With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement.
Since my statement to the House on Friday in the aftermath of the Birmingham bombings, I have given careful consideration to the need to strengthen the powers of the police to prevent acts of terrorism in relation to Northern Ireland and to deal with the terrorists.
As the House is aware, I have hitherto, as have my predecessors, taken the view that proscription of the IRA would not be helpful to the police. I have, however, discussed the matter further with my police advisers and they now accept that proscription forms a necessary part of the framework of measures we are putting into effect.
The Bill, which I hope to introduce on Wednesday, will give the Home Secretary power to proscribe organisations concerned in terrorism or in promoting or encouraging it with respect to affairs in Northern Ireland. The Bill itself will specify the IRA at least, but additional proscriptions which may well be necessary will be made by order. It will be an offence to belong to a proscribed organisation or to support such an organisation financially or in other ways. The maximum penalty will be six months' imprisonment or a £400 fine or both on summary conviction—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not enough".]—and five years' imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both on conviction on indictment.
It will be an offence, punishable on summary conviction with a maximum of three months' imprisonment or a £200 fine or both, for a person to display in a public place any item of dress or other article so as to arouse reasonable apprehension that he is a member or a supporter of a proscribed organisation. It will thus be an offence to wear clothing or armbands which are plainly IRA insignia but which fall short of the requirements for a successful prosecution under the provisions of the Public Order Act 1936, which prohibits the wearing of political uniforms; and it will be an offence to carry banners in support of the IRA.
On the precedent of the Prevention of Violence (Temporary Provisions) Act 1939, the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to make exclusion orders, which would be used both to keep people out of Great Britain and to expel people already here.
An exclusion order may be made against a person if it appears to the Secretary of State that he is concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or is attempting or may attempt to enter Great Britain for that purpose, or has knowingly harboured such a person or any person against whom an exclusion order has been made. It is to be an offence, subject to the same penalties as membership of a proscribed organisation, for a person to fail to comply with an order which has been served on him or knowingly to facilitate the entry into Great Britain of a person subject to an exclusion order or knowingly to harbour such a person. There will be power to make representations; the form of which will be defined in the Bill.
The Bill will empower a police officer to arrest without warrant a person whom he reasonably suspects to be a person concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism, a person subject to an exclusion order, or a person who has knowingly harboured a terrorist. The police will be able to detain for 48 hours, and for five more days with the consent of the Secretary of State, and to fingerprint a person arrested under these powers or for a major offence under the Bill.
These powers will, among other things, enable the police to hold a suspected terrorist while they question him, investigate his background and check his fingerprints against their records. Under the law as it stands the police can arrest a person on suspicion that he has committed a specific arrestable offence but there are now limits, which are not clearly defined, to the length of time for which they can hold him.
I have also considered carefully whether identity cards should be reintroduced. The demand made on resources in manpower and money would be high, and although I propose to keep the possibility of an identity card system under review, my present conclusion is that the call upon resources would be disproportionate to any results which might be achieved. Certainly no such system could be brought in quickly. I do not propose to delay other necessary action to await a final decision upon this.
The Bill will, however, empower the Secretary of State to make an order providing for the control of travel into and out of Great Britain and for the appointment of examining officers, who will in practice generally be police officers but who could also be immigration officers, to operate the control. The order would confer powers of arrest, detention and search on examining officers.
The practical effect will be to give the police powers to exercise a security control over all passengers entering and leaving Great Britain for Ireland. At present the police exercise surveillance at the ports concerned but they have no special powers to question or search travellers. The new powers will, in the first instance at any rate, be exercised on a spot check rather than a general basis. We must use our police and security manpower to the best effect.
The Bill provides for the expiry of the provisions six months after they become law, but the Secretary of State may provide, by order, which is to be subject to affirmative resolution, for them to continue in force for a further period of six months.
These powers, Mr. Speaker, are Draconian. In combination they are unprecedented in peace time. I believe they are fully justified to meet the clear and present danger. But I shall, of course, review within the six-months period how they work in practice and I shall propose any legislative change which experience shows to be necessary.
I should also inform the House that we are seeking urgent discussions with the Government of the Republic of Ireland to consider with them their part in effective counter-terrorist operations.
I hope that Parliament will make it possible to secure the Royal Assent to these provisions before the end of this week.
