Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill
Lord Tebbit (Conservative)
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 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.