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Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 8:

"(6A) A person may not be appointed to be a lay member unless he has declared in writing his commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means."

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this group contains Amendments Nos. 8, 9 and 14. Amendment No. 8 stands in my name, Amendment No. 9 is in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Smith of Clifton and Lord Shutt of Greetland, and Amendment No. 14 stands in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Rogan, Lord Maginnis, Lord Laird and Lord Kilclooney.

Amendment No. 8 derives from the helpful debate which the noble Lords, Lord Smith and Lord Shutt, originated in Grand Committee. I promised to think about it and have done so. I hope that the amendment that I have brought forward is satisfactory to both noble Lords and to the rest of the House. If carried, my amendment will mean that a person cannot be appointed to be a lay member unless he has declared his commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means. I believe that that meets the point that the two noble Lords were making.

Amendment No. 14 would impose a statutory disqualification on anyone who had been convicted of a criminal offence at any time in Northern Ireland or elsewhere and had a custodial sentence passed, whether suspended or not. That is far too rigid. I echo the generous words of the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, who said in Grand Committee that the fact that a man has a past does not mean that he has no future. He also gave illustrations outside my experience of people who had been guilty of crime in the past and who now genuinely wanted to make a constructive contribution to the future of Northern Ireland.

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Apart from its rigidity, Amendment No. 14 is far too wide. Having secured Amendment No. 8, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments to a Division. I beg to move.

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House for tabling Amendment No. 8, which is virtually identical to my Amendment No. 9, which I shall not move. The amendment derived from one that we moved in Grand Committee, which gathered some support. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, suggested that the declaration might be written. If I recall rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, also supported that. I support Amendment No. 8, which strengthens the Bill in the right direction.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I would like to believe that the government amendment would somehow help us, but it is old hat. We have had this before. I was a member of Dungannon District Council with someone who signed a similar declaration. Between the time he took his seat and the time he was shot in possession of a terrorist weapon I was one of his primary targets. I am sorry to disillusion the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal, but the signature will not be worth the piece of paper that it is written on.

When we debated the issue in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, told us how he had served a term in prison. He is not the only one to have done so. I served my week in Crumlin Road for a civil disobedience offence at the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985-86. I went there not so much with great reluctance, but having found it exceedingly difficult to persuade anyone to prosecute me for my admitted offence. As a mark of civil disobedience, I did not pay my car road fund licence or my television licence. I had to write a considerable number of times to convince the authorities that I had committed an offence. Having been brought to court and said that I would not pay the fine for the road fund licence offence, I was taken to prison. As I arrived at the prison gates in front of the television cameras, somebody noticed that I was being brought in a police car for which the road fund licence had not been paid.

I never discovered whether mine was a civil or a criminal offence. If it was a criminal offence, and if the offence of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, was similarly so, I am sure that the commission could survive without either of us. The greater number of people in Northern Ireland respect and keep the law and would be eligible to serve on the commission. Why do we make this concession as though somehow the world would come to an end if we did not have an ex-terrorist as a member?

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal has cleverly argued my specific comment—I see him smiling, so he knows the offence that he has committed—as though it were a general principle. It is not. I would be the first to admit that there are those who have committed serious offences who regret it and seek to make a contribution to society. However, that

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does not mean that they have to be accommodated in a specific post or appointment such as this. It is inconsistent with the whole concept of the law and respect for the law that those who have broken the law—whether deliberately and purposively, or as a part of organised crime and organised terrorism—should be given responsibility for administration of the law.

I propose our Amendment No. 14 for two reasons. First, I hope to show by example that a signature attesting to good behaviour and to eschewing violence is not worth the paper on which it is written. Secondly, I hope that we put in context the idea that everything that had been open to such people should again be open to them because they are remorseful or have made reparation.

Throughout our consideration of the Bill, I have consistently pressed the Lord Privy Seal and the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, to tell me what is behind this lack of transparency and lack of straightforwardness, and also to tell us what external commitments have influenced this Bill. They have consistently refused to respond to me on those points. I now ask the question again. What external influences are being implemented or will be implemented? How is it intended that that will be done?

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I have to say that I have some sympathy with the Lord Privy Seal's Amendment No. 8. In general, however, it seems a good rule that legislation should be framed in a manner that relates solely to its real purpose and that we should eschew pious hopes wrapped up in pious words.

We all know that Mr Adams, for example, is a former—in inverted commas, with a question-mark—member of the IRA army council. We also know that he is currently claiming to be a man of peace, and that many people accept this claim and indeed make it on his behalf. We also know that, since he has been a man of peace, he has attended IRA funerals and IRA celebrations and lauded those who have committed murders and other crimes as terrorists. I do not think that it would be terribly difficult for him to go on from his claims to be a man of peace to make a declaration in writing of,

    "his commitment to non-violence and exclusively peaceful and democratic means",

while maintaining all his links with those terrorists who, despite the Belfast agreement, are currently re-arming and collaborating with other terrorist movements around the world. The amendment is therefore a charming idea, but I do not think that it amounts to anything very much.

As for Amendment No. 14, which would disqualify those who have convictions for criminal offences entailing a sentence of more than six months, I think that there is a great deal in it. I certainly know that there are terrorists who have repented and set out to try their best to repay the debt that they have incurred to society. I personally know in particular one former IRA man who, having committed the murder of a

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British soldier and confessed to that murder, has since steadfastly opposed terrorism at very great risk to his own life. His life is of course still under threat, even in these days of the peace process.

So if the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, presses his amendment to a Division, I shall certainly join him in the Lobby. I would not oppose the amendment proposed by the Lord Privy Seal; I just do not think that it is worth a damned thing.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I entirely endorse the spirit of the Government's Amendment No. 8. However, at the risk of my being accused of hair-splitting, I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal would agree that, whereas a Quaker or indeed any other pacifist could with a totally clear conscience declare his commitment to non-violence, anyone who believes in the concept of a just war, or even in the simple right of a nation to defend itself against internal or external aggression, would find it hard to do so. Not many people, after all, believe that Osama bin Laden could be defeated by "exclusively peaceful means". As far as I can see, there is nothing in the amendment limiting the commitment to non-violence exclusively to Northern Ireland affairs; it is non-violence full stop. I wonder whether the Lord Privy Seal would care to comment on that.

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, earlier today it was said that we must create confidence in Northern Ireland and the institutions that we are creating. However, there is little confidence in Northern Ireland at the moment. In fact, there is a developing crisis about the future of the Belfast agreement. The matter has become so critical that the Prime Minister is rushing over to Northern Ireland on Thursday. Although the Government's Amendment No. 8 is of course progress, it does not go far enough. The words are exactly the same as those in the Mitchell report and those in the Belfast agreement. Those words were signed up to by none other than a current member of the IRA army council, the Minister of Education in Northern Ireland, Mr Martin McGuinness. Yet just recently, when a Catholic applicant to the new Police Service of Northern Ireland was attacked, the same Minister who singed up to exactly those words refused to condemn that attack.

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