My right hon. and hon. Friends will wish to welcome warmly the right hon. Gentleman's proposals. We shall try to help the Government to get the Bill as quickly as possible. In the right hon. Gentleman's own words, the powers involved are Draconian. It is our job, while ensuring that the powers exist to deal with the terrorists, to prevent as much as possible the intrusion of these powers upon the innocent.
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that we must have adequate time as a House to carry out this duty? I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's need and the need of the country to deal with terrorism, but will he assure us that we shall have adequate time to consider this legislation?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his general terms of welcome. Yes, I recognise that these powers are Draconian. It is impossible to respond to the need of the House and the country to deal with the present unprecedented situation without Draconian powers. Such powers do involve certain awkward consequences. That is why I propose to review them within six months.
I hope and believe that the House will proceed expeditiously—more so than it would in normal circumstances—with these measures. I propose to introduce the Bill on Wednesday. I hope that it will be given its Second Reading on Thursday and that the remaining stages will be completed on Thursday. However long we take over that cannot be a matter of undue complaint, but we must bear in mind that there will be disappointment in the country if the Bill is not on the statute book by late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the victims involved in last week's outrage, irrespective of colour, religion or origin, and although mostly young people, represent a normal cross-section of the Birmingham community? Further, does he agree that the other basic factor that they have in common is that they are all innocent victims? Does he accept that during my visits to some of the families involved in my constituency, the last victim I saw was a young teenage girl, who was very badly burnt, by the name of Bridget O'Gorman? Will he bear in mind that in their grief these families made it clear to me that their wish was that no one would take the law into his own hands and that there would be no irresponsible retaliation on other innocent people? The measures that my right hon. Friend has introduced today to deal with the lunatic fringe will be welcomed by the families to whom I have referred.
I was glad to hear what was said by my hon. Friend, who shares with me representation of the horror-stricken city of Birmingham. I reiterate what I said on Friday: one of the issues of greatest importance here is that, while we do everything in our power to prevent further acts of terrorism, we do not allow this situation to lead to a divide between the indigenous British people and the great mass of the law-abiding Irish community who live among us. That is why last Friday, in Birmingham, when I saw some of the victims, I made a particular point of calling not only on the Lord Mayor, as civic head, but on the Roman Catholic Archbishop, who has spoken so forth-rightly and is playing such a notable part in trying to prevent such things from occurring.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Liberal Party will assist him in getting parliamentary approval for his proposed measures because, however repugnant to civil liberties they are, they have been made necessary by murderous people?
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider a more limited scheme of identity cards—for example, requiring people crossing to this country and back from Ireland, both North and South, to carry either identity cards or passports?
I am keeping open the question of introducing identity cards. If I thought that they would help, I would introduce them immediately, whatever the cost. But they are most eminently forge-able documents, and I am not persuaded as yet that any result which could be achieved by them would in any way equal the powers which the police will have to spot check those coming in or going out whom they suspect from this point of view.
The hon. Gentleman knows the dangers of this House or of any Minister dictating the content of programmes to either the BBC or the IBA. That would be a very slippery slope on which to start. At the same time, I believe that what he has said will command some considerable support.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman of the agreement of the Scottish National Party with the measures he is putting forward, and we commend him for the speed with which he is doing it. We believe that these measures are fully justified by the present situation. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we agree with his decision on identity cards, which we feel would be more of a nuisance to the law-abiding than a deterrent to law-breakers at present?
I welcome what the hon. Gentleman said and take the point he put about identity cards. This whole matter has to be approached from the point of view of practical effect, and I have no advice to suggest that the practical effect of identity cards would be worth the trouble involved.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of those charged with murder in connection with terrorist offences seem as if they may be guilty of an offence which is still a capital offence? Is it by accident or by design that they are never charged with that offence?
The charging of those who have been apprehended is not a matter for me in any sense. It is a matter for the police in the case of fairly minor offences which this clearly is not. In other cases, it is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General. I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, has made some remarks about this matter, but I think that he indicated that the law of treason was obscure, and I take the view that there would be difficulties about proceeding under a very archaic and possibly obscure law. But it is essentially not a matter for me.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my welcome for what he has said? I welcome it as a Member who over the last three years has consistently suggested that proscribing the IRA may halt its growth in Great Britain. Will the Secretary of State also accept that there is a real demand outside this House and all over the country that persons guilty of the crime of terrorism should face capital punishment? Will he recognise that demand and consider including such a measure in the Bill?
