I beg to move,
That this House takes note of the Review of the Operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 by The Right Honourable Earl Jellicoe, DSO, MC (Cmnd. 8803).
I understand that it will be for the convenience of the House for the debate also to cover the draft Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order 1983.
At the renewal debate last year I undertook that there would be a review of the 1976 Act and I announced the intention to appoint Lord Jellicoe to undertake it. At that time the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) welcomed the decision. I believe that he looked to Lord Jellicoe to consider whether the Act achieved the right balance between the safety of the public and the rights of the individual. The right hon. Gentleman and the majority of the members of his party then abstained from voting on the issue of the renewal of the 1976 Act.
I say at once that in my view the report demonstrates exactly that balance. It does indeed recommend important safeguards. It levels clear criticism but never without proposing constructive solutions. I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing my own gratitude and, I believe, the gratitude of the House to Lord Jellicoe for taking on this task and for completing it with such distinction.
I believe that it will be helpful to the House if I were to summarise the main recommendations in the report, including the important new safeguards that it proposes.
The report recommends that legislation of this nature should require periodic full re-enactment by Parliament in addition to annual renewal and says that it should have a maximum life-span of five years without the possibility of further extension, so that any further legislation to prevent terrorism would require a new Bill. The prime purpose of this is to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation can provide the ultimate safeguard as to the use of the powers. It will also mean that amendments of detail can be made regularly to meet changing circumstances.
The report recommends that the powers of arrest, both generally and at the ports, should apply to suspected international terrorists of any group, cause or nationality as well as to suspected terrorists connected with Northern Ireland. In paragraph 76 of his report Lord Jellicoe accepts the force of the argument that the Irish community may view the present legislation as anti-Irish rather than antiterrorist and he recognises the presentational advantage of the change that he proposes in that it would help to remove the claim that these powers are aimed against Irish people. However, he emphasises that practical considerations have caused him to make the recommendations. He says:
I am satisfied … that the arrest powers in this Act have been of considerable benefit in dealing with Northern Irish terrorism. This being so, I believe that they should be available for use in dealing with international terrorism.
The report draws attention to the major trend of an increasing threat from international terrorism within the
United Kingdom. It points to the forging of international links by Northern Ireland terrorist groups and to incidents on the mainland unconnected with Northern Irish affairs. The recent conclusion of the trial of those responsible for the cold-blooded shooting of the Israeli ambassador in June last year reminds us all of the gravity of international terrorist activity.
The House is as concerned as the right hon. Gentleman about the tragic happenings concerning the Israeli ambassador. However, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether this legislation, even if improved as suggested by Lord Jellicoe, would have prevented that happening, as it appears to have been planned outside the United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman must know when he asks that question that no one can prove that any particular piece of legislation can prevent any such happenings. One can only say that one believes that the value of a measure such as this would render it unlikely. One cannot go further than that. No one can prove, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, that something would, or would not, happen. However, one can show that it is more unlikely to happen, and that, in the circumstances, is very important.
There is a suspicion that the weapons and the ammunition used in the shooting of the Israeli ambassador were not brought into the country by any means that would, in any normal circumstances, be detected. It rather looks as though that ammunition may have been brought into the country in diplomatic bags. If that is so, it merely reawakens the concern that this House has expressed on other occasions. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would be good enough to say whether he thinks that the methods of preventing that sort of thing from happening are adequate? Is he looking into methods of dealing with weapons brought into the country in diplomatic bags?
It would be unwise of me, in the context of this Act, to respond to suspicions of that sort, which I could neither confirm nor deny.
The report makes a series of recommendations which would be effective safeguards against unnecessarily long extensions of detention under the Act. If this approach becomes law it will be possible for the Secretary of State to grant an extension for less than the full five days knowing that if a case is made out he may grant a further extension provided that the total period in detention does not exceed seven days. This should encourage the police to apply for an extension for the time that they think they will need on the available information. They need not fear that, if information comes to light as a result of their investigations to justify further questioning, it will be too late to seek an extension. In the present state of the law, the police are taking a risk if they apply for anything less than five days.
The report contains a number of important recommendations about the treatment of persons detained under the Act to ensure that they have fully adequate access to a solicitor and that their rights as to the notification of a friend or relative are made explicit. Subject to the views of the House, I intend to give effect to those recommendations, in respect of England and Wales, in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill and in the related codes.
Where a person is examined at a port for longer than one hour, Lord Jellicoe recommends that he be given a notice of his rights. He also recommends that examining officers should lose the right to examine a passenger 12 hours after the start of the examination unless they have formed a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is guilty of an offence under the Act, is concerned in terrorism, or is subject to an exclusion order. While making constructive proposals to safeguard the travelling public, Lord Jellicoe concludes that
while there remains a significant threat from terrorism related to Northern Ireland it will be necessary to retain port controls in something like their present form.
Under the present Act, an exclusion order may not be made prohibiting a British citizen from entering a part of the United Kingdom if he has been ordinarily resident there for 20 years. The report recommends a major change in that provision to the effect that a British citizen should not be liable to exclusion from that part of the United Kingdom in which he is settled. It suggests that "settled" should be defined as ordinarily resident in a part of the United Kingdom for a continuous period of three years. This proposal is designed, amongst other things, to prevent the use of exclusion powers causing significant hardship, either financial or emotional, to the family of the excluded person.
In basic terms, yes, certainly.
The report contains detailed suggestions for making the system of review by an adviser more effective. In paragraph 193 Lord Jellicoe points out that one third of the orders that have been reviewed by an adviser have then been revoked. This leads him to the conclusion that the system of review is a real safeguard. But he recognises that representations, including an interview with the adviser, now require the subject to remain for a further period in custody in order to take advantage of the arrangements. This deterrent effect is to he eliminated by providing for a personal interview with the adviser after a subject has been removed provided he has been removed within the United Kingdom or to the Republic of Ireland.
The final recommendation to which I think it right to draw attention at the beginning of this debate is that exclusion orders should have a fixed term of three years. The report recommends that after that length of time, if exclusion is still thought necessary, the whole process should be followed again from the beginning, to ensure that the strength of the case for exclusion is scrutinised anew. Lord Jellicoe found the consideration of the system of exclusion the most difficult part of his task. He recommended the additional safeguards I have mentioned. But he concluded that
the exclusion of some people under these powers has materially contributed to public safety in the United Kingdom and that this could not have been achieved through the normal criminal process".
I can say—this answers the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson)—that the Government accept many of Lord Jellicoe's recommendations for immediate implementation. I have already given effect to the recommendation that I, rather than the responsible junior Minister, should consider applications from the police for an extension of detention under the Act. Several of the recommendations can be implemented administratively either by circular or by informal arrangements. Subject to
the views of the House in this debate and the views in another place—and I thought it right to wait for these debates—I am ready to give effect to these recommendations without delay.
But the most significant recommendations require new legislation and I intend to introduce a Bill which, as Lord Jellicoe suggests, will be subject to annual renewal and have a limited span of five years. I hope, therefore, that this will be the last time that a Home Secretary will be asking the House to renew the 1976 Act for a full year.
As to the detailed content of the Bill—on the scope of the arrest powers and on the power to make exclusion orders—I believe that it is right to remain uncommitted for some weeks yet. We have asked chief officers of police for their comments and we will want to give full weight also to the views which are expressed in the House and elsewhere before deciding on the contents of the Bill in detail.
Lord Jellicoe concluded that special legislation should be continued as long as a substantial terrorist threat remained. This is a view that has been shared by this House since the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), then Home Secretary, introduced the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 in the wake of the Birmingham bombs with their tragic toll of 21 dead. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said:
In bringing forward these proposals I have tried to steer between two dangers, both of them real. The first is that we fail to take effective and practical steps which are available to us to deal as effectively as we can with terrorism. The second is that if we over-react we risk doing serious damage to our respect for human freedom and dignity. I believe that the course that I am proposing in very difficult circumstances steers us as safely as it reasonably can through these twin dangers".—[Official Report, 28 November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 643.]
There was no doubt at this time last year that the deaths in the Chelsea barracks and Oxford street outrages, the explosion which injured Sir Steuart Pringle and the explosion outside the home of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, demonstrated a continuing threat. Against that background, the House decided to renew the Act.
I now come before the House to seek the renewal of this Act after a year that has seen further outrages which remain indelibly etched on our memories. The House does not need to be reminded of the horror and destruction which blew apart a summer's day in two London parks last July. In the wake of the suffering and the sorrow of so many, it is my firm belief that we must continue to use every practical and useful tool in our hand to frustrate terror. This Act is a vital instrument to this end, and I recommend that we should keep its powers for another year. The purpose of the order, which was laid before the House on 9 February, is to continue in operation for a further year the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. The Act is due to lapse, unless renewed, on 24 March.
The means of the terrorists are abhorrent. To the degree that they become more savage, cruel and pitiless, so must we become more determined and steadfast in frustrating them. We must surely all of us resolve to beat the bombers. The clearest proof of their failure to terrorise, and of our own resolution, is demonstrated by a measured, sensible and constructive response to the threat. I believe that the current prevention of terrorism legislation reflected this approach in 1974 and 1976, and that it would be unwise to jettison it now. But I also believe, and have said so many times in the past, that its powers are unwelcome and make sad inroads into our cherished traditions of civil liberties. It was for those very reasons that, in agreement with hon. Members in all parts of the House, I appointed Lord Jellicoe to scrutinise the operation of the Act, and hon. Members will know from what I have said that it is against the background of his findings that I seek renewal of the present legislation today.
The police have confirmed to me the view which they gave to Lord Jellicoe: that the Act is as important to them as it has ever been. It is as well to remind ourselves that, except for part I on proscription, the Act applies throughout the United Kingdom. The powers of arrest in section 12 are vital to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The magnitude of its task and the importance of doing nothing to weaken its effectiveness were brought home by the grief and horror of the Ballykelly bombing last December.
In this debate last year, when I announced the decision to appoint Lord Jellicoe, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said that he looked forward with anxiety as well as eagerness to the conclusions of the report and to examining them with the greatest but the most sceptical care. Within a matter of hours of the publication of the report the right hon. Gentleman was broadcasting his view that the shadow Cabinet should decide to vote against the renewal of the 1976 Act. It appears that his scepticism was so deep that it overbore his intention to examine the report with great care.
There are several attitudes to this renewal, other than simple support, which I could understand and with which I could sympathise. If the right hon. Gentleman were to say that he finds this issue difficult, that he feels the continuance of these powers to be repugnant but on balance believes that it is right, I would be bound to understand, because it summarises my own position. If he expressed his unhappiness at this procedure, which requires the House to take the Act or leave it in its present form, I should understand that. If he argued that in several particulars Lord Jellicoe had not gone far enough, that also I could understand. However, we are to have a Bill that will provide ample opportunity for a line-by-line analysis of the Government's proposals, and the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will be able to press specific criticism of the 1976 Act or of Lord Jellicoe's analysis. It is with the right hon. Gentleman's present position that I cannot sympathise. I have said that the threat is tragically no less that it was in 1974 and 1976 when his party sponsored this legislation.
The police, whom we ask to protect us from terrorist outrages, strongly favour renewal of the Act. Nothing has changed to make these provisions any less vital. The only possible conclusion is that the Labour party has changed. I regret that attitude, because I have long been convinced that it is best for the protection of our people that exceptional measures of this kind should have the all-party support in this House which they have had since the Labour party itself introduced them. The Government of the day cannot be deflected from their clear responsibility. We have not flinched from that commitment, and for that reason we seek the renewal of the Act.
I ask the House for its strong support for this renewal as a clear demonstration of our continued will to do all within our power to protect the lives of the people whom we represent.
I begin by adding my thanks and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends to those already offered by the Home Secretary to Lord Jellicoe for the work that he has done in preparing this report.
Lord Jellicoe has produced a report of admirable clarity which, in my view, bravely faces the dilemma of a society which, on the one hand, has to deal with the threat of terrorism, but, on the other, is determined to maintain its civil rights. I say that Lord Jellicoe bravely faced that dilemma, although I must tell the House, as I propose to do during the minutes at my disposal, that I believe that on the most critical question of balance between protection and liberty he comes down on the wrong side of the argument. However, I am sure that we all accept his twin aims of safeguarding our citizens and preserving their constitutional freedom.
I hope that our debate today will be conducted on the understanding that, whatever our disagreements, we all occupy that common ground. Certainly I do not propose, despite his last paragraph, to accuse the Home Secretary of being negligent in the cause of civil liberties, and I suspect that neither he nor his Minister will want to accuse us of being irresponsible in the face of terrorism.
Every debate in the House on this subject begins with declarations from the Government of the day about the unacceptability of the measure that they are about to ask the House to renew. Certainly that was the view of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), when he originally introduced the proposal. It was a view that carried much credibility at the time, because of the right hon. Gentleman's obviously sincere determination that the Act should be temporary. It also carried much credibility because of the frank way in which he was prepared to describe the desperate circumstances of that moment and the public reaction to them, both the circumstances and the public reaction making, in his view and mine, the Act then temporarily necessary.
I propose to deal with the shifting ground on which the justification for the measure is built, but before I do so I want to remind the House of more recent judgments about the innate unacceptability of the Act. In 1981 the Home Secretary, agreed that the powers that we debate today
infringe our shared concept of civil liberties".—[Official Report, 18 March 1982; Vol. 1, c. 341.]
Last year the Home Secretary was equally precise. He said:
The Prevention of Terrorism Act makes a considerable inroad into the civil liberties of which we are justly proud".—[Official Report, 15 March 1982; Vol. 20, c. 151.]
If those judgments, made last year and the year before by the Home Secretary are correct—and I have no doubt that they are—the continuation of such powers must be contingent on the absolute truth that they are essential to the peace and safety of the nation. I do not believe that, either in the right hon. Gentleman's speech today, or in Lord Jellicoe's report, that case has been made out. Indeed, I quote Lord Jellicoe as my authority for the assertion that the case has not been made out that the powers are necessary and effective and need to be operated in the terms that the Home Secretary described.
In paragraph 55 of the report Lord Jellicoe is admirably honest and clear when he says:
There can be no clear proof that the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are, or are not, an essential weapon in the fight against terrorism.
On this point and on this subject the report can be described only as agnostic, and on that agnosticism we are now proposing to arrest men without charge, to detain them without an appearance in court, and to exile them from parts of Britain. We are proposing to do all those things for an objective that Lord Jellicoe says we cannot be certain will be achieved. Indeed, the continuation of the powers is in many ways in conflict with Lord Jellicoe's criteria.
In paragraph 1 Lord Jellicoe uses the words
if special legislation effectively reduces terrorism
and in paragraph 9 he says
while it continues to be effective".
He goes on to say that those two hypotheses would have to apply for the Act to be reasonable. In a very real sense he is comparing the powers to the just war, which can only be justified only if it is both necessary and successful. Lord Jellicoe tells us that we cannot be certain of the success of the powers, nor do I believe that we can be certain of their alleged necessity.
The reasons which are advanced to justify those infringements of our civil liberties constantly change. In 1975 we were told that, without tangible evidence of our unremitting pursuit of terrorism, the whole community of law-abiding Irish citizens might be at risk. The then Home Secretary promised to direct our activities against terrorism so as to lessen the reaction against the general body of Irish people here—an argument which at the time I regarded as having enormous strength, and which encouraged me to vote for the measure. I do not believe that anyone advances that argument today, although it was crucial in many people's minds in supporting the instrument on the first occasion.
Since then we have been told from time to time of more direct and more desperate necessities—the need to apprehend and deter terrorists and the need to detain people so that information may be gathered from them. Then, after nine years of the operation of the Act, when there has been a growing revulsion against detention without charge, and particularly against holding a man, not in order that he should be prosecuted but so that he should supply information, Lord Jellicoe now discovers a brand new reason, of which no one has spoken before—the incidence of international terrorism. Paragraph 23 draws attention to that phenomenon, but I do not believe —
Bearing in mind the awfulness of the Birmingham bombings, which we know about from our local experience, does the right hon. Gentleman think that he is wise to recommend any steps whatever that would lessen the right of the security authorities to control terrorism in the United Kingdom?
My entire speech is devoted to the principle that the answer to that question is yes. I believe that the answer is yes for reasons of principle concerning civil liberties, and of practice concerning those elements whom I deplore no less that the hon. Gentleman. I believe that such elements profit out of such legislation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, as I am trying to advance my case in a rather more acceptable way to him and the House than by simply answering yes to his question. If the hon. Gentleman asks me whether I believe that the time has come to make adjustments, my answer is a clear affirmative, and I shall try to justify it as best I can.
Paragraph 23 of the Jellicoe report draws attention to the increasing threat of international terrorism, but nothing in the report makes anything like a convincing case that the Act is necessary to combat that hideous disease or that we would have been better equipped to combat it over the past nine years if the Act could have been applied to it. Yet on such unsubstantiated assertions we are asked to support powers which are by any standards draconian. By supporting them year after year we are being asked, in effect, to make them permanent.
It is not insignificant that Lord Jellicoe's intellectual honesty leads him to the recommendation that the word "Temporary" should be removed from the title of the order. I remind the House of the powers which now hover between temporary and permanent. Part II of the Act, if it is renewed today, will allow the Secretary of State ultimately, on his authority alone, to exclude a citizen of the United Kingdom from part of the United Kingdom. That is a power which, when it was introduced, was resisted by the Attorney-General of the day on the ground that it amounted to internal banishment—a practice which had not been allowed in England since Tudor times.
Section 3—described rather quaintly by Lord Jellicoe as containing general and miscellaneous provisions—contains schedule 12, which gives the power to arrest without warrent, to detain suspected terrorists for up to 48 hours and to extend their detention on the Home Secretary's warrant for up to seven days, and all those things can be done to free men and free women in a free society without recourse to the courts. When I made that point a year ago, the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) argued against my fears.
I read the hon. Gentleman's argument again with great care this morning, and it has done more than anything to confirm my view that we ought to vote tonight against renewal of the order. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Birmingham pub bombings, which he knew had resulted in the death of six of my constituents. He said that he believed that I understood more than most people the feelings engendered by that incident. He then asked me:
Is he asking the House to accept that the police and security services should never act pre-emptively … even though the matter is not justiciable?"—[Official Report, 15 March 1982; Vol. 20, c. 156.]
Translated into everyday language, the rhetorical questions inherent in the hon. Gentleman's intervention lie at the heart of today's debate. Should the police, acting on no authority but their own, be given the power to arrest and detain? Should the Home Secretary, acting on no authority but his own, be allowed to extend the detention? Should a democratic Parliament accept that there are times when courts cannot convict but when the security services should treat men and women as if they had been convicted?
What has been the result of putting such principles into operation? According to Lord Jellicoe's report, last year only 15 out of every 100 suspected inland detainees were charged. Only five out of every 100 suspects detained at the ports were charged. The rest were, by our ancient standards, wholly innocent. To say, as some hon. Members say, or at least think, "Ah, but despite our inability to convict them we privately know they are guilty," is to sustain a sentiment which is essentially against the democratic procedures of this House and is essentially against the rule of law.
To say that we know people are guilty but that unfortunately we cannot demonstrate their guilt in court is not the beginning of a reason why, in a free society, people should be detained and imprisoned. That seems to me to be both wrong in principle and damaging in practice to the anti-terrorist cause, because it leads to a danger which Lord Jellicoe describes with a clarity that borders on brilliance.
Two passages from Lord Jellicoe's report seem to me to be at the hub of our debate. In paragraph 10 he says:
The most important assistance which the police can have in the fight against terrorism is not special powers but the support of the public. It is vital that such powers do not unnecessarily alienate—either in their essence or in their application—any section of the law-abiding population".
There is much evidence to suggest that the alienation has already happened. Law-abiding Irish visitors feel threatened and harassed at the ports, and the Irish community in Britain feels that it is under constant suspicion. Propaganda victories are handed to the most disreputable elements in Irish politics. We can beat the gunman and the bomber only by scrupulous and clearly visible support for the rule of law which the terrorist defies and despises. We cannot beat them by sometimes descending to their own contempt for our normal judicial procedures.
The alienation described by Lord Jellicoe will increase if we renew the powers, and do so in the knowledge that they are gradually becoming more and more permanent. Last year we extended these draconian powers after a late night debate lasting for 90 minutes. The Home Secretary spoke for 16 minutes, justifying his case for extending the powers in a free society for a further year. Today the right hon. Gentleman takes the opposite view. He asks us to extend the powers on the basis of a report that recommends complete renewal after five years.
In my view, that provision will not make the powers any more temporary than they are now. In effect, it will make them much more permanent. First, it will diminish the importance of the annual debate. Every year we will be told that the debate and the scrutiny are less important than they had been because in four, three or two years, or in one year, there will be the opportunity for complete renewal or rejection. The annual renewal will become a meaningless form.
Much as I should like to be wrong, I cannot believe that after five years the Government might say that the time for the measures had passed. This Government would say either that continuing terrorism showed the need for the Act, or that the disappearance of terrorism showed the success of the Act and so it must be renewed.
The terrifying argument about the Act, which I am sure will influence some right hon. and hon. Members, although I find it wholly unpersuasive, is that, whatever the pattern of terrorism in the immediate past, it can be used as evidence to support the retention of the Act. If the Act has failed, it will be all the more necessary. If the Act has succeeded, it would be absurd to get rid of it. I fear that the Act and the unacceptable powers that it contains are more and more characteristic of the Government's attitude to law and crime prevention in general.
Those attitudes are reflected in the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill now in Committee, with its powers to detain without charge, to take fingerprints and to stop and search, all of which are part of a movement towards a more authoritarian society. I believe that that move is wrong in principle and, in terms of combating terrorism, wrong in practice.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that the balance between police powers and the liberty of the subject is one that Parliament considers very carefully before legislating. There is legislation governing police powers in normal circumstances, but for terrorism Parliament has decided that the balance should be changed somewhat and that police powers should be increased. What great principle is involved in that change? So far the right hon. Gentleman has said nothing that could possibly justify his opposition to it.
