Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st January 1974.
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will seek to repeal Section 6 of the Emergency Provisions (Northern Ireland) Act 1973 under which policemen may bring forward as evidence statements by an accused which were not made by an accused to a policeman in a police station or interrogation centre, and statements which are in fact distortions or representations of statements made in conversation in a police station or interrogation centre, in view of the disquiet that the use of such alleged statements is causing.
No, Sir. I have no evidence that the police are using Section 6 of the Act improperly.
Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that the things described in the Question are in fact happening every day, that they are well documented, that reports of them appear in newspapers every day of the week, that unsigned statements are being admitted as evidence, that verbal statements are daily being accepted as evidence, that, since an accused is not allowed to have with him his legal adviser, he is entirely at the mercy of, or dependent upon, the integrity of the police, and that it is a long-proven fact that in political and civil rights affairs the integrity of the police towards the Catholic community in Northern Ireland is simply non-existent? Will he not reconsider the position?
No, Sir. I can assure the House that the RUC knows of no case in which distortions or misrepresentations of statements made in conversation in a police station or an interrogation centre have been brought forward as evidence.
Will the Government announce soon their plans for the renewal of the Emergency Provisions (Northern Ireland) Act? What procedure will be followed? The Act is renewable annually. What will be the timing, for example?
The Opposition will want a full report on the work of the Act to aid discussion. We would not want just a quick discussion on the matter. The Opposition realise only too well the problems of a society in which nearly 1,000 people have been murdered, on both sides of the community—we are not starry-eyed about it—but we want to bring the procedures and what is happening in Northern Ireland under the rule of law.
I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, as I am sure does my right hon. Friend. An order will be brought before the House in due course, when these matters can be thoroughly debated, as they have been in the past.