Skip to main content

Minor And Consequential Amendments

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 8 April 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 18, line 31, at end insert—

`(a) he may detain all or any of the persons found on those premises for the duration of the search.'.
During the debate in Committee, hon. Members on both sides were startled to discover that the power to search premises was thought by implication to include a power to detain persons, other than the particular person who was the object of the search, who might be present on those premises at the time. There was a general feeling that if that power was implicit, it ought to be made explicit in the terms of the statute, and in particular that the length of any such detention should be limited. That anxiety had been expressed by Sir George Baker in his report.

In Committee, we considered whether it was practicable to provide a four-hour period of detention in those circumstances, but upon consideration it seems more reasonable that the power to detain, without which some searches would be physically impracticable or liable to frustration, ought to be limited to the duration of the search itself. I hope that that will be found acceptable to the Government.

It may be that the interpretation is correct, that a power to search implies the power to direct any person not to leave the premises or to move from one part of the premises to another, but, in the light of the tense circumstances in which those powers are exercised, I hope that the Government will agree that it would be far better, as a minor amendment, if those powers were set out precisely on the face of the statute.

In view of all the pleasant things that have been said during the course of this stage of the consideration of the Bill about the confluence of views and so on, it would be nice if, on this last amendment, it was possible for me to accept the reasonable point that has been put by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell). However, I am afraid that I have to act the hard man for once, and reiterate what I said in Committee when a similar amendment backed by the right hon. Gentleman was under consideration.

It is quite clear in law that the statutory power to enter and search premises does implicitly carry with it the power to do anything that is reasonably necessary to achieve the object of the search. There are other statutes that confer such powers — for example, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, the Criminal Law Act 1967, and drugs legislation—but nowhere do they spell out the ancillary steps that may be taken in order to make a search effective. Therefore, although the right hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable case, it would be odd to single out searches under this particular piece of legislation in the way proposed by the amendment when it is not reflected in other legislation that provides the power to search. Therefore, I have to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider withdrawing his amendment.

There may be a disadvantage in varying in this instance from the conferment of powers to search in other statutory contexts. Therefore, although I think that there is some danger attendant upon the exercise of a power to search without specific power to do those various things in the course of a search, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 29, in page 18, line 40, at end insert—

' In section 18 (power to stop and question)
  • (a) in subsection (1)(b), after "other" insert "recent"; and
  • (b) in subsection (2), for the words from "imprisonment" onwards substitute "a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.".'.
  • No. 31, in page 18, line 41, at end insert—

    ' In section 32 (orders and regulations)—
  • (a) in subsection (1), after "orders conferred by" insert "section 9A above and";
  • (b) in subsection (3), for the words from the beginning to "Schedules)" substitute "Subject to subsection (5) below, no order or regulations under this Act";
  • (c) in subsection (4), for the words from the beginning to "approved) shall" substitute "Subject to subsection (5) below, orders and regulations under this Act shall, if not so approved in draft,"; and—
  • (d) after that subsection add—
  • "(5) Subsections (3) and (4) above do not apply to—
  • (a) any order under section 19A above or under Schedule 1 or 3 to this Act; or
  • (b) any regulations under section 5A above; but a statutory instrument containing any such regulations shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.".'.—[Dr. Mawhinney]
  • Order for Third Reading read.

    9.43 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

    There are two points that I should like to put on record at this stage of the Bill that I hope will show the willingness of the Government to respond to some of the views put forward in Committee.

    Those right hon. and hon. Members who served on the Committee will recall the general concern that was expressed during the course of our discussions to ensure that Parliament was able to scrutinise effectively the emergency provisions legislation on the occasion of the annual renewal debates. I gave certain assurances about the provision of extra information—for example, that the Government would provide what statistical information was available. However, I believe that it would be for the assistance of the House, and, indeed, the other place, if, each year, a more objective assessment of the way in which the legislation had been operating could be prepared. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is therefore considering whether it might be right to ask an independent person of standing to conduct a review and prepare a report for Parliament. I hope that that will facilitate the Houe in coming to a view about the way in which the Act is working.