First, the hon. Gentleman asks me to agree that Parliament is anxious to preserve the right balance between the powers of the police and the liberty of the subject. I only wish that that had been my own recent experience. The Royal Commission on criminal procedure itself struck such a balance, but the Government changed that balance and the House of Commons slavishly endorsed the change. We should therefore not pretend that the House is always anxious to come down on the side of liberty rather than authority.
Secondly, if I failed to put my point across to the hon. Gentleman I can only regret my inadequacy. It is that in applying such powers we are in error in two specific but related ways. The detention of so many free citizens when no charge is to be made, or can be made, against them seems to be in conflict with our traditional standards and values. Moreover, it seems not to assist the campaign against terrorism but to give terrorists the propaganda that they need to recruit basically decent people to their cause by saying that in Britain the Irish are treated in an unacceptable way.
Will the right hon. Gentleman be a little more straightforward and explicit? He talks about propaganda of that kind being used to enlist people who may join in terrorist activity. Does he really believe in the strength of that argument? Will he inform the House more explicitly and sincerely of his real views in this matter?
It never struck me for a moment that this cause was fashionable enough or reactionary enough to attract the support of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson). Perhaps he will consider the situation in Ireland more closely. If he will remain to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), whose record against terrorism is to be applauded by every section of the House, he will realise that, like me, the hon. Member for Belfast, West can give examples to show how Irish people who think of themselves as committed to the Republican cause are alienated from the Government in Westminster by the treatment of other Irish people at the ports and their detention in this country.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington may not wish to believe that, but the evidence is all around. Indeed,
the evidence is in the Jellicoe report. If he will do the House the courtesy—I do not ask it for myself—of reading that report, he will realise that Lord Jellicoe is worried that this measure will come to be regarded as
anti-Irish rather than anti-terrorist.
Those are Lord Jellicoe's words, not mine. I share that view and the hon. Gentleman would do well to understand and respect it.
Finally, paragraph 9 of the Jellicoe report is absolutely explicit. It says that the Act
should remain in force only while it continues to remain effective, only if its aims cannot be achieved by use of the general law, if it does not make unacceptable inroads on civil liberties
and if it is hedged about with "effective safeguards" to our freedoms. I believe that the measure that we are asked to renew fails all four of Lord Jellicoe's tests. For that reason, I shall vote against renewal and I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to do the same.
It is now eight and a quarter years since I introduced the Second Reading of the Bill on which the first Act was based and seven years since the 1976 Act was enacted. Although I do not agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark brook (Mr. Hattersley) on many things, I agree that what was regarded as temporary has become fairly long lasting. Hon. Members on both sides of the House regret that. At the beginning, I hoped that that would not be so. However, looking back at the early debates, I find that I did not rule out the possibility of our being in for a long campaign. Even under the special circumstances of the Second Reading of the first Bill, I said that we would have to
persevere in what may not be a short struggle to eradicate terrorism from this country."—[Official Report, 28 November 1974; Vol. 882, c. 634.]
On Second Reading of the second Bill I said:
This is a temporary provisions Bill, but, especially in the light of recent events, it would be rash of me to forecast when we might be able to let it lapse."—[Official Report, 26 November 1975; Vol. 901, c. 890.]
There were hopes but certainly not false promises at the time.
That was not the mood. I was a junior member of the same Government and that was not the mood in which the measure was presented to the Government, the House or the Committee.
Words are a rather more accurate record than mood. I remember the words that I used—I have just quoted them. The Bill was presented not to junior members of the Government but to the Cabinet and the House. I regret that we must still have it. It is reasonable to recall what was said at the time and that is what have done.
The special circumstances in which the first Bill was introduced were the aftermath of the Birmingham pub bombings. I understand that that is still the worst incident that we have suffered on the mainland. The bombings occurred on the Thursday evening, the Bill was announced on the Monday afternoon, the Second Reading was on Tuesday afternoon and we enacted it, through a long sitting, so that it completed all its stages by Wednesday morning. It was, therefore, a rushed job. In the circumstances, we were lucky that it was not a botched job. It was lucky because of sensible contingency planning that had been carried out by Home Office officials. [Interruption.] I do not know why the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) should think that there is virtue in a great Department of State being caught completely unprepared for a national emergency. There had not been long-standing pressure for it and there had not been police pressure. The right hon. Gentleman should deal with facts, not figments of his imagination. Rather to people's surprise, the police were against proscription. Everything that I am saying is firm fact.
When we were pushing the Bill through, which I am sure it was right to do in the circumstances, I bore in mind the danger that, in such circumstances, one could be more concerned to give the appearance of action than to deal with the reality of effective action and policy. That has not proved to be so. When, a year later, we re-enacted the Bill, few changes were made. There was a full Committee stage. The changes were principally concerned to bring the Bill more tidily into line with Northern Ireland legislation, to include section 11 on the insistent initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) and to deal with the new renewal procedure.
The Jellicoe report, to which I shall return shortly, makes it quite clear that almost every provision in that Act has had practical use. Lord Jellicoe has come to that conclusion having gone into the subject in the utmost detail and consulted those concerned. The only issue about which he expresses some doubt is part I, which deals with proscription. I agree with him. At the time, I never claimed that it would of itself reduce terrorist outrages. It was intended merely to avoid provocation to the public of demonstrations in support of terrorist outrages that were murdering many people.
Paradoxically, part I is that which, according to the speech of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook last year, enjoyed more of his support than any other. He said that he had no objection to that part of the Act. Reading between the lines, it is the only one about which Lord Jellicoe expressed some scepticism, although he decided that, on balance, it would not be right to change it.
Last year, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook did not lead his party into the Lobby against renewal. This is a most extraordinary year in which to change course—there has been a clear change of course. One should leave aside what I did in 1974–76 because of political events that have occurred since, but in 1977, 1978 and 1979, the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) re-enacted the provisions each year, as did the Home Secretary in 1980, 1981 and 1982. But this year the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook is pursuing a new course. Is this a sensible year in which suddenly to make such a change of course? It is almost the opposite. I think that I am right to say that 1982 was the worst year for terrorist outrage both on the mainland, with the two incidents in London parks, and in Northern Ireland, with the dreadful Ballykelly incident. It was the worst year since 1975.
It is not sensible to say that because an Act does not work completely one should abolish it. No one ever claimed that the Act would give absolute protection. That would be about as sensible as if, after a bad air raid during the second world war, the Government had announced that they intended to disband the anti-aircraft artillery because it had failed to do its job completely.
We have statistics that give the number of enemy aircraft that were shot down. What we do not have is the number either of offences or even of perpetrators of terrorism who have been brought to justice by the present legislation.
All the figures that can be provided are available in statistical form. However, there are matters with which one is dealing here which, inevitably, cannot be subject to absolute statistical proof.
It is a case not of the good or the wise but of trying to form a judgment about what best strikes the balance between human freedom and proper protection. It is right to do that and that is what the Home Secretary is trying to do.
In the past year, we have received the Jellicoe report. Last year, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook insistently asked for such a report. The report is wider-ranging and goes more deeply into the matter than was expected when the inquiry was set up. It is a remarkably good report. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook paid many tributes to its style, argument and lucidity—to everything except it conclusions. That is a well-known way of damning by faint praise. No one could read the report without realising that Lord Jellicoe went deeply into the matter, was concerned with human liberty, and was activated by a sense of independent fairness. Again and again he says that improvements can be made, and he does not hesitate to criticise some provisions, and to suggest some extremely practicable means of improvement.
It is extraordinary that, between last year, when the Labour party did not vote, and this year, when it will vote against re-enactment, when we have had the worst year of terrorism since 1975, a report suggesting considerable improvements, and the Home Secretary making it clear this afternoon that new legislation will be produced so that the whole matter can be re-examined, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook should lead his party for the first time in a completely different way. That says more about the state of the Labour party than about its attitude to terrorism. From my knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman, it is difficult to believe that, were he Home Secretary now, he would sweep away the Act and leave the country without its protection. He is lucky that it becomes increasingly unlikely that he will ever become Home Secretary. If he did, he would be racked by a conflict between his genuine concern for public safety and the foolish commitments that are part of the party games into which he has entered in opposition.
As I understood it, the Home Secretary was near to accepting Lord Jellicoe's recommendations en bloc, subject to some future consultations. I, too, believe that that is the right way to proceed. Of the many recommendations, I single out the more interesting and important. The first is the extension to international terrorism. I have no firm position on the matter, but that part of the report is the least clearly and convincingly argued. I am not sure that it is wrong to extend the Act to international terrorism, but it would have connotations for the long term. One could envisage a period in which Irish terrorism subsided or perhaps disappeared for good, but, alas, it is difficult to envisage a time when international terrorism will disappear.
Secondly, I do not completely follow Lord Jellicoe's argument that the Act should be extended to international terrorism, but not to non-Irish terrorism and non-international terrorism within Britain. However, if the Act is extended it may help to eliminate a sense of discrimination against the Irish community. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook grossly exaggerated that factor, but that is not the feeling of the great bulk of the Irish community.
I was worried, as the right hon. Gentleman knows because he was with me at the time, that in the aftermath of the Birmingham bombs there was grave danger of a backlash against the Irish community in Birmingham and elsewhere. One of my primary objectives was to prevent that. The best way to prevent that danger is to give the best protection possible against incidents involving the slaughter of innocent people. That is the greatest danger to community relations.
Lord Jellicoe recommends two three-year provisions. A three-year residence should not give someone the right of settlement—that is not an appropriate term—but should protect him from being asked to leave the part of the United Kingdom in which he is settled. He also recommends that an exclusion order should lapse and have to be renewed from the beginning after three years. It would be sensible to accept both recommendations.
Re-enactment is the right way to proceed so that one can consider all the provisions. I am not sure, from what the Home Secretary said, how one would proceed on the possibility envisaged by Lord Jellicoe that one might have to extend parts of the Act for further periods year by year, but could get rid of other parts. If that were possible, it would be desirable. If the Home Secretary believes that it would be possible, I take it that the Act would be couched in such terms that the renewal order would apply only to some parts of it. It is also desirable to secure uniformity of application and practice among different police forces, airports and sea ports.
Alas, it is realistic, rather than choking oneself in ambiguity, to drop the words "temporary provisions", although I retain the strong hope that the legislation will not be a permanent part of our statute book. No one would wish to see that happen. However, this is not the year—with some of the worst incidents that we have seen and with the clear recommendations of the Jellicoe report, which endorses the value of the Act and makes practical proposals to preserve that value while giving considerable safeguards—in which to abandon the Act altogether. We shall support the Home Secretary in the Lobby this evening.
Has the right hon. Gentleman's old liberality so deserted him that his speech contains not a single word about the 85 per cent. of suspects who are arrested, detained without trial, and released because they are innocent?
I am aware of that problem, as I always have been. It happens not just in these offences, but in others. It was the case in 1977, 1978 and 1979, when the right hon. Gentleman trooped into the Lobby in support of such proposals, which he now regards as unacceptable.
The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) speaks with natural authority, having guided the legislation on to the statute book. I have seen the legislation working from a rather different point of view. I served in the Northern Ireland Office for nearly two years, and on numerous occasions I had to make up my mind whether to sign an extension order. I have no doubt that Lord Jellicoe is right to recommend the renewal, the reshaping and, in some cases, the strengthening of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. I know from personal experience that the time given to interrogators by the Act has been useful in obtaining information. If any one seeks statistical backing for that point, it can be found in paragraphs 53 and 54 of the report.
The Act has been useful in obtaining information that has thwarted planned terrorist attacks. It has been useful in getting evidence. It has secured the conviction of terrorists who otherwise would have gone free to carry out further attacks on the security forces or the civilian community. Directly and indirectly the Act has saved lives.
It was argued by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that the Act has been used to harass the Irish community. He argued that Lord Jellicoe supported that argument. In his report, Lord Jellicoe does not support that argument. He says that it is thought by some people that it is used to harass the Irish community, but he gives no credence to that line of argument. I know, for one wholly incontrovertible reason, that the Act has not been used in that way. It is that when I was in the Northern Ireland Office I argued that a bit of harassment under the terms of the Act would in some cases be highly desirable, but my arguments were turned down and not implemented.
I think that all hon. Members who take any interest in Northern Ireland will know that our main operational problem is our inability to get to grips with a group of people who were described many years ago in a memorable phrase by my old friend and colleague, Airey Neave, as the "godfathers of terrorism". Large numbers of low-level operators, the boys and girls who plant bombs and pull the triggers of guns, are regularly arrested, convicted and given substantial prison sentences. However, we all know that it is very much more difficult to obtain firm, hard and usable evidence against the men who organise and plan terrorist attacks and then send others to commit them. We often know who they are, but the evidence that can be produced in court is not available.
I have argued, and I still argue, that it is both sensible and right that those godfathers should from time to time be called in for interrogation for up to seven days under the powers of the Act. That would be an appropriately direct and uncomfortable reminder to them that the community takes a continuing interest in their nefarious activities. In the course of interrogation we might obtain some valuable information and evidence.
However, as the noble Lord pointed out, there has been in this country a steady development over the years of international terrorism as a counterpoint to what might be called Irish terrorism. There have been real fears that London might become the chosen battleground for various Middle East factions. Our freedom and legal rights gave gunmen more freedom to operate here than in most Western capitals. A sort of Gresham's law operates in that international terrorism can move from one major city in the Western world to another, wherever the laws of the land are less onerous.
In recent years diplomats have often been the targets of international terrorist attacks. I knew our ambassador in Dublin who was murdered by the IRA in a car ambush. Almost every day I drive past the burnt-out shell of the Iranian Embassy, which had to be stormed by the skilful specialists of the SAS under the overall command of the Home Secretary.
Nine months ago I had lunch with my old friend, Mr. Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador. We spent some time discussing the problems of personal protection. He told me how much he had come to like and respect his personal bodyguards. The next day he was shot down and grievously wounded outside the Dorchester hotel.
Diplomats are not only occasional targets of terrorism, but on occasions they are the organisers of terrorism, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said in an intervention in the Home Secretary's speech. Some while ago the Jordanian ambassador was shot and seriously wounded about 400 yards from my home in Kensington. The gun that was used in that attack was brought into the country in the Libyans' diplomatic bag. At that time the Libyan ambassador was living some 40 yards from my home in Kensington, so I have some personal interest in the involvement of the diplomatic community in the organisation of terrorist attacks.
As the Home Secretary told us earlier, we do not know how the guns that were used in the attack on Ambassador Argov entered this country, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they were smuggled in through diplomatic channels. The organisation, funding, support and supply of terrorist groups in this country by people who can shelter under the protection of diplomatic immunity is a problem of some importance. Of course, it is not just a problem for us. It affects other Western countries as well. It is a difficult problem to solve. Diplomatic immunities cannot and should not be lightly set aside. It is a problem that we should discuss urgently with our allies.
I sympathise with much of what the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) said and the mood in which he said it.
I knew Ambassador Argov personally and suffered shock and emotion after the attack on him. However, does the hon. Gentleman think that the subject that the House is debating is of direct relevance? Does he think that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 is a means whereby diplomats and their associates can be protected against terrorist activity or prevented from indulging in, and organising, terrorist activity, which I accept has been the case?
Would it be far better, in the cases to which the hon. Gentleman referred, if strong action were taken by the Government to order such diplomats and, if need be, ambassadors out of the country?
In answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question, the report by Lord Jellicoe is of direct relevance. The Act gives the police, the special branch and our security forces the power to hold and interrogate people who are not members of the diplomatic corps for longer than they could before. That may lead directly to the provision of information that can stop attacks. I agree that the report does not suggest ways in which one can deter those who have the shield of diplomatic immunity from using that shield to indulge in terrorist or criminal activities.
I suggest that a further study is necessary on this subject. I hope that the Home Office, in conjuction with our allies, will undertake that work. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that sanctions against the heads of missions would be the most effective deterrent.
I support Lord Jellicoe's proposal in paragraph 77:
I recommend, therefore, that the power of arrest in section 12(1)(b) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be available for use against suspected international terrorists of any group, cause or nationality, but that it should not be so available in respect of domestic terrorism unconnected with Northern Ireland".
I am in complete agreement with the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who said that he found it difficult to understand why the provisions of the Act should not apply to all forms of terrorism. I am amazed that anyone as sensible and knowledgeable as the noble Lord should try to draw some form of academic distinction between international terrorism and domestic terrorism. It is not a sensible division. Most terrorist organisations contain a mixture of people who are motivated by different emotions and impulses.
The IRA is the terrorist organisation about which I know most. It has within it what one might call a leprechaun faction—a group of men and women who are primarily motivated by the desire to see Ireland return to some form of mystic rural life, surrounded by Celtic mists and isolated, as far as possible, from all contact with the 20th century.
Within the IRA, there is also a Mafia faction that is making money out of extortion, robbery and various forms of protection rackets. That group wishes to ensure the continuance of a low level of violence for the indefinite future because it is in its financial interests to do so.
There is an international strand within the IRA whose members are in contact with, and draw support from, terrorist groups on the Continent and in parts of the Middle East ranging from Libya to South Yemen. Where does one strand end and another begin? It is not a worthwhile exercise to make such a division.
I hope that the Home Secretary will implement Lord Jellicoe's recommendations and will follow the advice of the right hon. Member for Hillhead and not draw a false and meaningless distinction between international and domestic terrorism. The report is valuable in reminding hon. Members of the anomalies and absurdities that arise because Britain shares a common travel area with the Republic, and citizens of the Irish Republic are exempt from formal control.
Paragraphs 130 to 138 of the report describe the controls of the common travel area in practice. They might well have been written by that great master, S. J. Perelman. The noble Lord lists some of the anomalies. Travel forms are filled in at Heathrow but not at Gatwick. Perhaps it is the other way round. It does not matter very much. The fact is that every port and airport seems to follow its own custom and there is no common practice. However, even if the most thorough scrutiny became common practice at every point of entry from the Republic, the system of control would still be wholly inadequate.
Lord Jellicoe, wihin his terms of reference, made some sensible suggestions for dealing with the problem of the common travel area, but it is clear that his terms of reference were not wide enough. Hon. Members should take this problem seriously. If the common travel area had not existed, we would not for one moment consider introducing it today. While implementing Lord Jellicoe's suggestions as an interim measure, we should consider whether further, more fundamental changes in the system are needed.
The report is valuable, but it is obviously not the last word on a number of important issues. However, it is incomprehensible that the official Opposition, who hope to take over the government of this country within 12 months, should propose to reject the report and the associated order.
My hon. Friends in the Ulster Unionist party and I were glad that the Government decided last year to set up the Jellicoe inquiry. We welcomed it and thought that it was, if anything, overdue.
I assure hon. Members, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) in his absence, that the House does not need to wait for the contribution of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) to listen to a representative of a Northern Ireland constituency who feels the same obligations towards all his constituents, desires to see the rights of the citizens of Northern Ireland no different from those enjoyed by their fellow citizens on the mainland and shares, as we all ought, a feeling of uneasiness about the ratio between imprisonment and conviction to which attention has already been drawn, and about which I was not reassured by the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart).
My hon. Friends and I welcome the report almost in its entirety and support the Home Secretary's intention, if I have understood it correctly, to implement it virtually as it stands—I shall mention one or two qualifications—administratively as soon as possible and by legislation when time for that can be found.
In particular, my hon. Friends and I wish such legislation to be United Kingdom legislation. That is one criticism of what is almost an aside in the Jellicoe report. We not only do not wish provisions to be different on the two sides of the Irish sea, but we do not want the powers that apply in Northern Ireland to be tucked away in separate legislation for Northern Ireland.
One of the virtues of the Act, however regrettable its necessity, is that it is a United Kingdom Act, passed and considered in detail by this House and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. We hope that that will remain so for as long as such legislation is necessary.
We support particularly the proposal that the legislation, while having the misleading title of "Temporary" dropped from its heading, should be reenacted every five years. I thought that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was not accurate when he referred to that as "total re-enactment". It will be one thing for a Government of any party to introduce a Bill that happens to coincide with the existing Act, but I suspect that it will be a different Bill in a number of respects by the time it receives Royal Assent. Unlike an order, a Bill has to go through a gruelling procedure in Committee, when every aspect and every line can be tested for practicability and for evidence that it is required. So it seems good to us that we have the undertaking not only that we shall get a new Act as soon as legislatively practicable, but that if there is still to be a successor Act to that it will be a brand new Act that will have to go through all its stages in the House.
My hon. Friends and I also welcome the substitution of a shorter period of residence for the 20-year definition—if I may so call it—of settlement. Twenty years is a draconically long period of qualification for the exercise of powers of exile from one part of the United Kingdom to another. Such a division of the United Kingdom is an object of antipathy to my hon. Friends and myself and to the public in Northern Ireland in any case; but the fact that to be identified with a part of the United Kingdom, so as not compulsorily to be removed from it, one should have had to complete 20 years of residence there has always seemed excessive. Whether or not three years is the right: figure, I hope that the Bill that we are to see—for this matter will require legislation—will include a period much shorter than 20 years.
My colleagues and I especially welcome something that can be done without legislation and I hope will be done executively immediately, namely, the implementation of the firm recommendation in paragraph 189 that no exclusion orders be made except after consultation with the police both in the receiving and in the exporting part of the United Kingdom. If that recommendation is to be fulfilled in its natural meaning—if the RUC is to be brought into consultation on equal terms in the case of exclusion orders to Northern Ireland—that will riot indeed remove the abiding feeling in Northern Ireland that the Act makes Ulster a receptacle or waste bin for unwanted potential terrorists from Great Britain, but it will at least be some answer to be given to those who hold that view and will go some way towards assuaging their irritation.
If I refer only to some recommendations, I do not intend to imply an absence of agreement with others; but there are one or two on which my hon. Friends and I have certain qualifications. One has been mentioned already by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) and the hon. Member for 13eckenham. It is that if we are to detach the Act from specifically Irish terrorism, from terrorism related to circumstances in Northern Ireland, we should make a clean job and relate it to terrorism as such.
