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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill seeks to place our counter-terrorist legislation on a permanent and secure basis. I should say at the outset that I am well aware that Members on both sides of the House have doubts about two particular aspects of the Bill: first, the definitions of terrorism and glorification and how we describe them;
and, secondly, the length of time that somebody may be detained before charge, and proposed amendments in that respect. I will come to those issues later in my speech, but I should say now that I am ready to give way to debate them at the relevant time today, although of course the major debates will take place in Committee and on Report on the Floor of the House.
The Government have said all along that in a matter as important as this legislation we want to proceed on the basis of consensus. In that spirit, I pay tribute to David Davis and Mr. Oaten, and to the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and others, for the constructive tone that they adopted over the summer.
I made a commitment to bring forward further counter-terrorism legislation earlier this year during the passage of the Bill that became the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. Preparations for the Bill were already well under way in early July this year, and I set out a list of measures to the Opposition spokespeople on
In the light of the helpful comments that we received from a variety of sources, on
That is how we reached the stage that we are at today. In addressing the central issue that we face, I must start from the fundamental premise that there is a serious terrorist threat that has to be addressed. From New York, Nairobi, Sharm el-Sheik, Istanbul, two offences in Bali—one recently—Madrid, and our own events in London this July, we know of the existence of that terrorist threat. As we legislate to address it, we must do so on the basis, first, of clarifying the values and society that we are seeking to defend, and, secondly, of identifying the threat with which we have to deal.
Of all the societies throughout the world, perhaps that of the United Kingdom is the society that laid the basis for the values that we here seek to defend: valuing and building free speech and freedom of expression, including a free media; believing in a society that respects all faiths, races and beliefs; believing in a society founded on the rule of law; wanting every citizen to have a democratic stake in our society; valuing the free economy, which has built prosperity, including high-quality public services on which we all depend; and valuing the fact that women can play a full role in our society. We all know that our society, based on those values, will continue to evolve and develop. We also know that we can all point to aspects of our society that fall short of those aspirations. However, people on all sides of politics have struggled over the centuries to achieve the values that we celebrate today.
The society that we have built, with the values that it embodies, is not slight nor passing but deeply rooted and profound. I emphasise that those values are embraced by the overwhelming majority of our citizens, from whatever faith group or minority ethnic group they come. Indeed, most of those who migrated to our country did so precisely because they wanted to embrace the values that I just set out. Our society is characterised by common values but diverse backgrounds, faiths and lifestyles. It has been a stunningly successful model of integration, despite regular challenges.
If one compares the United Kingdom of the 1950s, before significant migration took place, with the United Kingdom of today, one sees that in many key parts of life and endeavour—our businesses, our design, our literature, our food; there are too many to name—the vibrancy of diversity has powered creativity and economic success. I emphasise again, however, that that has always happened within the framework of our common democratic values.
Some aspects of the Bill create further concerns that the Government are too willing to accept recommendations from the security forces without adequately scrutinising them. Control orders and evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are two examples of that. Will the Home Secretary make it clear why he believes that the detention period without charge should be extended to 90 days?
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was present when I began, but I said then that I would deal specifically with the 90-day point when I reached that part of my speech. I shall do that.
The Home Secretary is rightly dealing with the theme of values. What about the value to which Lord Carlile referred when he criticised the excessive use of section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000? He described its use as a substantial encroachment into the reasonable expectation of the public at large that they would face police intervention in their lives only if there was a reasonable suspicion that they would commit a crime. Is not that value threatened if events such as those at the Labour party conference or the instance of the person who was told that she could not walk on a cycle path occur?
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman adopts that tone. However, he is right to cite Lord Carlile because his report is the basis on which we deal with legislation on all such matters. We will continue to pay serious attention to his comments on section 44 and other aspects of our proposals because it is his role to report to Parliament and to the Intelligence and Security Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman is a member.
Our type of democratic society has been created over many years and all parts of our community embrace and support it. I argue even more strongly that the ambition for democratic society has driven enormous political and social change in the past 30 years throughout the world. In those 30 years, fascist or militaristic rule in Greece, Spain and Portugal in southern Europe has been succeeded by democracy; apartheid South Africa has been succeeded by democracy; colonialist southern Africa has been replaced by democracy; the totalitarian states of central and eastern Europe have been succeeded by democracy; Latin and central American dictatorship has been replaced by democracy, and, even in south-east Asia, democracy has replaced dictatorship. Democracy and the need to protect our democracy is at the heart of the Bill.
I understand perfectly well that, in each of those parts of the world, massive problems remain. However, those enormous changes, which have occurred across the planet in one generation, prove that change for the good can happen, and, moreover—and more important—without violence or bloodshed in many cases. It is important for this generation to assert that. I repeat that the fight for democracy is at the core of those great changes.
The Home Secretary is making an important point. Does he also accept that this country has an important tradition of being a place where people have a right of asylum and where people can proselytise to get rid of oppressive regimes throughout the world? Does he agree that many such people were labelled as terrorists but later lauded as freedom fighters for achieving change? Will he assure me that the Bill will not criminalise those who plead for decency and change in their societies?
I give that reassurance and I shall revert to that point later. I celebrate the various values of freedom of expression that are at the core of our society for precisely the reason that my hon. Friend states. If he will be patient, I shall deal with the need to defend those values against those who seek to destroy them.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that all the historical events that he listed involved acts of terrorism according to the definition in the Terrorism Act 2000 and that they would all be culpable under the Bill? Glorifying, inciting, encouraging or trying to emulate those events would, in some people's view, be offences under the Bill.
The House welcomes the progress to democracy in many parts of the world, but it is relatively recent and we cannot be sure that it is permanent. I am one of those who, in the 1980s, regularly produced material that praised the then Government of Nicaragua for their work in education, health and tackling poverty. That Government came to power in a revolution in which a brutal dictatorship was overthrown. Were those events to repeat themselves, I cannot understand how I would not be guilty of an offence under clauses 1 and 2.
With all due respect to my right hon. Friend, he is wrong. We have had that conversation privately and in the Select Committee that he chairs. I respect the motivation in Nicaragua—it also applies to other parts of the world—to which he refers, but I do not accept his point. To argue that what he described would in any way violate the terms of the Bill is to misread the measure.
The fight for democracy is at the core of the changes that have occurred. It is precisely because we have developed a highly successful model of integration, which enables people of all backgrounds and faiths to prosper and live together within the safeguard of common values, that our society has become an affront and a reproach to the ideologues who believe that only their way of living is right. We should make no mistake: the threat that we face is ideological. It is not driven by poverty, social exclusion or racial hatred.
Those who attacked London in July and those who have been engaged in or committed the long list of previous terrorist atrocities were not the poor and the dispossessed. They were, for the most part, well educated and prosperous. Terrorists in the UK have also been ethnically and nationally diverse. Ideas drive those people forward. To revert to the point that my right hon. Friend Mr. Denham correctly made, unlike the liberation movements of the post world war two era, they are not in pursuit of political ideas such as national independence from colonial rule, equality for all citizens without regard for race or creed or freedom of expression without totalitarian repression. Such ambitions are, at least in principle, negotiable and, in many cases, have been negotiated.
However, there can be no negotiation about the recreation of the caliphate in this country, the imposition of sharia law, the suppression of equality between the sexes or the ending of free speech. Those values are fundamental to our civilisation and are simply not up for negotiation. It is equally wrong to claim, as some do, that the motivation of al-Qaeda and its allies is some desire to seek justice in the middle east—the part of the world where progress has been most difficult to achieve in the past 30 years and where the litany of change that I read out has made so little headway. Al-Qaeda and its allies have no clear demands for the middle east. The only common thread in their approach is a violent and destructive opposition to democracy in any form. They find democracy in Palestine abhorrent and seek to destroy it.
Not at the moment.
Al-Qaeda finds democracy in Israel abhorrent and seeks to destroy it. It finds democracy in Afghanistan abhorrent and seeks to destroy it. Now it finds the democracy in Iraq, which the United Nations is trying to support and establish, so abhorrent that it does whatever it can to try to destroy it.
I shall not give way at the moment.
Al-Qaeda's methods, too, are different. It recognises no common bonds with people who have different beliefs and its members are prepared to kill indiscriminately. Indeed, mass murder is their explicit objective—the measure of success in their terms. Their methods of recruitment bear more comparison to self-destructive cults than political movements. However, we must acknowledge that their modern nihilism is innovative, flexible and cunning. Al-Qaeda and the networks that are inspired by it approach the task with all the resources of modern technology and all the focus of modern zealotry.
The most important conclusion to draw from this analysis is that there is no particular Government policy decision, or even an overall policy stance, which we could change in order somehow to remove our society from the al-Qaeda firing line. Its nihilism means that our societies would cease to be a target only if we were to renounce all the values of freedom and liberty that we have fought to extend over so many years. Our only answer to this threat must be to contest and then to defeat it, and that is why we need this legislation.
I do not disagree with what the Home Secretary is saying about al-Qaeda, but he must realise that the terrorism covered by the Bill also extends to overseas terrorism. There might well be movements designed to displace by violent means the Administration in Burma or that of President Mugabe. There are many people in the House who would want to see both those regimes displaced and who might countenance violent action being taken to achieve that. Does the Home Secretary want to turn those people into criminals?
Wanting to change the regime in Zimbabwe or Burma is the legitimate right of every citizen of this country. We might have different views about which regimes would qualify, but I would argue that there is almost a duty for democrats to argue for change in certain areas. It would not be right, however, to say that blowing up a tourist bus or a tube train, or taking action of that type, was a legitimate way of changing the regime of Robert Mugabe or whoever. That would not be acceptable—
I have accepted it, Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps I should formally have accepted it earlier than I did.
Of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman has the right to say that there is room for discussion about where the line should be drawn between peaceful and non-peaceful, and violent and non-violent action. I shall return to those issues when I come to the definition of terrorism in the Bill.
I suggest that the best way to contest this threat is by building and strengthening the democracy of our society, by isolating extremism in its various manifestations, by strengthening the legal framework within which we contest terrorism, and by developing more effective means to do so. That is why, particularly since
That means that we have to promote a society based on the true respect of one individual for another, one culture for another, one faith for another and one race for another. It also means promoting the view that democracy is the means of making change in our society. We therefore need to take steps to isolate extremist organisations and those individuals who promote extremism. In so doing, it is essential for us to work closely with the mainstream faith communities and to understand their preoccupations. That is why we need legislation to outlaw incitement to hatred based on religion or race. We need legislation that makes it clear that the glorification of terrorism is not a legitimate political expression of view. We wish to encourage faiths to pursue their faith openly and directly.
We want to attack the focus of extremist organisations. We are working, with international allies as necessary, to identify the networks and individuals who are promoting extremism, and we will use legal power to disrupt and weaken them. We intend to remove from the United Kingdom those foreign citizens who are using their time in our country to promote extremism, although that course of action is not legally straightforward. All the measures we have taken will further isolate and weaken those extremists who wish to promote terrorism as an appropriate form of activity. However, we need to strengthen the legal framework within which we can address those issues.