I recognise, as I am bound to recognise, that there is such a demand. It would be foolish to pretend otherwise. But I cannot pretend to the hon. Lady that such a measure is included in the Bill. If it were, I would have announced it. Nor do I believe— although there are divided views, no doubt, to some extent on both sides of the House—that the House would think it right to deal with this matter, which has perplexed Parliament for many years, as part of a series of measures which we should pass with the greatest speed this week. Although I have indicated and have no doubt that this matter will have to be and should be debated, I think that we must, whatever our positions have been in the past, consider it not from the point of view of a pre-judged position but according to our best judgment and belief as to what would most help to give protection to innocent people.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that a wide-ranging and extensive debate on the security position generally is needed to judge these problems properly, although I assure him that he can rely on our support for the speedy passing of his Bill? Nevertheless, we can welcome it only as a useful start and we hope that other proposals will quickly follow. Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify his remark about exclusion orders, because British citizens in Northern Ireland would be very worried if people excluded from Great Britain were to be free to operate in Northern Ireland?
I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about the general position. His question about a debate on Northern Ireland generally is one for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who will no doubt take it into account. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the detailed operation of exclusion orders, but I think it would be better to await publication of the Bill, which is less than 48 hours away.
May I, as another representative of the city which has been the object of this unspeakable outrage, express strong support for my right hon. Friend's measures? Will he think again on the question of identity cards raised by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith)? If identity cards were combined with photographs and fingerprints, they might be of effective assistance in this matter.
Will my right hon. Friend also clarify another point, which concerns the extent of travel movements? In the event, for example, of there being another outrage of this kind, could there not be a complete shut down on all movement out of the country? In the past it has been difficult to catch such people. The Old Bailey bombers were caught only by the accident of the outrage coinciding with a strike which prevented people from escaping who would otherwise have evaded justice.
As I have said, I will continue to consider the question of identity cards. But the House should be under no misapprehension. I am unconvinced that identity cards, whether in the wartime form or in the much more elaborate form suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee)—which would involve a vast effort for the whole population—would produce any worthwhile result.
My hon. Friend asked about traffic movements. We have provided for the police to have very strict powers. I am not convinced that to halt all movement out of the country every time an incident occurred would be practicable or desirable For example, it is possible that if such movement had been banned, the West Midlands police would not have found it possible to make and prefer the charges which they have made in the past few days.
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that while the people of Soli-hull, who suffered grievously in these recent outrages, deplore the cruel necessity for the measures which he has outlined, they will welcome them as elementary steps in the defence of a civilised society against such terrorism? May I put two questions, first to reinforce the views already expressed on both sides of the House in favour of identity cards? The people of this country have never liked identity cards but they are ready for them now. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that identity cards with photographs, such as are common in European countries, would be a potent means of helping the police and security forces to exercise control in this area? Secondly, is he aware that opinion in the West Midlands, and I believe throughout the rest of the country, is now overwhelming in favour of the death penalty for offences of terrorism? While the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that we must have a debate on the death penalty, will he give an assurance that we can have such a debate very soon?
I hope that I have made it clear that it is not a question of my having any dislike of identity cards. No doubt some people do dislike them in themselves. If I were convinced that they would be of any advantage, I am sure that the British people would be prepared to accept them. I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that it must be sensible rationally to consider whether measures of this sort, involving a great deal of manpower resources, would be effective. I have said that we shall keep the idea under review. What I am clear about is that I would have been totally wrong to hold up the other measures, which I am sure will help, in order to wait for a decision about a problematical matter.
I believe I have covered most of the points about the death penalty, in answering the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight). There will have to be a debate, but there was an indication from both sides of the House on Friday that, while this should not be unduly postponed, the subject should not perhaps be debated in the immediate aftermath of an incident of this kind.
May I tell my right hon. Friend that the measures he has announced this afternoon will receive overwhelming support in this House and among the citizens of this country, in particular the citizens of Birmingham? Is he aware that the question I have been asked and will be asked in future is this: is there anything in the proposals that will bring about a solution to the root cause of the problem?