As the hon. Member for Beckenham said, the attempt to distinguish between international and domestic terrorism is particularly absurd, when what we call Northern Irish terrorism is, to a considerable extent, based and supported outside the United Kingdom. The distinction is unreal in any case. We should much regret it if we were to find, as we may one day, an upsurge in this country of terrorism unconnected with Northern Ireland, and had no means of applying the Act to that upsurge. This is not romancing. Within the past decade right hon. and hon. Members have had their lives endangered by terrorist acts, for which the motivation had nothing to do with circumstances either in Northern Ireland or outside the United Kingdom. I hope that is one point on which the Home Secretary and the Government are open to persuasion.
Lord Jellicoe suggests that landing and embarkation procedures should be applied to all journeys between the island of Ireland and the island of Great Britain That is entirely logical. Such a provision would remove much irritation and ill feeling and the sense of unreality on the part of travellers who find that apparently no precautions are taken on one route while only too evident on some other route. It is right that the reality should be recognised and that any procedures should be applied uniformly to journeys between the island of Ireland and the island of Great Britain.
Lord Jellicoe refers to the completion of landing and embarkation cards, and a word of practical warning might not go amiss in that context. It is easy for those used to whiling away their time on international flights by filling in landing cards to suggest that we should have embarkation and landing cards on all these journeys, both ways, at all terminals. It works at Gatwick because, unfortunately for British Midland Airways, the volume of traffic through Gatwick is small compared with the volume of traffic through Heathrow. But before the Government implement the principle—which we accept—that lies behind this recommendation, I hope they will consider the practicalities of applying embarkation cards, and consequently the requirement to hand one's embarkation card in and have it scrutinised before boarding, to the volume of traffic which travels to and from Northern Ireland by the shuttle services from Aldergrove and Heathrow.
I have a last observation to add to the general support of my hon. Friends and myself for the real improvements, the real ameliorations, which implementation of the report will bring about. In paragraph 21 of the report Lord Jellicoe refers to the fact that compared with the first half of the 1970s the volume of terrorist action connected with Northern Ireland has been markedly reduced since then. None of us certainly would query his attribution of that result in part to the efforts, and the increased effectiveness of the efforts, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and of the security forces in Northern Ireland; but it would be wrong for an hon. Member representing Northern Ireland to take part in this debate without pointing to another and much more fundamental factor which governs the volume and the ebb and flow of that terrorism.
In those early years of the 1970s it was very natural—perhaps it was inevitable—for the terrorist organisations and for those who wished ill to the connection of Northern Ireland with Great Britain to assume from the policies being followed by Her Majesty's Government that Her Majesty's Government were, if not on their side in the matter of methods, at any rate working towards the same end. There is no encouragement to terrorism, and there is such discouragement to the law-abiding who are the front-line against terrorism, so great as the belief that the terrorists have success in their sights, the belief that those opposing them are not really as serious in their opposition to their aims as to their methods. In fact, the best period in Northern Ireland—not an "acceptable" period, perish the word—has been the years 1977 to 1979, when, under the administration of the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), no evidence whatsoever was given by Her Majesty's Government of the day of any anxiety to make arrangements that could be even be misinterpreted as leading towards the objectives of the IRA and its terrorist activities.
Only when no practical prospect is perceived by Irish terrorism that, by its means or by any other, its objectives will be obtained shall we see the cessation, which has to come some day, of acts such as were the reason originally for the right hon. Member for Hillhead introducing this legislation in 1974.
So, while we implement, as I hope we shall, the Jellicoe report and while we recognise, with varying degrees of reluctance, the case pressed upon the Government for the retention of these powers, we should not be under any delusion that, in the last resort, it is in this House, through the legislation and the policies that it supports, that the key to the continuance or the defeat of terrorism lies.
I should like to support the line taken by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary this afternoon and to express my amazement, which has already been foreshadowed by the amazement of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), at the attitude of the Labour party on this occasion. It is extraordinary that we should suddenly have the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) saying that this is the time to do away with all these things.
It has, after all, been a bad year for terrorism—or a good year for terrorism—yet here we have the official Opposition suggesting that this is the time to get rid of the Act. That strikes one as surprising. Having studied the preamble to the Act, I can only think that they want to remove from the Act the words "proscribed organisations" and the provision which deals with displays of public support for proscribed organisations. That may be a trivial interpretation of their attitude but their attitude is, in itself, trivial. I hope that the Opposition will explain what they are about when they come to reply.
My right hon. and hon. Friends who have already spoken, and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), have drawn the attention of the House to the problem, not only of Northern Ireland's terrorism, but to terrorism in general and to international terrorism, which, unfortunately, is growing. We have had not only the attack on the Pope in Rome, which may be interpreted as coming from forces hostile to the West—the trial is going on now—but other activities, of which we have not yet seen the full development, with new techniques and new weapons of terrorism. Without being alarmist, there is always the danger of attacks on aircraft with the new land-to-air missiles. Such dangers could grow and become the positive weapons of forces opposed to Britain's interests and way of life. Therefore, to say, as the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook has said, that the Act is iniquitous and has had no effect is entirely contrary both to the predictions of what could happen and to Lord Jellicoe's report, which shows that the powers have been of positive use in the prevention of terrorism in this country. I hope, therefore, that Conservative Members and a large number of Members on the Opposition Benches will support the Government's motion.
It appears to me surprisingly obvious that these methods and powers have been effective. Of course, it cannot be proved. Nothing can be proven in the area of prevention. The more effective prevention is, the less it can be shown to have been prevention. Some will say that it has happened by fluke or by chance. So all one can do, therefore, is to apply one's mind to these methods and to deduce from the evidence that they have been of use. This can be supported to some extent by the evidence given by the forces of law and order in this country.
I am sure that one or two improvements can be made to the effect of the Act. Lord Jellicoe suggests the availability of legal assistance after 48 hours. That is a good point. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already made the point that the full use of these powers will be made only on his fiat, and not on the fiat of a junior Minister. Those are rather useful ameliorations to the harshness of the Act which contravenes, as it is bound to contravene to some extent, civil liberties. Where these contraventions can be reduced to a minimum, I am sure the proposals put forward by Lord Jellicoe will be welcome.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has said, the continuation of the Act is, in effect, a bridging measure before fresh legislation is introduced. It will take time to introduce new legislation and I hope that various issues will be considered during its preparation. I agree with the right hon. Member for Hillhead that the provisions on proscribed organisations should be dropped. They fulfil no specific purpose. The proscribed organisations are protean. For example, the PLO has 20 or 30 different variations. There are also variations within the Irish Republican Army. I do not know whether this will give any satisfaction to the Labour party, but I believe that we could drop the provisions relating to proscribed organisations and public support for such organisations.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South that new legislation should be in the form of a United Kingdom Act that applies equally to all parts of the United Kingdom. It should apply not only to Irish terrorism or Scottish terrorism but to terrorism per se, whether it be terrorism committed by an individual within this country, terrorism committed by someone who has come from outside or terrorism committed by a resident of Northern Ireland. The target today and the target tomorrow must be terrorism per se, from whatever source it may come. I hope that that will be the object of the measure that appears before a new House of Commons after the general election.
At this stage it is only wise to reject the Opposition's proposal—it is the first time that they have ever submitted it—and support the report and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
The best way of fighting terrorism and anything associated with it is by open justice and not by secret activity on the part of the state. Having reached this stage with the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976, there has been a victory for political terrorism, and not for democracy. In effect, we have given way to terrorism. The Act is the very form of legislation that political terrorists in Britain or in any other country or society wish to see a democratic state give way to introducing. It is their way of subverting a state that is otherwise democratic. It is their way of justifying much of their terrorist style of politics. I hope that it will be accepted that these are not facile words. They point to a fundamental issue which is far too little attended to in the modern world.
We are walking into the arms of political terrorism. We are walking into the arms of insensitive politicos. We are walking into the arms of those who reject the values that we should be enhancing. To argue the principles that underline the present approach is not to reject the fact that societies, states and Governments have from time to time to give way to actions on their part that are not normally acceptable. They give way to them because of the situation that is created by terrorism. If Parliament adopts the sort of legislation that we shall be asked to renew, there is no excuse for perpetuating it year after year as we have been doing for nigh on a decade.
I regret that the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) is no longer in his place—he has his business to attend to, as we all have. When he introduced the original measure he did not do so, as I said in an intervention, in the mood and the spirit in which he spoke earlier. He stressed this afternoon that it might not be temporary legislation and that it might continue for a considerable period. If it had not been for a certain exchange that took place, one would have assumed that that was the spirit in which the legislation was introduced.
I have a clear memory of the mood and spirit that prevailed when the legislation was introduced, and of the style in which it was introduced. There were many within the Labour Government, as I was, outside the Government but in the House and elsewhere who were deeply concerned about the introduction of the legislation. We recognised with what I suppose could be described as hindsight that it was panic legislation. We understood the spirit and the mood in which it was introduced and we raised our voices inside the Government as well as outside, in the House and outside in the country.
It is not for me to go to the record of what transpired inside the Government, although it has become a popular pastime with some ex-Ministers from both sides of the. House over the years. I do not consider that it is for me to go into details of what transpired inside the Government, but when matters of this sort are raised in one Department anxiety and concern are often felt by Ministers who are not directly involved because they are not members of the Cabinet or because they are serving in other Departments.
I never kept a diary when I was in government and so there are no records to which I can refer. However, I was one of a number of Ministers of middle and junior rank who raised questions within the Government through the channels that were open to us, limited as they may have been. I expressed my concern about the legislation, through the appropriate channels. The right hon. Member for Hillhead was Home Secretary at the time and it was his view that such legislation had to be introduced. He said that it was a temporary measure to deal with an emergency and that if need be any subsequent issues could be dealt with at parliamentary level.
The Bill was enacted as a temporary measure. It was thought that it had to be done in the circumstances of the time. It was said that if there were a lack of evidence that the Act was working or was necessary we would reestablish our principles on the introduction of such legislation as rapidly as possible. Like many others, I sat in on the debates that took place during the Bill's rushed introduction. The debates continued well into the night. It is wrong to suggest that the then Home Secretary and his Government colleagues took the line that we heard earlier from the right hon. Member for Hillhead. We were reluctant and anxious about civil liberties. I invite hon. Members to read Hansard; the record is there. It is right that we should challenge the constant renewal of the legislation more strongly as the years go by.
I understand the way in which the right hon. Gentleman is proceeding, but will he explain why he wishes to challenge renewal when Lord Jellicoe suggests that the Act should be made permanent and I have promised that that is the Government's intention?
As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I could not pursue my deeply held views when in government. One is subject to collective responsibility. I have consistently—not for the first time this year—been speaking and voting against renewal of the legislation. The records will show that and the fact that I held the same views when I participated in the previous debate. On that occasion I made it clear that I was not satisfied with a review.
I refer to the part of paragraph 9 of Lord Jellicoe's report which is in heavy print:
such legislation should remain in force only while it continues to be effective, only if its aims cannot be achieved by use of the general law, if it does not make unacceptable inroads on civil liberties, and if effective safeguards are provided to minimise the possibility of abuse.
Given that it is recommended that the legislation be continued in one form or another, Lord Jellicoe has put forward a number of recommendations which seek in large part to meet the last point in that heavy-type part of the paragraph—the desire to introduce effective safeguards to minimise the possibility of abuse, given the existence of the legislation.
I am interested in the principle that Lord Jellicoe sets out in the earlier part of the sentence, that
such legislation should remain in force only while it continues to be effective, only if its aims cannot be achieved by use of the general law, if it does not make unacceptable inroads on civil liberties".
I choose my words carefully. It is my distinct impression that Lord Jellicoe—for all the merit of the report; and there is a large part that is meritorious—came to an early conclusion that legislation should continue broadly on its present basis, subject to the changes that he believed should be introduced. Both from reading the report and from being one of the witnesses—if that is the correct term—who consulted him, submitted a paper and discussed the matter with him, as did many other people from various quarters, politically and otherwise, I do not believe that the case is made out for the continuation of this legislation
I recognise the difficulties that are referred to constantly in the House and elsewhere and the fact that one cannot prove the effectiveness of the legislation. That point will be made constantly, and I must reverse the argument. When one introduces such legislation a time must come, sooner rather than later, and that, unfortunately, is now, when the Executive, or those seeking to act on the Executive's behalf—Lord Jellicoe—must bear the onus of proof. When legislation makes inroads which we are all reluctant to accept and dislike into civil liberties, it is for those who wish to perpetuate the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 to show a positive need for the legislation, no matter how difficult that may be.
I have read this report carefully twice, and I do not believe that the onus of proving that there is a clear need for the legislation to continue has been accepted. Such information as we have points in the other direction. We have been over this ground before. The statistics were given in previous debates and have been quoted in the press, I do not intend to quote them again, although other hon. Members may well do so. Some have already been quoted during the debate. The statistics, which form the only hard evidence, suggest that the Act is not necessary, and therefore it seems that the Home Secretary, Lord Jellicoe and the House are depending on the views of the police authorities on the need for the legislation and are expected to accept those views at their face value.
The figures relating to Northern Ireland are given in paragraphs 53 and 54 of the report when Lord Jellicoe says:
Thus, about 40 per cent of all arrests under the Act in Northern Ireland resulted in charge, and about 45 per cent of persons held for more than 48 hours were finally charged.
One can either give anecdotal evidence about particular cases, which I think it would be wrong to do on the Floor of the House, or one can refer to statistics. It is plain to anyone who has had operational experience and responsibility in Northern Ireland that the fact that 45 per cent. of those who are held for more than 48 hours are charged shows that the Act works.
Must we spend the rest of our time bandying figures around? I can quote figures from the same report and other documents issued by the Home Secretary which show that the majority of people affected by the Act are not charged in the courts. They are shown to be innocent and are released. That is the fundamental issue.
Exclusion orders have been discussed by other hon. Members. I accept that Lord Jellicoe is doing his best to ameliorate the position, but no one has challenged whether exclusion orders are right, except my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) who did so to some extent. There was a fraction of a move in that direction by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) when he spoke about Northern Ireland being used as a receptacle for people prone to criminal or terrorist activities or associated with them. That is one element of the problem. I consider it to be fundamentally wrong that—if I may put it this way without being provocative—while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, citizens living in one part of the country should be removed to another part of the country—Northern Ireland—without the authority of the courts, but by the authority of a Minister.
We do not see the process in reverse—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or vice versa."] I do not wish to discuss the detail; I am concerned with the principle. The onus is on the Excutive—those who argue that this should be maintained in law—to show without peradventure the need for it. They must show this House, the guardian of civil liberties, that it is essential to have this legislation.
I do not think that it was essential to have the legislation before 1974—the terrorism had been going on since 1969—and I have seen no evidence in the report to conclude that to combat terrorism we must have a power to remove a citizen from one part of the United Kingdom to another, not by court order, but by the authority of a Minister.
For those reasons, I object to the legislation, and not for the first time. Even if this were the first occasion on which we went into the Lobby against the legislation, it would be no argument to say "Why did you not do so last year or the year before?" On that basis, there would have been no point in introducing it as temporary legislation. We are expected to use our judgment, and at some point, as Members of this House, we are entitled to conclude that it is wrong to continue the legislation.
It is not good enough to argue that this is the wrong year in which to repeal the legislation simply because in the last 12 months there have been particularly serious and obscene outrages in Northern Ireland and parts of Great Britain. That leads me to conclude on the very note on which I began. If we conduct our affairs on that basis, we are giving victory to the terrorists, because that is exactly what they want.
I shall vote against the legislation. I did so last year. I hope that shortly good sense will prevail so that we can see an end to this legislation, completely and generally.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary expressed his gratitude and that of the House for the report and spoke of the distinction of Lord Jellicoe. I echo those sentiments, as I have the pleasure of serving with Lord Jellicoe in a different capacity on the Medical Research Council. The report is nothing other than what I would expect from him, having learnt to appreciate his work in that area.
Lord Jellicoe's terms of reference began:
Accepting the continuing need for legislation against terrorism".
In other words, there was a presumption that he would find that there was a continuing need. Those terms of reference were exactly the same as those given by the Labour Government to Lord Shackleton in 1978. It is worth pointing out that the then Labour Government at least accepted implicitly that there was a continuing need for legislation against terrorism.
Lord Jellicoe was also asked to look at
the effectiveness of the legislation and its effect on"—
As has already been said, it is important that both aspects should be examined. There must be a balance. Although I did not agree with much of what the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) said, I do agree that individual liberties are important. They are entrusted to this House, and it is up to us to ensure that they are safeguarded.
It is in that spirit that I welcome the limitation of powers. They cannot extend beyond five years, after which there will be a need for new legislation. I am among those hon. Members who entered the House since Lord Shackleton completed his review, and I have been struck by the fact that each year the debate required under the Act has to some extent been perfunctory. There has been an assumption that the legislation was necessary. The Government, rightly in my view, have stood behind that assumption, and it has been difficult to question the movements in opinion and fact that have taken place in the previous year.
I do not find that a great bother, because I support the legislation. Nevertheless, as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, it is appropriate that there should be new legislation every five years, because that would require a detailed, line-by-line examination in Committee. That would almost certainly highlight changes that would be beneficial to the working of the legislation. It is particularly important that that safeguard has been highlighted by Lord Jellicoe.
I also welcome four of the other safeguards—the exclusion orders to expire automatically after three years; persons to be given seven days to lodge objections and also to be given the right of a personal interview with the Secretary of State's adviser; the absolute right of access to a solicitor after 48 hours; and more explicit guidance to the police. The last point is especially important in the context of Northern Ireland where some sections of the community still view the RUC with suspicion. I believe that suspicion to be unwarranted, but I recognise that it exists. Therefore, more explicit guidance to the RUC might help to counteract it.
That is also welcome because the police in Great Britain, perhaps because they are not as closely involved with terrorist activity as the RUC, may need such guidance to help counteract a lack of sensitivity in certain cases.
Those four safeguards are welcome because they protect the individual. Within the framework of the need for this legislation, which I do not question, it is important that the rights and freedoms of the individual should be safeguarded, because at the end of the day we are talking about locking people up, excluding them or interfering with their fundamental liberty. We must take care to safeguard them.
In paragraph 1 of his report, Lord Jellicoe states
that if special legislation effectively reduces terrorism"—
and he believes that it does—
it should be continued as long as a substantial terrorist threat remains.
I agree. He also states in paragraph 65
that if the power of extended detention were abolished, the police both in Northern Ireland and on the mainland would be seriously handicapped".
I also agree with that.
I welcome my right hon. Friend's intention to introduce a Bill, because, like others, I dislike and find distasteful the distinction that presently exists between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We are all United Kingdom citizens and we should all be treated in that capacity. I have never liked that distinction. I find it objectionable in principle that people should be required to be moved from one part of the United Kingdom to another. Therefore, I agree with what the right hon. Member for Down, South said about Northern Ireland being the dustbin of unwanted terrorists from Great Britain. As someone who, by accident of birth, spent the first 23 years of his life in Northern Ireland I know that, accurately reflects the view of many people in the Province, and I understand why.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that when he comes to frame his legislation he should not think in terms of exclusion orders but rather in terms of preventing people moving in the first place. For example, if one were to travel from Belfast to Liverpool, one would be scrutinised when one arrived at Liverpool. If one were to be found subject to the Act, one might be detained and ultimately returned from Liverpool to Belfast. Should not that scrutiny take place before the journey commences rather than after the journey is completed? There would then not be the case of having to ship people back from one part of the United Kingdom to another. Our position would be more defensible if we caused these people to be detained at their point of origin.
The mechanism is no different one way or the other. Scrutiny would still take place, and I have said that I do not object to that. However, I should like my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to explain why it would not be possible for that scrutiny to take place before the journey commenced rather than at the end.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that a great deal of resentment at the moment about the legislation arises from the fact that when people land at places such as Liverpool the scrutiny that takes place may make it difficult for them to catch connections to go on to other parts of the United Kingdom? The problem with the hon. Gentleman's proposal is that, if the scrutiny takes place before the planes leave or the ships sail, inevitably some people will miss their planes or boats, often by only a few minutes, and they will feel bitterly resentful.
I accept that in the real world there are always difficulties with any proposal. I am addressing myself to the fundamental issue of whether it is more acceptable in principle to send people back to exclude them rather than to prevent them from leaving in the first place. If this were done, it would be possible to investigate and scrutinise people coming into the United Kingdom from elsewhere. Scrutiny on arrival could then take place for the external terrorist threat, but scrutiny within the United Kingdom would take place at the start of the journey rather than at the end.
Such people would still be prevented from remaining. I was careful to say that if people were coming from outside the united kingdom they would have to be scrutinised when they arrived and if they were found to be unacceptable they would be excluded to a foreign country. Exclusion within the confines of the United Kingdom is the problem, and the unacceptable aspect of the legislation, not the exclusion itself.
This change would have a beneficial effect. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister will remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and I went to the United States some time ago to talk about the Government's case and the Government's policy, and to try to help the Americans to understand what is happening in Northern Ireland. One of the things that was impressed on us, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest will agree, was that this Act has pinpointed, in the minds of foreigners, the distinction in British law between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and is seen as a demonstration of the disunity of the kingdom rather than of the unity.
If such a move were made in the Bill that my right hon. Friend proposes, it would help us in portraying our case both in the United States and in Europe, because it would remove this anomaly in British law which appears to suggest that although we claim to be a United Kingdom, we are not, in fact and in legislation, united.
The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) said that the only differences that had occurred between last year's debate and this year's debate were a particularly bad record of killing in the past 12 months and the Jellicoe report. He omitted a third factor. The other change is that in the past few weeks the leader of the Greater London council has been to Northern Ireland. We are seeing, in the attitude of the Labour party tonight—an attitude that I, like others, find particularly strange coming from the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook—the effect of Mr. Livingstone and his colleagues.
I listened carefully and with interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Brent, East. He did not mention Mr. Livingstone or his excursion to Northern Ireland, and we all understand why. The influences that are increasingly dominating the Labour party are making themselves felt in the debate today, and will continue to do so. I hope that the House will not be deflected from agreeing yet again with Lord Jellicoe that the Act should be continued, but that it should be replaced with new legislation, not only for the individual liberties of the people drawn under its scope but, equally, for the individual liberties of the mass of the people of this country who have the right to live free from terrorism.
