asked Her Majesty's Government:What consideration they have given to the application of powers under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 to those individuals suspected or identified by the Police Service of Northern Ireland or the security services of acts of terrorism within the Northern Ireland context.
My Lords, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be considering carefully the application of the powers of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 to Northern Ireland. However, it is an exceptional piece of legislation aimed at exceptional circumstances and we would not expect its provisions to be used routinely. Our aim is that if individuals are suspected of involvement in terrorist acts, the police will seek to gather the evidence necessary to secure a conviction in court.
My Lords, I thank the Lord President for that response, which I find encouraging, in as much as the Secretary of State is giving the matter consideration. However, in Northern Ireland, we have much more than reasonable suspicion that people, both loyalist and republican, are involved with terrorist gangs that carry out all forms of criminality, including murder. The Justice Minister in the Irish Republic has even named two Members of the other place as serving members of the IRA army council. Do Her Majesty's Government have any intention of using control orders against those who, according to the police and security forces. pose a terrorist threat in Northern Ireland? In the light of last week's legislation, if not, why not?
My Lords, I think I made the Government's position absolutely clear in my Answer. Control orders will be used sparingly and only where necessary in the interests of public safety. We have made it absolutely clear that where individuals are suspected of involvement in terrorist acts the police will seek to gather the evidence necessary to secure a conviction in court. That remains the Government's preferred method. I cannot, of course, speculate on possible applications in individual cases but, as I said, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will consider the matter very carefully.
My Lords, will the Lord President take this opportunity to dispel a growing feeling that the pursuit of alleged terrorists in Northern Ireland is less forceful than it is in England and Wales? Furthermore, will she speculate in an informed way about when we may expect some arrests following the McCartney murder and the Northern Bank robbery?
My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, does not really expect me to speculate on those matters. The Government are absolutely clear that the McCartney family deserve justice. We will continue to call on all those with information to come forward to assist the investigation. Justice means proper investigation and proper judicial process.I have already answered questions about the Northern Bank raid investigation across the Dispatch Box. The noble Lord will be aware that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is undertaking a major investigation into the Northern Bank robbery, including the kidnapping and hostage-taking. More than 45 detectives are involved; more than 200 interviews are planned or have taken place; and 600 actions have already been logged.
My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's comments and her resistance to the questions from the other side of the House. Will she confirm that it is much better to give the police in Northern Ireland time to conduct their investigations in order to bring people before the courts if at all possible? The worst thing that we can do—justwhen public opinion is moving more strongly than ever before against terrorists and criminals in Northern Ireland— is to give the people who perpetrated those crimes a sense of being victims. That would mean that we would lose the political argument, which at present is going very much on the side of the Government and the ordinary people there.
My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Dubs that the police need to be given time to conduct investigations. They also need to be given the resources, and we have been assured that they are available. I see the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, nodding, because I know that she frequently asks that question. I can also tell my noble friend that the strong line being taken by the family in the McCartney case in seeking to secure justice is being supported by the people of Northern Ireland, who are themselves putting pressure on the criminals in that regard.
My Lords, will the Minister clarify the position? Her noble friend has congratulated her on resisting the suggestion, but I thought that I heard her say that the Secretary of State was considering those matters. Is it not the case that, whether in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, obviously the Government would prefer a proper prosecution to take place? But is she saying that in cases where it is not possible, depending on the gravity of the situation, the Secretary of State is considering the possible use of such orders?
My Lords, I can only repeat what I said in my original Answer: the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will consider carefully the application of the powers. The Act has only just been passed. but the Government's preferred method, which we made absolutely clear when the legislation was going through the House, is for the police to gather the evidence necessary to secure a conviction in court. That remains the position.
My Lords, are the Government reluctant to use control orders in Northern Ireland based on reasonable suspicion because they fear the stirring up in the Northern Irish communities of the sort of hornets' nest that we were talking about last week?
My Lords, I feel a bit like a broken record, repeating the Government's position. Our position when the legislation was going through this House, and now, is that we prefer to secure a conviction in court. We have always made it absolutely clear that this legislation will be used sparingly. I cannot comment on what might be hypothetical situations.
Budget (Northern Ireland) Order 2005
Public Processions (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2005
Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962 (Amendment No. 2) Order 2005
Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962 (Amendment No. 3) Order 2005
My Lords, I beg to move the four Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 9 February, 22 February, 24 February and 7 March be approved [11 th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Amos.) On Question, Motion agreed to.