It is especially so in this shameful inquiry when the security services have already stated that any witness who is named will face a significant terrorist threat. If the Government are to allow anonymity for the IRA, only one conclusion can be drawn: that the Government are prepared to protect the IRA and yet sacrifice the lives of our servicemen. If the amendments are put to the vote, I shall support them.

Lord Redesdale: I am grateful for the fact that the two amendments are grouped together. I had slight difficulties with Amendment No. 13 which, without the clarification, I believed was a wrecking amendment which went to the heart of the Bill.

We on these Benches have considerable support for the idea of anonymity for those giving evidence to the inquiry. However, the problem with the amendments is that they deal with an entirely different situation from that set out in the Bill and perhaps should be brought forward in a different format. Therefore, we cannot support the amendments.

Lord Elton: The issue seems simple. The Bill as drafted offers almost certain security from prosecution

24 May 1999 : Column 686

for known terrorists and something approaching the certainty of a death sentence for people who were trying to protect Her Majesty's subjects.

Lord Glentoran: I have to declare an interest as a former Para. I spoke strongly against the setting up of the new inquiry into Bloody Sunday. At the time I warned the Government that it would cause them nothing but trouble. I ask the Government to think about what will happen if we do not achieve anonymity for those giving evidence and one or two or more are murdered by the IRA. What about their families? I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Tebbit as a mechanism for gaining anonymity for those expected to give evidence to the inquiry chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville.

Lord Dubs: Perhaps I may deal, first, with Amendment No. 3A. The inquiry under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, is totally independent of the Government. I have a difficulty in that I cannot comment on its proceedings or its decisions. If the Government were to dictate how the inquiry should be conducted, we could no longer maintain that the inquiry was totally independent.

Lord Swinfen: Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. If Amendment No. 3A is passed and becomes part of the Bill, and assuming that the Bill is passed into law, would not the judge conducting the inquiry have to follow the dictates of the law as passed by Parliament and therefore grant anonymity?

Lord Dubs: The answer is probably not; he would not. It is an independent inquiry. Another outcome of passing Amendment No. 3A would be this: the amendment would not place a duty on the Saville Inquiry, but would prevent the commencement of the commission's task; the commission to be set up under the Bill would be unable to start its work. That may be the intention of some of your Lordships but, taking the speeches at face value, which I always do, it seems to me that the more likely outcome would be that the commission would not proceed.

Perhaps I may draw the Committee's attention to another point. I understand that last Friday some paratroopers requested a judicial review of the decision of the Saville Tribunal. That is still pending. I tried to find out a few minutes ago whether the court had reached a decision; I understand that it has not. That is a further difficulty. I am not saying that we are barred from discussing the matter, but there is a difficulty in that the Paras have adopted a course of action that they would normally be advised to adopt in the circumstances in which they find themselves. The Government will let that particular process take its course. We cannot tell the noble and learned Lord, Lord Saville, how to conduct his inquiry, but I am sure that he will quickly be made aware of the arguments used in the Committee today.

I am afraid that I cannot help. I wish that I could be more helpful to my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees who asked for guidance on the matter. I am afraid I cannot

24 May 1999 : Column 687

be helpful. I have stated the Government's position. My answers are determined by the independence of the inquiry and the legal action initiated by the Paras.

Perhaps I may turn to Amendment No. 13, which would reverse the intended outcome if it were taken at its face value. The Committee will be aware why this amendment is also unacceptable to the Government. It would negate the purpose of the Bill. Those with direct information about the locations of victims' remains will not come forward if there is a possibility that their identity will be disclosed. I am sure that the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, is aware of the argument because he took part in the Second Reading debate when the argument was deployed.

I see no reason why those with indirect information--perhaps an intermediary, which is conceivable--should have their names publicly known unless they are happy for that to be the case. The Committee will be aware that the Attorney-General has already given an undertaking--

Viscount Cranborne: I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I am delighted to hear that he sees no reason why conveyers of information should want their names to be known. How would he feel if he were a former Para? Would he not feel exactly the same way?

Lord Dubs: I do not think it is appropriate for me to comment. It is an independent inquiry. I am quite sure that the Paras and their legal representatives can speak for themselves. The whole point of an independent inquiry--I am sorry to labour the point--is that the Government do not seek to influence the procedures or the outcome of the inquiry. That is the position the Government adopt and that is the position that I am endeavouring to explain to the Committee. I am sure that the Committee understands it and accepts it.

Lord Tebbit: I may be wrong in this matter but I believe that the original Widgery Inquiry into these events was an independent inquiry and had a requirement to give anonymity to those who gave evidence. Did that suddenly make it not independent?

Lord Dubs: No. I bow to the noble Lord's memory of the details of the Widgery Inquiry. But that was an independent inquiry. It came to one conclusion as to the basis on which evidence would be given to it and the Saville Inquiry has come to a different conclusion as to the nature of the procedures under which Paras or their representatives give evidence. It is as simple as that. They are both independent and they are acting slightly differently from each other.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord. Is he saying that one government can give terms of reference to an inquiry which they establish and another government can give a different set of terms of reference and guidelines to an inquiry? Can there be a contradiction or is there--I hope

24 May 1999 : Column 688

that noble Lords who are learned in the law will forgive me for my ignorance--a standard set of terms of reference for all inquiries?

Lord Dubs: As far as I am aware, there is not a standard set of terms of reference. Each inquiry that is set up by any government is treated on its merits in terms of the procedures under which it will operate. It so happens that the Saville Inquiry has decided to operate in a particular way.

Viscount Brookeborough: I am probably being naive about this but perhaps I may ask a question. On the one hand, the Minister says that the Government cannot interfere with this inquiry because it must be independent. Is it not true that with regard to the criminal law and terrorist events the judiciary is independent? I am not quite sure what gives the Government the power to provide anonymity to terrorists within the terms of the Bill when they do not have the power to suggest that the commission should do this in secret. I do not understand.

Earl Attlee: I have to confess that I failed to declare an interest as a serving officer in the Territorial Army. The Minister said that the amendment would stop the commission from being set up. That may be the case, but the Committee is right to explore the inconsistencies between the commission and the inquiry. Furthermore, my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew explained to the Committee how the amendment could be disposed of if it were agreed to today.

Lord Dubs: I have almost lost the thread of the various comments that were made, so I apologise if I do not deal with them fully. Perhaps I may return to Widgery. As far as I have been informed, the Government did not indicate at the time that Widgery was to operate in a particular way. The method of operation of the Widgery Inquiry was determined by Widgery himself. It was as much out of the Government's powers to influence as it is out of the present Government's powers to influence the nature of the Saville Inquiry. I hope that that helps.

Would the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, mind repeating the point he made so that I can do justice to it? I apologise for having lost the thread of his point.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page