On each occasion when we discuss the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and of the Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions Act as they apply in Northern Ireland, I am ever conscious that outside the House there are bereaved relatives of the victims of the atrocities of the IRA and other paramilitary organisations. I am ever conscious of the people whom I know who have been maimed and who will never again lead a normal life. It would be understandable if such people fully supported the retention of this legislation on the statute book. They could be forgiven, if they listened to me and to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), for mistakenly having the impression that there is some sneaking sympathy for the terrorists held by me or anybody else who opposes this legislation.
With regard to my opposition to terrorists and terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland, I hope that no one living in these islands would, for a single second, believe that I could have a moment's sympathy with the actions of those violent men, which have brought such tragedy to Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, and into the lives of so many people.
I was rather surprised to hear from the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who first introduced this legislation, and again from speakers from the Government Benches, the idea that in some way the Labour party is to be condemned for opposing this legislation in this year, with particular reference to the tragedies of Hyde park and Regent's park last year. There are no votes for any politician who opposes the Act. No one who opposes the Act can be charged with seeking the support of what might be regarded as an Irish vote in the United Kingdom, particularly in London. Whatever the sympathies of the Irish vote in the United Kingdom, these are far outweighed by the repugnance and revulsion felt by the overwhelming majority of people of the United Kingdom. I cannot therefore see that there is anything to be gained by my right hon. Friend or anyone else opposing the legislation in the Lobby this evening. Indeed, many of my hon. Friends, who will be opposing the Government, may have everything to lose by taking a principled stand against retention of the legislation.
I oppose the legislation because I believe that it does not do what it is intended to do. I believe that it creates frustration, anger and resentment within a vast section of people, not all of them Irish. There are many British people with libertarian views who oppose the legislation. That is not because they have any sympathy for terrorists but because they see the Act as an infringement of law and liberties that have existed since the United Kingdom came into being. I can speak with some authority. I was born in Belfast in 1926 when there was emergency provisions legislation on the statute book to deal with specific terrorism and the opposition then being shown to the creation of Northern Ireland. Every year, until 1929, that legislation was renewed. What happened then is what is happening now. It was decided that the legislation should no longer be called emergency legislation or temporary provisions. It was from that time to become part of the everyday legislation of Northern Ireland. The legislation existed until it was replaced by the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973. In tandem with that Act is the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974.
Can it be argued that the existence of these Acts has done away with terrorism either in Northern Ireland or here? There are perhaps some people prepared to accept that Irish terrorism is something that we have to learn to live with, that it has always existed and that it always will. I believe that, while the partition of Ireland remains, no Act of Parliament, no British Army, no Royal Ulster Constabulary and no other security force can effectively kill terrorism. That is a fact of life. It will not go away.
I do not agree with the terrorism. I do not agree with the acts that have taken place in the name of Irish nationalism or Irish patriotism. Only this morning I read in the newspaper that the IRA in my city of Belfast has degenerated to the knee-capping of a young girl of 16 who had run foul of the terrorists. My opposition to the Act does not mean that I support for a single second what happened yesterday or any of the other acts that have taken place.
There have been numerous debates since the Act was rushed through Parliament in 1974. There were times when I have felt very lonely in the "No" Lobby among only five, 10, 15 or 20 hon. Members. We were regarded as a type of freak because we opposed the legislation. I have given my reasons. I have lived under oppressive legislation since I was born. However, the number opposed to the legislation has gradually swollen. I have been delighted to find that not all those who joined us were Labour Members. I hope that today a far greater number of hon. Members from various parties will express their opposition to the Act.
Every year, when the 1974 Act has come before the House for renewal, there have been objections. Minor changes to the Act were suggested by Lord Shackleton. Next year, or the year after that, I suppose, if the Act is supported tonight, someone will be suggesting the removal of a particular section or paragraph to make the Act more acceptable. Every year that the Act lasts, people will be saying that this or that part is unfair. It will be argued that Lord Shackleton was not criticising the Act. His findings were, however, tantamount to criticism. I should like to refer to some of the paragraphs of the review to show how the Act has worked to the disadvantage of innocent people. Paragraph 32 of Lord Jellicoe's review refers to Lord
Shackleton's recommendation that financial assistance should be given to the families of people excluded under the legislation. The review states:
After substantial consideration, the government rejected this recommendation, as also the related proposal that financial assistance might be provided to cover the removal expenses of the family of excluded persons: it was argued that there were other, higher priorities than this for new government expenditure
The Government were not saying whether it was right or wrong. I know of families where people lived here for 20 years but were split, half in Northern Ireland arid half here. The Government were saying that, even where there was a possibility that great financial hardship might be caused, they did not take into consideration the injustice done to the family when there was no evidence to bring the matter before the court. Their priority was not to pay removal expenses or financial assistance to those who were excluded.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook was right to refer to paragraph 55 which states:
There can be no clear proof that the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are, or are not, an essential weapon in the fight against terrorism.
That wording is important. It is an admission that there is no proof that the Act is having the effect that it was designed to have.
I come to paragraph 67. It begins:
It would be wrong to suggest that abuses of the power have never occurred".
In other words, there were abuses of the fundamental right of innocent people.
Paragraph 68 says, in heavy type:
I recommend, therefore, that the police throughout the United Kingdom should be reminded by the appropriate Secretary of State that the power of arrest under section 12 should be exercised only where the use of no other power is appropriate".
Why was it necessary to wait until now for that recommendation? The Act has been in existence for nearly 10 years. The recommendation was thought necessary because it had been abused. This puts me in mind of the Bennett report and the debate that we had on that occasion. Many recommendations were made to prevent alleged suspects from being beaten up by the police. It recommended the use of television cameras and said that officers should be there to supervise the interrogations. Those who supported Bennett said "It does not mean that abuses did take place", but, in my opinion, the whole world accepted that there had been abuse of that Act.
Surely that is what Bennett himself said. He said that nothing was proved. He recommended the adoption of his proposals so that suspicion should be removed. That was all.
After the Bennett report there were fewer arrests under the emergency powers legislation and more under the prevention of terrorism legislation to get round the Bennett recommendations.
I quite agree.
Paragraph 71 says:
I further recommend that the Secretary of State should grant an extension of detention for a full five days only when he is satisfied".
Then I come to an important quotation in paragraph 72:
I recommend that ministers in the relevant departments should take an active part in ascertaining how far the specific purposes for which an extension was granted have been achieved",
and so on. Then paragraph 73 says, in heavy type:
I recommend that where circumstances permit, all applications should be seen and approved by the appropriate Secretary of State personally, and not by a junior minister alone".
Then, in lighter print, which one is supposed to pass over:
As I said in Chapter 3, this is the practice in the Scottish Office and Northern Ireland Office, but not at present, as I was somewhat surprised to learn, in the Home Office.
We have been told repeatedly in these debates by a succession of Secretaries of State at the Dispatch Box "There can be no abuse of the powers, because I am the man who will ensure that there is no abuse of these powers." The first investigator did not say that, nor did the second, so perhaps this fellow is more acute than they were in trying to find out what is wrong. I repeat his words:
but not at present, as I was somewhat surprised to learn, in the Home Office.
The Secretary of State may not be available. He may have other things on his mind. Indeed, he may not be in the country. It may be left to his Minister of State, and there is no guarantee that he will see it. So one is left with a Civil Service decision, supporting the police decision to make the arrest and detention in the first place. That has all the trappings of a police state. That is how police states begin. They begin with minor incursions on the body politic, and they grow and grow and grow.
The shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and I have said repeatedly that there is a racist tinge about this legislation. It is directed at the Irish people. The Irish people are no fools. There are Irish people living in this country who are caught by this legislation—people who have no time for terrorism and who have given it no support, people who have lived here for years and who perhaps still speak with an Irish brogue. That is enough to have them detained at an airport or seaport. Incidentally, the brogue does not need to be of the Irish Republic. Some people think that I speak with a Belfast brogue. I repeat that there are racist tinges in the legislation, particularly when a Conservative Governmemt are in power, because it was Conservative Members who set up the hullabaloo about the Irish people having votes in this country. They suspect that all Irish people in this country vote for the Opposition. There may be a few who are mad enough to vote for the Conservatives, but I forgive them that eccentricity. The Irish feel that the Conservative Government who are implementing this legislation have a natural bias.
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) talked about exclusion orders. Danny Morrison and Gerry Adams were excluded by the Home Secretary. They were kept in one part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland. I made urgent representation to the Home Secretary, as he will know, not to put an exclusion order on them, because it was having the same effect as this legislation. It was a bonus for the terrorists, Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, the people who fight with an Armalite in one hand and a ballot paper in the other. They were the victors in the controversy. They were kept out of this part of the United Kingdom. They told us time and again that they were innocent and that all they wanted to do was to put their case to the people of Britain. There is a seat here somewhere that could be filled by a Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and Tyrone (Mr. Canon). If he wanted to put the case here for Sinn Fein, he could do so. He is not excluded from this country. Indeed, he has visited many of our universities. In my opinion, the Home Secretary took the wrong decision. By using exclusion orders in this way, he provides the IRA and the Sinn Fein with opportunities for propaganda.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will set aside for a moment the question whether the exclusion order should have been made. If an exclusion order had to be made, and assuming that it had to be made, is it not better for it to be made before the journey starts, so that people remain in the part of the United Kingdom that is their home, rather than be forcibly removed from a different part of the United Kingdom, back whence they came?
There is no "Yes" or "No" answer to that question. Every case has to be treated on its merits. It could be a person getting a plane at Heathrow to go to Canada. After all, exclusion orders work against Orangemen as well, and there are many Orangemen who go to Toronto for the Twelfth of July. So one of the hon. Gentleman's friends might be caught. Perhaps if the person was found to be an Orangeman and not to live in Andersonstown, the exclusion order might not have been put on in the first place. My experience of exclusion orders and the detentions that take place is that one only has to live in a certain district of Belfast to be very apprehensive when getting off the boat at Stranraer to watch Glasgow Celtic, or at Liverpool to see Manchester United. People have only to live in certain areas of Belfast in order to be more liable than others to detention and exclusion.
With regard to the powers to prevent members of Sinn Fein coming into Britain, it is not sensible to say that, although Sinn Fein is a legal organisation in Northern Ireland and in Britain, certain of its members may not be allowed entry to Britain. To exclude them is to give them a propaganda bonus.
I think it was the hon. Member for Peterborough who suggested that the Labour party's opposition to the order was in some way influenced by the antics or tactics of the leader of the Greater London council. Anyone who knows my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary will agree that he is in no way influenced by lunatics such as Livingstone.
In Northern Ireland last week I read in the press a statement which has not had the publicity that it deserves. I hope that it will now get a good deal of publicity, and I hope that in particular it will be read by the people of west Belfast whom I have known and represented for years. The statement was published in the Daily Mail of last Tuesday and it was headed:
Red Ken calls for Sinn Fein recruits".
The report went on to say:
The GLC leader, Ken Livingstone, said recently that he would not advise anyone in Ulster to join the Labour party but tell them to join Sinn Fein. Recruiting for the Labour party in Northern Ireland would be encouraging colonial exploitation.
As a member of the Labour party and of the GLC, I do not think that Ken Livingstone has very much in common with my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary. Hon. Members will be as surprised as I was to learn that Mr. Livingstone was speaking at a Labour campaign for gay rights in Brent, East, the north London constituency
that he hopes to fight as a Labour candidate if he succeeds in unseating my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson).
Mr. Livingstone went on to say that there was a younger leadership in Sinn Fein that was involved in feminism, gay rights and other radical issues. Whatever the troubles have been in Northern Ireland for centuries, they have had nothing to do with those issues. The people of west Belfast would not in any way want to be associated with the people who were listening to Mr. Livingstone when he made that speech. I suggest to the Home Secretary that he should allow as many members of Sinn Fein as possible to come over to Britain in order to listen to the speeches made habitually at GLC meetings.
Since the 1976 Act was first enacted it has caused a great deal of distress to many thousands of Irish people living in Britain. They are people who left Ireland for many reasons to make their homes here. Many of them left because there were no jobs and no economic future for them in Ireland. Many left because they wanted to live in Britain, in what they thought would be a democratic society. Now, because of the actions of the terrorists whom they despise, the special legislation that was designed to prevent terrorism is ranged against them.
Later tonight I shall be voting against approving the order. That will come as no surprise to the Government. I shall do so because of my opposition to terrorism. I shall do so because I believe that, even with the improvements recommended by Lord Jellicoe, the measure would do nothing but give support to the terrorists in Northern Ireland—the people that I want to see defeated and wiped from the face of this earth.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has made his customary speech relating to the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order. No one doubts his courageous opposition to terrorism, but I take exception to his remarks about the Conservative party having a racist attitude to the Irish people. It goes with the assertion that the measure is designed for the harassment of the Irish people. It is, in fact, designed for the defence of the Irish people who live here and for the defence of the people of any other community living among us.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way at such an early stage in his speech. I had intended to draw the attention of the House to a book that has just been written by an ex-member of the paratroops in Northern Ireland. It was serialised last week in, I believe, the Daily Mirror. The paratroop officer tells how he was in charge of paratroops when a riot took place on the Shankill road in Belfast in 1972 and how he told his soldiers to
Get in there and beat up those Irishmen".
He did not say "Beat up that crowd", "Beat up those terrorists", or "Beat up those trouble-makers". He said
Get in there and beat up those Irishmen".
If any soldier behaves like that it is reprehensible. It is gratifying that the Army is called upon less frequently than it was to assist the civil power in Northern Ireland, and that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is in the forefront of the campaign against terrorism.
I was referring to the criticism that the hon. Gentleman levelled against members of the Conservative party in Britain. He mentioned the right of Irish citizens to vote and take part in our elections. Some of my hon. Friends would like to remove that right, but it is not the view of Her Majesty's Government or of the Conservative party. Indeed, I have submitted a paper to the Select Committee on Home Affairs, which has considered the future of the Irish vote. I have given my reasons why that right should be retained by Irish citizens in Britain, and why we should expect reciprocity in the Irish Republic, as has been promised by successive Prime Ministers of the Republic.
I assure my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that I give reluctant support to the measure, but before I go further I apologise for the fact that I was unable to be present at the beginning of the debate. I had to attend a funeral of a friend and constituent. I hope that I may be forgiven for that. I did not hear my right hon. Friend's speech, nor did I hear that of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), the author of the legislation. I understand that he has not resiled from the stand that he necessarily took at the time in question. I did not hear the speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and I apologise to him, but what he said has been fully reported to me.
Members of the shadow Cabinet have been taking extravagant and aggressive positions of late. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been compared with Hitler, Stalin and Marshal Petain. The first woman Prime Minister has been condemned for wanting to get all women back to the kitchen.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook has been increasingly critical of the police. I fear that some of his remarks are increasingly resented by the police. Indeed, although the hon. Member for Belfast, West said that on no account would the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook be influenced by anything that people such as Mr. Livingstone might say, the position of the shadow Home Secretary has been drawing much closer to that of the Greater London council police committee. That committee recently wanted to give the "Troops Out" movement a grant of £53,000 to do research into the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 and to monitor the working of the Act. It is surprising, therefore, that the GLC police committee is not on the long list of bodies that submitted evidence to the Jellicoe inquiry. If it were, its position might be less ludicrous.
I was therefore saddened rather than surprised by the shadow Home Secretary's speech as it was reported to me. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to strike a weapon from the hands of the forces of counter-terrorism without offering to put anything effective in its place. Of course, he can say that he can do no other because he is bound by the decisions of his party conference. What happened at the last Labour party conference, however, and what is happening on the Opposition Benches tonight, is evidence of the physical and moral disintegration of what used to be a great political party. The extreme minority has conquered the responsible majority.
The 1976 Act has always been condemned by sections of the Labour party. When the right hon. Member for Hillhead introduced his Bill on 28 November 1974, some 60 Labour Members voted against their Government. Later the party conference decided that the Act should be scrapped. But nothing has changed. Terrorism remains the same. There are ups and downs, but terrorism is still a real threat, not only in Northern Ireland but in Great Britain.
Like the hon. Member for Belfast, West, I have spoken in every debate on this legislation. I shall not rehearse the arguments that I have adduced in those debates. Whether supporting a Labour or a Conservative Administration, I have always spoken of my distaste that such powers are necessary. But the right to life is the first of liberties, and the Government and Parliament will fail in their duty if they take avoidable risks with the lives of Her Majesty's subjects. The balance has to be kept between the liberties of some and the lives of many. I welcome the fact that Lord Jellicoe has proposed ways in which the hardships of those who are caught up in the provisions of the Act can be alleviated.
We have to trust my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to a great extent. We have to take a great deal on trust, just as my right hon. Friend has to trust his advisers. The hon. Member for Belfast, West talked about a creeping police state. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would be the last person to have dictatorial tendencies, to be indifferent to civil liberties, or to desire the emergence of anything like a police state. He has been much criticised at various times, but not on those grounds.
When criticisms are made, whether in the House or in the GLC, it is worth remembering the great trouble that Lord Jellicoe took before making his report. I understand that he had discussions with officers of the Metropolitan police special branch, visited nine police authorities in very different rural and urban areas of this country and also went to Scotland. He scrutinised the immigration procedure at a number of ports and took all the written evidence submitted by political and non-political bodies. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will testify, Lord Jellicoe also studied an immense amount of official papers at the Home Office and examined a host of exclusion orders as well as visiting Northern Ireland several times. As the legislation is designed to deal with terrorism of all kinds and not just that arising from the Ulster troubles, he also examined the practice in France and West Germany at first hand before producing his report in February.
Subject to the annual renewal, the term of the legislation is now to be five years. I hope that it will lapse before five years have passed, but, whether the period be five years or 50 years, to defeat terrorism we must show that the democratic will to resist is not to be undermined. Terrorists remain in business because they believe that they can weaken that democratic will to resist. They cannot, of course, but by feeding terrorist hopes of British inconstancy the Opposition have deserved ill of their country.
First, I add the welcome of the Liberal party for Lord Jellicoe's report. I also add my personal thanks for Lord Jellicoe's kindness and tolerance when he took evidence from me on behalf of the Liberal party. I, too, have read the report carefully. It is a most useful contribution and an expertly written document.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) said, 1982 was the worst year since 1975 for terrorist outrages. Like my right hon. Friend, I find it strange that at this juncture the official Opposition should recommend that we oppose renewal of the legislation. Of those who intend to support renewal, I believe that I am the least enthusiastic, for several reasons, not least because I have two-thirds Irish blood. My father came from Belfast and my mother's ancestors were from county Kerry. Therefore, I feel as strongly as any hon. Member—save, I am sure, the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—about the state of Ireland. I am also a firm and long-term believer in a united Ireland, but I do not believe that it will be achieved through terrorism. That is why, reluctantly and with the least possible enthusiasm, I support renewal of the order for one more time.
What does the hon. Gentleman mean by "for one more time"? If the figures and the situation next year turned out to be as suggested by his right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) today, would the hon. Gentleman vote against renewal?
The Home Secretary has said that a new Act will be put into operation. I think that the answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question will become clear as I comment on various paragraphs of the report.
The House must consider three urgent obligations in this discussion and in the relationship of Northern Ireland to the rest of the United Kingdom. First, citizens of the United Kingdom living in Northern Ireland are entitled to the same standards of liberty and civil rights as British citizens travelling and living anywhere else in the country. The Government should aim for that, and in line with that objective they should co-operate with the Government of the Irish Republic and the proposals for an all-Ireland security force that Taoiseach FitzGerald has advanced. Citizens on both sides of the border might then enjoy the same standards of civil liberty and freedom.
Our second obligation must be to deal with the conditions that give rise to terrorism, which is partly attributable to the appalling social and economic conditions in Northern Ireland. Only when positive steps to counter them are made will the long-term problem of civil disorder stand a chance of permanent resolution.
Our third obligation must be to co-operate with the Government of the Irish Republic to ensure that the standards of welfare and entitlement to social security in both parts of the island are as similar as possible. That would reduce antagonisms between the two communities.
Many hon. Members have talked about paragraph 55, in which Lord Jellicoe says:
There can be no clear proof that the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are, or are not, an essential weapon in the fight against terrorism.
We all agree that there never can be clear proof, but last year, above all others, proved the need for preventive powers. The present Act is not especially effective, but there is still a need for preventive powers.
I met Ambassador Argov, although I did not know him well. I had the most distressing experience of being on a kibbutz in northern Israel the day after he was shot. I was deeply moved by the people's feeling of despair that their ambassador should be gunned down by international terrorists. I also had the uncanny experience of being in south Lebanon about an hour and a half before war was declared there, which everyone agrees was the direct result of that act of international terrorism.
I am glad that Lord Jellicoe highlights international terrorism. We need legislation to combat it. I am puzzled about how Lord Jellicoe differentiates between terrorism in the north of Ireland, terrorism generated from outwith the United Kingdom and terrorism generated from within the United Kingdom. I hope that the Minister will be able to explain that more fully when he winds up the debate and gives us clearer information about when the proposed new Bill will arrive.
The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) hoped that the new Bill would be presented after a general election. I fervently hope that it will be introduced as soon as possible, and long before a general election, so that we can have a properly debated, properly amended and acceptable prevention of terrorism Act in the present Session.
It is essential that we consider exclusion provisions and how they affect people. Exclusion orders are often made unreasonably and, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West said, they cause hardship. They also break up families and often send people to parts of the country with which they are not familiar. They are a form of internal exile that is more appropriate to the Soviet Union than to Britain under the Government formed by a Prime Minister who often proclaims her support of freedom.
I should be extremely careful before I agreed to any form of exclusion order in any Prevention of Terrorism Act. I welcome the Home Secretary's response to what Lord Jellicoe said on the subject. If we are to keep exclusion orders, they must be hedged around with protections for civil liberties. The only way in which to do that is to ensure that the hearings are before courts and that cases are not decided by Ministers, civil servants or policemen, whether they be senior or junior. The hearings must be inter-party at all stages so that the reasons for exclusion orders can be tested properly and the evidence rebutted where appropriate, and if a person is to be excluded it must occur only after the most stringent examination of the case. All hon. Members would agree with that.
