Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill — Detention orders — 11 Dec 1997

Not amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I am glad that we have an opportunity on Report to consider amending the Bill. It gives us a chance to put before the House several issues that we should have preferred to raise in Committee. Unfortunately, as things turned out, we were deprived of that opportunity. None the less, we now have a chance to do just that.

I appreciate that time is getting on and that hon. Members wish to move on to other matters, so I shall not dwell at great length on the points in the amendments. However, new clause 1 raises a very important issue to which we must pay some attention. I proceed in light of the assumption, which is clearly shared by the Government, that there is a continuing need for emergency law in Northern Ireland. That is clearly the case as the Government are extending the life of the legislation and providing for unified emergency legislation embodying both the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act and the prevention of terrorism Act.

I believe that the Government's judgment in that respect is correct and that there is a continuing need for emergency legislation. I believe that that need will become much more apparent in future months because I fear that the present lull in terrorism will not be much prolonged. Unfortunately, come the new year, I fear that we shall be dealing with some familiar problems.

One of the great difficulties that we face in combating terrorism is obtaining evidence for convictions. I should have thought that the Government would be extremely anxious to gather evidence for convictions. After all, in the Bill, the Government are removing from the statute book the power of detention or internment--measures to which Governments faced with terrorism have had recourse because of the absence of evidence and the consequent inability to obtain convictions. Therefore, the Government should be keen to gather evidence that supports convictions.

There is a source of evidence available that has not been used hitherto: evidence obtained from intercepted telephone communications. That is known in the United States as "wire-tap evidence". Such evidence is not admissible in the United Kingdom. I think that that is a

11 Dec 1997 : Column 1216

mistake, and the intention of new clause 1 is to make wire-tap evidence admissible in cases that fall within the terms of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

11 Dec 1997 : Column 1221

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

I beg to move amendment No. 1, in page 1, leave out lines 7 and 8.

I shall try to be as rapid as possible. I have already pointed out that legislation of this nature ought to have parliamentary scrutiny. Amendment No. 1 would restore the debate that would otherwise have taken place in 1998 on the continuation of the 1996 Act. The Bill will knock out the annual review of the legislation in 1998, which is a mistake. As long as this legislation remains on the statute book, it ought to be debated in the House at least once a year, as has been the practice. As I said, the legislation has not had much by way of parliamentary scrutiny. I am surprised that new Labour--or indeed, old Labour--is attempting to remove the House's annual debate on the emergency provisions. It is surprising that virtually the first thing that the Labour party did on coming to power was to diminish the parliamentary scrutiny of emergency legislation. That is an astonishing move and I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.

Mr. Ingram:

Hopefully, we can debate this quickly. As I understand it from listening to the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), the amendment would ensure that, to remain in force, the temporary provisions of the 1996 Act will be required to be continued by order approved by resolution of each House of Parliament before 15 June next year. I was not clear whether that was the hon. Gentleman's intention.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, leave out lines 1 and 2.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord):

Withthis, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 3, in page 2, leave out line 3.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn .

I beg to move amendment No. 6, in page 2, leave out lines 9 and 10.

Those who watch our proceedings from outside will find it bizarre, to say the least, that we are debating rigorous anti-terrorist legislation on the very day that the leaders of Sinn Fein-IRA are invited into 10 Downing street with the Prime Minister. It will be difficult to explain to our constituents why that is happening.

The amendment would delete the clauses that refer to internment. We believe that it is right and proper that internment should stay on the statute book. Let me explain precisely why. We are not necessarily in favour of internment. The Government Whip has suggested from a sedentary position that it was not necessarily successful last time. He will be pleased to know that I largely concur.

Mr. Ingram:

To avoid unnecessary debate, does the hon. Gentleman consider that the Government should not talk at all to Sinn Fein? Should anyone talk to Sinn Fein to move the peace process forward?

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 118, Noes 223.

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Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con0 113 (+2 tell)071.0%
DUP0 1050.0%
Independent1 00100.0%
Lab214 (+2 tell) 0051.8%
LDem7 0015.2%
SDLP1 0033.3%
UUP0 4040.0%
Total:223 118053.8%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

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no rebellions

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