Throughout all this, I assert the need to retain and strengthen our human rights and the values that underlie them, but, at the same time, I say that the right to be protected from the death and destruction caused by indiscriminate terrorism is at least as important as the right of the terrorist to be protected from torture and ill-treatment. Our peoples expect not only the protection of individual rights but the protection of democratic values such as safety and security under the law. We need a legal framework that seeks to address the difficult balance in relation to those rights. We cannot properly fight terrorism with one legal hand tied behind our back, or give terrorists the unfettered right to defend themselves as they promote and prepare violent attacks on our society. That is why we are proposing legal changes in Britain to outlaw acts preparatory to terrorism and terrorist training.
I share the Secretary of State's objectives entirely. I agree that there now has to be a meeting engagement with the terrorists, and that we have to lick them here. However, I am concerned about the way in which the Secretary of State dismissed the intervention of the right hon. Member for Beith—[Interruption.] I am sorry, I meant to say Mr. Beith. Is the Secretary of State not alarmed at the very high number of people being detained for acts that contravene the anti-terrorism provisions which, on closer examination, are quite properly judged to be common law offences? He will have my support in the Lobby tonight, but this matter requires much greater examination.
I did not dismiss the concerns of the right hon. Member for what we must now call Beith-upon-Tweed. In fact, I did the opposite; I paid respect to what he and his political friend, Lord Carlile, had said. I also said that the Government would seek to address those points and criticisms.
In regard to the concerns raised by Mr. Beith about section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, not a lot has been done by the Government, despite the fact that those concerns have been expressed by many for a long time. Between April and June 2004, 2,147 searches were carried out under section 44. No arrests were made on the ground of anything to do with terrorism; 30 were made for other reasons. The following year, the figures were similar. Some of us were very concerned when the Terrorism Bill was introduced in 2000. We were told that it would be used very rarely, yet it was soon being used against peaceful, flag-waving people demonstrating against a Chinese Government official visiting London.
I think that I have said this about three times now, but I will say it again: we take seriously the points that were raised by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed and by Lord Carlile. There are important issues that need to be addressed. The Association of Chief Police Officers is working specifically on them, and I shall address them. I agree that there are issues that need to be addressed.
Not at the moment. I will give way to my hon. Friend in a while.
Before I finish outlining the general position, I should point out that the final element of our strategy for combating terrorism is the need to work internationally. This week is the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, and some Members were privileged enough to go to St. Paul's on Monday for a service of thanksgiving and rededication—I emphasise the word "rededication"—to celebrate that anniversary. Lord Ashdown, in his capacity as high representative in Bosnia, was asked to give an address, in which he said:
"We shall be lucky to reach the 70th anniversary of the United Nations without having to deal with chemical, biological or nuclear terrorism."
That was a chilling remark, but not a foolish or stupid one, and it is one against which we need to prepare ourselves.
The United Nations is also seeking to prepare itself. United Nations Security Council resolution 1624, adopted by the Security Council on
"the imperative to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations".
"in the strongest terms all acts of terrorism irrespective of their motivation, whenever and by whomsoever committed".
The United Nations Security Council also condemns
"in the strongest terms the incitement of terrorist acts and"— repudiates—
"attempts at the justification or glorification . . . of terrorist acts that may incite further terrorist acts".
The resolution expresses deep concern
"that incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism and intolerances poses a serious and growing danger to the enjoyment of human rights . . . and must be addressed urgently and proactively by the United Nations and all States", and emphasises
"the need to take all necessary and appropriate measures in accordance with international law".
"that acts, methods, and practices of terrorism are contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and that knowingly financing, planning and inciting terrorist acts are also contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations".
And finally, the resolution:
"Calls upon all states to adopt such measures"— as we are doing today—
"as may be necessary and appropriate and in accordance with their obligations under international law to:
(a) Prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts
(b) Prevent such conduct
(c) Deny safe haven to any persons with respect to whom there is credible and relevant information giving serious reasons for considering they have been guilty of such conduct".
That is a very serious statement.
I take it from what my right hon. Friend says that any person in any country of the world who advocates terrorism would be subject to arrest under this Act should they arrive in this country? Would that be true if Pat Robertson, the American who advocated the assassination of democratically elected President Chavez of Venezuela, were to enter Britain?
Anybody who thinks that Pat Robertson is on my side is very wrong indeed. I am prepared publicly to deplore Pat Robertson's remarks, as I think that they were an outrage. In answer to the central question of my hon. Friend Mr. Wareing, yes, that is the case—advocating terrorism is not acceptable under this law.
The misgivings of many Members of the House relate to the final part of what the Home Secretary said about necessary and appropriate means. Will he confirm that of the 900 or so people who have been arrested and detained under the Terrorism Act 2000, there has not been a single successful prosecution made for membership of any organisation on the burgeoning proscribed list, which we are told must be banned internationally. What we have done is to create a culture of fear, and a sense of division and vulnerability, that has nothing whatever to do with successful action against terrorism.
I do not accept that. I am coming to proscription in a moment, and I will deal with my hon. Friend's point about proscribed organisations. I also observe, however, that the United Nations, in its action against terrorism, has listed proscribed individuals and organisations in a variety of ways.
Because of the need for this action, it behoves all parties in the House to carry through the ambitions of the Security Council resolution, which the Bill seeks to do. In all candour, I say to the Liberal Democrats, with whom we have sought to work closely—and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Winchester, who has also sought to work closely with us to address these issues—that their decision to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill weakens that common front of democratic politics against terrorism. Let me tell the House why I say that.
The Liberal Democrats have legitimate arguments about the definition of terrorism in relation to the term "glorification", and about the extension of the time limit for detention from 14 days to 90 days. I know that the hon. Member for Winchester has doubts, as he has said publicly and privately to me, about the wisdom of extending that time limit, and he has been perfectly fair about that. In relation to the structure of debates in the House, however, I do not believe that such doubts, which will be expressed, voted on and considered in Committee and on Report—and which, if so serious, could lead his hon. Friends to vote against the Bill on Third Reading—ought to break the unity of the House in seeking to carry through the principle established on Second Reading. His leader, Mr. Kennedy, wrote to The Spectator on
I am sure that they are not mired in it; the debates and discussions currently taking place on that matter are inspired and interesting.
If the Liberal Democrats want to provide real opposition to the Government, the way to do that is not to offer knee-jerk opposition to everything, but to work on the basis of principle, to carry things through and to debate things in a proper way. The principled position, in my view, is for the party to vote for Second Reading, and then vote against, as and when the hon. Member for Winchester thinks appropriate, on the particular measures later. Even at this late stage, I hope that the Liberal Democrats will reconsider their position.
It is our judgment that real, principled opposition is about making a stand on the key issue of holding suspects without charge. We feel so strongly on that issue that we want to oppose the Bill's Second Reading tonight. It is still our long-term aim to achieve consensus, however, and we aim to work with the Home Secretary to find alternatives to this measure in the weeks ahead.
I believe that the hon. Gentleman does have a sincere intention in that respect, and is seeking agreement on some issues and trying to make positive proposals. He is absolutely entitled to do that. However, the time to address those questions is in Committee and on Report. If, in his view, the matter is resolved unsatisfactorily by the end of that process, he should vote against the Bill on Third Reading. I would understand that, but I do not understand why his colleagues have decided to vote against it on Second Reading.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise that a number of Labour Members have grave reservations about this clause and about extending the period for which people can be kept in custody on no charge from 14 days to three months? Although many of us might vote for the Bill on Second Reading, we have grave reservations.
I certainly recognise that. I have discussed those reservations with a number of colleagues, and if I might say so, my hon. Friend put the position accurately and succinctly. The way to address such reservations is to accept that we need legislation, to have arguments and discussions inside our party and across the Floor of the House on the matters of concern, and in particular the 90-day limit and then to decide what to do.
I, too, will be voting for the Second Reading of the Bill. I am about the last person in the House to underestimate the dangers of terrorism, which some of us warned about long before what happened in the United States four years ago. On the three-month detention, however, will my right hon. Friend accept that the deep concern felt about that period is certainly not confined to the Liberal Democrats? Will there be further consultation between now and Committee to see whether an accommodation can be reached? If we want to reach a consensus, let us be frank: we will not reach a consensus on the 90 days, be it in this House, the other place or in the country at large. I hope that he can show some flexibility on that important issue.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention, and I agree that it is right to be flexible. I have made it clear throughout that consensus is the right way to proceed, not only in our party, which is an often ambitious target, but even with Opposition Members. It would be better if we sent out a united and coherent message. In Committee, on Report and otherwise, I am ready to be flexible in discussions, if we can reach an agreement. Furthermore, it would be better if the House resolved the matter rather than left it to the other place, but that requires Members on both sides of the House to work constructively to reach agreement.
Allowing for people's anxieties, is not our track record that detention beyond seven days has been used very sparingly since that period was extended in 2004? Is not it fair to say that the real choice that might confront the House is whether to give an advantage to the police when trying to deal with complex terrorist investigations—an advantage that can be subject to parliamentary and judicial scrutiny—or to give that advantage to the terrorist?
My right hon. Friend talked about the strategy for fighting terrorism, the final part of which was the international element. The one thing that he missed out, however, is intelligence gathering, which experts tell us is a vital part of the strategy. In addition to concerns about section 44, does he accept that some clauses of the Bill limit the ability of our security services to gather intelligence from parts of the community that would otherwise come forward and provide intelligence?
My hon. Friend is entirely correct to put the gathering of intelligence at the centre of what we do. He is also entirely correct in the corollary of that point, which is that it is important to have close relationships with the community. I pay tribute to the work that he has done to achieve that since he entered the House, and particularly since July. I do not, however, accept his suggestion that our proposals would damage our ability to achieve it.
Before the Home Secretary does that, may I ask him a question? He has referred to the House's possible reactions to the Bill as a whole, as opposed to the 90-day rule. Does he not accept that reservations about the Bill as a whole result from circumstances that have arisen in response to events? It is only a few months since we produced legislation of this kind in response to Belmarsh, which was highly controversial and which referred to none of these issues.
This Bill bears all the hallmarks of a reaction to the
As one who was keen to promote the right hon. and learned Gentleman's candidacy for the leadership of his party—even if only to keep the name Clarke in lights as much as possible—I have to say that, notwithstanding my deep regret over his failure to survive the first ballot, the reason may have been a lack of homework on some of the issues that need to be addressed.
This Bill was envisaged in debate on the Floor of the House during the passage of the Bill that became the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. That is because when measures to deal with offences involving, for instance, incitement and training were proposed by the Newton committee and others, we said that we would return to them for precisely the reason that the right hon. and learned Gentleman cites: the need for prosecution. I gave the House a commitment that we would legislate on those issues during this parliamentary Session.
