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Lord Monson: Before the Minister sits down, he has not answered my question about what happens to somebody who contravenes the provision of Clause 4. Has a criminal offence been committed and if so what penalties can be imposed, if any?

Lord Dubs: My understanding is that a criminal offence has been committed but I am not totally clear

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as to the penalties. Here we have in statute a clear statement of how the commission should behave. If it ignores that, it is in breach of the statute. Therefore, I would judge that to be a criminal offence.

Lord Monson: I should like to give the Minister a little more time in which to receive his reply. Does he know of any other instance where a criminal offence is laid down in statute without any penalties being specified?

Lord Dubs: My knowledge of other comparable situations is so limited that even if I say I do not know of any it does not mean that there are not any; it simply means I do not have the breadth of information with which to answer the noble Lord's question.

I say this to be frank. In contrast to what I believed to be the case a few moments ago, I understand that it would not be an offence if the commission was in breach. That is why there appeared to be no penalties. I am sorry if I misled the Committee. It was entirely unintentional. I have now been informed that it would not be an offence.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: The Minister has done his best to reassure us on certain vital matters. This short, mini-debate has been useful. I thank the Minister for his courtesy.

Clause 4 agreed to.

7.38 p.m.

Lord Carter: It may be for the convenience of the House if I say that the noble Lord, Lord Meston, has kindly agreed to withdraw his Unstarred Question. Another date has been found for it. I am sure the House will be extremely grateful to him and agree, through the usual channels, that there will be no dinner break. We will finish debating this Bill and go straight on to the Tax Credits Bill.

Clause 5 [Restrictions on disclosure of information]:

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 11 not moved.]

Baroness Park of Monmouth moved Amendment No. 12:

Page 3, line 28, at end insert--
("( ) Subsection (1) shall not prevent either the family or the state, once remains have been found and identified, from such action either to commemorate the victim or to publicise the event as they may think fit.")

The noble Baroness said: My object in tabling this amendment is to ensure that the IRA will not be able to use the restrictions on disclosure of information to prevent the families from burying their dead how, when and where they wish; nor the state and the media from stating and writing about the victims as they think fit.

The Explanatory Notes state that this subsection is intended to prohibit the disclosure of relevant information other than for the purpose of facilitating the location of the remains and to prevent disclosure of such information to a third party with no legitimate role in

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the process of locating the remains. The Minister explained in some detail in our discussions on Clause 4 the further extensions of that decision.

I suppose we have to accept that if the press is able to be present when a body, on information given, is discovered and disinterred, the IRA would simply not provide the location. I see some sense in that. But I fail to see why,

    "The prohibition on disclosure will continue to apply after information has properly been passed by the Commission to a third party, such as the police"; that is, after the recovery of the remains from the secret location.

Can a family, receiving back the remains--perhaps only a few bones--be required to say nothing, ever, about the fact that they were found, say, in a concrete mixer or some other burial place which denied them all dignity? My main object is to ensure that the IRA will not get away with ordering the families to have midnight services with no publicity and to say nothing about an event which has utterly destroyed their lives. I do not propose to press this amendment, but it is a point I wish to make about which I feel very strongly. I beg to move.

Lord Fitt: The terrorists who murdered these victims have already said that they will tell us where the bodies are, but in so doing they have demonised their victims. They said that the people they murdered were guilty of some offence against the IRA: that they were traitors or broke some of the laws laid down by the IRA.

It is well known that when the IRA has murdered someone and that person is buried, very few people will attend that funeral. That is not because they do not want to; hundreds and indeed thousands may want to attend the funerals about which this Bill is concerned. But there is still intimidation in Northern Ireland. If ordinary people associated themselves with the funerals of the victims they would be putting themselves in danger of further intimidation by the IRA. One has only to think of Eamon Collins, a former IRA man who was murdered recently in Newry. Few people attended his funeral. One needs only to recall the brutality with which his death was carried out. The IRA made contradictory statements; that is, that it would not prohibit any decision made in relation to the funerals.

The relatives of the victims, when they receive back the bodies, should be entitled to bury those remains in whatever way they think fit. In doing so I urge the people of Northern Ireland to turn out in force to attend those funerals, to show their distaste for what has happened.

Viscount Cranborne: I support my noble friend's amendment for exactly the reasons she gave, and for the reasons given also by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. It would be helpful if the Minister, in his reply, was able to give us a reasonably full account of the conditions imposed by the IRA.

A number of newspaper reports over the past few weeks have made extraordinary reading, suggesting that all sorts of conditions would be imposed on the families as to how they could bury the remains of their

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relatives--those conditions being imposed by the murderers. That gives a new and dark meaning to the Alice in Wonderland politics of Northern Ireland.

It would be helpful if the Minister were, first, able to assure us--I am sure that he will be able to do so without equivocation--that the Government have not been party to promoting conditions of that kind as a means to coming to agreement with the murderers; and, secondly, to give us some account, in so far as he has been able to glean it, of the internal conditions imposed through intimidation by the IRA and its representatives on the families of the victims, particularly those victims who live in easy reach of IRA intimidation, as set out by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt.

I hope that the Minister will also make clear that the Government will do everything they can to publicise what those conditions are, and to express their contempt for anybody who imposes those conditions. I hope also that they will invite as many Members of your Lordships' House who are able to do so to attend as public a funeral as possible in the event of those funerals taking place.

7.45 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough: I support this amendment. In following the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I take this opportunity of saying a little of what I said at Second Reading because I produced the newspaper reports mentioned. Several noble Lords after Second Reading said that reporters are reporters. There were numerous reports and one cannot discard that issue in quite such a simple way as saying, "They are reporters". One was a Guardian reporter; so it was not just the Province's press; neither was it a one-sided issue within the Province, be it on the so-called "Unionist" press.

At Second Reading, I was reported as saying,

    "This is not the Real IRA".--[Official Report, 18/5/99; col. 175.] I repeated "real IRA" a couple of times, but Hansard took it to be "Real IRA" (with a capital "R") when I meant, "This is the Provisional IRA truly". The Real IRA is a different issue. I am not even sure whether it is on cease-fire; it may be. The consequences of the Provisional IRA, the people who murdered these people so many years ago, issuing threats and trying to organise what goes on, must mean that they are not renegade groups; they are the centre core. Are they on cease-fire or are they not? If not, what are the Government going to do about it?

Lord Monson: Like other Members of the Committee throughout the Chamber, I thoroughly support the amendment of the noble Baroness, which she moved extremely well. I suggest that if she fails to receive a satisfactory assurance from the Minister that this amendment is unnecessary, she may reconsider her decision not to seek to divide the Committee.

Lord Blease: It must not be forgotten in this aspect of the work of the commission that it will be managed and advised by the RUC, which will be given the task

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of looking after this aspect of the matter. The commission will not be left completely alone in terms of advising the relatives and others.

A further aspect is that the commission will be advised about the form of funeral arrangements or commemoration arrangements and that that will be a family matter in which it would not interfere. Families will know whether or not it is wise to have large gatherings or mass funeral arrangements, or whether the arrangements should be private.

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