We have experienced the incidents at Knightsbridge and Regents park. It was my unfortunate duty to reply to the Home Secretary's statement on behalf of the Liberal party on the day of those bombings. I did not acquit myself well, not because of a lack of knowledge or reluctance, but simply because I did not feel that I had the emotional strength to do so. The carnage left us all feeling bewildered and nonplussed. The country felt the same way. Before those events I should have imagined myself standing here today heartily opposing any renewal of the Act, certainly in its present form, but I am unable to do that, even though it has had a considerable effect on many people in our community.
Many hon. Members have mentioned the Irish community, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead. It is an indisputable fact that the Act in its present form has had an extremely bad effect on many members of the Irish community. It has prevented their taking part in Britain's political life when they should take part, as they are citizens here. We should not enact legislation that so represses their civil liberties that they fear becoming politically involved and consequently ignore everything and go away. Many Conservative Members encourage that and yak on about not giving votes to the Irish. That is especially unpleasant and tends to racism.
There are many Irish people in Britain, as there are members of other communities, who go about in daily fear of their lives from an indiscriminately planted bomb. One hon. Member has been killed within the precincts of the House. Coincidentally, I was on the steps of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and heard the explosion. Terrorists do not respect the rule of law, and it is clear that in many cases the ordinary law cannot combat them.
The hon. Gentleman has referred, as have others, to the terrorist incidents of last year. We all share his sense of dismay. How does he equate that with the fact that 220 people were detained last year and that 17, the lowest number ever, were charged under the Act?
The hon. Gentleman has beaten me to the gun by about 10 seconds. I was about to give those figures. The present Act is failing because of its provisions. It Was a hurried job, although not, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead said, a botched job. The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) is right. It is true that 220 people were detained in 1982, of whom 11 were excluded, six charged under the Act, 11 charged with other offences and 192 not charged. Since the Act came into force, 5,555 people have been detained, of whom 4,900 have not been charged. Any Act of Parliament that does that is ineffective.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the evidence and information obtained from many people who are not eventually charged have given the police information about many would-be IRA activities?
I agree with my hon. Friend. However, if legislation against terrorism is to be effective we must consider how it affects the civil liberties of British citizens. We must find a balance. I am probably the most reluctant person in the House to say that the balance should be tipped in favour of a new Prevention of Terrorism Act. The Act should incorporate all the civil liberty safeguards recommended in the report and should be brought before the House as quickly as possible this Session so that it can be properly debated and passed.
On that basis, I recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the Act's renewal, but I cannot and will not accept yet another renewal of the Act as it stands. Before the Act comes up for renewal next year, we must have a proper Act that safeguards the civil liberties of all United Kingdom subjects and redresses the balance between those who suffer unnecessarily and those who are caught.
It may be correct, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said, that no legislation can wholly prevent terrorism, nor, as he said, any number of troops. However, legislation can deter and penalise terrorism. It is a weapon for the police and the military authorities to use in safeguarding the security of citizens, and therefore it is not possible to treat as a matter of principle the question whether one has it or not.
Labour Members' attitudes on this subject are disgracefully irresponsible. It is typical of their attitude to Northern Ireland to try to ride two horses at the same time. They have a proper regard for the interests and safety of the British people, but they seek to support the Irish nationalist cause. It is impossible to do both simultaneously. They seem to believe that they can talk about the liberty of the individual and claim that that is the basis of their opposition to this legislation. However, there must be a balance between the liberty of the individual and the powers given to our law enforcement authorities.
In 1974, the then Secretary of State and the then Government and Parliament recognised that the law governing those who wish to perpetrate violence was inadequate, and that further provision to combat terrorism was necessary. The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), to his credit, brought in this extra provision. He was supported by the Labour Government and the Conservative Opposition. The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) said that that Bill was not amended, but it was amended after the Shackleton report. It was confirmed by the next Labour Administration, and was supported, and is apparently to be amended, by the Government. It is grossly irresponsible of the Opposition now to say, hypocritically, that we must be concerned with the liberty of the individual and not to care much for the fact that only a few people have been prosecuted under the Act.
The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West and other hon. Members referred to the effectiveness of the Act in terms of the numbers of people charged. That is a completely false standard, because if one piece of useful information is obtained as a result of the powers no one can say that it has not been useful and is not necessary. In hundreds of cases such information has been helpful and several people have been charged. No one is charged in this country unless the case against him is, in the opinion of an independent legal adviser, likely to be proved to a jury or to a court beyond the balance of probabilities—[Interruption.]—or beyond all reasonable doubt.
That is not and never was the basis of the provision. The basis was one of reasonable suspicion, and a person was not excluded on the balance of evidence.
I cannot accept that. Much evidence never comes before a court because it is insufficient to establish the standard needed for conviction. Although when a person is not charged, in theory we say that he is innocent—many Labour Members have said that—in practice, in many cases much evidence has been useful and has justified the initial arrest.
We do not know where Labour Members stand on this matter. Do they wish to help the IRA? Do they wish to help the police in their fight against the IRA? If they wish to help the police, why do they oppose this weapon that helps the police to carry on the battle? Can it be for sordid party motives? Their attitude is similar to the Labour party's general policy for Northern Ireland, which, following another change in policy agreed at their party conference, is for a united Ireland by consent—as though any British frontier can be altered except by consent. What does that policy amount to? Does it not mean in practice that if the Labour party comes to power—I hope profoundly that it never does with such a policy—it will positively push the policy of a united Ireland to the extent of withdrawing from the majority of people in Northern Ireland their right to determine their future? Would a future Labour Government withdraw that democratic right?
Labour Members cannot say "Surely not", as the hon. Gentleman just said, because a policy of unification by consent means nothing and is as hypocritical as their policy on this issue.
Most people from southern Ireland who live in Great Britain or Northern Ireland are entitled, after five years, by the simple act of registration to become British citizens. By so doing, they commit themselves to the country. They perform an act of allegiance that should entitle them to the same rights as other British citizens. It is not racialism—whatever that means—or an injustice to them to say that if they do not wish to become British citizens they need not be entitled to every right of a British citizen, including the right to vote. That is simple logic. Therefore, when we discuss this problem, it is important to distinguish between citizens of the Irish Republic in this country and British citizens, albeit of Irish descent. The latter are welcome, and I would not wish anything that I said to offend them. However, if it is suggested that the application of this Act penalises them, those who say that do not understand those about whom they are talking.
It must be in the interests of citizens of the Irish Republic who live in the United Kingdom that the perpetrators of violence are located, arrested and prosecuted. They have to be distinguished from the law-abiding citizens of the Irish Republic who are living in this country. The law-abiding one will want positive action to be taken against malefactors from within their own ranks. Why is it at the moment that anyone speaking with an Irish accent on the telephone about such matters is instantly regarded as a suspicious person, who may be a terrorist? The terrorists have brought that upon the Irish community in this country. It is not something that the law has imposed on those people. The law-abiding community of citizens of the Irish Republic has nothing to fear from the Act, which applies to everyone in this country at present.
I refer to the application of section 11 of the Act. In many ways Lord Jellicoe's report, though welcome and helpful, is soft. I am disappointed in a way that he has not taken a stronger line over section 11. I refer to the programme that is to be put out on Channel 4 this evening that will show some interviews with terrorists. This subject arouses the anger of many British people. No British public authority should be the platform for the propaganda of our enemies. If the IRA is not our enemy, I do not know who can be an enemy. It is as much our enemy as was Nazi Germany during the war. For any public television programme to put the case for the IRA, as is suggested, is diabolical.
I am following my hon. Friend's argument with care. The television programme is said to include part of a film called "The Patriot Game". The television company will have to pay for showing part of that film. Some people are wondering where the money paid for the film will finally go. It might reach the pockets of Noraid and other bodies that support the IRA with funds.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point, which strengthens the case for action to be taken on such matters.
Section 11 does not go far enough. I am disappointed that Lord Jellicoe did not suggest that there should be a tighter provision against assisting the enemy. In the case referred to by my hon. Friend, one would have thought that if money were paid by the Independent Broadcasting Authority directly or indirectly to the IRA or its friends in America there must be a case for taking action under the legislation.
A few years ago, after an interview on television with a person who admitted that he was a member of the group which assassinated Airey Neave, I raised that matter in the House. The BBC should have been prosecuted for an infringement of the Act. The subsequent attitude of the BBC chairman was disgraceful. The IRA must be treated as enemies of this country. No point or purpose is served in talking about the liberties of the subject and quoting the relatively small numbers of people who may be charged under such legislation when we are dealing with enemies. They are enemies and should be treated as such.
Like the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) and one or two of my hon. Friends, I remember the introduction of the legislation. I remember vividly the emotions and passions at the time. The right hon. Gentleman's impression of what was happening and what was said at the time is different from my impression of the intentions of the Government of the day. Two things were stressed to us. The first was that the Government had to be seen to be doing something, although no one thought that it was worth very much. Secondly, they had to do something to protect the Irish population in various parts of the country. I remember some of the threats and incidents on my own town.
That was the background to the legislation. That was why we let it go through. That was why some of us laughed at a former Member of the House, but his view has been vindicated by the attitude of the Labour party. I am referring to the late Tom Litterick, then the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak. He said that we were panicking and that we would live to regret the day when we passed the legislation.
At the time we believed what was being said from the Front Bench, that the legislation would be temporary. We believed that it would protect the Irish population. The legislation has been with us for nearly a decade and it has been used as a weapon of oppression against members of the Irish community, particularly those who have sought to espouse politics of a Republican nature, which has resulted in their being made the subject of suspicion under the Act. The National Council for Civil Liberties has documented those cases well.
The Home Secretary and others who have spoken today have referred to Ballykelly, Regent's park and the terrible events at Hyde park as justification for the maintenance of the Act. However, not one scintilla of evidence has been produced to show how the operation of the Act could have prevented those terrible disasters or how it has brought the perpetrators of those terrible crimes to justice. Nor is there any evidence that the Act has to any great extent helped to curb terrorist activities.
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. I have a long speech to make and have sat here waiting to speak. The hon. Gentleman has only just come in.
There is no evidence that the Act has worked and been counter-productive to the work of the terrorists. One may ask why we reject Lord Jellicoe's report. We reject it because we reject the first fundamental that he had to accept, which was
the continuing need for legislation against terrorism".
Lord Jellicoe said in the bold print—as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said, we should read that and skip the rest—
if special legislation effectively reduces terrorism, as I believe it does, it should be continued as long as a substantial terrorist threat remains.
On the evidence, I do not believe that the legislation does that.
Paragraph 9 states that
such legislation should remain in force only while it continues to be effective, only if its aims cannot be achieved by use of the general law, if it does not make unacceptable inroads on civil liberties, and if effective safeguards are provided to minimise the. possibility of abuse.
If that is Lord Jellicoe's attitude towards the law, he should have said to the Government, "I will not accept it. It is wrong, it is not working and it is counter-productive."
Despite the haste with which the House rushed through this legislation—alliance Members should decide whether it was a good or bad piece of legislation in legislative terms—ordinary decent coppers using ordinary decent police methods apprehended those responsible for the Birmingham outrages. The House should bear that in mind.
I regret that this legislation is being used to discuss threats of international terrorism. The Standard carried a headline on the day the Jellicoe report was published stating that London could become an international terrorist haven and a centre for international terrorism. Powers exist under legislation and under the prerogative to stop people coming into this country if they are likely to commit offences of this nature. There is no evidence to show that if this legislation were to be used against international terrorists it would have more effect than it has had on our internal terrorism. There is a real and positive fear that if this legislation were used against other ethnic minorities—Armenians, Cypriots, Turks, Greeks and Arabs of one sort or another—they could find themselves in the same position as members of the fish community and would be harassed because of their country of origin and not on the basis of any real evidence.
The hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) talked about the PLO, Libya and terrorist organisations. There is no evidence that the existence of this legislation would have prevented these terrible crimes being committed in this country or being planned here. The evidence is that most of these crimes were planned abroad.
The Act is wrong, irrelevant and ineffective. It discriminates against one section of the community, it is counter-productive and it harks back to the 19th century coercive legislation. The Act pollutes the body politic of Britain and threatens our many and important civil liberties.
Will the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) explain what he meant when he said that there was no evidence that the legislation had prevented any acts of terrorism? He should consider the Birmingham pub bombings, where 21 people died, which was the reason why this legislation was brought in. There have been no more pub bombings or other bombings in Birmingham since. Which does he think is the most important—the loss of liberty to a few and the possible impingement upon civil liberties or the loss of life of people in my city?
If I were to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument, he would have to establish that there were many other pub bombings which did not take place as a result of what happened at Birmingham.
There have been none in Birmingham, but there have been bombings at Hyde park, Regent's park and Ballykelly. There has been a wide range of other terrorist incidents. That shows that the Act has not worked.
I shall examine some of the figures and demonstrate the working of the Act, which can be seen from the Jellicoe report and from answers to questions of one sort or another. In Great Britain, from 29 November 1974 to 31 December 1982 the total number of detentions was 5,555. Of those, 261 people—4·7 per cent.—were excluded. The number charged with conspiracy to commit an offence under the Act was 119, and 275 were charged with other offences. The number of extensions granted on detentions was 754 or 13·;57 per cent. The number of people not charged with offences or excluded under the Act was 4,900—88·21 per cent. They were legally innocent of any charges connected with terrorism under this Act or elsewhere.
Of the 98 people charged under the Act, 12 were acquitted, three cases were not proceeded with, 83 were convicted and, of those, 50 were sent to prison. Of the 25 people charged with conspiracy under the Act, seven were acquitted, five cases were not proceeded with, two were awaiting trial, seven were convicted and five were imprisoned. Of the 119 charges from the 5,555 people detained, 55 were imprisoned. That is less than 1 per cent. of the total detained over the period. Such figures show the failure of the Act to prevent terrorism if one examines the number of terrorist outrages on this island in that period.
The hon. Gentleman may be aware that in London the clear-up rate of crime is only 17 per cent. Is he suggesting that for that reason we ought to abolish the criminal law?
There is a failure by the police, using extensive powers, to get more than a one per cent. conviction rate throughout the United Kingdom. Included in that figure—I am not stating only the rate achieved by the Metropolitan Police, which is abysmally low—are the higher rates of the provincial forces.
If we examine the figures showing that 1,888 people were detained between 1 January 1979 and 31 December 1982–1979 was in fact a hiccup year in terms of the number of people detained—we find that 1,319 were detained for less than 48 hours, 254 were detained for periods of between 48 hours and seven days, but none of those were charged with criminal offences or excluded. Of those 1,573, a total of 16·15 per cent. were innocent and yet were detained for more than 48 hours.
That massive arrests operation—it became known as the fishing expedition—failed on two counts. First, it failed to produce evidence, because there have been no prosecutions. No one has been put behind bars and the number of terrorist incidents has increased. Secondly, it failed because it resulted in many people—not only those arrested, but families and extensions of families associated with such individuals—becoming hostile to the police, hostile to the legislation and, therefore, less likely to be co-operative when the police need to call on them.
The figures show that 82·48 per cent. of those arrested in 1981 were not charged or excluded. The comparable figure for 1982 was 82·27 per cent. When we examine why that was so, some frightening statistics emerge. The police have used the Act to try to get evidence. About 65 or 66 per cent. of all detainees have been held for between 12 and 48 hours—the maximum period before the police have to go to a civil servant and offer justification for a person remaining in detention. The evidence seems to show that the people hold police and grill them for as long as possible and let them out before having to justify their detention.
Not only are the police unable to produce a justification for an extension of their powers, but a degree of coercion is being introduced—fishing expeditions, the knock on the door, the threat, the nod or the wink that ruin family life and cause people to be afraid of the police and to think that the law is not on the side of ordinary people.
The more that one examines the statistics about the operation of the Act, the more one becomes convinced that there is a radical difference in the operation of the Act in Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom. Statistics show that, following the Bennett report, the Act has been used increasingly by the police in Northern Ireland as a method of getting round the restrictions placed on them by many of the recommendations in the Bennett report.
Secondly, there has been a higher rate of conviction under the Act in Northern Ireland than in the United Kingdom. That leads one to conclude either that the police in Northern Ireland are more sensible and discriminating in their use of the Act or, as seems to be the case, that they use it to get people when they cannot get them under the ordinary criminal law, in which case it is being used as a coercive measure.
The fact that there is an 88 per cent. acquittal rate in the United Kingdom shows that the police have failed to use the Act effectively or even sensibly or intelligently. If we compare operations in Northern Ireland, for example in the searching of houses for arms, where the police have acted on intelligence, we find that that approach produces much greater success than does the indiscriminate, unjustifiable and coercive use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in the United Kingdom.
Generally, the Act is a sledgehammer for cracking a nut.
Most Tory Members are the nuts, because they seek to use the legislation to justify some of the most reactionary attitudues that I have come across during my time as an hon. Member. I think specifically of the way in which the hon. Member for Beckenham said that the Act was being used and the comments of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). Theirs were some of the most reactionary, Right-wing, Fascist attitudes that I have heard in the House.
If we consider how the Act has failed to work, we see a panic reaction to a dreadful situation. The victory is not for the powers of democracy, but for terrorists. The more that they can point to this discriminatory legislation and argue that it exists because we are afraid to use normal police methods, the more we concede the victory to them. It is terrible to have to say that. Perhaps coercive legislation could be justified if it were successful, but it is not successful and the Opposition are right to vote against it, in accordance with our conference decision of 1982 and with what many of us have worked for over the years.
We ought to have a proper system with proper respect for the rule of law, and not a system that pollutes our political and civil rights. The right of search under the Emergency Provisions Act has been put into the Police Act (Northern Ireland) 1970. Periods of detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act have been put into the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.
When one looks at the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which is now in Committee, one wonders why the Government feel it necessary to renew the legislation. They have taken many of the worst features of the Act and put into permanent legislation tremendous limitations on the liberty of the subject. Because of that, the next Labour Government will repeal the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
Paragraph 10 of the Jellicoe report says:
The most important assistance which the police can have in the fight against terrorism is not special powers but the support of the public.
I believe that the legislation has the support of the overwhelming majority of the public. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) says that the Act has alienated the Irish. It has alienated very few of the Irish people whom I know, because it makes them feel much safer.
The question that we face is simple: if the legislation were withdrawn, would it make things easier for the terrorist? We might also ask whether, if the legislation were removed, it would encourage terrorism. I believe that nearly everyone would answer yes to both questions.
The Labour party does not answer yes, but none of us is surprised to hear that. There was, of course, always opposition to the legislation, even when the Labour Government introduced it. But it was their Act. Therefore, the principle was supported by them, and the principle has not changed. Terrorism has not declined and, therefore, in practice the Act must still be necessary. That is the basis on which Labour Members should stand. It was their policy in principle and in practice, and there seems to be no logical reason for changing it. But it is right that when the legislation was introduced in November 1974 about 60 Labour Members voted against it. They were, of course, what are called "Left wingers". What has happened since November 1974 is that the Left wingers have taken control of the Labour party, which is why the Labour party has lost so much popularity in the country to the SDP. It is also why the Labour party conference last year voted to scrap the Act. Extremists in the Labour party now make the policy.
It is no surprise that Mr. Ken Livingstone, who is Labour's best-known spokesman on Irish affairs, and his GLC friends should consider that giving money to the "Troops Out" movement to undertake research into the operation of the Act was a good thing but ignored the fact that the real research was done by Lord Jellicoe. It is no surprise that £53,000 was the amount that some of the GLC police committee wanted to award to the "Troops Out" activists to help them gather anti-police propaganda. It is not surprising that the Labour patty has changed its position. It is a matter for the public to decide whether the change of that position has more to do with the common sense of the issue or more to do with the fact that the Left wing has taken over the Labour party.
Althought the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) says that it has a little to do with civil liberties, those civil liberties existed just as much as a matter of principle in November 1974. On that position, the Labour Government of the time stood firm, with the support of other parties in the House, saying that those civil liberties were not to be weighed in the scale against the threat to life. If that was the rational, philosophical position then, it should be the rational, philosophical position now. In my view, the conduct of the Labour party cannot fail to give encouragement to terrorism, as would the scrapping of the Act.
I feel that I should give some reasons why I believe that those who send us here would support the continuance of the legislation. First, there is still terrorism on a frightening and terrifying scale. We have heard references to the tragic and horrific incident in the London parks in July, to the Ballykelly killings and to the attempt to murder the Israeli ambassador. As the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) said, this is a strange time to change course. But there are other reasons why this legislation should remain on the statute book. The police still say that they need it and the police are the experts. Many hon. Members think that they are experts, but they do not have experience of the operation of this legislation. The experience of the police is that they require it. Now we have Lord Jellicoe's report, which upholds the legislation and believes that it should continue. Paragraph 65 of the report concludes that if it did not continue the police would be seriously handicapped.
That belief is held by Lord Jellicoe, the police, the overwhelming majority of hon. Members and by the public, even though it may mean some injustice to innocent individuals. There is a misunderstanding about the benefits that accrue from holding someone under one of these charges and then releasing him. The police have made it clear, but Opposition Members do not seem to understand, that a large proportion of the information that they have obtained, which stops terrorism, is information obtained while the suspects are in custody, even though they do not obtain sufficient evidence against them to charge them. That is a substantial plus to the legislation. It is not simply a matter of weighing it in the scales against those who are charged. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central did not give a satisfactory answer to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook). If the test is the number of people who are brought to justice and the fact is that only 17 per cent. of offenders were brought to justice in London last year, does not the logic of the Opposition's argument mean that we should do away with the legislation that brought the 17 per cent. to justice in London as well?
The decision that the Act is necessary and helpful, despite injustice, is taken in the face of the argument by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central about propaganda value. We understand that there is some propaganda value to those who want to make trouble in Britain, either among the Irish community or anyone else. That is weighed in the scale, but it is insufficient to balance the threat to human life.
Of course, those of us who represent constituents who feel strongly about these matters realise this and demand that the closest scrutiny should be given to these powers. That has been done. It was done at every stage at which the legislation was considered from 1974 onwards. It was done by Lord Shackleton in his 1978 report and it has been done now by Lord Jellicoe in his report. Lord Jellicoe left no stone unturned. He had extensive discussions with the special branch. He visited nine police authorities covering different types of area—Scottish, rural and urban areas. He scrutinised immigration procedures at a number of posts throughout the land. He took oral and written evidence from political and non-political bodies. He studied a large number of official Home Office papers, including exclusion orders. He made several visits to Ulster and he examined anti-terrorist legislation in other countries. Most people in Britain would be satisfied with that type of scrutiny and with the calibre of the advice which, as a result of that scrutiny, we are now receiving. We all owe a great debt to Lord Jellicoe for that report.