It is true that following the events of
I want to make some progress before giving way again. I have given way a fair amount, and I will continue to do so keenly, even to some of the most experienced demagogues in the House. I know that my giving way to them will be a joy for the whole House, if not for me. I promise them that I will give way later.
Let me say something about the specifics that we shall debate in Committee and on Report. Part 1 contains several new offences. The first is the offence of encouragement of terrorism, also known as indirect incitement. It is already an offence under our law to incite people directly to commit specific terrorist attacks. We now want to be able to deal with those who incite terrorism more obliquely, but who nevertheless contribute to the creation of a climate in which impressionable people might believe that terrorism was acceptable.The Bill criminalises those who make statements which they believe, or have reasonable grounds for believing, are likely to be understood by their audience as an inducement to commit terrorist acts.
I shall give way in a moment, but I shall choose my own time to do so, if I may.
The Bill extends the provisions to those who disseminate terrorist material, including on the internet, but makes it clear that those who simply transmit material that does not reflect their views will not be caught. That will, among other things, enable the United Kingdom to ratify the Council of Europe's convention on the prevention of terrorism, which I think is an important step.
The encouragement offence also includes glorification, which was a manifesto commitment. After we published our initial proposals, it was clear that there was considerable unease about the proposal for a self-contained offence of glorification of terrorism. In the spirit of consensus, we have now responded to that concern. Accordingly, glorification is now an offence only if the person who glorifies terrorism believes, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that the remarks will be understood as an incitement to terrorist acts.
Some concern has been expressed about the appropriate definition of terrorism, particularly by the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen. The definition that will apply to the new offences in the Bill is the one that was agreed by Parliament for the Terrorism Act 2000, with the addition of a small change which will bring threats against international bodies, such as the United Nations, within the scope of the definition. Beyond that, the Bill uses the definition of terrorism that has become established in our law.
The definitions used internationally, such as that used in the recent European Union Council framework decision of
Let me emphasise, in the light of the discussion that we have been having, that the Bill will not in any way interfere with the right of political demonstration, with criticism of any regime or with an appeal for change, however strongly worded. Nor will it interfere with the rights of individuals to seek other peaceful means of achieving political ends. What it outlaws is the encouragement of violent attacks.
The offence of encouragement of terrorism is a serious offence, carrying a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment, and has been framed with a number of safeguards. First, the person making the statement must have known, believed or had reasonable grounds for believing that it would have been likely to be understood as an encouragement of terrorism by a member of the audience to whom it was made. Secondly, any prosecution could proceed only with the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who would have to determine whether a prosecution was in the public interest. That is an important safeguard, and not to be taken lightly.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary—though not for the accolade.
Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that, on this part of the Bill as on others, not only is our position on the principle that stated by my hon. Friend Mr. Oaten, but we have always been prepared to support the Government when there is consensus? We said that last year, and we have said it since the election. There is potential for consensus if the Home Secretary goes further with the part of the Bill that deals with such issues as intent, and there is potential for consensus elsewhere. That, surely, must be the best basis for legislation against terrorism.
I judge all Members principally by their acts, and the key act is voting. I judge them on how they vote on crucial questions. I am very ready to accept that the hon. Gentleman is displaying integrity when he says he seeks consensus. That is a generous assessment, but I am ready to make it. Ultimately, however, the choice is simple: do we believe that the Bill should have its Second Reading or not? If we say no, we are saying that there will be no counter-terrorism legislation.—[Interruption.] That is what is meant by a vote in the House of Commons. If an hon. Member decides that he does not agree with a particular measure, a particular clause or a particular set of clauses, he will either table an amendment or vote against the clause or clauses during the substantial consideration of the Bill in Committee and on Report. I might disagree with that, but I would respect it.
The hon. Member for Winchester made clear in our discussions during the summer that he had real difficulty with one or two points, not only on his own account but on that of his party. He is entitled to adopt that position: it is a reasonable position for a political leader to adopt. What he is not entitled to do—and this is why I make my point as sharply as I do—is say, "We oppose any legislation on counter-terrorism."
I am grateful to the Home Secretary.
A little while ago, a perfectly respectable public figure expressed the sentiment that, in view of the nature of the occupation of Gaza and the west bank, she fully understood how some young Palestinians could be driven to become suicide bombers. That statement would appear to contravene every single part of clause 1. Is the intention to criminalise that statement?
I am not sure whether my hon. and learned Friend was quoting Jenny Tonge or Cherie Blair. Those are the quotations that are often batted around. I am glad that he has raised the issue, however, because absolutely nothing in the Bill would prevent anyone from expressing understanding, from discussing why something had happened or from voicing any such emotions.—[Interruption.] It is not about encouragement or incitement, so the statement to which my hon. and learned Friend refers would not in any sense contravene this legislation.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. I take him back to the definition of terrorism—an issue that we will have to consider very carefully. Is it not true that one reason why terrorism is undefined at the United Nations is that many a despotic regime is only too pleased for any violence used against it to be described as terrorism, just as the Germans described the actions of the French resistance during the second world war as terrorism? We will have to tackle this issue, because as drafted the definition is so wide that legitimate armed resistance to tyranny would be covered and any encouragement of it would be criminalised.
As I have said on a number of occasions, I simply do not accept that. Quite apart from points of principle, such as how one could or should have resisted fascism between the wars or promoted change in eastern Europe after the war, it is important to understand—hence my devoting quite a lot of the early part of my speech to the issue—the nature of the terrorist threat that we are dealing with now, compared with some that we have had to deal with in the past. It is right as we legislate today to take that into account.
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend—he is being very generous. Of course we face a terrible terrorist threat in this country and around the world. However, let us consider the example of Burma and imagine that I said the following to the Karen people: "It's fantastic that you blew up that railway line and didn't injure anybody, as an act against a regime under which you do not have democracy. Please keep doing it again and again, until the regime in Burma is changed. As long as you don't injure people, I'll support you blowing up railway lines." If I said that, would I not be breaching clause 1?
Actually, such a specifically violent act could kill. Such people say that they do not want to kill, but when the NatWest tower was blown up, people were killed, even though it was suggested that that should not happen. If we advocate acts that would kill people—[Interruption.] The act that my hon. Friend describes would have that effect, and it would be taken into account.
I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for giving way. He is doubtless familiar with the Muslim Council of Britain's media spokesman, Mr. Inayat Bunglawala, who has been asked to advise the Home Office on a number of cultural matters. Mr. Bunglawala has in the past said that Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, who was responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Centre in 1993, was "courageous" and was arrested only because he called on Muslims to fulfil their duty to Allah to fight against oppression and oppressors everywhere. Mr. Bunglawala subsequently wrote of Osama bin Laden that he was a "freedom fighter". Are these comments to be criminalised under this legislation?
That case would be considered by the court at the time, but I should point out that the individual concerned has recently—more recently than the period to which the hon. Gentleman refers—gone out of his way to condemn, at length, terrorist acts. I am not an expert on his writings and works, but his conduct in respect of all such issues should be taken in the round.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who makes a powerful case for legislation to deal with the terrorist threat that we face, but does he not acknowledge that this legislation goes far wider than that? It is a question not of someone in this country supporting an action taken somewhere else in the world, but of anyone anywhere in the world supporting any type of violence. If an Uzbek living in Uzbekistan supported the destruction of a statue as a symbol of opposition to the tyrannical regime in his country, he would be guilty of an offence under clause 17, and liable to prosecution and seven years' imprisonment, should he come to this country. Is it really our intention to do the dirty work for some of the most oppressive and tyrannical regimes in the world?
As my right hon. Friend knows, it is not our intention to do anybody's dirty work; rather, we intend to do our best to protect this country—and, indeed, the world—against terrorism as a means of political change. All our constituents will want us to do that as best we can. That said, I concede, as I have to my right hon. Friend privately and in his Committee, that we have to look at these definitions in order to avoid such questions arising. I say again—
I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker; I did not intend to be rude.
We will look at these issues in Committee, and as I have said to the Home Affairs Committee and to others, if amendments are tabled that seem to meet the concerns expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen, we will look at them very seriously. In our opinion the definitions in the Terrorism Act 2000, which form the basis of our current position, are the best founded that we have in our law, and they have not led to the abuses that some people are concerned about.
I thank the Home Secretary for giving way. I know that he genuinely wants to win over the Muslim community in this country in the fight against terrorism, but I wonder whether he understands the point that Muslims in my constituency made to me. They said that despite any assurances that prosecutions may generally not be in the public interest, the thousands of people who support resistance to what they regard as the occupation of Palestine or who support those whom they regard as freedom fighters in Kashmir will feel criminalised by this legislation. It will do nothing to win them over in the general fight against terrorism, in which we need their support.
On the contrary; I believe that we are doing a great deal to win those people over through our actions in the communities—I described those actions earlier, and my hon. Friend is pursuing them—and through our efforts to promote a peaceful settlement in the middle east. Those who believe that blowing up a tourist coach in Tel Aviv are in some sense moving that peace process forward are mistaken. In my opinion, they are setting back that process.—[Interruption.] I would argue that the point applies in all such circumstances. My hon. Friend is correct to point to the importance of a very close dialogue with the communities in question, but it is very important not to confuse an argument for a particular form of political change in a particular place—the middle east, for example—with an argument for the form of violent change that has been described.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Is it not true that the Bill's definition of terrorism goes rather further than he is suggesting? Paragraph 19 of the explanatory notes states:
"The Bill also makes use of the term acts . . . of terrorism. Act and action are both defined in section 121 of the TACT", which is the Terrorism Act 2000. It continues:
"Section 1(5) makes it clear that . . . an act is also for the purposes of terrorism if it is taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation. Clause 20(2) of the Bill makes it clear that acts (or act) of terrorism as used in the Bill includes an act taken for the purposes of terrorism and so includes an act taken for the benefit of a proscribed organisation."
There is no doubt that Hamas is a terrorist organisation and that it is already proscribed under existing legislation. Let us consider the question of its having a major internal debate about whether to get involved in the political process in the west bank. If a Member of this House tried to use their influence with Hamas—through intermediaries or directly—to persuade it to get involved in that political process, that would probably be to the benefit of that organisation. Would it be criminal to do so?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. Like every other Member, I get regular missives in the names of Members of the other House on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which commits acts of sabotage and violence in Iran against the elected Iranian Government. Would those who advocate its cause be guilty of an offence under this legislation?—[Interruption.]
As my hon. Friend Mr. Skinner points out from a sedentary position, that is an interesting reinterpretation of the House of Lords' role. I cannot comment on a particular organisation, but I shall look at the case that my hon. Friend Mr. Kilfoyle mentions.
The Bill creates a new offence of acts preparatory to terrorism that I hope will find favour in all parts of the House. It also deals with training for terrorism and makes it an offence to give or receive training for terrorist purposes, or to attend a terrorist training camp. It contains the necessary measures to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the United Nations convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism, and it extends the offence of criminal trespass to civil nuclear sites for reasons that, I hope, all Members will understand, given that such sites need the maximum possible protection. On that theme, we have decided that a small number of key military sites should be covered by the protection afforded by the offence of trespassing on a designated site in sections 128 to 131 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. An order designating those sites to be protected will be submitted to the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in due course.
