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Lord Gardiner's Report

Volume 885: debated on Thursday 30 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he now expects to publish the report of Lord Gardiner's committee.

The report is publised today and copies are available in the Vote Office. Our thanks are owed to Lord Gardiner, and to his committee for the competent way in which they tackled their difficult task, and for the speed with which they completed it.The Government are examining the committee's recommendations and the effect on the Emergency Provisions Act 1973.The report raises a number of difficult and complex issues which the Government have to consider in the light of the facts of violence in Northern Ireland, and I shall make a statement in due course giving the Government's views, but there are two points that I can make now.Lord Gardiner says that the Government have acted legitimately, and consistently with the terms of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in restricting certain fundamental freedoms, and he makes it clear that the ending of detention is a matter that only the Government can decide. I agree with this, and, indeed, the whole weight of my statement on 14th January was based on this. As I said on that occasion, once I am satisfied that there is a geniune and sustained end of violence I shall progressively release all detainees.

The committee recommends that there should be no amnesty for convicted prisoners with the administrative status of special category. I have already made it clear that this is my view.

The committee also recommends that special category status should be ended. This raises many difficult questions, and, indeed, as the report recognises, the availability of accommodation and facilities for work in prisons in Northern Ireland is crucial to the Government's reactions to this proposal.

The recommendations in the report on prison accommodation and in particular for additional cellular accommodation are being urgently considered in the light of the new prison programme for Northern Ireland which I announced on 18th November 1974.