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Baroness Park of Monmouth: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. His use of the word "wise" proves my point.

Earl Attlee: I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Park for moving this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, inadvertently referred to the "laws" of the IRA. I am sure that he will agree with me that only Parliament and in due course the Assembly can make laws; terrorists make illegal diktats.

My noble friend made an important point and I hope that the Minister can reassure us that there will be proper funerals in accordance with the families' genuine expectations.

Lord Molyneaux of Killead: I support the amendment because it would give essential protection to the families. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has testified to the bullying and sheer intimidation of families in the aftermath of the abduction and torture of their relatives. In several cases this was the only publicity, coming from deliberately leaked information from terrorists, giving details of how the victims were tortured to death. As the noble Lord stated, the object is to terrify the Roman Catholic population into remaining silent. I know from bitter experience of similar practices employed by so-called Loyalist killers against their communities.

The state surely has a responsibility and an obligation to apply the heaviest possible sanctions against those who seek to silence families who may be fortunate enough to gain possession of the remains of their loved ones? That duty must be discharged, whatever shady deals may already have been agreed between the various agents who worked together to produce this obnoxious Bill.

Lord Dubs: I very much sympathise with the concerns of noble Lords and the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Park.

We were all aware of the rumours that the families of the victims were yet again to be treated cruelly by those responsible for the deaths of their loved ones. It was said that they were not to be permitted to hold the funerals of their loved ones in public but were expected to bury their dead in secret.

I am sure that when we read those comments in the papers, every one of us was appalled. I do not know specifically of any family who has been pressed in that direction. I am not saying that it has not happened because some of the pressures in Northern Ireland do not always surface publicly or become known to the

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Government, but I am not aware of any conditions that have been imposed on the families except those contained in the limited protection afforded by the Bill. I can give the assurance that the Government have not been party to any conditions that have been placed on the families.

The view of the Government is that it would be wholly wrong to deny the families the opportunity, with their friends and community around them, to lay their loved ones to rest in a proper, public manner. If that is their wish, then surely that is their right. I utterly condemn any suggestion that anyone should seek to interfere with the family's right in that respect, and I say that in the strongest possible terms.

I accept the concern that there are those who would seek to have these families forgotten once their remains are returned. There are people who have a vested interest in that approach, but people cannot be forced to forget, and it is no part of the Government's intention to wipe the face of these victims from memory.

The intention of the amendment is understood, and I have absolutely no quarrel with it. However, it is not necessary to include this permissive power in the legislation. There is nothing in the current legislation to prevent the family or the state from taking action to commemorate the victims or to publicise their fate. The Government are totally against anyone who would seek to apply pressure on the families in an effort to prevent them burying their loved ones as they wish.

Viscount Cranborne: The noble Lord has been extremely patient, if I may say so. Can he give an undertaking that if families were to be intimidated and if they asked for protection in order to allow them to conduct a public funeral, that protection would be forthcoming?

Lord Dubs: The RUC would take the strongest action against any intimidation of any sort, with the support of the Government. If there was evidence of such intimidation or if the RUC came to hear of it, it would be empowered to take the strongest possible action to resist that intimidation on behalf of the families. That gives the noble Viscount a clear assurance.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I thank all noble Lords who have supported the amendment, and I thank the Minister for his reply. However, I find it impossible to understand, since he clearly accepts that the spirit of the amendment is right, why it cannot be incorporated in the Bill. If it were contained in the Bill the families would have something to appeal to in law, whereas the Minister is suggesting that they could go and tell the RUC. All noble Lords know that that is precisely what they dare not do. That is why I am urging that their clear right to take certain action should appear on the face of the Bill, with the implication that if people challenge that right, they will be in breach of the law.

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I will not divide the Committee at this hour, although I am tempted to, but I beg the Minister to accept the amendment. There is nothing in it which the Government do not agree with; hence I cannot see why he cannot accept it.

Lord Dubs: I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. The argument in support of the amendment is that people must not behave in a manner which is already criminal. It is already criminal to intimidate people in the way we have discussed. We do not need therefore to put on the face of new legislation that something is a criminal offence when it is already a criminal offence and when the RUC does its best to stop that type of offence from taking place.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: I will not prolong the discussion, except to ask: how is it, if it is already unlawful, that it has been happening for goodness knows how many years, with no one having anything in the way of protection? If the provision is contained in the Bill it will be much more difficult for people to break the law rather than to say that it is something that is not done. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

Clause 5 agreed to

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

Baroness Park of Monmouth moved Amendment No. 14

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause--


(" .--(1) Sections 3 to 5 of this Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint.
(2) No order may be made under subsection (1) unless the Secretary of State has laid before each House of Parliament a report setting out why, in his opinion, the provisions in question are compatible with the Convention rights, as defined in the Human Rights Act 1998, and that report has been approved by a resolution of each House.")

The noble Baroness said: The amendment is intended to challenge the statement on the face of the Bill that it is compatible with the Human Rights Convention embodied in the schedule to the Human Rights Act 1998.

I should like to cite some of the rights and freedoms that are breached. Article 2.1 states:

    "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally, save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law". Article 3 states:

    "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

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    Article 5 states:

    "Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person". How does that square with the IRA's admission of so-called execution of its victims? Do the families who have been terrorised into silence all these years and consistently intimidated for no other crime than the wish to know whether their sons, husbands or mothers were alive or dead have no rights under Article 5?

Article 17 places a duty on the two Governments and states:

    "Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for in the Convention". Are the two Governments not in dereliction of their duties?

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: Can I assist my noble friend, while she is looking for her notes, by saying that the point she is making is a very important one for the Government to take on board; namely, that the interpretation of the Convention on Human Rights must never be made in a narrow and legalistic manner; after all, it is not written in narrow and legalistic language; it is written in very broad, conceptual language.

Therefore, is not my noble friend making an important point? She asks the Government not to look narrowly at the application of the convention in the context that we are discussing under her valuable amendment, but to look, with a broad and generous mind, to see whether or not the convention also applies to those in whose interests the Bill is brought forward--namely, the relatives. They have so far been denied what one had always thought of as a fundamental human right; that is to say, the right to know the whereabouts of the bodies of those who have been wantonly murdered. Is that not the thrust of the matter?

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