I should perhaps have emphasised more strongly in my responses the fact that all prosecutions for offences in part 1 require the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions and that any offences involving the affairs of another country also require the consent of the Attorney-General. There is therefore a serious bar in the process in respect of some of the issues that have been raised.
Part 2 makes changes in respect of proscription. I believe that proscription provides an important part of our armoury in the fight against terrorism and I am grateful that the House recently endorsed without a Division the order to proscribe an additional 15 organisations. The Bill widens the criteria for proscription to encompass groups that glorify terrorism, where it is reasonable to expect that such glorification will be seen by others as an inducement to emulate the terrorist acts in question.
I am not giving way.
I now move on to deal with pre-charge detention—another key area of controversy. The Government propose to increase the maximum period of time that a person can be held prior to charge in terrorist cases from 14 days to three months. We believe that there is a compelling case, which is strongly supported by the police.
I will give way to my hon. Friend when I have made further progress.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Liberal Democrat peer, said in paragraph 61 of his report published on
"I am satisfied beyond doubt that there have been situations in which significant conspiracies to commit terrorist acts have gone unprosecuted as a result of the time limitations placed on the control authorities following arrest".
That is a strong statement, which I greatly respect. The case for an extension to three months was set out very clearly in my letter of
Much of our anti-terrorist legislation derives from our experience of dealing with 30 years of Irish terrorism, but the fact is that we are dealing with a very different threat now and we believe that the current time limit is not well designed to deal with that new threat. Recent terrorist plots have been designed to cause mass casualties, with no warnings, sometimes involving suicide and with the threat of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons, to which Lord Ashdown referred last Monday in the quote that I cited earlier. The need to ensure public safety by preventing such attacks means that it is necessary to make arrests at an earlier stage than in the past, when there was a culture of warnings and where weapons of mass destruction did not exist as now. That often means that less evidence has been gathered at the point of arrest, which means that more time will be needed to gather sufficient evidence to charge a suspect.
Terrorist networks are often international—another difference in the evolution of the threat that we face. That means that inquiries have to be undertaken in many different jurisdictions and under different rules. Many of those cannot operate to tight time scales. Moreover, establishing the identity or even the nationality of suspects can take a long time and the use of forged and stolen documentation compounds the problem. The global nature of modern terrorism means that it is often necessary to employ interpreters. It is sometimes necessary to find interpreters who can interpret dialects from remote parts of the world. Such interpreters can be hard to find, which, together with interviews to be translated, slows down the process and restricts the amount of time available.
Terrorist cases are also highly complex. I remind the House that investigations into the events of 7 and
I have already said that I am going to give way at an appropriate point later.
Forensic requirements are still more complex and time consuming, particularly with the possibility of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. It often takes a long time to make a site safe before it can be examined. That applied in the case of the London attacks in July, and the al-Qaeda methodology of mounting simultaneous attacks extends the time taken for proper crime scene examination and analysis.
The use of mobile telephony by terrorists, as a secure means of communication, is, by definition, a relatively new phenomenon. It takes time to obtain information from service providers and subsequently to analyse that information to identify links between suspects and their locations at key times.
For all those reasons, I believe that a strong case exists for increasing the maximum detention period. I stress that we are talking about a maximum period. Very few cases currently run to 14 days and we would expect an even smaller proportion to run beyond that. The safeguards that exist are designed to ensure that no one is kept for any longer than absolutely necessary.
All detention beyond 48 hours will have to be authorised on at least a weekly basis by a district judge. The judge can permit detention to continue only if he is satisfied that it is necessary and that the investigation is being carried out as expeditiously as possible. If that is not the case, the person must be released. I have said publicly to the Select Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen that I am ready to consider in Standing Committee the case for such authorisations to be made by a senior circuit judge, as recommended by Lord Carlile. As now, the independent reviewer of our terrorism legislation will be able to monitor the use of this power and report any concerns that he or she may have. I shall give way at this point to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
Many of us who practise in the criminal courts are aware of the danger of confessions made after extensive questioning. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why the protections of PACE were put in place. With 90 days—or, indeed, any extended period of detention—during which people are questioned for many days after they have been held in custody, there is a serious risk of their making confessions that are not sound. Alternatively, they may make accusations against other people that are not sound. They will do so, of course, in order to get out of custody. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider that point?
That precise risk, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly identifies, will be taken into account by the courts when they come to consider any charges. The circumstances under which such risks might arise will also be taken into account by the judge who considers the police application for holding a person for a longer period.
If the Home Secretary is going to continue with the line of having 90 days' detention, are we not going to need a completely separate set of PACE rules to cover detention beyond the 14-day period? It would be helpful to the House if he could confirm that he has given some consideration to that matter.
I cannot for the life of me imagine why we have uncritically accepted the 90-day period and I am sure that the police are as amazed as we are that the Government so quickly endorsed their first throw of the dice. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, so far, no one has been detained for the full 14 days? I think that two were held for 13 days. If so, how can such a large leap from 14 to 90 days be so urgent?
In general, I respect my hon. Friend's contribution to the debate, including the article that he recently published, but I do not respect his argument about the approach of the police. They were not throwing dice; they do not approach the matter in a gambling way; they are not trying to put forward some hazard. They are trying to make a serious assessment while legislation is being considered in the House of the time that they are likely to need in certain extreme circumstances. They may be right or wrong and people may reach a view as to whether they have made their case well, but it is nothing to do with gambling. The reason why a small number of cases have not exceeded 14 days is precisely because of the 14-day requirement.
Are not the circumstances requiring the additional time, which many of us find difficult to accept, applicable before the Home Secretary has at his disposal the palette of lesser offences envisaged in the Bill? Would it not be a much more satisfactory solution to charge people with committing acts preparatory to terrorism or of withholding information in order to put them before a court in a proper way? Is that not preferable to holding people without charge?
There are two points there. First, in the circumstances that I described in my earlier remarks, it is not clear that evidence has been collected for acts preparatory to terrorism within the requisite time scale. Secondly, the Government are looking closely at whether any form of legal evolution, if I may put it like that, might be beneficial in respect of lower or higher charges. We are prepared to consider that possibility, whose implications go wider than this Bill. There will be concerns about that proposition, but it is reasonable for us to consider it and determine what might be done. At present, however, we do not see how it would help the situation.
Clearly, massive issues of natural justice are involved in the 90-day proposal, but there are also serious questions about its effectiveness. A person might be held for 90 days while evidence is pursued, but if that pursuit fails, he or she will be released after, in effect, spending three months in jail. In that case, will not the state have created a martyr to the cause that it is trying to defeat?
That is a possibility, which is why extensions of the detention period will be subject to judicial review at each stage. Moreover, when the police decide whether to seek judicial agreement to extend the period of detention prior to charge, they will take into account precisely the considerations that the right hon. Gentleman outlined. He raises a legitimate point, but given the very small number of cases that are likely to arise, I do not think that the outcome that he suggests is either likely or realistic.
My right hon. Friend has said that Lord Carlile supports the extension proposal. However, Lord Carlile has criticised the Bill for the inadequacy of the protection given to suspects, and has recommended eight separate safeguards—including the use of an examining magistrate—to be employed if consideration is being given to detaining a person for more than one month. Given that the recommendations are unlikely to be included in the Bill, will my right hon. Friend concede that there is no possibility for hon. Members, even in Committee, to recommend detention of more than 28 days?
I do not concede that, but I will concede that the points raised by my hon. Friend and Lord Carlile—and I emphasise that Lord Carlile supports the Bill in principle—require us to look at the safeguards that have been suggested. We are certainly ready to do so, both in Committee and outside it.
Andy Hayman makes a pretty strong argument in his submission, but I accept that the extension of detention from seven days to three months is dramatic and rather arbitrary. In the past, the judiciary have demonstrated a very strong commitment to protecting human rights in such cases. Would not the sensible and balanced procedure be to pass enabling legislation in respect of the extension, but to put its scrutiny, process and management into the hands of those who have demonstrated both expertise in and concern for human rights—that is, the judiciary?
I appreciate that the judiciary has a strong role in this process, but so does Parliament. It is important that we put in place a proper review process, so that the House can come to a view from time to time on the operation of the legislation. That is the way to go.
I want to return to a point that I tried to make earlier. The Government are fast establishing a track record of accepting recommendations from the security forces without giving them a sufficiently rigorous examination. Will the Home Secretary explain what evidence he has seen to back up his contention that the detention period should be lengthened? Specifically, why has an extension to 90 days been chosen?
I reject the hon. Gentleman's charge completely. Perhaps I should have done so earlier, in response to my hon. Friend Mr. Mullin. It is completely and utterly false to suggest that the police come up with a proposition to which we all say, "That's all right then." When we ask the police for their assessment of a situation, they give it. We take that assessment seriously, because the police have high levels of professional expertise and competence in dealing with matters of forensics, encryption, international relations and so on. That was demonstrated most recently here in London in July. They understand the problems that they are trying to wrestle with very clearly, and the old days of good cop, bad cop are gone.
I take the police seriously, but I scrutinise what they say. However, even if I did not do that, this House and everyone else would—and rightly so. I ask hon. Members to be a little more even handed than Mr. Baron, and to scrutinise what the police say while bearing in mind the possibility that they might be right.
Earlier, my right hon. Friend spoke about the need to comply with the European convention, and I endorse what he said very strongly. However, this country gives off very strong signals when it changes its laws on terrorism. Any change here is used as evidence by other countries that they can do the same. Given that, is this aspect of the Bill compatible with the European convention?
This aspect of the Bill is compatible with the convention because the whole Bill is compatible, but my hon. Friend raises an interesting point. I discuss how to deal with terrorism with colleagues in the EU, the US, Russia and other countries, yet our legal system adopts a different approach from many others. That is why I referred to the report from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about how these matters are dealt with in a variety of other jurisdictions and systems. I acknowledge that completely different legal systems are involved, but in the EU and other countries people can be held for very long periods—up to four years—while charges are investigated. We must look at that, and I accept that legal systems vary widely. However, we discuss these questions a lot, and I repeat that the Bill is compatible with the European convention.
My right hon. Friend has been very generous in giving way, and I have a simple question about the Crown Prosecution Service. Specialist prosecutors are used for a range of offences, including domestic violence and street robbery, but are they used in terrorism cases? If not, should not consideration be given to developing their use in that respect? In that way, the option of charging people with lesser offences for which they can be remanded could be investigated proactively before any extension of detention were considered.
I can answer my right hon. Friend directly: yes, there are specialist prosecutors in the areas that he mentioned, and I accept his recommendation that their use should be developed. However, it is important to note that the CPS's expertise in these matters has led it to support the changes proposed in the Bill. People sometimes say, "Don't trust the experts." I suppose that that is a good guide in many walks of life, and better than saying, "Trust the politicians, they're not experts in anything." The truth is that we should take the views of our experts seriously, whether they be prosecutors, police or something else.
