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The noble Lord said: This amendment is proposed on the grounds of good English. The header to Clause 21 is entitled "Grounds of proscription" when it should be "grounds for proscription". I then saw that in the header to Clause 24 we had got it right. I was told by the Table that one cannot amend the header because it is outside the Bill. Then, with delight, I found the phrase on line 37 of page 38, so I tabled this amendment which I hope the noble Baroness, in the spirit of Christmas, will be moved to accept. If she is not, and before she has a chance to disappoint me, I should like to say with what admiration I have watched the way in which she has conducted two main programme Bills, in parallel, virtually single-handed through this House. I have had some experience at the Dispatch Box, and know what strain she has been under. I think she has borne it with exemplary patience and clarity, and I am most grateful to her. Having said that, I cannot believe that she will not agree to the amendment. I beg to move.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I hate to disappoint the noble Lord but it is to me that the Committee will have to listen on this very worthwhile amendment which my briefing note says we have to resist. I appreciate, as ever, the noble Lord's style in moving the amendment. I greatly admire my noble friend Lady Scotland and have enjoyed working alongside her. She has done a brilliant job on this Bill and the Identity Cards Bill, and I know that everybody shares that view.
The amendment would change the word "of" to "for". In our opinion, that would make absolutely no difference. As a matter of law and of correct English,
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both terms are correct. Nor do I think that one option, rather than the other, would enhance the clarity of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, takes the Conservative Whip, so I am sure he will be familiar with one of the great Conservative quotations in history. It was Lucius Cary, the second Viscount Falkland, who in 1641 said:
Lord Elton: I am quite astonished to be told that accepting the amendment will make no difference but still the Government will not do it. I draw to their attention the fact that both styles are in the Bill already. Clause 21 is entitled "Grounds of proscription", while Clause 24 is entitled "Grounds for extending detention". I hope that the Government will repent of this miserly, niggardly, inflexible, sour and detestable reply they have given to a simple request, made on the eve of Christmas. None the less, I wish them well for the season. Regretfully, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Before the Bill is reported to the House, I add my thanks to everyone who has worked so hard on all sides of the House on this Bill and, indeed, the others. We have, I think, all become firm friends as the days have gone on. I particularly thank those who have thanked me, but, with the indulgence of the Committee, I respectfully take this opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Bassam, who has been by my side through Bill after Bill after Bill.
This short Bill extends the life of the provisions contained in Part VII of the Terrorism Act 2000 until 31 July 2007, with an option to extend the provisions for one year only thereafter. Without this Bill, the provisions would lapse in February 2006.
The Part VII provisions are particular to Northern Ireland. They contain measures designed to tackle the threat of terrorism connected with the affairs only of Northern Ireland. That is distinct from the permanent counter-terrorism provisions in the UK, which are designed to tackle terrorism more generally.
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The Bill also makes some changes to Northern Ireland counter-terrorism legislation. It permanently repeals some of the Part VII provisions that are no longer required. It also gives the Attorney-General greater discretion to certify cases out of the Diplock system of non-jury trial, and grants the Secretary of State the ability to make transitional provision for any of the Part VII provisions which cease to have effect.
I would particularly like to explain why the July 2007 date is contained on the face of the Bill. On 28 July this year, the IRA made an historic statement ending its armed campaign. In the light of that, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced a programme to normalise security measures in Northern Ireland.
The security situation in Northern Ireland has improved significantly. Coupled with that, the permanent counter-terrorism legislative framework in the UK has become even stronger and more effective since the passing of the Terrorism Act 2000. These two developments together mean that the temporary provisions will no longer be necessary in the future.
Subject to a continuing improvement in the security environment in Northern Ireland, the normalisation programme envisages the repeal of counter-terrorism legislation particular to Northern Ireland in the final four months of that programme. If the security situation does not support it, normalisation and the repeal of the Part VII provisions will not go ahead. That is why the Bill contains a once-only power for the Secretary of State to extend the life of the provisions beyond 2007, for up to a year.
We have a duty to protect the safety and security of the people of Northern Ireland and we will not do anything to jeopardise this. That is why, if the security situation does not support the repeal of the provisions in 2007, we will extend them for a further year. If that is not sufficient, then, of course, the whole thing will lapse, and we will return to Parliament and seek the retention of Part VII for a further period beyond that date. That, of course, would have to be done by primary legislation.
We are optimistic that the time is right for the repeal of Part VII and a return to normalised security arrangements, but we are also cautious. This Bill ensures that we can continue to protect the people of Northern Ireland by providing the law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to combat terrorism in Northern Ireland. I commend the Bill to the House.
My chief concern with the Bill is to support the provisions which retain and strengthen the powers of the police and the status of the judicial system. I believe that the Diplock courts need to be retained, and those parts of Section 67 which provide that, because of the vulnerability of magistrates' courts, a magistrate cannot grant bail. Further, we should retain police powers for the prevention and investigation of terrorist crime; notably, the powers to arrest, stop, search and seize, and to examine documents. The Bill before us does that, and even extends such provision. As Gerry Adams famously said, the IRA has not yet gone away, despite some tardy decommissioning. The paramilitaries remain a serious threat to society.
It is fashionable to accept Sinn Fein/IRA's dissociation of itself from the Real IRA, INLA and the Continuity IRA. However, these so-called dissident groups would never be allowed to exist and continue to recruit and train even now, according to the Monitoring Commission, if they were really defiant, independent entities out of PIRA's control. They are, for the Provisional IRA, useful organs which can be disowned, as they were at Omagh, but are, in reality, still manifestations, and even creatures, of the IRA.
For the same reason, I am glad to see, if I have understood the Bill, that the oral evidence of a police officer will continue to be admissible as evidence that the accused was or is a member of a proscribed organisation.
I could wish that there were not the prospect that some Part VII provisions, though continuing in force after February next year, are to cease to have effect in July 2007, but the Minister has commented on that. It has taken eight years for the IRA to do some seriousalthough, in my view, almost certainly incompletedecommissioning. HMG, for its part, has demolished border posts, disbanded regiments and removed protection from police posts.
The paramilitaries, however, are still there, dominating their communities. Those they exiled have not returned. They are not only, despite the good work of the Organised Crime Task Force, a serious threat to the economy of the countryand not just through the Northern Bank raidbut continue to prevent justice from being done, and try to exert undue influence through the so-called restorative justice networks. They have driven the McCartney sisters, good republicans, from their homes, and continue to deny them justice. The case of the McCartney murder has still not come to court, because the IRA refuses, as always, to allow witnesses to testify; another example of its total, continuing rejection of the justice system. As at Omagh, it does not recognise the British courts.
I hope that HMG continues to maintain, for as long as possible, a criminal justice system which can deliver justice. That will certainly be at risk if criminal justice in Northern Ireland is devolved too soon. Not least, we must not allow recent developments, which are by no means what they seem, to be exploited by Sinn Fein/IRA to bounce HMG into giving more concessions prematurely in the area of policing and criminal justice that are at present, I thank God, safe and in the public interest.
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