    The House will recall that we will renew the Act on an annual basis and that it has an overall life of five years. In Committee I was anxious to ensure that that annual review was as meaningful and penetrating as possible. I hope that if my right hon. Friend decides that eventually that is the right course to take, that approach will commend itself to the House. I shall be glad to take account of anything that is said in response to that during this Third Reading debate.

    Secondly, my right hon. Friend and I acknowledge the desirability of providing a clear statement of the powers available to the security forces under the emergency legislation and giving a clear indication of the ways in which those powers should be exercised. As I said in Committee, it is the Government's intention to introduce for Northern Ireland, by Order in Council, provisions equivalent to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, including provisions requiring the introduction of codes of practice equivalent to those drawn up under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Those codes would be of general application.

    However, it is clear that codes directly equivalent to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes would not bite on the exercise of emergency powers. Code A, for example, deals with powers of search that are exercised on the basis of "reasonable grounds for suspicion", whereas some of those in the emergency provisons Act are exercised in order to "ascertain whether" munitions and so on are present. There are similar limitations on the other codes.

    We believe that what is required is a separate code of practice governing the exercise of powers under the emergency legislation. The Government, therefore, intend to introduce a code of practice for the exercise of emergency powers in Northern Ireland. The code will not be a statutory code. We believe that such a code will be in the best interests of the security forces by contributing to greater understanding and confidence between them and the general public. It will also be in the interests of the general public to have a clear statement of the security forces' powers and of the way in which those powers should be operated.

    I should like to reiterate what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier. I compliment all those who played any part in the earlier stages of the Bill on the constructive way in which they approached it. We improved the legislation substantially on its way through Committee. I hope that the Government have been seen to respond positively and constructively both in Committee and today on the Floor of the House.

    9.47 pm

    This is not the time to embark on a further debate, and I do not propose to do so. However, I endorse what the Minister said in his final remarks. On Second Reading I called the Bill a mixed bag because I could not think of a more elegant expression on the spur of the moment. I said that we would place no impediment in the Government's path when they introduced progressive measures. The Bill represents an improvement in a number of respects on the previous law, and I hope that we shall continue to encourage the Government in well doing.

    We have debated the less attractive parts of the Bill. That was possible because the Government introduced the provisions by way of a Bill, not by unamendable orders. I imagine that that was because the Government had to do it in that way, and not because they had acquired a sudden aversion to unamendable orders, although I might wish that it were otherwise.

    We have had profitable debates. We have not reached unanimity, but we have directed our minds to one another's arguments and I believe that the Bill is better in consequence. Even at this late stage, the Minister has given us two items of good news. I shall not attempt to react to them now. In any event, it may be better to reflect on them before we say any more, but good news they certainly are. I, too, pay tribute to all those who have contributed to our debates. We have had enjoyable and useful debates and I hope that we shall have such debates more often.

    9.49 pm

    During the day we on this Bench have been asked why we are participating in the debate. The answer will be obvious to some, but not to all. It w ill not be obvious to all, because those who were elected to this House in 1983 from all parts of the United Kingdom have probably never seen Northern Ireland legislation being treated in the normal way by a Bill and not by an Order in Council. This has been a lesson for all of us who have been present in the Chamber since the debate began in mid-afternoon and for those in the Palace of Westminster who occasionally looked in upon our deliberations. We are grateful for that passing interest.

    The House has been inquiring how these complex issues could have been dealt with by an Order in Council. You, Mr. Speaker, know very well what would have happened had this been an Order in Council instead of a Second Reading, a Committee stage upstairs and now Report and Third Reading on the Floor of the House. We would have had a debate of 90 minutes, two fairly lengthy opening speeches, a limited number of contributions, a curious eagerness on the part of the Minister replying to encourage as many contributions as possible, and then, not surprisingly, find that he had insufficient time to deal with the many points that had been raised. He would then offer the consolation that he would write to every hon. Member who had raised points in the course of the debate.