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is deeply wounding to be accused of running away from debate, given the interventions that I have allowed from such a large number of people. If the hon. Gentleman had run for leadership of his party, I promise that I would have given way to him. However, he did not, and I am not sure which candidate he supports today.
Finally, I draw attention to clause 35, which provides for the appointment of an independent reviewer to report on the operation of the legislation. Earlier, I commended to the right hon. Member for Beith-on-Sea—I mean the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed—the role played by Lord Carlile. I am sure that the whole House will appreciate the care and attention that he has brought to that role. He is noted for his independence of thought, and the House may be interested to hear what he says about the Bill. In paragraph 111 of his report, he states:
"I regard the current proposals as providing a set of useful and necessary additions to the law to counter terrorism."
I commend the Bill to the House.
This debate is part of a process that began before
That day was the worst of days, but it brought out the best in the British people. It highlighted an instinctive desire to pull together, an unwillingness to be cowed or bullied by the terrorists, and a stubborn determination to get on with our lives.
The Prime Minister said recently:
"I care about one basic . . . liberty which is the right to life of our citizens and freedom from terrorism"— fine words, but we should remember that literally millions of people have died to defend all the liberties that we enjoy today. They were secured through the sacrifices of previous generations. So let us not be the generation that casually gives them away.
The Conservative party has long stood for liberty under the law, but a belief in individual freedom, in freedom of speech, and in our rights to justice are not the monopoly of any one party. The whole House—every individual Member and party member—faces a difficult but vital challenge with the Bill. We must balance the security of the nation with the rights of ordinary citizens.
With that warning, let me turn to the substance of the Bill. Let me start by thanking the Home Secretary for the way he has conducted himself throughout the discussions we have had about the Bill over the entire summer. Despite the pressures from the public, the press, and even the Prime Minister, he has brought a welcome openness of mind to the negotiations. As a result, there are many aspects of the Bill that I am able to support unequivocally.
We welcome plans to create a new offence of acts preparatory to terrorism; indeed, my party has called for that for some time. We also welcome the powers to clamp down on those who take part in terrorist training, or who visit terrorist training camps. Also, within limits, we support powers to introduce a new offence of indirect incitement to terrorism. Although there are significant drafting problems, all of these, and a number of other detailed aspects of the Bill, are intelligent, proportionate and, arguably, long overdue. They are necessary, and they are necessary now. But there are serious issues with other parts, so we must all pause, draw breath and think through the implications very carefully indeed.
I understand why we want to put up a united front with the Government today against terrorism. However, while going through the Bill, would my right hon. Friend make clear those parts of the Bill that, if the Government do not amend in Committee, we shall vote against on Report? As the Bill is drafted, indirect incitement to terrorism is an offence that could be committed by negligence. We have to carry with us not just communities but, in due course, juries, and would not that offence be far better as an offence of specific intent rather than an offence of negligence?
My hon. Friend very intelligently pre-empts the next part of my speech. Let me say, because of the important parts of the Bill that are necessary now, we want to see the Bill make progress, but in Committee—which as he is aware will be held on the Floor of the House at our request—and on Report we will resist the 90-day proposal, which I will go through in detail in a moment, and seek to amend quite sharply the proposals on glorification, because they, as the Bill stands, and as has been apparent from the debate so far, are seriously flawed. So we will oppose or amend in Committee and on Report and if we fail in those measures, we shall vote against Third Reading. That is the proposal that I am putting to the House today.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way because I am sure that many people in the House would like to know precisely how he hopes to amend that clause. While everyone says that terrorism has not changed through the ages, in many ways it has. As one who was thrown out of Pinochet's Chile in 1986—incidentally, his Government were supported at the time by the right hon. Gentleman's Government—for attending the funeral of a boy who had had petrol poured over him and been set on fire by the police—[Interruption.] David Davis is asking me to hurry up, but this is an important matter. Some of us would like to know precisely how he intends to change this issue, because if it is too indirect, of course glorification should be opposed.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that, contrary to what the Home Secretary has maintained, any public expression of sympathy with or understanding of terrorist acts by people, including young Palestinians because of the west bank, would be criminalised under the Act because intention has not been built into the Bill. That is the vice. May I press him on that, therefore—the question that was asked before: is it the intention—
I missed the end of what the hon. and learned Gentleman said, but if he is asking whether intention will be the key measure, yes is the answer. I shall return to that.
My right hon. Friend mentioned that the Front Bench would question the 90-day rule very seriously, and indeed the glorification point. I support the council for resistance in Iraq, and I do so consistently. Will he therefore accept that part 1 of the Bill makes a nonsense of some of the Secretary of State's words and needs amending enormously?
My hon. Friend is entirely right. Indeed, he picks up the point made by the shadow Attorney-General to the Home Secretary, which is that the definition of terrorism in the Bill, because it is based on the United Nations definition, is inadequate. There are common-sense elements to this which are self-evident: for example, that it is always wrong to blow up innocent civilians, and that it is always wrong to attack a democracy. So I do not believe that we are incapable of creating a set of definitions that will allow us to achieve what is intended in the Bill. That is what we will set out to do in Committee on the Floor of the House, in which everyone can take part, and on Report if we do not succeed.
I intend to make progress now. Poorly drafted counter-terrorism measures have many risks. They can be ineffective. They can fail to ensure successful prosecution of actual terrorists. They can trip over human rights legislation, or be used and abused for the wrong purpose. They can impinge on the rights and freedoms of innocent people in their attempt to deny those rights and freedoms to guilty people. As a result, they can easily create a sense of injustice which can act as a rallying call to each would-be terrorist in the country. Time and again we see counter-terrorism measures—statutory and otherwise—being used for the wrong things. Examples have been mentioned during earlier interventions on the Home Secretary, but I shall repeat them.
In 2000–01, there were 8,500 incidents of stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000. The following year, there were 21,500, and last year there were nearly 29,500. The Home Secretary may say that that is partly as a result of the increased terrorist threat. He may be partly right, but of course Lord Carlile said something different.
What security threat was there from the hundreds of people stopped under the Terrorism Act in Brighton during the Labour party conference? What terrorist threat was there from an 82-year-old war hero who dared to disagree with the Government? What danger did Miss Sally Cameron pose when she simply walked along a cycle path beside a port in Dundee? Did Miss Cameron's usual evening stroll really require two police cars to come screaming up, as she put it in the Daily Mail,
"like a scene from 'Starsky and Hutch'"?
Yes, Cameron; I think they are relatives.—[Interruption.] I cannot believe that the Home Secretary is seeking to interfere in the leadership contest by that route, anyway.
Is it right that Miss Cameron should be held for several hours at a police station for the grave offence of walking on a cycle path?
Such examples highlight why we must look at new proposals with scepticism until the case is proven. Let us apply that test particularly to those that are the most controversial. The proposed new crime of glorification, which I have been asked about, is one. Today's proposal is better than that originally anticipated when the Prime Minister announced the clause back in August. As the Home Secretary said, he wrote to the Liberal Democrat spokesman and me. I objected to various aspects of it, as did others, and he has changed it. The revised version has brought together the incitement and glorification clauses of the existing Bill, but the term "glorification" still remains too broad, and I am not convinced that it is necessary or desirable. As I said to my hon. Friend Mr. Binley, we clearly have to address a definition of foreign terrorism if we are going to pursue this.
The proposed law does not require that an individual intends to encourage terrorism in order to commit a crime. It rests on the requirement that someone's comments could "reasonably be expected" to incite terrorism. That is a test of negligence, not criminality. Of course, it also fails the Cherie test. The Prime Minister's wife famously talked sympathetically about the motives of suicide bombers, as Mr. Marshall-Andrews reminded us. Unless the Prime Minister is seriously suggesting that his wife should be locked up, the clause needs to be thought through again. If it cannot be improved in that and the other aspects that have been mentioned today, it must be removed.
Many organisations are already proscribed—including the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which was proscribed some years ago—and, therefore, supporting them would be a criminal act. Will the right hon. Gentleman propose any amendments to remove the proscription list?
No, I will not propose such amendments. That decision has to be made by the Executive. However, in the light of the debate today, we will consider what acts as a benefit to an organisation, because some good points have been made about that important issue.
Will my right hon. Friend remind the House that this part of the Bill is said to reflect the intention of the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism, but that article 5 requires an element of intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence?
My right hon. and learned Friend makes his point brilliantly, as always, and it is the question of intent that is key. We cannot have a serious criminal offence that can be committed by negligence rather than intent. When we discussed the matter with a variety of officials, it was suggested that it was difficult to prove intent. Given what we have seen, even since
The great sticking point in the Bill remains the plan to increase the amount of time that a terrorist suspect can be detained without charge from 14 to 90 days. I shall spend most of my speech on that issue, because it is so important. In short, this is a proposal, as the civil rights group Liberty points out, to imprison someone for the equivalent of a six-month sentence. But under this provision, they will have never faced a charge, let alone a trial. And if they never do, they will be released after three months inside for no reason at all. If they did not have a reason to hate Britain when they went in, they may well have one once they come out.
A change of such magnitude—with such risks to our system of justice and even to the effectiveness of legislation—would require a really compelling argument, and that is what the Prime Minister says he has heard. I have to tell the Home Secretary that I have spoken to the police and the security services and, at his behest, I have received a Privy Council briefing, and I have heard no such compelling argument from any quarter. Indeed, I have yet to hear a convincing argument for this particular measure. I have heard good arguments, but they can all be dealt with by other means.
For example, one argument says that it takes time to crack encryption codes to access evidence on computers. That argument is dealt with by invoking the powers in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which made withholding such codes a criminal offence. Therefore, it would be possible to charge the alleged terrorist with that offence and hold them on that basis. We happily support increasing the penalty for that offence, as clause 15 provides.
Another argument is that our criminal law does not allow the police to interview people once they have been charged, which may be an argument for not charging them in some cases. That argument is answered by changing that rule in terrorist cases, which would be a much smaller infringement of our traditions of liberty and justice by comparison with the proposed 90-day extension, but it would achieve the same aim. The Prime Minister has said that he wants to give the police the powers that they need. But he should not simply give the police the powers they demand.
One Home Office Minister went further. She said:
"The three month period is what the police and security service say is necessary".
But we now know that that is not the case. As a security service source told The Mail on Sunday at the weekend:
"MI5 does not get involved in drawing up policy".
Rightly so. That is the role of the Government and they must fulfil it by making an objective assessment of the facts and acting accordingly. Even the Home Secretary admitted to the Home Affairs Committee—and repeated today—that
"three months is not a God-given amount".
That statement on its own blows a hole in the Government's argument.
I remind the House that the proposed increase to 90 days comes less than two years after the time limit was increased to 14 days under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. There is a genuine and fundamental objection to any further extension, but it does not just come from this side of the House.