A number of matters have been urged, as they always are urged, by Opposition Members against the legislation. We are told that it will weaken our defences and increase the power of the terrorists. The same argument was made in the debate on capital punishment—that capital punishment was what the terrorists really wanted us to introduce. But in that case we were able to say that, if it was what the terrorists really wanted, why were they threatening the House with reprisals if we introduced it? In other words, terrorists did not want it any more than terrorists would want the tightening up or the maintenance of rules which made it more difficult for them to operate in this country. It beggars common sense to suggest that this legislation is a gift to terrorists. Yet Opposition Members continue to state what is patent and obvious nonsense. It has been said that the police cannot be trusted to use these powers responsibly, but Lord Jellicoe's investigation shows that they have done so.
It has been said that these powers have no effect in preventing terrorism. That has been said time and again and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central has just repeated it. In paragraph 56 of the report, Lord Jellicoe says that
it has led to the charging and subsequent conviction of a large number of people guilty of very serious criminal offences connected with terrorism, which in many cases would not and could not have resulted from arrests under other powers.
That seems to be a sufficiently direct, powerful and convincing response to the argument that has been repeated time and time again in the House on that issue.
It has been said that the Act should not be extended to cover international terrorism. I very much welcome the extension to that area of terrorism. Many of us have forgotten just how terrifying international terrorist incidents have been in Britain but most people would want to do anything to stop the expansion of this form of terrorism and to reduce its incidence.
Paragraph 76 of the Jellicoe report states:
Many fear that London, in particular, could become a battleground for warring Middle East terrorist factions; my own view is that we may be facing this threat for many years to come. To date, most of the victims of such outrages have been foreign nationals resident in Great Britain, rather than United Kingdom citizens. There is, however, no good reason to believe that this state of affairs will continue, and in any case this is pre-eminently an area where we must develop an internationalist approach: terrorists, after all, are no respecters of national frontiers. I believe it is to be within my terms of reference to consider whether the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act should be available to be used against terrorists not suspected of any connection with Northern Ireland. My conclusion, in relation to international terrorism, is that they should be so available. Terrorism connected with Northern Ireland is more intense in degree but is not essentially different in kind to terrorism from any other source: in all cases it exhibits similar features and is equally abhorrent. I am satisfied—and have, I hope, justified my view—that the arrest powers in this Act have been of considerable benefit in dealing with Northern Irish terrorism. This being so, I believe that they should be available for use in dealing with international terrorism.
International terrorism is often a community of interests between terrorist groups throughout the world. On 13 March 1979 The Daily Telegraph reported as follows:
An Iraqi Government official accused of taking part in the assassination of his former Prime Minister came to London last July to meet 'a world full of Iraqi intelligence officers"'.
It was alleged that a named man brought an assassin named Salem Ahmed Hassan
from Baghdad to London and then guided him to his target, former Premier General Abdul Razzak Al-Naif, and identified him with a handshake at the Intercontinental Hotel. As the general left the hotel on July 9 Hassan pumped three revolver shots into him.
He admitted the murder.
In May 1979, The Guardian reported:
An Arab girl terrorist … was gaoled for two years at the Old Bailey yesterday for trying to murder the Iraqi ambassador in London with a grenade.
In January 1980 The Daily Telegraph reported:
The Arab killed as he assembled one of two bombs which exploded at a West End hotel four days ago has been named … a Lebanese according to reports from Beirut.
The Beirut reports claim the bombs, which exploded at the Mount Royal Hotel off Oxford Street on Thursday, were meant for Israeli targets in London, and especially agents of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. A group calling itself the May the 15th Arab Organisation has claimed responsibility for the explosion.
In July 1980
Kuwait business premises in London were given extra police guards last night following the bombing of an oil company in Mayfair during the weekend. The Diplomatic Protection Group was also alerted. Anti-Terrorist Branch detectives have not yet established a motive or who planted the 1½ lb bomb which blew out the front of the offices of Kuwait Oil in New Bond Street.
Another report states:
10 years' gaol for Iraqi student.
This was reported in September 1980. There was an attempt to smuggle TNT into Britain in tubes of shaving cream. The report added that a man
went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and came back to Britain last December 14 with three explosive devices in his luggage.
In October 1980
Two bombs went off within half-an-hour and damaged offices in central London. A group calling itself the Armenian Secret Army claimed responsibility for one of the attacks and for two explosions at about the same time in New York and Los Angeles. The Armenian organisation said it carried out the explosion at the Turkish tourist office in Conduit Street off Regent street. But the other blast, at the rear of the Swiss Centre, Leicester Square, appeared to be unrelated.
We have forgotten what is happening in our towns and principal cities. The Guardian reported in December 1981:
PLO link to bombers … the car bomb explosion near Hyde Park, London earlier this month … The device was being primed before being delivered to an anti-Khomeini meeting at Speakers' Corner. But the driver survived. After a number of fatal accidents when their bombs have expoded prematurely it is understood that the terrorists may have been helped by Arabs who also work for the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Then there was the shooting of the Israeli ambassador which followed the shooting in Paris of an Israeli diplomat. That followed a bomb explosion in Berlin January of last year. The explosion took place in a Jewish restaurant. That followed the bombing of a synagogue at Vienna in August 1981 in which two were killed and 19 wounded. That followed a bombing in July 1981 at Piraeus. And so the terrorism continues.
This terrorism is not linked only to international organisations. Labour Weekly—an organ that I do not often quote—produced an article on 18 September 1981 entitled "Haven for the Nazis". It stated:
The arrest of seven wanted Italian right-wingers during police raids in London last weekend has dramatically highlighted persistent reports that Britain has become a home base for European Nazi fugitives. The arrests followed a request from Italian police for the extradition of named Italians on a series of charges relating to terrorist offences.
On 6 February, the News of the World stated:
Britain has become a sanctuary for right-wing extremists on the run from police forces in Europe. A News of the World investigation has discovered that a number of fascist and Nazi-style runaways have been given shelter in this country.
Bearing in mind the attitude of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), the remainder of the article is very interesting. It reads:
And Shadow Home Secretary Roy Hattersley wants to know why they are being allowed in … Following our inquiries, Mr. Hattersley told me: 'I have already written to the Home Secretary on this matter. It is a cause of growing concern. It seems that Britain has become the safe house for terrorists who are free to commit their crimes on the Continent before running back for refuge.
The latest of all the alarming incidents has been the trial of the three assassins of Ambassador Argov. It appears from an article in today's edition of The Guardian that Mr. Rosan,
the organiser of the hit squad, holds the rank of colonel in the Iraqi intelligence service, the Mukhabarat … Beirut claimed responsibility for the Argov shooting in the name of a group known as Al-Asifa. The PLO strenuously denied any involvement. Al Asifa, (the 'storm') is the name of the operational wing of the most cynical and ruthless terrorist group in the Middle East. The organisation's formal title is the Palestine National Liberation Movement Fatah, the Revolutionary Council, but it is also called Black June.
The article draws attention to a most alarming situation in which London seems to have become an international terrorist centre. The article mentions embassies. It says:
Police still do not know for certain who supplied the five guns and four hand grenades used by the team. But they have some clues—al-Rosan, according to Arab sources, was in regular contact with the office of the Iraqi military attache next door to the embassy in Queen's Gate, South Kensington. The staff there were always keen to help him.
The embassy has its own arsenal in the basement and is thought to have supplied the same kind of Polish-made machine pistol used by Said—the standard issue for Iraqi tank commanders—to the terrorists who besieged the nearby Iranian embassy in 1980. Two years ago the policeman on guard at the Iraqi's door heard an explosion from inside. When he knocked to ask if everything was all right, he was told to mind his own business.
How can it be against the interest of any British subject to extend the laws, if necessary interfering with some individual liberty, to protect society from terrorist outrages, which are growing and seem increasingly, if those articles are right, to be centred upon Great Britain?
Will my hon. and learned Friend tell the House what more this country is doing to deter such terrorism? What is being done to prevent weapons and ammunition being brought into the country in diplomatic bags? The House has raised that matter on several occasions, but what has been done? Are diplomatic bags searched or screened for explosives or metal? If it is said that such screening is contrary to the Geneva convention, what is being done to amend the convention? Something more must be done.
The public, who support this legislation, would be in favour of further legislation designed to ensure that ammunition that enters the country was not used by terrorists against their own nationals or, as inevitably will happen, to the detriment and death of British subjects. Terrorism is a thoroughly unacceptable feature of modern society, whether the lives of British subjects or other nationals are taken.
In the end, the issue between us is whether some interference with the liberties of the few is worse even than the slaughter of the few, let alone the slaughter of the many. Most people, in my view, would answer "Of course not. Murder and terrorist slaughter cannot be weighed in the scale with the removal of civil liberties". Most people would say that the legislation and its continuation is sensible, however they may regret its necessity. The public will be reassured by Lord Jellicoe's report and by the support and welcome the Government have given it and by the Government's determination to continue what has been to some extent a success, the removal of which would be a disaster.
The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) will, I am sure, be well rewarded by the Whips for his efforts. I am not sure whether he will be as happy tomorrow morning when he reads his remarks. He prayed in aid the views of the overwhelming majority of the electorate, but I suspect that it wants nothing to do with acts of terrorism and is not affected by the parts of the legislation that bite harshly on some innocent people. The hon. and learned Member for Burton should be careful. I believe that he was misleading the vast majority of the British public. He mentioned many horrible incidents of international terrorism and suggested that the legislation was in some way relevant to them. I suggest that it is a major error for the House to jump from descriptions of abhorrent terrorist activity and link them to the legislation.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) said that he and very many other people in Great Britain were upset by the fact that people who have been involved in terrorism were allowed to put their points of view in various television programmes. He should consider that carefully. Hon. Members have argued consistently that terrorists should give up their violent activities and argue their case democratically. We believe that we have sufficient answers that the democratic process will prove us right and the terrorists wrong and convince them that they should give up their terrorist activities. If we suggest that they use the democratic process, we should be careful when we seek to stop them putting forward their views on television or in the newspapers. Only by forcing them to put forward their views can we expose them as fallacies. Abhorrent as it may be, we must defend their right to advance their views and we must then give our arguments. It is far better that we should debate these matters than leave these people to operate as terrorists.
Everyone in the House abhors terrorism whether from the IRA or other international terrorist groups, and wants to see such activities stopped. We want to persuade terrorists to settle issues democratically not violently. Our approach differs on whether we believe that legislation is an effective help. I believe that that is a mirage. Legislation misleads people into believing that something effective is being done whereas in reality it is counterproductive. That mistake was made when the legislation was introduced, and it has continued. I accept my responsibility fully. Immediately after the Birmingham bombings, I was not prepared to vote against such legislation, although I supported it reluctantly. However, I was a member of the group who voted against the legislation in 1976.
It became increasingly evident to me between 1974 and 1976 that the Act was cosmetic only and did not help to deal with terrorism. The Act made things worse by alienating many of the Irish community who moved most frequently between this country and Ireland and were most likely to be detained under its provisions. The police have been misled and ill served by the legislation. The statistics show that when the police have a good case and clear evidence that someone has been involved in terrorism they do not use this legislation. Other provisions are adequate. The problem arises when an outrage occurs and the police have little evidence. They are then involved in a public relations exercise, similar to that of the House, of trying to convince the public that they are doing something.
The difficulty for the police is that often the painstaking hard work that produces a conviction is not dramatic and does not result in newspaper headlines. As a result, they are tempted to go for the gimmick. Last year, the London police announced that they wanted to check all the lock-up garages in the greater London area. That attracted much publicity, but in the end it did not produce good results. However, it helped to convince people that the police were doing something.
On several occasions there have been well-publicised announcements that a number of Irish people have been rounded up in various parts of the country and have been detained by the police for questioning under this legislation. In most instances, those people have been released three or four days later with no charges laid against them. One is left with the suspicion that pressure on the police to be seen to be doing something led to those people being rounded up. They were probably kept for longer than necessary, because it would have spoiled the publicity had they been released at the first opportunity, and the police would have been forced to admit that they had done nothing.
The police do not need this legislation, but they fall into the trap of using it as a cover-up for the sad fact that often they have no hard information to go on. Conservative Members argue that what matters is not the number of people charged or convicted, but the information that is obtained as a result of the questioning. There is not much hard evidence to support that. Were those people to be persuaded to be sympathetic to the police, they would probably volunteer any information they had. Instead, they are alienated by this sort of legislation. Therefore, instead of getting people to volunteer such information, we must attempt to get out of them through questioning.
In many instances the information obtained is completely worthless. Often those who are detained make up the information, believing that if they tell the police something they will be released sooner. Quite often, the information that they give is more damaging to the police. It must be checked, and in the end the police cannot distinguish between true and false information.
The evidence in the report suggests that Lord Jellicoe was not really convinced. He was placed in a difficult position. His terms of reference asked him to look at the continuing need for the legislation. As he correctly said in the first paragraph, he had to convince himself of a continuing need before he took on the job. Before undertaking the inquiry he had to convince himself that there was sufficient evidence. He decided that there was a continuing need, and thereafter began the inquiry. If one reads between the lines, one can see that at a certain stage Lord Jellicoe must have been in considerable doubt about whether the premise forced on him by the Government was correct.
The introduction of the subject of international terrorism was, I believe, necessary so that Lord Jellicoe could convince himself that he should have continued with the inquiry rather than reporting to the Government. Having gone through the whole process, I feel that he wanted to question the original assumption.
Perhaps the Minister will explain why the existing immigration rules are not adequate to deal with international terrorism. According to the relatives of many of my constituents, the immigration rules present considerable problems for people wanting to come into the country. What extra power does this legislation give to deal with people coming into the country that is not already contained in the immigration rules? The relatives of many of my constituents are detained for lengthy periods at Heathrow and sometimes at Manchester airport. Their baggage is searched extremely carefully, and their whole motivation for coming into the country is subject to considerable scrutiny. What information can be obtained as a result of the use of prevention of terrorism legislation that cannot be obtained by the use of the immigration rules?
If it is difficult for people to come here on holiday, it must be virtually impossible for them to come here to live. If any immigration official had the slightest suspicion about their being involved in terrorist activity, he would, I understand, have every right to refuse them entry. We must therefore question the relevance of much of this legislation to the problem of international terrorism.
Like Conservative Members, I am concerned about the extent to which one or two Governments have misused the diplomatic bag to bring items into the country and avoid normal customs clearance. We may be thinking of introducing legislation that restricts the freedom of the individual, but most of my constituents, and I suspect many others, would prefer to have such checks applied to diplomats. The Government must produce convincing evidence to show that there is no misuse of the diplomatic bag if they are to resist the pressure to impose tighter controls on the activities of certain foreign Governments.
The worst aspect of this legislation since it was introduced in 1974 is the way in which it has upset and alienated small groups of the Irish community—the very people whose co-operation we need to outflank and defeat the terrorists. Some of its provisions are particularly illiberal. It is not surprising that many groups find it easy to raise funds in the United States for terrorist activity in Northern Ireland, because by quoting certain sections of the legislation they can horrify the American people. They can convince them that by behaving in this way the Government are evil and, therefore, those people should give money to change the system. The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act has been one of the most effective ways of raising funds, either directly or indirectly, to encourage terrorist activity.
Lord Jellicoe recommends that an individual should have the right of access to a lawyer within 48 hours. He also regrets the fact that several people held under the provisions of the Act have not been treated well in police custody. The Minister must make it absolutely clear that those two recommendations will be accepted straight away and that in future no one will be held and be denied access to a lawyer.
We have been correctly told that a 20-year exclusion was far too long and that it will now be reduced to a three-year residence. What will happen to individuals who have already been excluded to other parts of the United Kingdom and have a residence qualification of more than three years? Will they now be allowed back, or will they continue to be excluded, even though they have every right to come here under the new proposals?
With regard to the availability of firearms to terrorists, I should argue strongly that the Government must do much more to take out of circulation in Great Britain the number of firearms that are available. I have tabled several questions to Home Office Ministers asking why they are not prepared to operate another amnesty for weapons, and pointing out that the Home Office should be doing much more to collect these weapons I am told that an amnesty will not produce results because most people are only too pleased to keep the weapons and sell them among the criminal fraternity.
However, that is not the full story. A considerable number of arms are still illegally held and their owners would be willing to give them up. The Government should be weighing up this problem. In many parts of the country, I am told, if one puts the word round to the right sort of people, one can buy illegal firearms. The Government should consider offering rewards for handing in illegally held firearms, as that would help to reduce the numbers of weapons available and in circulation that can fall into terrorist hands. If the going rate for a firearm illegally held is £X, and the Government are prepared to give people a reward for handing in those guns, many of them would be taken out of circulation.
One of our duties is to try to get rid of the means of destruction and to make it harder for people to be involved in such activities. It is all very well passing legislation, but the most effective way to achieve results would be to control and reduce the number of weapons of destruction that are available for use.
One of our problems in getting rid of this legislation is that it will not fade away. The Government must take a positive step to repeal the legislation, or fail to renew it. There is always the problem for any Minister, which I accept, that the day that he announces that he will not renew the legislation he can almost guarantee that some terrorist will, the day after, try to perpertrate some outrage to discredit the Minister and force him to retain it. The group that benefits most from the legislation is the terrorists, and they will try hard to keep it. If any Government announced that they would abandon it such people would try to perpetrate some outrage. The Minister must think carefully about this Act and of ways in which he can slowly phase it out as each section ceases to have an effect.
Moreover, the House must look at the way in which it legislates. At the moment, Acts are carefully scrutinised. On the other hand, orders are normally only guaranteed an hour and a half's debate if they are affirmative orders and are therefore unamendable. The more complicated the aspects of the legislation that we choose to pass by means of secondary legislation, the greater the argument for the House to devise some procedures whereby orders can be amended.
The true answer to this problem is that we must find political solutions to the issues in Northern Ireland. In the end, it is only by finding political solutions that we can outflank and outmanoeuvre the terrorists there and convince them that we can solve the problems through a democratic process rather than through an act of terrorism that is designed to destroy the democratic process. The trouble with this Act is that it does not enhance the democratic process but erodes the rights of individuals who begin to believe that the state is unfair and unjust to them.
We have listened to some good and well-meaning speeches today, but I must ask, "What do the people of Belfast say?" There are those who say that we are here only to talk and get plenty of money for it. I ask the Prime Minister and the Government to call the GOC in Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable and to put in their hands the means to restore law and order to my country.
We have suffered continually and 17 people have been blown up this year, but their deaths are taken for granted. Whatever the House does, it must do immediately. and then put powers in the hands of the GOC and the Chief Constable to bring law and order back to our country, rather than let disorder spread. It is no use giving a short gaol sentence to men who have committed atrocities beyond human belief.
It is the people of Belfast who are calling on the House, Members of Parliament and the Government to return to them the privilege of going to a dance, or going to and coming from their work, without being the target of the Irish Republican Army. The IRA has always been the enemy of this country. The people of Northern Ireland have always stood by this country in all her troubles. The declaration of the second world war was made in this country, but the war took place in Northern Ireland. We suffered from the Germans as well, and all we ask now from hon. Members on both sides of the House is to be given back law and order so that people can go about their daily tasks without the fear of a bullet in the back.
What must service widows and children say about the House? What about the children who ask where their fathers are while we sit here? I appeal to every hon. Member on both sides of the House to get out and do his job, which is to bring law and order to Northern Ireland.
I shall not take up any more time. I know that there are other hon. Members who wish to speak, but I want to impress on all hon. Members that it is as much up to them as it is to the Prime Minister and the Government to ensure that the GOC, the RUC and the Chief Constable return law and order to Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) speaks with the passion that one would expect of a representative of that beleaguered city. He speaks with the conviction and experience of many years of hardship and trouble in the Province. I am sure that the words that he has uttered tonight, which call for action rather than words from the Government, will be heeded by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister, by enforcement officers throughout the country and by all concerned in the hon. Member's constituency.
When the hon. Gentleman speaks of "my country", I hope that he regards it as "our country", as we would not wish to feel—
I hardly needed to question the intention of the hon. Gentleman's statement, but I wish to emphasise and perhaps share with him the point that the Province is part of our country. My credentials for speaking in this debate, representing a constituency in the southern part of the country far from Northern Ireland and not directly affected by many of his problems, is that the Province is as much a part of the United Kingdom, my country, as my own constituency. We have the same obligations for the civil rights, security, sovereignty, and national territorial integrity of that Province as we do for any other part of the country. I am sure that we speak as one on that.
I wish to pay my tribute to the work of Lord Jellicoe, whose investigation has been exemplary in the thought and analysis that he has contributed towards reaching his conclusions. The report is well argued and detailed. A persuasive case is made for amending the legislation, for introducing new but time-limited legislation, but basically for continuing the temporary security provisions that were first introduced seven or more years ago. I believe that the Conservative party as much as the Conservative Government should be the natural party of civil liberties. We, above all, should, and do, believe in the civil liberties of the individual.
Civil liberties mean many different things to many different people. There is the civil liberty to go about one's work and play freely without molestation or interruption, the freedom to speak freely and the freedom to argue for political change or the status quo. All these are as much a freedom as the right of an individual who is detained or under arrest to be treated properly and not to be pressed unduly for a confession or to be detained without legal representation. The balance of civil liberties in the legislation is about right. It is necessary, given the continuing security problems of the whole of the United Kingdom, for the legislation to continue.
Much has been said about the effectiveness of the legislation since it was introduced on a temporary basis in 1974. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and particularly the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) referred to the large number of people who had fallen within the ambit of its provisions but who, at the end of the day, had not been convicted. They tried to put forward the case that the legislation has not been effective and that it has resulted in only a small number, or small proportion, being convicted or even charged.
