John Heppell (Nottingham East, Labour)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman completely, but I do not think that we would get such a situation by demonstrating weakness, by appeasing people. That does not help. I have a very big Muslim population. I bet that I have a bigger Muslim population than anyone in this room. Nottingham, East—check it out and see. What happens when I go and talk to them and when they get to know the facts? It is not a straight 90 days to 42 days—there are all those judicial and parliamentary safeguards and the thing is very different to how it started off. That is not being portrayed to people. When they know about that, do they want the same protections that I want? Do the Muslim population want the same protections as the rest of the population? The reality is, yes, they do. They might have the odd imam stirring something up in the mosque on a Friday, but get those people on their own, as individuals or in small groups, and we would not find them anxious to be insecure any more than the rest of us want to be insecure.
Intercept evidence, post-charge questioning, all are great. People put them forward as to why we should not go to the 42 days. I agree with them on that. I suspect that I am very big on the idea. I want to give the police and security services as many of the tools that are necessary to beat the terrorists as we can, but at the same time ensure that we have safeguards—I pointed out the safeguards in the legislation—to protect individuals’ liberty.
Even if we pass the post-charge legislation and all the other bits and pieces in the Bill that people have welcomed—all the stuff about freezing assets and so on—it does not mean that we should not have an extra safeguard of having something in reserve if it is needed. We should coolly and calmly make the decision now on how to deal with such a situation.
When Commissioner Blair spoke to us, he said that he would hate to have to come back and ask for this power after an atrocity. I feel exactly the same. I would hate to be the person opposing the measure if, as a result, someone died.