As the right hon. Gentleman says, when the police were last asked, they said that they wanted the period raised from seven to 14 days. Has he noticed that the reasons given at the time—to be found in the Official Report for
That is a good point. One issue that needs to be resolved is that of resources. We have heard about problems with resources for interpretation and reading computer disks. It may well be a resource problem as much as anything else. If so, we would support any argument the Home Secretary makes to obtain more resources to deal with the problem.
Would it not be more appropriate to deal with police concerns about the time taken to gather evidence by relaxing the position on the admissibility of intercept evidence, rather than taking the draconian step of removing people's liberty?
That is one of many measures that would make the 90-day proposal unnecessary, and I shall return to that point shortly. As the Liberal Democrat spokesman pointed out in an intervention, we also have the crime of acts preparatory to terrorism, which will make charging much easier on lower levels of evidence, and various other measures would make this proposal unnecessary.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give us his view on those cases in which it would not be possible to look at all the evidence within 14 days? What are his views on giving the court the ability to grant bail on conditions similar to the provisions for control orders, which would allow the authorities to keep an eye on someone deemed a serious threat without limiting his or her freedom?
I am not especially fond of control orders, as the hon. Gentleman knows from previous debates, but there are several methods of dealing with the problem. One is greater surveillance before arrest. Another is refusing bail, after an early charge, if the individual is a threat to the state or the citizens of this country. We must not confuse an arrest with a view to conviction with an arrest to prevent terrorist action, which is what appears to be under consideration. We must be clear that from what we have seen so far, the 90-day proposal is not necessary.
I had complete confidence that my right hon. Friend would not run away from taking my intervention. Is it not the case that any period of more than 14 days would cause certain difficulties? I happen to have greater sympathy with the Government on the extension of time than some of my hon. Friends, but does my right hon. Friend agree that any extension would give rise to two specific problems? First, the judicial authority would have to be a senior judge, because such cases are few and far between. Secondly, if the Government were to be completely honest, they would have to admit that the proposals run up against the Human Rights Act 1998—although the Home Secretary refused to admit that on
I agree with my hon. Friend—[Interruption]—except that I do not agree with him about supporting this case. There are real problems with the extension beyond 14 days, such as the oppression of the individual. My hon. Friend Mr. Grieve, the shadow Attorney-General made the point that, given the ECHR and the Human Rights Act 1998, we would have to change the PACE rules to ensure that people were not oppressed. A whole series of problems would arise from such an extension, and it would probably end up being counter-productive in terms of producing evidence in court.
Such an extension would be particularly exorbitant given that Australia, which has faced every bit as much of a terrorist challenge as we have, has just had a heated debate about increasing the time from 48 hours to 14 days. Our Government are looking for more than six times that amount, but Australia is not even considering a 90-day proposal. Given everything that I have read and heard, I can say with absolute certainty the case has not been made. It remains a fundamental sticking point between the Government and the Opposition. It is a provision that we wish to see excised from the Bill and replaced with other measures before the Bill is signed into law. As I have told the Home Secretary already, although I am happy to support the Bill on Second Reading, if those significant matters are not corrected, I will recommend that my party does not support the Bill on Third Reading.
Finally, we must turn our minds to what is not included in the Bill. As the Home Secretary will know, we have long campaigned for intercept evidence to be used in courts. The Italian Government have recently adopted its use; our Government are considering it. In fact, we know from their former spin doctor's recent book that they have been considering it since 1998. Sir Ian Blair says that he has
"long been in favour of intercept evidence being used in court", claiming that it
"would make my job easier"'.
On this issue, he is right, and we will attempt to introduce an amendment to that effect in Committee.
As July's attacks demonstrated, we must all do more to stop the seeds of terrorism taking root at home, but they are often nurtured by foreign influences, so we must do far more to plug the gap in our defences created by our porous borders. A new single border police force would help with that job. It would be an effective force that could bring together the work of the seven different Government agencies that are currently responsible for the task. Once again, Sir Ian Blair has said:
"I have always thought that the idea of having a national border police force was a good idea . . . I am very supportive of this issue"
The Government are eager to give him his 90 days. Let them give him effective support instead.
There are other matters of concern. The weekend press carried leaked documents highlighting weaknesses and organisational failures in the Government's anti-terror strategy—Project Contest. All the legislation in the world is to no avail if the practical defences fail. There were also reports that the Government were considering our proposal of appointing a single Minister to deal with terrorism. Such a measure would sharpen the focus of the anti-terror strategy, and I recommend that the Government implement it immediately.
This debate is not the start of the process—nor is it the end—as I said at the outset, it is merely a part of it. The Bill is not the complete solution to the problem, although I believe that much of it will help. We must find the balance between effective laws and fundamental freedoms, between security and freedom and between defending our way of life and defending the values that define it. The terrorists have set us a challenge, but we must rise to it. They want us to give away by choice the very freedoms that they set out to destroy by force. We must not do so. It is a tough balance to strike, but we must show that we are able to do it. In that way, our generation of parliamentarians will be able to say that we did our job: we kept our country safe and we kept our fundamental freedoms safe, too.
It has been a fascinating hour and a half. Obviously, the thrust of the debate in Committee will be about the 90-day question, but it seems much more significant—David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, touched on this in the final part of his speech—that we in the House must always balance the first duty of any Government to protect their citizens from outrage, death and disaster and the duty to ensure that we safeguard those liberties that, over 1,000 years, the House has gathered for our people. However, we must be aware that we are in a situation that is not the same as in the past.
Some hon. Members have referred to a casual Bill, while others have said that it is a knee-jerk reaction to what happened in July, but the reality is that we live in an extremely different world, so far as terrorism is concerned. My experience, which is limited in these matters to Northern Ireland, tells me that the sort of attacks that we saw in July are unprecedented in our history. Although the July bombings came out of the blue in a particular sense, in a general sense, they did not. We had been warned by the security services for many months—indeed, years—that it was inevitable that, sooner or later, we would face the situation that we faced in July.
During the past weeks, the Committee that I chair —the Intelligence and Security Committee—has investigated the intelligence that may or may not have led people to take certain actions before July, and it will continue to do so in the months to come. The important thing is always that balance, which was not easy over 30 years in Northern Ireland. I suspect that internment did not prove successful, but certain parts of the terrorism legislation, certainly the gathering of intelligence, was extremely successful and helped to bring Northern Ireland to where it is today.
The Intelligence and Security Committee has already taken evidence on the Bill over two hours or more from the Home Secretary and it will continue to monitor the Bill's progress through both Houses. On those clauses that deal with amendments to the Intelligence Services Act 1994 and to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which relate to the issuing of warrants in the pursuit of national security, I agree strongly with Lord Carlile, whose views my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has touched on already, that the clauses on the intelligence services are helpful in countering terrorism and that, subject to appropriate controls and limitations, they are sensible and practical changes to the law.
We will as a Committee consider in some detail the deliberations of both Houses during the weeks ahead, but I repeat the point that I made earlier, which must underpin our debates in the House on Second Reading and in Committee, that if anyone thinks that what we have seen over the past weeks and months is something that we have experienced before, they are very much mistaken, and we must adapt new legislation to new circumstances. At the same time, of course, as a number of hon. Members have said, it is not just a question of changing the legislation.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary suggested and as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety will indicate when she responds to the debate, we must consider the Bill in the context of a whole range of measures that exist to protect our citizens from the sort of outrages that we experienced in the summer in London. For example, we need to recruit more people to our police and our security services. We need to combat the so-called radicalisation of some of our communities. Religious leaders and Governments need to work together very closely. Police forces need special branches that can cope with the fresh challenges posed by 21st-century terrorism.
It is worthwhile, too, to put on record that the way in which the agencies and the emergency services reacted in July has been praised right across the world, as has the way in which we responded to that outrage in our capital city. All these issues must be taken in the round, as a whole. For example, on the restructuring of the police, there is no question in my mind about the fact that we need police forces that can deal with the intelligence requirements and the need to counter terrorism in the modern world. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has rightly decided to look at those issues.
I want to digress, but on an important point. In Wales, the situation is slightly different from the rest of England as regards the police, and an all-Wales police force, accountable to the Home Secretary but working closely with the National Assembly, would be sensible. However, long-standing, effective and successful forces, such as Gwent, should be able to continue in some form within the new structures so that accountability, efficiency and community support are retained.
None of us wants more counter-terrorism legislation and none of us wants freedom and security constantly balanced, as they must be, but all of us must acknowledge that the world has changed. To protect our freedoms we have always to protect our people.
Like other Members, I start by referring to the events that took place in London during the summer and in doing so pay two tributes. The first is to the intelligence and police forces that handled that three or four-week period with great integrity and received much public support for their management of the process.
Secondly, I pay tribute to the Home Secretary, who dealt with those difficult circumstances with great calm, not only at the time of the attack that killed so many people but also a few weeks later when the failed attacks took place in London. I also welcome the fact that, although he was busy and focused, he was courteous enough to include his opposite numbers in the discussions and to keep the Opposition parties briefed. That was an appropriate response and I am very grateful.
The Liberal Democrats have always acknowledged, even during those long hours in January when we were debating the control orders, that there is a real threat to this country from terrorism. Our cross-party differences have been not about whether there is a threat to London and other cities but about the appropriate response to that threat. We remain convinced that the issues are serious and we do not in any way underestimate the need for a proportionate response. We accept that there is a terrorist threat.
The issue has always been about the level and balance of the response to the threat. I have thought long and hard about our party's approach to the Bill. Any responsible politician wants to introduce measures that will make the country safer and it would be irresponsible not to look at measures that could make all of us safer as we walk through the streets of our cities. I was very taken with the Prime Minister's remarks, at press conference after press conference, about civil liberty and the principle of freedom that we should be able to walk freely without fear of attack. Of course we support that. However, as politicians we also need to argue for other freedoms and civil liberties and for the important principle that we do not hand the terrorists a backhanded victory by doing away with our strong principles of justice.
When the bombings took place in London, people said time and again that they did not want the bombings to change their way of life. From that, I drew the conclusion that they wanted sensible measures to make their lives safer but that were not so draconian as to change the way they lived their everyday life.
It was right that the three parties came together during the summer to try to achieve consensus. At that point, the public wanted their politicians not to disagree, but to work together and try to find a way forward. We made much progress in agreeing and signing up to three measures that are in the Bill and still have our support. However, during September, problems emerged, as the Home Secretary said, when the Government decided to go further than the three measures to which we had agreed.
Our party felt that a wide, sweeping new offence of glorification was unacceptable, too hard to tie down in law and would infringe freedom of speech. We also felt that the principle of holding people for three months without charge was a step too far. It was at that point that the consensus began to fall apart. I welcome the fact that the Home Secretary has thought again about the provisions on glorification. The removal of the former clause 2 is extremely welcome, but will he go one step further and address the use of glorification in clause 21? It seems to be very much used as it was in its previous incarnation—as one of the grounds for banning organisations. If there could be the same movement on the use of that word as occurred in clause 2, I should certainly welcome it. In substance, we support a large amount of the legislation. We are left with one significant objection about which I shall speak later.