The table showing that 5,555 have been detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act also reveals that over the past seven years 655 of them either had exclusion orders made against them or were charged with some other offence. Admittedly, the proportion of those who were charged and later convicted was small. The criticism to be made, as elsewhere in the penal system, is about the extent to which the police were right to arrest them for those offences. The case must be made that the proportion of those actually charged with offences and later convicted is substantially smaller than elsewhere in the penal system. It is not right to say that, because 5,555 were detained and only a very small number eventually went to prison, either the legislation is unnecessary or is working improperly.
The fact that there was sufficient evidence, in the view of the police, to charge a substantial number and for exclusion orders to be made against a substantial number—in fact, 12 per cent. of those detained had exclusion orders made against them or were charged wih offences—shows that there was sufficient evidence and suspicion that acts of terrorism might occur. That justifies the legislation and its continuation.
The arguments to demonstrate the effectiveness of the legislation do not exist in the statistics alone. There is the extent to which the legislation and its provisions have deterred people from committing acts of terrorism. There is also the political and perhaps unquantifiable implication of the extent to which a fall in the number of terrorist acts committed in Great Britain has influenced political opinion here and in Northern Ireland. There is an unquantifiable deterrent and political impact that goes beyond the simple figures that have been demonstrated in support of, or against, renewal of the legislation.
I have argued in favour of retaining the legislation and the introduction of a new but time-limited Bill. I should like to make a proviso, which I hope my hon. and learned the Friend the Minister of State will convey to the Home Secretary. It concerns the recommendation of Lord Jellicoe about international terrorism and the need to extend the provisions of the legislation to people entering this country from elsewhere in the world and incorporating such provisions in new legislation. The Home Secretary was rightly cautious not to declare a firm intention to include such a provision within the new Bill or, indeed, to act upon the recommendation in other ways. I hope that he will be reticent about introducing a new and wide-ranging extension of the power of detention, exclusion and arrest of people entering this country from elsewhere in the world.
The legislation arose in response to a particular United Kingdom home problem. It was extraordinary and exceptional in that we were confronted with a number of terrorist crimes in London and Great Britain to which a response was needed and, indeed, was demanded by the public. It is another thing to argue that the rights of people from elsewhere in the world to enter this country should be curtailed beyond existing limitations imposed on them.
It would be most undesirable if this legislation, originally introduced and currently continuing on a temporary year-to-year basis, were to be used as a Trojan horse for a major new provision which would extend what even the Home Secretary admitted were undesirable reductions in people's civil liberties to many others who have traditionally been able to come to this country freely and who have regarded highly their right of entry to this country provided that they have a passport and come from a country that allows them to travel here. Some of the fears put forward by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) that London is becoming the centre for international terrorism, including the examples that he quoted from the press, which has whipped up fear, were alarmist. Although we are all deeply shocked by every incident of international terrorism that takes places either here or abroad, particularly the tragic shooting of the former Israeli ambassador, we have to look beyond the emotion of the incidents and consider whether, in view of the number of incidents, there is a case for a major and significent extension of the law, preventing people coming into this country and imposing on them what I would argue are almost unconstitutional limitations.
I think my hon. Friend is getting into a logical difficulty. Let us suppose that two people who have established residence in this country, one from Northern Ireland and the other from an Arab state, both appear at London airport. Is my hon. Friend saying that if the same evidence is applicable to both, that both may be engaged in terror, the Irish potential terrorist should be excluded and not the Arab?
As I understand it, there is already legislation that enables the police to detain a person who it is suspected will commit an offence. The Police and Criminal Evidence Bill that is now going through the House covers a number of these matters. Today we are concerned with legislation dealing with exclusion and other matters that relate specifically to Northern Ireland. What my hon. Friend has described is no more than a truism of the present position, because this legislation applies specifically to Northern Ireland. Part II of the 1976 Act, unlike part I dealing with proscribed organisations, applies only to Northern Ireland.
One can argue that there is already a difference in the treatment of people coming to Great Britain between those who come from Northern Ireland and those who come from, let us say, Iraq. There is already a difference, a discrimination. Jellicoe seems to be arguing for an extension of the law as it applies on a temporary basis to Northern Ireland to elsewhere in the world. We should think extremely carefully before doing that.
Not only do I think that the existing legislation for refusal of entry, arrest and deportation is probably adequate, but, more importantly, that such a change would be highly impracticable. It would require immense scrutiny of virtually everyone coming to this country—a process which is difficult enough, in terms of manpower and expense, in giving effect to our existing immigration legislation, without extending it to this area. I question the extent to which the police would have been able to identify and detain the people who committed the terrorist offences to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton referred.
The most effective deterrent to international terrorists coming to this country to commit crime has been the effective way in which the police have dealt with terrorist incidents. I think, in particular, of the Iranian embassy siege and the action of the SAS, to which wide publicity was given throughout the world, and the statement that was made, I think, by the Home Secretary shortly after, that no one should be under any doubt that this country would not tolerate and would not be a haven for terrorism. That point was made effectively and it was heard throughout the world.
Prompt and effective action by the police—and, in that incident, by the SAS—had far more influence in deterring the commission of international terrorist activities in London and this country than the costly extension of this legislation, which, in my judgment, will have damaging implications for Britain's image abroad and for the important balance of confidence between the police and the public. Moreover, it will build on temporary legislation by creating a permanent position, which in my opinion is most undesirable.
I should point out to my hon. and learned Friend that a number of Conservative Members will look with great circumspection at any Bill that extends these provisions to people coming here from other parts of the world. I give a fulsome welcome to the main recommendations of the Jellicoe report. I should certainly support a new Bill that codified these recommendations, provided that it had a self-destruct process, as I believe is proposed, after five years. However, I should find it extremely difficult to support, as I am sure would a number of my colleagues, any inclusion in such a Bill of the extension of such powers to cover rights over people entering from elsewhere in the world. I hope that the point has been put effectively to my hon. and learned Friend. I shall not say that it was an aberration of Lord Jellicoe, but in my view his consideration of this matter was somewhat outside the remit of the review that he was asked to conduct by the Home Secretary, although he himself says in the report that he thinks that it is a reasonable conclusion to reach.
Lord Jellicoe has done a service to the House, the public and the people of Northern Ireland in coming forward with recommendations that will improve the working of the legislation. in considering the effectiveness of it, we should look not simply at the small number of convictions over the last year or two but at the fact that terrorism can spring up again just as easily next year as it did after a relatively quiet period in 1976 and 1977.
For those reasons, I believe that the legislation is as important to the security and freedom of people in this country for a few years to come as it was when it was originally introduced.
If the course urged by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) on behalf of the Labour party were to be followed, there would on 24 March be no prevention of terrorism legislation on the statute book. There would, of course, be other powers—we know them well—but, on behalf of the police service, with which the House knows I have a connection, I should like to say that it would be a most appalling prospect, particularly in Northern Ireland, if some two and a half weeks from now the powers that the Act has provided to the security forces were to be taken away.
I hope that every hon. Member who goes into the Lobby tonight and votes against the renewal of the powers will understand that, in the eyes of a large number of men and women to whom we look for protection, such an outcome would be a massive encouragement to the men of terror and violence and a stab in the back for the police and security services of our country.
I was in Northern Ireland earlier today, and I have apologised to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for not being here for his opening speech. Shortly before I arrived in Northern Ireland this morning, a little girl had had her torn kneecaps blown to bits. She is the most recent of the 162 people who have been kneecapped in Northern Ireland. It is done primarily to intimidate.
The last time that I was in Northern Ireland the bomb went off in Ballykelly. I went to Ballykelly and I saw the debris and, worse than that, the human anguish of the soldiers and their girl friends who had been killed, lacerated and maimed for life. An experience of that sort makes an impact.
When I went to Northern Ireland on the previous occasion, not long before that, I was in the police station in Crossmaglen when an explosion was heard. A car bomb had blown up about 200 yards away and a young British soldier of the fusiliers had been most terribly wounded. The helicopters got him out. He lingered for a while in the severe burns unit but then he died. He was one of just over 2,000 British dead in Northern Ireland over the past 10 or 12 years.
About 40,000 of our fellow citizens have been killed, injured or wounded by terrorists in Northern Ireland. Those who have to live with this, whether they be Catholic or Protestant, would, if they sat in this House for a moment, believe that they were in a world that bore no resemblance whatever to the world in which they must conduct their lives.
It is not just a matter of the human experiences but of the appalling international comparisons. The other day Interpol published a league table of the number of deaths of members of police and security forces. Italy scored fairly highly. In every 100,000 security people in Italy, quite a large number have been killed in the past 10 years. India was high on the list and the Bahamas higher. Guatemala was very high. Among the worst was El Salvador, with no fewer than 74·9 of every 100,000 of its police and security personnel killed by terrorists in the past 10 years. Northern Ireland, however, led all the rest. There were more than double the number of killings of police and security personnel in Northern Ireland than in El Salvador. That is the statistical comparison of our country at the moment.
I received today the report of the Northern Ireland police authority. It contains much interesting information, but for the years since 1970, when the authority was set up, most of the pages are devoted to what is called the roll of honour. There is page after page of the names of constables, sergeants and other members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who were killed on duty because they were policemen. No rational human being can read of the deaths of Constable Raymond Wylie, Constable Ronald MacAuley, Constable David Purvis, Constable William John McElveen and page after page more without at least asking what on earth we would be doing if we threw out the order today.
I cannot let the hon. Gentleman get away with the way in which he is putting his argument. He is implying that those who intend to vote against the order approve of terrorism. He knows that many of those who oppose the legislation share his knowledge and experiences. The question he must consider is whether the legislation is counter-productive. If he considers the list of countries that he has given, he will see that the counter-productive nature of anti-terrorist legislation is clearly apparent.
The hon. Gentleman has his views and I have mine.
Of course the only justification for legislation such as this must be, as Lord Jellicoe said, whether it is effective. Let us consider two sets of figures. In 1972 there were 12,000 shooting and bombing incidents in Northern Ireland. In 1974 there were 45 deaths on this side of the water. Today, thank God, the numbers have fallen drastically. One may be wrong, but it seems that the carnage of the 1970s is no longer the norm. The reasons for the decline are, of course, numerous. I can identify at least six.
There is the increased effectiveness of the security forces. There is the improved intelligence of the police, enabling them to detect weapons-running. There is the growing rejection by the community, both Catholic and Protestant, of the use of violence to achieve political change. There is the drying up, to a great extent, of IRA funding in the United States, for which we can pay some tribute to the FBI. There is also the greater selectivity of the terrorists themselves in choosing their targets. There is also—I believe that this is very important—the improved cross-border co-operation that is now being achieved. We must try to extend that co-operation politically, culturally and commercially, and above all in security.
There can be no doubt, however, that the Act has also contributed. No hon. Member can say with certainty how much it has contributed, but in my judgment it has certainly contributed. I base that judgment not on my own perceptions because I am not a professional. No hon. Member is a professional and none of us is in the front line. With the single exception of Airey Neave, none-of us so far has had to bear the brunt of the terror, and I hope that we never shall.
Yes, I accept that. Nevertheless, very few of us have.
In circumstances in which we are not professionals and are not ourselves in the front line, we do well to consult those who are. I believe—I say this, I hope, without offence—that the police service in Northern Ireland has earned the right to be heard in the House. It has earned that right the hard way, with its blood.
The police service has no doubt at all that the provisions of the Act assist in the prevention of terrorist crime. The most important benefit is through intelligence. Today, intelligence is not pulled out with the fingernails in Castlereagh or anywhere like that. It is neither more nor less than the painstaking and systematic putting together of chains of events and circumstances—a clue here, a thread there, an inference in one place and a piece of hard fact in another. It is the assembly of those small details that adds up to police intelligence. That is how it works. It does not always work to bring about arrest or conviction. That is why it is really beside the point to sum up the figures and point out that the number of arrests was X and the number of convictions was Y. The important question is the extent to which the assembly of intelligence actually prevents terrorist acts from taking place. That, by definition, is immeasurable.
I believe that the police derive great benefit in intelligence gathering from the operation of the Act. I am sure that that is what led Lord Jellicoe to his principal conclusion. This can be summed up in two questions. Is there a terrorist threat? Lord Jellicoe is clear that there is. Secondly, does special legislation help to reduce that threat? Lord Jellicoe's answer is that at present he believes that it does.
Lord Jellicoe goes further to identify the international threat, to which reference has already been made. There is evidence that international terrorism is a rapid growth industry. International terrorist organisations co-operate on money, weapons, training, tactics, refuges and intelligence. I take just one of thousands of examples. Not long ago, a Swiss bank was burgled. The stolen funds turned up in the hands of PLO factions in the Yemen, the Baader-Meinhof organisation in Germany, the Red Brigades in Italy as well as in Libya and Uganda and among the IRA. The dispersal of the banknotes that were taken from the bank proves beyond peradventure that international terrorists are now increasingly co-operating. They are doing so in the search for more sophisticated weapons such as laser-guided weapons and rockets.
In those circumstances, the time has come for us, not through this measure, but through the new legislation that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary forecast, to provide stronger powers to prevent international terrorists coming to Britain. Lord Jellicoe recommends much better facilities for interrogation and detention in the ports. He is absolutely right. Some of the detention facilities are appalling and must be improved. He also strongly suggests that the immigration service should work more closely with the special branch in assisting with the questioning and prevention of entry of would-be terrorists. That view is sound. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend who will wind up will say whether the Home Office intends to give the immigration service more training and, perhaps, more advice about how best to co-operate at the ports with the special branch in the detection of would-be terrorists.
Lord Jellicoe is right when he says that citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies should no longer be liable to exclusion from that part of the United Kingdom in which they are settled. I am sure that that is a proper
reform and I look to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to implement it. In implementing it, he should consider a little further the argument that Northern Ireland is a dustbin for terrorists because they are excluded from the mainland. Lord Jellicoe has the right answer when, at paragraph 189, he says:
all applications for the exclusion of a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies should include the direct views of the police in both the 'excluding' and the 'receiving' territory".
That is important, otherwise there is a great risk of excluding people from here and making great difficulties there.
This is the first time that I have spoken in a debate about terrorism and Northern Ireland for 10 years. Some hon. Members will recall that I was a Minister in Northern Ireland for nearly two years. I have not spoken on the subject since. My experiences in Northern Ireland those many years ago made me feel strongly that if other hon. Members had shared my experiences of 1972 and 1973 they would, perhaps., be a little more determined to ensure that the measures continue.
I well remember the ghastly time that many of us, let alone the people of Northern Ireland, went through. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) reiterated the feeling of many people in Northern Ireland about the constant bombings, assassinations and the awful fear that stalks the Province. In the rural areas, for which I was responsible, there was a terrible fear of not knowing who one's friends and enemies were. That was especially so for farmers, and many difficulties were brought on by it.
Firm measures had to be taken and they have produced results. The problem could have become even worse. Measures, no matter how unpleasant and how much they restrict civil liberties, must be taken now. The police in Northern Ireland, let alone in Britain, would be in an even more difficult position if we did not have such special measures. The position is neither normal nor pleasant, and it is easy for those who live here in comfort and security to forget the conditions in which people live in Northern Ireland.
I have read Lord Jellicoe's wise report, and agree with much of it, especially the words on the first page:
If special legislation effectively reduces terrorism, as I believe it does, it should be continued as long as a substantial terrorist threat remains.
The threat remains, and who can say that it does not? The police, both here and in Northern Ireland, would be seriously handicapped if the measures were withdrawn.
The House must make a careful decision, because the nation would feel that, without those powers, there would be even more unease and uncertainty, and that the Government were not doing all that they could to deal with terrorists and the frightful dangers that they represent. Harsh and unpleasant measures must be taken, as they were in the past. I hope that I need never again take some of the actions that I did as duty Minister. I felt a heavy responsibility when, after reading reports constantly, I had to put people away. There was little freedom or civil liberty, but in the circumstances it had to be done., as it must be done today.
Lord Jellicoe suggests that there should be annual renewals of the Act for a fixed period of five years. If we had those annual reviews, it would give a clear signal to the terrorists that we meant business, and it would give the police and others the confidence to continue their difficult work.
I cannot agree with some of the points made about international terrorism. There is some connection between terrorists in Northern Ireland and in other parts of the world. Although I do not wish the powers to be extended, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will ensure that something is done to further the control of international terrorism. Although we all regret the need for such legislation, it is important to continue it. It is worth having such legislation, with all its restrictions on civil liberties, if it curbs terrorism. Measures had to be taken many years ago and must still be taken.
We have heard a tremendous amount about the problems of Northern Ireland and what happens in the Province, but what concerns many of us is the effect on the rest of the United Kingdom of the fact that the people in the Northern Irish part cannot get on together. Sectarianism is an evil and obscene weapon that brings a blight upon the lives of the rest of us. I had the honour to be deputy leader of the West Midlands county council on a certain night in 1974 when I was telephoned and told that two bombs had gone off in Birmingham. When I got there the sad remains of Birmingham people were being literally shovelled into sacks, and other people were being taken away. Twenty-one people died and 180 were injured.
The Government of the day, with commendable speed, brought in a Bill which had the support of the House, except for about 60 Labour Members. What did the 1974 Act do? It proscribed the IRA in Great Britain. Is that not still right? It gave the Home Secretary powers to exclude from Britain persons suspected of involvement in terrorism. Is that not still right today? It gave the police the power to hold suspects for up to seven days, with the permission of the Home Office. Is that not still right today, when terrorism is expected? It was to the great credit of the Labour Government that they introduced the measure.
In 1976 the then Government made further changes to the Act. Since then the Labour party's policy seems to have shifted, and a man called Livingstone has been getting more publicity than any other Labour party speaker on Irish affairs or any other affairs. According to some, what was right in 1974 for the people of the city that I represent, and was still right, as amended by the then Government in 1976 in their attempts to bring peace to Northern Ireland, is wrong now. However, no one has said why it should be wrong today. I cannot believe that the people of Birmingham and other parts of the Kingdom that have been plagued by terrorism would think it right to repeal the Act at this time.
The Jellicoe report contains no harsh words or extremism. It says, rightly, only that every five years the Act should not just be amended but completely rethought. That has to be right. Surely what we are doing today and have done for many hours this afternoon—not late in the night, as has often happened—is to discuss the Jellicoe report calmly and sensibly. I have heard not one sensible argument why the Act should be repealed, unless something better is put in its place.
It is not sufficient to say that the general law is adequate. To say that the Act penalises Irish people and that the police in Birmingham hound people because they have an Irish accent is obscene and untrue. The Irish citizens of my city are treated, rightly, as proper and rounded members of the community, as we all are. Not one good case has been made for voting against the order. Those who vote against it will do so at the peril not of their lives but of the lives of those whom they represent.
It is appropriate that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) should have been the last Back-Bench speaker. He mentioned the Irish people in Birmingham. He said that they did not feel excluded from the rest of the community and that they had a right and proper place in the civil life of Birmingham. I remind the hon. Gentleman that that was not so in late November 1974. We were told by the then Home Secretary, now the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), that unless action was seen to be taken vigilante gangs would roam the streets of Birmingham taking action against Irish people.
It was against that background that the then Home Secretary introduced what he called "draconian" legislation. The right hon. Gentleman said
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.
The clear and present danger to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was the position in Birmingham.
That view was reinforced by the then leader of the Conservative Opposition, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who said:
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."—[Official Report, 25 November 1974; Vol 882, c. 35–42.]
The "present situation" was the massacre in Birmingham and the alleged fear that the citizens of Birmingham and other cities would wreak vengeance on Irish people in those communities.
It was against that background that the Home Secretary and the then Government were able to put this legislation through the House in late November 1974 and convince new Members of the House, such as myself, not to oppose it. The right hon. Member for Hillhead takes liberties with the English language when he claims to have said on 28 November that he foresaw that the legislation would continue not for a few years but for nearly nine years.
I agree 100 per cent. with what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said. He is right in saying that no votes are to be gained by opposing this legislation. The official Opposition are opposing the legislation because it is right in principle to do so. I agree with and underline his sentiments that the legislation has caused a great deal of distress to Irish people both in Northern Ireland and in the remainder of Great Britain.
The House heard a typical speech from the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) when he claimed to be the least enthusiastic Member in the House for the legislation. Having given the reasons for not supporting the legislation, he then said that he would troop through the Lobby in support of the Government. That is typical of the way in which the Liberal/SDP alliance makes its decisions.
Every hon. Member in the debate has been at pains to ensure that no comfort is given to the men of violence. I wish to underline that. No one should underestimate the official Opposition's determination to combat terrorism from wherever it springs, whether it be from Northern Ireland or other parts of the world. However, in a democracy, hon. Members have a duty and a right to question whether a piece of draconian legislation such as the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 deeply offends our cherished tradition of civil liberties and whether legislation of this kind is still necessary.
I do not hide from the House the fact that I dislike the Act. Despite the Jellicoe report, I am still not convinced that it makes a positive contribution to the campaign against terrorism and violence. That view is shared by the vast majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends. Only in the most exceptional circumstances, similar to the slaughter in Birmingham in 1974, would I even begin to consider that a continuation of the Act was justified. Despite Lord Jellicoe's view that Britain faces an increasing threat from international terrorism, which I accept, I do not believe that the situation is so exceptional as to justify a continuation of the Act.
Many of us remember the atmosphere in the House in November 1974 in the aftermath of the Birmingham bombings. That atmosphere and, in particular, the strong anti-Irish feeling in Birmingham were used as justification for the introduction of the Act. Those of us who supported it did so in the belief that it would be temporary, but nine years later the temporary is becoming permanent.
If the Home Secretary decides to implement, as he appears to suggest that he would, the Jellicoe recommendation that the Act should lapse and have to be renewed every five years, we shall see the start of permanent legislation on the lines of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Before my hon. Friend is bombarded by interventions from Conservative Members—I can see them coming, and I do not want to give the Home Secretary the chance to say what I am about to say—will he bear in mind that, although we talk about the atmosphere created by the 1974 bombings, there have been many similar atrocities in Northern Ireland since then, including the bombings at Warrenpoint and Ballykelly?
Once we get into the numbers game, we can go on almost endlessly. Does my hon. Friend agree that, although 1974 saw the start of the legislation, the murders and atrocities have continued and we must not restrict our vision to what has happened in this country and divorce ourselves from what is happening in Northern Ireland?