    In his earlier contributions to the debate, the Secretary of State expressed appreciation of the privilege that had been his of reading the Hansard reports of the Committee stage and of being here — like myself — at a comparatively late stage in the proceedings having followed those earlier discussions in Committee. The Secretary of State said that the House had benefited from the debate being taken on the Floor of the House this afternoon and this evening. He is in the very happy position of being able to perpetuate that sense of privilege and pleasure by simply deciding that from henceforth all major Northern Ireland legislation will be treated by Bills in the normal way and not by Order in Council.

    The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) reminded us that the Bill is merely one part of the necessary legislative armoury, given that the emergency may continue for some considerable time. Even that armoury in total will make no significant impact upon the continuing terrorist campaign. It is continuing, because there has been no reduction in violence since the year in which the present Parliament was elected and since the present Government were reinstalled in office in 1983.

    Far from a reduction, the violence has increased, despite the fact that in a press release on 15 November 1985 — a year and a half ago — the Prime Minister explained and justified her reasons for signing the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the following terms :
    "I entered into this agreement because I was not prepared to tolerate a situation of continuing violence."
    After a year and a half of experimentation and unfounded optimism, the Prime Minister is still tolerating that continuing violence. We would not unreasonably ask from this Bench, "How long is she prepared to tolerate it?"

    While the Committee has laboured diligently, and the debate in the House has to some extent supplemented the Committee's work, and while I join in the tributes paid to those who served on the Committee, it is my clear duty to warn the House that if and when the Bill receives the Royal Assent the effect on murder and destruction will be very marginal indeed.

    I shall not transgress by dealing with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The less said about cases of terminal illness, the better. Because we are considering a measure that deals with security, or the lack of it — a measure that will become part of a larger apparatus — we should not deceive ourselves or the country by subscribing to the mere superstition that any promises of co-operation from any Dublin Government who depend upon the life support system of one or two mavericks in the Dail will ever make a significant contribution to eradicating terrorism in Northern Ireland.

    Recently, the Prime Minister took issue with me when I said that at least 18 people had been murdered in the first three months of this year. She said that some victims of the strife were members of the so-called Irish National Liberation Army, to which I must reply, "So what?" She ignored the fact that those murdering one another had crossed and recrossed the frontier to commit those crimes. Although I do not wish to disillusion and dishearten those who served on the Committee or who contributed to the debate today by suggesting that their work has been in vain, I should say that unless Her Majesty's Government bring themselves to recognise that they must recast their entire political, economic and security strategy, it will have been in vain.

    The Secretary of State quoted Sir George Baker's conclusion at page 71 of the report, which stated :
    "If 'doomsday' arrives in whatever form it will be the duty of the then Government to bring any necessary legislation before Parliament immediately."
    There is a real fear in many minds that the Province is careering towards "doomsday". In words slightly different from those used by Sir George Baker, I say with the support of my colleagues on this Bench that it is the duty of the Government to free themselves at long last from the shackles imposed by the Anglo-Irish Agreement and, as Her Majesty's Government, to take single-handedly such action as may be necessary to arrest the drift that has gone on for far too long.

    9.57 pm

    It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), who has borne many burdens in a tortured Province with courage, humility and patience. I heartily agreed when he said that he was glad that the legislation was in the form of a Bill. Many Conservative and Unionist Members agree that, as far as possible, Northern Ireland legislation should be conducted like other legislation and that Northern Ireland should be treated as though it was truly part of the United Kingdom. But I assure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that I shall not comment on the Anglo-Irish Agreement. My views on it are known to the House.

    The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) rightly commented on the amenity of our debates on the Bill. His attitude and speeches contributed greatly to that amenity. What has also been agreeable is the way in which nationalist and Ulster Unionist Members have taken part in our debates in Committee and on the Floor of the House and have been in full agreement on some amendments and new clauses. This one Parliament of the United Kingdom is where dialogue can take place between nationalist and Unionist as it has not always taken place in assemblies constructed artificially across the water. There has been unity——

    It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.