I reiterate the point I made in my intervention. I understand the Home Secretary's irritation at our decision not to support the Bill this evening. I repeat that we are determined to try to get consensus back on track in Committee. We want to persuade the Home Secretary and the Government that there are alternatives to holding suspects for three months. However, he needs to understand the strength of feeling about the issue in my party and why we felt that rather than waiting to show our objections on Third Reading—if those provisions remain unchanged—we had to send the Government the strongest possible signal that, if things stay the same and the clause remains in the Bill, we could not support it. That is why we felt that it was right to make that stand tonight. However, our commitment to try to resolve the issue and our commitment as a party to support a changed and modified Bill on Third Reading remain.
May I support the hon. Gentleman in what he has just said? If one cannot support the core measures of a Bill, one must oppose it, even though it will be considered in detail in Committee.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for that intervention. The decision was difficult because there is much in the Bill that I support and much of it has been subject to talks. At the end of the day, however, I took a judgment and my colleagues agreed—we debated it at the party conference—and we felt that we could not support a Bill that included such a provision. I would have found it extremely hard to abstain or to support something that included a provision with which I fundamentally disagreed. The honest thing to do in those circumstances is to take the position that we have taken. I regret only that it could be interpreted as our wanting to wreck the consensus. We do not want to do so. It is a principled position that we hold dear.
In Committee, we shall want to look at the whole question of intent and when I talk about the indirect incitement provisions I want to look at how both intent and likelihood are built in, so I shall address those points when I get to that section of my speech.
I want to deal with some of the measures that we support. First, we have long argued that acts preparatory to terrorism should be a criminal offence. We argued that when the Newton committee reported and when we were dealing with derogations from the European convention on human rights. We said that such an offence was a better way of getting suspects into court than holding them without charge. The provisions on acts preparatory have a clear level of intent built into them and that principle should run through the whole Bill.
Secondly, we very much support the creation of a new offence of training for terrorism, although I want to flag up one concern. The Bill also includes an offence of attending a place used for terrorist training. It would be nonsense if, for example, journalists who attended a place of training as part of their investigative work fell foul of such an offence. We need to tidy that up in Committee.
Thirdly, and more problematically, we support the idea of creating an offence of indirect incitement to terrorism. We support it because there will be occasions when people with some influence will be able to use either written or spoken language with the clear intention of encouraging others to commit a terrorist attack. That should be an offence in this country. The problem is that the clause, and the criminality of the statement, depend on the interpretation of a third party, not the statements themselves or the intentions of a publisher. It depends very much not on what somebody says but on how other people react to what they say. We have concerns about the provision, but we broadly support it.
It would be extremely helpful if some safeguards could be included. At present, the offence is modelled on the proposal of the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism, which was signed earlier this year. Under that convention, there are two key safeguards: first, incitement must be intentional and, secondly, there must be the likelihood of a terrorist attack as a result. As we explore the matter in the next couple of weeks, it would be helpful if we could move back towards that model and build into the Bill those sensible twin safeguards that are already enshrined in the European convention on the prevention of terrorism.
As I said, those matters have our broad support, but before I address our key difficulty with the Bill, I want to touch on the definition of terrorism itself. We have debated the way in which we define terrorism and it is my general view that the current definition is too wide. The Home Secretary helpfully wrote a note to the shadow Home Secretary and me yesterday in which he outlined his arguments for why—bluntly—he thinks that that definition is probably the best one in town and we should thus probably try to stick with it. He said that the definition was very close to that drawn up by the EU in 2002, but I am worried that there is an important difference between the Home Secretary's definition and that of the EU.
Under the Home Secretary's definition, there could be circumstances in which animal rights groups and groups such as Greenpeace fall foul of terrorist legislation, as he acknowledged in one of his recent Select Committee appearances. The EU definition includes the phrase:
"extensive destruction . . . likely to endanger human life".
Tagging on that additional phrase is helpful by making an attack on property or a field a separate issue. The EU phrase would clearly add an extra layer to the definition that would give confidence to people like me who are worried that the definition of terrorism being used is too broad. I am not suggesting that it would be easy to redefine terrorism, but the small EU addition would go some way towards improving our definition of terrorism, which we would all like to see better defined.
I turn to our major concern, which the shadow Home Secretary outlined in detail: the provisions of clause 23. Why is the question of holding suspects for such a long time a key principle for this party? Article 40 of Magna Carta says:
"to no man will we deny or delay justice or right".
That has been an established principle of our criminal justice system for some 800 years. That principle of liberty has been adopted across the globe. Indeed, article 40 of Magna Carta is the forerunner of article 6 of the European convention on human rights, which says that
"everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time".
To put it simply, as long as we have had justice in this country, that principle has been at the heart of it.
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that 14 days is the limit, and that any period of detention without charge that was greater than 14 days—forget 90 days—would be unacceptable to him and his colleagues?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to give him a direct answer. We do not believe that there is a case for moving beyond 14 days. When we discuss how we move forward on the matter, we should not have some kind of auction for 90, 60 or 28 days. We wish to persuade the Government that there are alternative approaches that suggest that we do not need to go beyond 14 days.
We have been cautious about the number of days for which a person may be held for decades. The police have the automatic power to hold individuals for 48 hours, with a possible time extension of up to four days for serious cases such as murder. A complex murder case is allowed a time extension from 48 hours to just four days. Of course, provisions passed in 2003 extended the time limit for terrorism cases from seven to 14 days. We have rightly trodden carefully when changing the time limits. The history of the changes shows that we have been cautious, which is why it is remarkable that it is suggested that we could suddenly smash that approach apart under the Bill and move to a 90-day period.
I am struggling with the question of 90 days myself, but several hon. Members' criticism of the Home Secretary has been unnecessarily harsh. I think that he has made a compelling case that more time is needed, especially when we consider the collection of video tape evidence. What alternative is the hon. Gentleman offering us to deal with the situation?
I am just coming to that part of my speech. Let me acknowledge that I think that the police have made a case. I shall go through the police's arguments one by one and outline how we could find an alternative measure.
The police's arguments were neatly set out by Andy Hayman, the deputy commissioner, in a letter to the Home Secretary that he made public. In essence, it listed eight compelling reasons why we should move towards a time period of 90 days. Some of the problems could be easily overcome, while several points have merit.
One argument was that suspects needed to be allowed time for religious observance. It is frankly ridiculous to suggest that a person praying five times a day will hold up an inquiry to a great extent. Two of the five prayers take place before sleeping and after waking, when no questioning would take place anyway. This country's questioning system already allows a suspect a 15-minute break every two hours, plus an additional 45-minute break. Surely there is adequate time in the current system to allow for such observance.
The police's second argument related to interpreters. I understand the Home Secretary's point that it might be difficult to track down interpreters for such cases, but surely there are other ways to solve the problem, such as training and finding new interpreters and using interpreters who are already involved in the immigration process. Is the problem with interpreters so real that we should be prepared to break such a strong principle? Surely the answer is no.
A further argument in the police's list of eight was that there could be problems with clarifying a person's identity, but, believe it or not, one does not need a person's correct name before charging them. Indeed, it is an offence for people to withhold their names anyway, so that issue can be overcome.
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that we are dealing not with ordinary questions of criminal jurisdiction, but terrorist activities that verge on being threats of war and could lead to public emergency, which is why the question of derogation arises? Does he also realise that there is a whole stack of case law on the matter, including the Lawless case in Eire in 1961, when an even longer time period than that contemplated was upheld?
I now wish that I had adopted the Home Secretary's approach on taking interventions from the hon. Gentleman, but I might be able to cover that point.
I now turn to the four matters on which I have made it clear that the police have a genuine case. The police are justified in saying that it would be difficult to deal with forensic evidence, encryption, mobile phone records and the international data trail in a 14-day period. However, we think that there are other ways in which those difficulties could be overcome.
The Bill creates the kind of offences that could be used as a tool to charge individuals within a 14-day period. I was grateful for the Home Secretary's acknowledgment today and during his appearance before the Home Affairs Committee that he wants to consider that matter. I acknowledge that there are two problems with moving towards that position. First, such lower charges could have bail attached. Secondly, it is currently difficult to interview someone after they have been charged. However, both those problems can be overcome. As the shadow Home Secretary said, there must be a way in which we can deal with those difficulties by, for example, changing guidelines under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to see whether or not lower offences should have bail attached. Making such changes, as the right hon. Gentleman said, is a lesser change than those that have been proposed. I believe that the Attorney-General is looking at these issues and, if we can speed up that review, it will be tremendously helpful in finding a way forward. If the Home Secretary suggested that changes were made to allow individuals to be charged with lower offences it could be argued that some individuals would not fall into that category, as they could not be charged with a lower offence. I find that argument questionable. If the police decide to arrest someone, they must have grounds and evidence for doing so. I find it hard to believe that there are circumstances in which such evidence could not be used to charge someone with an offence.
May I commend to the hon. Gentleman the use of section 47(3) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which, coupled with stringent conditions such as tagging, curfew and reporting requirements, is a way of meeting his concerns?
I do not believe that that would be necessary, and I am outlining circumstances in which it could be avoided. However, there may be narrow circumstances where that proposal is relevant.
There will be few occasions on which individuals cannot be charged with a lower offence. If the police had arrested someone but could not employ the evidence that they had used for arrest to charge them with an offence, a change in the Government's policy on intercept communication would be key. I accept that there is a narrow category where information from intercepts could not be used to create lower-order offences, which is why the Government should move to allow intercepts to be admissible. That would allow us to deal with the problem.
The hon. Gentleman is floundering, so perhaps I may be of assistance. The police can arrest someone if they have reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed an offence. That does not have to be based on admissible evidence. If someone was held for two months at Paddington Green police station and, in his 15th interview, named a particular individual, the police could arrest that individual because they had reasonable grounds to suspect that he had committed an offence. However, that would not be evidence admissible in court. I hope that that makes it clear.
I think that I am grateful for that intervention, but I am not sure that it makes the position clear. I have argued that alternative offences could be used and that, with the use of intercepts, other individuals could fall into that category
Should not the hon. Gentleman stress the fact that the essential vice is allowing the police to question people who have been in custody for weeks if not two months or more? Such confessions are inherently unsound.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a valid point, but I am arguing that someone could be charged with a lower offence or one of the new offences that we are creating. If such a charge is brought within 14 days, I support the police having the opportunity to continue questioning that individual. I do not completely agree with him, because doing so would be intellectually wrong. We are arguing that, having brought that initial charge, the police can continue to charge and work to achieve a higher offence at a later date.
I could not agree more. Checks and balances are required if we move to the model that I have outlined, and PACE guidelines that acknowledge that changing process are obviously required.
