Orders of the Day — Prevention of Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:52 pm on 23 February 2005.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 2:52, 23 February 2005

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head and claims that only I, a Conservative student leader at the time, read them when he did not. Fair enough. But one of the things that they all clearly argued was that one of the primary aims of a terrorist is to provoke a reaction from the state, which in turn will radicalise a part of the population and recruit them for the terrorist cause. There is a serious danger of that if the use of these control orders is seen to be unjust, even by a minority, and that alone should be a telling argument for the power being exercised by the judiciary, not by the Executive.

After three years in which none of these powers has been available against British citizens, at a time when the Home Secretary himself says that the security risk is the same as it was a year ago and the security services and police say that they currently do not need the most draconian powers listed here, why do we suddenly need this measure in 14 days flat in the shadow of a general election? The Prime Minister said that the security services say that they need them. Did they tell him that in the past few weeks? Did they tell him that they needed them instantly? I doubt it.

To reiterate, the Home Secretary is taking powers to curb the freedom of British subjects by order, on suspicion, based on limited and possibly doubtful evidence. He does this after his own Department said that the measure was draconian and unjustifiable less than a year ago, and he does it after no apparent change in the circumstances, in a rushed Bill with wholly inadequate scrutiny in both Houses of Parliament. That cannot be the way for a democracy that believes in the rule of law to proceed.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick, a former Law Lord who has great expertise in this area, said that the Home Secretary

"can confine British citizens for the first time in our history to house arrest. There are upwards of a thousand British citizens suspected of having links with Al-Qa'eda terrorism. Up until now, it has been possible to contain the threat without these special powers. The question is: why has it suddenly become necessary to impose these quite exceptional control orders?"

That is the question that the Home Secretary must now answer.