I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says by way of general welcome for these measures. I hope and believe that he speaks for his constituents, as for mine. No one can guarantee that any measures will deal with this problem. The duty upon us all is to take what measures we can to minimise the dangers as far as possible. If the thought in my hon. Friend's mind is that the root cause of this problem is in Northern Ireland and that, fundamentally, in the longer-term, a solution must be sought there, then I agree with him.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we strongly support the proposals he has put before the House this afternoon and are grateful for his readiness to keep an open mind on the other measures which he has mentioned and which have been suggested by hon. Members in all parts of the House in connection with the tragedies in Birmingham and elsewhere? I think we would be at one with the Home Secretary—as would the whole House—in saying that in a free, democratic society we prefer not to have to take such steps. But the Home Secretary is right; the present situation demands them. We shall give him wholehearted support. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the safeguard which he has mentioned of a review every six months appears to us to be the effective safeguard which a democratic society requires of its Parliament when it is introducing Draconian powers of this kind?
May I say to the Home Secretary, and perhaps to the House, that it would enable a speedy passage of the Bill if we were able to concentrate on the nature of the powers in the Bill and to avoid a general discussion of the situation in Northern Ireland and matters connected with it? As the Leader of the House will perhaps know, it would help us in our approach to this matter if later he gave us an assurance that there will be a day's debate on Northern Ireland. We can then concentrate on the nature of the Bill when it comes before the House.
Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify one point? I am not clear what impact the powers he proposes will have on the BBC and the IBA. It would seem strange if others who might give publicity to a proscribed organisation were to be liable to prosecution but the broadcasting corporations were not so affected. As I understand it, the position in Eire is that they are affected by the powers dealing with terrorists in the way the Home Secretary suggests.
I wholeheartedly support the appeal the Home Secretary has made to the present Government of Eire to take further action in respect of terrorism. As one who presided over Sunningdale and negotiated Sunningdale, and did his best to achieve a solution which would restore a peaceful relationship between North and South, I may make a special appeal to the Government of Eire to act in this matter.
I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning and the end of his question. I am sure that what he said will be noted in Eire and elsewhere. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be making a statement later, but I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman said— that it would be appropriate for the debate to concentrate on the provisions of the Bill. I very much want to get this Bill passed in time for the Lords to get it through on Thursday evening. But I do not want this Bill not to be debated at all in the House. It is appropriate that it should be debated speedily but that people should look at its detailed provisions. I hope we can arrange our business so that we can combine greater expedition with absence of carelessness in our approach to what is proposed. If I may, I should like to consider the position of the BBC and the IBA a little further.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that among the dead are one of my constituents and one person from the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stone-house) who, sadly, cannot express his own regret today? Is he aware that many of my constituents, the people from the town of Walsall and many West Midlanders such as myself will very much welcome the legislation he is proposing to bring before the House? Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that this will help control the greater anger that has spread throughout the West Midlands since Friday? Is he further aware that many West Midlanders do not believe that ultimate peace can return to Birmingham again until we have found a peaceful solution to the problem of Northern Ireland?
Is any reference in the proposed Bill to the Home Office power to proscribe terrorist organisations, and any reference to other measures to be taken to increase the powers of the police in actions against terrorism, to be limited to terrorist organisations relating to affairs in Northern Ireland or is it to be terrorist organisations in general? If it is the former, would the right hon. Gentleman care to think about that again before Wednesday?
The hon. and learned Gentleman asks an acute question. The Bill is to be limited to terrorist activity in relation to Northern Ireland. I have had to introduce the Bill, as I believe to be right, at very short notice. It would have been a complicated matter and made it more difficult to proceed expeditiously in the way we have done if we had not limited the provisions.
The overwhelming majority of the Irish people and the Irish race will support my right hon. Friend in the measures he has announced this afternoon. Would he agree that in these circumstances as little inconvenience as possible should be caused to those decent people who have such a close relationship with this country? In the proposed legislation, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are other extremist organisations in the political situation in Northern Ireland, namely, the UDA whose members have been convicted of violent offences and terrorist offences in this country? Can my right hon. Friend assure me that in applying these laws due attention will be given to all organisations? May I say—and I say this with due knowledge of the people in Ireland, North and South, and in Britain—that David O'Connell does not speak for the Irish people in this country? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, however strong the objections may be to imposing censorship upon television, that man's voice as it came out on television indirectly led to the murder of 19 people in Birmingham? Does my right hon. Friend not agree that every effort should be made to prevent another such broadcast?
I note what my hon. Friend said. I indicated that, in my view, it would almost certainly be necessary to proscribe more organisations by order because—and this has been one of the arguments against doing it previously— I think that the IRA, if banned, would in due course emerge under a number of different names and I have no doubt that the list would have to be added to. But the list will be added to, if necessary, in respect of those who speak from a different point of view if they are equally guilty of terrorist activity.