I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend.
The 1976 Act was put on the statute book seven years ago and the Government ought to implement the Jellicoe recommendation far sooner than I believe they intend, and allow the legislation to lapse, so that we may have a full parliamentary review, during which the Government would be obliged to bring forward new legislation and defend it in the House. That would be a better course than relying on periodic reviews such as that by the Shackleton committee in 1978 and Lord Jellicoe last year, particularly since neither report questioned the Acts were still necessary.
The Home Secretary established last year's review when it became clear to him that the all-party consensus on the legislation was in danger of breaking down. Perhaps unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman, the Jellicoe report has not prevented the breakdown of the consensus, but it has provided an opportunity to discuss the Act, which is in stark contrast to previous years when the renewal order has been discussed late at night, with few hon. Members present in the Chamber and most of those not being able to take part in the debate.
At the beginning of the report Lord Jellicoe says that he agrees with the need for special legislation to combat terrorism. It is rather fortunate that he reached that conclusion, since the need is explicit in his terms of reference. Even though he accepts the need, he makes the point that he regards a counter-balancing principle to be of equal importance. That principle is outlined in paragraph 9 of the report.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall put forward the four main points of that counter-balancing principle. First, the law should continue to remain on the statute book only if it is effective; secondly, if its aims cannot be achieved by the use of the general law; thirdly, if it does not make unacceptable inroads into our civil liberties; and, fourthly, if there are effective safeguards against abuse. The report does its best to suggest a number of safeguards against abuse. The Home Secretary mentioned them earlier in the debate. The report recommends that exclusion orders should have a fixed life of three years and that the process should then be repeated if it is the Home Secretary's view that the exclusion order should continue. It recommends that the draconian period of 20 years should be reduced to three years.
Another main recommendation is that applications by the police for extended detention should, wherever possible, specify the period and that in most cases this should be less than permitted by the legislation. Another main recommendation is about the suspect's right of access to a solicitor after 48 hours detention, which already applies under the emergency legislation in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that these safeguards improve the legislation al: the margin, but the remaining three quarters of the noble Lord's equally important principle remain, at the end of 96 pages, unaddressed.
No one has ever made any serious attempt to deny that the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act gravely erodes our civil liberties. Two of its most worrying aspects are the power of the police to detain suspects, without charge for 48 hours, and then for a further five days with the consent of the Secretary of State. Perhaps, the least acceptable part of the legislation is the power to exclude people arrested under the Act from Great Britain—in other words, to exile them from Northern Ireland.
Two aspects of that state of affairs have always caused me grave concern. First, some people are too dangerous to walk the streets of Great Britain, but are at liberty to wander around the streets of Northern Ireland where, presumably, they have ample opportunity to indulge in terrorist activities. Secondly, we rightly condemn those totalitarian regimes that practise internal exile. I believe that Britain's condemnatory voice on those regimes is weakened because of our form of internal exile.
Quite apart from the anxiety about the way in which the Act is applied, there is the added danger that long-term acceptance of its provisions will corrupt our democratic system. I believe that there is evidence that this has begun to happen. The power to detain suspects for seven days, which produced a shock on both sides of the House in 1974, now hardly causes an eyelid to flutter. Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, which is passing through the House, the police will have power to detain suspects—I admit with safeguards—for 96 hours. That is a trade-off between the acceptability of the seven days in the Prevention of Terrorism Act and increasing the length of detention in the Bill now passing through the House.
One of the most alarming aspects of the Jellicoe report is its frequent reference to the Police Act 1976 as though that is the standard of normality to which the Prevention of Terrorism Act should aspire. This is an example of an insidious circular process in which draconian laws soften us up for similar laws which become the desired standard for further measures.
The erosion of our civil liberties might be justified if there were a greater benefit to society as a whole. We are driven to ask whether the Act prevents terrorism more effectively than normal police powers. The report provides no satisfactory answer to this central and crucial question. Indeed, it states that there can be no clear proof that the arrest powers in the Prevention of Terrorism Act are or are not an essential weapon in the fight against terrorism. Lord Jellicoe can only adduce theories and some rather questionable statistics to support his view. He says that terrorists are skilled in resisting interrogation and so extended detention is necessary. No doubt that is correct, but does it justify casting out the right not to be held unless a charge is brought? Does it justify removing the right to see a solicitor? I believe that we cannot justify removing those two parts of our ancient civil liberties.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) that valuable information is obtained by the police as a result of these admittedly harsh measures?
I shall be addressing myself to that issue. I ask the hon. Gentleman to contain himself for a few minutes.
I believe that we are witnessing the unravelling of the very fabric of our democratic system which we are supposed to be defending against terrorists. The statistics in the report hardly support the argument that the Act should continue. We are told that between 1979 and December 1982 the number of those detained inland and then charged decreased from 32 to 15 per cent., while at the ports there was an increase from 2 to 5 per cent. Apart from the port activity, which appears to have become more precise and accurate, inland arrests appear to be more indiscriminate and less justified.
The Act is a singularly ineffective weapon. Of the 5,555 detained since 1974, the vast majority—4,900—were neither charged nor excluded from Britain. We are driven to the conclusion—I take up the question put to me by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison)—that the authorities are using the Act as an intelligence-gathering weapon. No doubt it has some value in that sense. By constant cross-examination it is possible to discover the contacts of those who have been arrested, where they met and when they last saw them. In that way it is possible to build up a picture of the movement in certain areas in the United Kingdom. In that way the Act could be said to be useful, but I think we must accept that that leads to grave disadvantages.
The Act increases the number of sympathisers for the terrorist organisations, especially when people are picked up, held, cross-examined for a long time and ultimately released with no charge having been brought. The suspect is then able to present himself as innocent, despite the allegation made by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) that many of the 4,900 were guilty even though no charges were brought against them. However, these people are able to present themselves as innocent and this creates the impression among the Irish community in Great Britain that people are dragged in under the Act's provisions even though they are innocent and no charges are brought. Such people can convince the community that they have been wronged. I believe that that increases the degree of sympathy felt for terrorist organisations among sections of the community.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is right. It increases those fears. However, if, as a result of interrogation, with safeguards, clues, tips and inferences are reached that enable the police to prevent a bombing that might kill some of the hon. Member's constituents, how does he put that into the balance?
On balance, the Prevention of Terrorism Act does not contribute positively to the containment of terrorism. If the hon. Gentleman studies the tables in the report, he will see that since 1975, out of the 5,555 people picked up in Great Britain, only 28 have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment greater than one year. The Act undermines the confidence of the minority community in Great Britain and its willingness to cooperate. For that reason, it undermines the police when they seek to combat terrorism, particularly when they require information from the Irish community in Great Britain.
The most worrying part of the report is its failure to say that exclusion orders should not be permitted to remain on the statute book. Lord Jellicoe describes them as an unsatisfactory substitute for criminal proceedings and yet claims that they have rid Great Britain of dangerous terrorists, but, presumably, not Northern Ireland, to where many have been excluded.
At a press conference on 9 February Lord Jellicoe said that no criminal charges should be brought against those dangerous terrorists because it would be impolitic to reveal in a court the more sensitive evidence against terrorists. I guess that it is more likely that there is insufficient evidence for a court. Are we prepared to accept that there are crimes which cannot be tried in a court but which must be decided in secret by policemen and politicians? I do not question the Home Secretary's integrity in these matters, but in a democracy we should not be prepared to accept that people can be tried in secret by policemen and politicians. It is a policy which all democrats should deplore.
The report has failed singularly to satisfy the counterbalancing argument that Lord Jellicoe set up. It fails to show that the Act continues to be effective. It does not show that the Act's aims cannot be obtained under the general law. It shows clearly that the Act makes unacceptable inroads into our civil liberties. It is for that reason, among others, that we shall vote against the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976.
It is right that the House should pause before passing legislation resulting in inroads in our civil liberties. However, sometimes liberties and individual rights must be curtailed to protect far more fundamental rights—the right, for instance, of ordinary people to stay alive and go about their business without fear, as mentioned in the Shackleton report.
Disgusting crimes have been committed by contemptible and loathsome people who have chosen to use the weapon of terror against entirely innocent fellow men and women. Other countries with a less strong tradition of freedom might have reacted by passing very much more drastic legislation. We are proposing the renewal of measures that I believe strike a reasonable balance between the need to protect individual liberties on the one hand and to safeguard the public on the other. I would go further. I believe that if these powers were not renewed, there would be a feeling of great outrage among the public.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) argued that that was the true reason why he supported the Act in 1974. If he found it right to vote for the Act at that time, because he recognised the outrage that would have been felt by the public had there not been legislation, I find it hard to understand why he is apparently content not to support the Act tonight after the outrages in London as recently as last year.
That is an extraordinary argument. The hon. Gentleman referred to his having supported the measure as a new Member in 1974.
For a start, non-renewal would mean that obscene organisations such as the IRA would be able once again to flaunt themselves in public, to have meetings openly, and to go around collecting funds for the purchase of more explosives to blow off more people's legs. After what happened in London last year and after Ballykelly, is that really something that the British people would be prepared to accept? Quite clearly not.
Non-renewal would also mean the dismantling of all port controls for passengers travelling between the Republic and Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Who has most to gain from that? It is true that the travelling public would avoid a little inconvenience, but I was amazed by the intervention of the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett), who talked about the horrors of these restrictions that made people miss their train and aeroplane connections. The real beneficiaries of dismantling the port controls would be the terrorists, for whom the presence of police officers at the ports must be a significant deterrent, which inhibits their movements as well as the movement of weapons or explosives. We cannot measure in terms of saved lives the deterrent effect of legislation of this sort, but we can ask ourselves how on earth letting the Act lapse could help.
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that before the legislation was introduced in 1974 there were policemen regularly at the ports and that on occasions they stopped people and asked them questions? Will he further confirm that most people are annoyed because it appears that those who are stopped for long periods are stopped for political reasons rather than because they appear to be terrorists?
I doubt whether many people are so foolish and wicked as to complain about some moderate inconvenience when that probably results in the saving of lives. Of course there were policemen at the ports prior to 1974, but they did not have the powers that they have now.
Non-renewal would mean the dismantling of those port controls. It would also mean the undoing of the work of successive Home Secretaries who have used the Act to remove those who have been involved in acts of terrorism and might commit them here. In the words of the Jellicoe report, there have undoubtedly been cases where exclusion has rid Great Britain of dangerous terrorists, and this would not have been achieved through the normal crime process. According to the report,
the exclusion of some people … has materially contributed to public safety".
Therefore, if the Opposition were to have their way, public safety would be materially prejudiced. Non-renewal would mean the end of extended detention with the result, according to the report, that the police would be severely handicapped in dealing with terrorists.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) told us of his opinions. It was perhaps worthy of note that only three hon. Members from the Labour party turned up in the Chamber to support him, and the last three speeches before the wind-ups all came from the Government side of the House. Hon. Members will make what they can of that.
Some of the comments of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook were amazing. He said that the continuation of powers of this nature must be contingent on absolute proof that they are necessary. But how can one prove that the existence of these powers or any powers or the making of any particular act illegal has saved 19 lives, 21., 46 or 57? Any fool can understand that.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was not demanding absolute proof between 1975 and this year. Was he then kicking at the pricks and saying that he could not accept legislation unless he had absolute proof? What absolute proof did he have between 1974 and last year that is absent today? He said that for nine years there had been growing revulsion against detention under the Act. There were nine years during which the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to endure with equanimity his growing revulsion, if there was that growing revulsion, which neither I nor the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill head (Mr. Jenkins) ever detected. There has been much extravagant language used today that cannot be justified by the nature of the provisions that we are examining.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook used as evidence that the Act was unnecessary the fact that only 15 people detained inland were charged. I would say that that shows the discretion with which the Act has been used. The right hon. Gentleman said that all this was part and parcel of a movement towards a more authoritarian society. At that moment in his speech he began to blurt out all the jargon of those across the river to which I and most hon. Members did not think he subscribed until a short time ago. It was pretty rich for the right hon. Gentleman to describe the powers in that way when they were powers originally taken by a Labour Government, then perpetuated by a Labour Government and voted for by the right hon. Gentleman year after year.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Hillhead for his contribution. He mentioned some most important points. He said that when he introduced the 1974 Act he believed that proscription of the IRA would avoid provocation to the public. That is what I had in mind in my opening remarks. Provocation would be caused if we were not to renew the powers today. He pointed out what an extraordinary year it was for the Labour party to change course when 1982 was the worst year for terrorist outbreaks since 1975. He was right as far as Great Britain was concerned to express that surprise, but for the record I point out that in Northern Ireland there was a decline in violence in 1982 as compared with 1981. However, that does not spoil the right hon. Gentleman's argument.
The right hon. Member for Hillhead said that perhaps a new Act should be renewable year by year in part. In other words, having passed an Act that would lapse after five years perhaps it would be possible each year to renew it in part. I can only say that this matter will be considered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) reminded the House of the appalling story of international terrorism. My hon. Friend hoped that the Home Secretary would not draw an artificial distinction between international terrorism and domestic terrorism. Much the same was stated by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The suggestion of an extension of the Act to international terrorism is under consideration. We have listened to the debate and to the various contributions made on this point. We shall also bear in mind the suggestion that all domestic terrorism should be covered. I should, however, emphasise that Lord Jellicoe, in his report, stressed that powers should be available only when they can achieve a beneficial effect. He pointed out that the problem of domestic terrorism unconnected with Northern Ireland is not a problem comparable in extent to the problem of Irish terrorism.
The right hon. Member for Down, South said that he welcomed the shorter period than 20 years, which would prevent the use of the power of exclusion. That recommendation will be examined. Again, on the question of exclusion, the right hon. Gentleman said that he welcomed the recommendation in the report that the police on both sides, that is, on the excluding and on the receiving end, would be consulted and advice taken from them before an exclusion order was made. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that that recommendation is not only acceptable to the Government; it has been accepted and implemented.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Sir H. Fraser) said that it was incomprehensible that the Opposition this year should have changed their whole attitude. My right hon. Friend said that he supported the recommendation made in the report that there should be financial assistance for legal advice for those detained for more than 48 hours. I can tell the House that we also accept that recommendation.
The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) said that the majority of people affected by the legislation are shown, in the event, to be innocent and are released. I am afraid that I cannot accept those words. The purpose of the powers is to deal with those cases where there are difficulties of proof but also cases where the evidence available is so sensitive that it cannot be used. It is so sensitive that if such information were given to the person involved who was thereby given a clue as to the source of the information, the life of the person who had given that information to the authorities would be at risk. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the terrorists want these laws. I cannot accept that for one moment. If I were minded to arrive at Stranraer with explosives, I would not want these laws on the statute book. That is for certain. How can one assess the effect of port powers when one is talking about deterrence?
My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) stressed the importance of safeguarding individual liberties. With that, I most certainly agree. My hon. Friend suggested that there should be checks as often as possible before people leave their country rather than before they arrive elsewhere. There is nothing in the Act to prevent this. There is, however, a practical difficulty. The police may have good reason not to alert a person to their suspicions about him until he has actually travelled with perhaps the evidence on him as to his intentions. My hon. Friend said that it was important that the Bill should not appear to suggest that this is not a United Kingdom. My hon. Friend is entirely right. We take that point.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), as usual, made an eloquent speech. He said, quite unnecessarily, that in opposing the renewal of the Act he was not saying that he had a sneaking sympathy with the terrorists. We knew that, because we know his courage. He referred to Adams, Morrison and McGuinness, the gentlemen who wished to come here in response to an invitation from across the river. I can only tell the House that the decisions in that case were taken solely in the interests of the prevention of terrorism. The exclusion orders were made on the same principles and in exactly the same way as all other decisions on exclusions made under the 1976 Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) referred to the disintegration of the Labour party, evidenced by what has occurred today. I can only say that that must be obvious to many people.
The hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Pitt) made an interesting speech. He said at one stage that social conditions inspired terrorism. That is a difficult proposition to sustain. I remind the hon. Gentleman that when Ulster had a standard of living far higher than that in the south there was still terrorism in Ulster. One has to be careful in making such statements that one does not give the impression to the ill-informed that one might be justified in blowing up people's property or in killing people because of dissatisfaction with one's social conditions. One should be wary of making such statements.
I do not accept for a moment that these terrorists, some of whom are making money out of protection rackets, some of whom are Marxists, and others, because of some other ambition, are persuaded of the need to blow up their fellow men because they do not have a nice enough house in Derry.
The hon. Gentleman said that exclusion orders were made unreasonably. The fact that 15 exclusion orders were made in Great Britain last year is hardly powerful evidence that they have been thrown about the place and are being used with other than great discretion. The hon. Gentleman said that exclusion orders should be made in the courts so that evidence can be heard and so that the person against whom the exclusion order is aimed may have opportunity to make representations. The hon. Gentleman has missed the whole point. As I said a few minutes ago, exclusion orders are made in cases where the facts are too sensitive for that to be done. They are far too sensitive for the person who is about to be excluded to be told the information against him and where it came from, because the likely result would be that the informer would soon be dead at the hands of the same terrorists.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) referred to the film that we understand is to be shown—or may already have been shown—on television tonight. He suggested that if payment is being made to the IRA for anything that appears on the programme, there might be an infringement of section 11 of the Act. I shall pass his views to my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) said that there was no evidence that the Act had helped to deter terrorist activity. I can only repeat what I said earlier: how can one prove that a crime would not have occurred? All one can do is to address one's common sense to problems of this nature and come to a reasonable conclusion.
The hon. Gentleman said that few of those arrested were charged, so that the Act did not work. The proportion of those detained who are subsequently charged or excluded has in recent years been substantially higher than in earlier years, which would tend to show that the Act is being used with more discrimination and more sensitivity.
There is no doubt that the Act is used far more extensively in Northern Ireland, but there is also no doubt that the threat is far greater in Northern Ireland and the degree of violence there is very much higher.
The hon. Gentleman said that we were taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. That was not the first time during the debate that the word "nut" came to my mind, but perhaps I had better not dwell on that.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said that the real questions to ask were these. Would repeal of the Act make it easier for terrorists? He answered yes and we answer yes. He asked: would it encourage the terrorist if the Act disappeared from the statute book? He answered yes and we answer yes. He said that the police say that they need the powers in the Act. I agree with him. Lord Jellicoe came to the conclusion that the police needed the powers in the Act.
My hon. and learned Friend asked what was being done about weapons being brought into this country in diplomatic bags. If that is a problem, it is an inherently difficult one to solve. I cannot confirm or deny allegations concerning the shooting of Mr. Argov, but I can assure the House that, if there were any evidence of criminal involvement by a diplomat, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would not hesitate to take the appropriate action.
Will my hon. and learned Friend note that that is the sort of answer that has been given time and again when the question has been raised in the House? [asked the question because I hoped that the Government would actually do something about the screening of diplomatic bags, or put pressure through diplomatic orders or conventions to try to make that opportunity available.
My hon. and learned Friend may have asked the question many times but, first, he has never asked me about it, and, secondly, I do not think that would be the right person to whom he should address the question in any event, because it is clearly a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
The hon. Member for Stockport, North said that Lord Jellicoe had to accept the continuing need for the legislation because it was a part of his terms of reference. That is undoubtedly true, but I remind the House that Lord Shackleton's terms of reference were exactly the same.
I was asked why the immigration rules are not adequate to deal with this problem. For travel between Ireland and. Britain, the usual immigration powers are, in the main, not exercised, because Ireland and Britain form part of a. common travel area.
I was asked about the treatment of people in police custody, and access for lawyers. I can assure the House that the recommendation made by Lord Jellicoe is accepted by the Government.
I was also asked what will happen to those now excluded who would not have been excluded under the new three-year rule proposed by Lord Jellicoe. I can only say that that problem will be borne in mind in the framing of the Bill. I cannot be expected to give the House a definitive answer at this stage.
I was asked about the possibility of an amnesty for those who are holding firearms illegally. I find it difficult to see the relevance of that to terrorism. I cannot believe that, by and large, terrorists are obtaining arms from people who have secreted them in the bottom drawers of their dressing tables and who would be attracted by an amnesty coupled with some small financial reward.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) said that it was undesirable to use this legislation in relation to international terrorism. I made it clear that we shall consider that matter very carefully. It attracted a great deal of attention during the debate. The argument was put from both sides of the House and will be borne in mind by my right hon. Friend.
I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) whether we would give immigration officers more training and advice in the use of the powers in the Act. The recommendation about training in the report is being carefully studied, and we shall make our views known in due course. My hon. Friend the Member for Devon, West (Sir P. Mills) said that without these powers there would be unease among the public and a feeling that the Government were not doing all that they could. I entirely agree with him. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) reminded us of where he was at the time of the Birmingham bombings in 1974, and what a terrible event that was.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South said that he had supported the legislation in 1974, but he did not explain why people do not demand a response to the continuing terrorism of today if they demanded such a response in 1974. He said that only the bombings in Birmingham had persuaded him to vote for the legislation then and that only another such bombing would persuade him to vote for a renewal of it now. I can only express my complete amazement at his attitude, in view of the terrorist activities in London last year. The hon. Gentleman said that if we have an Act that will lapse after five years that will be the beginning of permanent legislation. That is an Irishism all right. Every five years hon. Members will have the opportunity to examine the legislation in detail and to decide which parts of it, if any, they want to retain. The hon. Gentleman said that the Act should be allowed to lapse so that the Government would be obliged to bring in another Bill. That is precisely what we are doing.
There is no doubt that the police want these powers, which have helped them significantly in their fight against terrorism. The police deserve not merely our good wishes for their work—although there are some not far from here who, to their shame, wish them nothing but ill—but the practical support which the powers in the Act give them. While the threat remains at the present level, it would be folly to allow the Act to lapse. Nothing has happened in the past two years to lessen the need for the legislation. Over the years, however, the Labour party has changed—and changed dramatically for the worse. When the then Home Secretary introduced the 1974 Bill he remarked that the struggle to eradicate terrorism might not be a short one. He has been proved horribly right. He did not forecast then the decay of the Labour party that has now occurred and manifests itself most clearly on occasions such as this when that party turns its back on all that it so rightly did when it had the responsibilities of Government.