I will not accept any more interventions, because I wish to conclude.
I wish to suggest another way forward to the Home Secretary. Even if the alternatives do not fit the profile of the individual whom the police want to hold and arrest, the right hon. Gentleman has the power of control orders, which we debated at length at the beginning of the year. While I find the way in which control orders are put in place problematic, I accept that there will be rare occasions when it is difficult to charge someone, and control orders are then a useful tool. If all the alternatives are tried, but none of the lower offences works, the use of control orders would be a better way to tackle the problem than holding individuals without charge for a long period. Those control orders, however, would be different, as the clear intention is to move towards a point where a charge could be brought. They would not be open-ended orders without any prospect of charge.
In conclusion, it is clear that there is potential to find a way forward on differences that have emerged over the 90-day issue. I accept that the police have a compelling case in four instances, but I do not accept that that case should lead us to break many of this country's long-held principles. I hope that in Committee and on Report we can work with the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary to find a sensible alternative. That is our commitment, but if the Government continue to pursue the prospect of holding individuals in this country without charge for three months we cannot, and will not, support those measures.
The Home Secretary is right to remind us of the grave threats that our society faces from terrorism. Every Member of the House would be at one with him on that. However, the House has a duty to find a balance between measures that are necessary in an era of new technical challenges and new types of terrorism, and safeguards for the traditional values of our society and the legitimate rights of those who stand accused of certain offences.
I was interested by various sub-debates that have taken place this afternoon. I distinctly remember, as some of our Northern Ireland colleagues may also recall, that one of the almost certain effects of the introduction of internment and detention without trial in Northern Ireland was to radicalise, and not in an acceptable way, a generation of those on the then republican side of the political divide. I speak from near-personal experience. It was a profound mistake by the Labour Government of the day, who introduced those measures.
I say that not because the debate today is about the introduction of the same principles of detention or internment, but because we must measure the impact of the Bill not only in terms of the legitimate enhancement of the security of society, and not even in terms of its impact on those who come within its power, but in terms of its wider social impact if it is deemed not to be appropriate or proportionate to the challenge that we face. That is the problem that I see with at least two aspects of the Bill.
The first relates to the better rehearsed arguments about the 90-day period of detention. Like many hon. Members, I feel extremely uncomfortable that the case has not been properly made that that length of time is necessary. Perhaps my hon. Friend Mr. Mullin is being over-cynical when he says that the measure is a police bargaining chip, but we need a much more robust defence of their need for anything like that increase in the period of detention or for any increase at all, before the House accepts that they should be the arbiters as we, the House of Commons, seek to erode the freedom of our fellow citizens. That case has not been made today.
As my hon. Friend observed, under existing legislation only two people have been held for 13 days, not the full 14 days. Both were charged at the end of that period. Although it is not possible to argue by extension that the period must be absolute and precise, that is at least an indication that so far the police have not found the present arrangements inappropriate for the type of activities with which they have had to deal. Things can change, but the case must still be better made.
In support of that argument, does my hon. Friend agree that there have been 10 occasions when somebody has been detained for more than seven days but less than 14 days and released without charge, and in none of those 10 cases was the individual re-arrested at a later date when the police or the authorities had deciphered any encrypted computer data or any other data that had come to their attention? That supports the argument that there is no evidence for extending from 14 days to 90 days the period in custody without charge.
My hon. Friend helps me in the case that I am presenting. We need an intelligent debate and we need to consider whether the present structures are appropriate. The case has not been made for the legitimacy of the leap from 14 to 90-day detention for the police to interrogate suspects and obtain evidence. Therefore, I, like many hon. Members, share the concerns, and I hope that we will see a robust debate in Committee and during further proceedings on the Bill as we examine where the proper balance and test should come.
The question of glorification troubles me every bit as much as the 90-day period. It is easy to dismiss this by asking, "Are we not all against those who advocate the killing and maiming of others?" But I want to remind the House that, as my right hon. Friend Mr. Denham said earlier, many of us have lived through periods in our political lives when we have not simply sought to explain but actively advocated the concept of armed force as a legitimate defence. I met someone in Guatemala many years ago who told me how, under the military Government at the time, he saw his father taken off a bus and told to hold his hands out, whereupon they were systematically macheted off, salami style, by members of the armed forces. That was a particularly brutal crime, and at the time it was a particularly brutal way of persuading me that it was legitimate to defend the ordinary peasants of Guatemala by recourse to the force of arms. I cannot run away from that view these years later simply because that country is now, happily, at peace. My hon. Friend Rob Marris referred to the situation in Burma today, which, ironically and tragically, is parallel to that in Guatemala.
Yes, I am saying that, and my hon. Friend has to face that directly. All but the pacifists in our society have always accepted that sometimes, very sadly, although we can use phrases such as "as a last resort", faced with families being slaughtered in Burma, when the Burmese army are moving into the villages of the Karen people, when they are raping women and children and brutally murdering the whole population, when they are ethnically cleansing, it is not illegitimate to say that recourse to defence by force of arms is the only course available. We are pious and nonsensical if we pretend otherwise.
I agree entirely with the point that my hon. Friend makes, but does he agree that this Bill is even worse because one need not agree with the violence—all one has to do to bring oneself under the Bill's provisions is to express sympathy or understanding with those carrying it out?
A number of my hon. Friends have already expressed such sympathy with the Karen people in Burma, so all of us stand guilty of that.
I want to draw to the Minister's attention the Home Secretary's response to our hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He asked specifically about people seeking to justify the non-human targeted attack upon, for example, the railway infrastructure. The Home Secretary's response—I hope that I do not misquote the spirit of what he said—was that because that might result in the killing of people it would fall under the definition. I would go much further in any case and say that I can think of circumstances when I would not simply sympathise, but I might even be prepared to support and advocate on behalf of those who took up arms as their only legitimate defence.
Hon. Members may say that I am making overly heavy weather of this point.—[Interruption.] I am glad that John Bercow does not. But it is important to establish this, not simply to say that there are some circumstances—I say this in response to my hon. Friend Mr. Hendrick—where we would all justify the potential use of arms, but because it is incredibly difficult to move from those situations where we can to those situations where we do not do so.
I can think of many circumstances in our society in which people can advocate something horrendous, such as the murder of another individual, but that is caught by the offence of incitement to murder. I think it would be caught even if the murder were to take place overseas, because it is possible to prosecute British citizens for murder that takes place abroad. So there is an argument that our present laws on incitement already cover the terms that are easiest to define.
Then we approach the middle ground, which is the most difficult area. Here I may even agree with those who deplore the words of those who advocate violence in different parts of the world on behalf of causes in which I do not believe. The problem is, though, that I am not sure how the public interest is served in moving towards prosecution. We may say that we deplore the words of the most crazed exponents of violence, but what do we achieve as a society if we stop treating those individuals as objects of scorn and social condemnation and instead put them in prison cells, thereby making them martyrs? Experience from many different situations around the world shows that the way to radicalise young people or the population generally is by creating a sense of injustice through the arbitrary, or seemingly arbitrary, imposition of such imprisonment on those whose offence may be an inappropriate use of words.
Pursuant to the intervention by Rob Marris, when I visited Burma last year I met children who had seen their parents murdered in front of them, and parents who had seen their children murdered in front of them, by the Burmese army, the Tatmadaw. Does the hon. Gentleman think that if I were publicly to express support for any initiative or campaign by the Karen National Liberation Army violently to overthrow the State Peace and Development Council, I would be caught by the terms of the Bill? If so, the Bill must be redrafted, because it is wrong.
I think that the hon. Gentleman's fears are correct. It is very difficult to get this legislation right, but we must do so, because if we fail we risk doing far more damage by imposing this law than we do in terms of enhancing the security of our own population or advancing the fight against terrorism more generally.
I had a brief exchange with the Home Secretary about the Bill's compatibility with the European convention on human rights. I am less certain than he is that the 90 days' detention is consistent with the convention, paragraph 3 of article 5 of which says that detainees
"shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial."
The 90-day period could well be tested, not only in our own courts but in the court at Strasbourg. We need a more robust response as to whether the Bill is compatible.
I can tell my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety that I will be voting with the Government tonight because the Bill must be properly examined in Committee.
I will return to some of the points made by Tony Lloyd, because I agree with much that he said.
This is a Bill that the House would do well to scrutinise with considerable rigour: first, because it was born out of crime and tragedy—the recent events in July—and Bills that are enacted so soon after such events are frequently seriously flawed; and, secondly, because it follows a raft of legislation that we have passed since 2000, in the shape of three substantial Acts. If these matters are so important, it is difficult to see why they were not included in that legislation.
I am willing to concede that there are parts of the Bill that most Members would support, myself included—particularly clauses 5 and 6, which deal with ancillary acts, and those clauses that deal with radioactive material. However, they are not the core of the Bill. One has to go to the core to determine whether to support the measure. When I go to its core, I find myself unable to vote for it. Indeed, I shall vote against it.
Let me begin with clause 23, which enables a person who is not charged with an offence to be held in custody for up to 90 days. That is deeply offensive and, while it remains in the Bill, the measure should be opposed. There are several reasons why the provision is deeply offensive and I shall enumerate them briefly. First, it amounts to administrative detention, which we deplored when it was done in South Africa under the apartheid regime. We deeply criticise the state of Israel when it does that today. Secondly, it contravenes a basic rule of English law that a person should not be held in custody for extended periods unless convicted of or charged with a serious offence.
There are two further points of a more technical nature. First, it is inevitable that the provision will bear most harshly on the ethnic and religious minorities in this country. They will say, with some force, that they are being treated in a discriminatory manner. That will increase the sense of alienation that one often finds in those communities. Secondly, I raise a point that I have previously put to the Home Secretary and to Mr. Oaten. What weight can one properly place on confessions when they are made after an extended period in custody? To put the same point in reverse: what weight can one place on accusations by detained persons of third parties when they have been detained for extended periods? The 90-day provision opens up the prospect of serious injustice.
Let me deal briefly—I know that others wish to speak—with clauses 1 and 2. First, the common law offences of conspiracy and incitement already cover much of the ground in the provisions. Secondly, the right of free speech should be safeguarded and fought for, even if it involves hearing things that one might find deeply offensive. For example, when Gerry Adams speaks of the "glorious volunteers" of the IRA, I am deeply offended. After all, the IRA murdered thousands of our fellow citizens, including four Members of this House, who were friends and colleagues of many of us who are still in this place. We are deeply offended when Gerry Adams speaks in those terms. However, I do not wish his words to be criminalised. When the BBC was banned from broadcasting such words, Labour party spokesmen rightly denounced the Government.
It is better by far that bad men reveal themselves by their words and deeds so that they can be judged than that they suppress their true intentions and gain a reputation that they do not deserve.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one of the lessons of that period of history was that members of the public who supported those views were better drawn into the political process as voters who sought representation in a democracy than they were as active supporters of terrorism?
That is entirely right.
Let me deal with the detail of clause 1. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I paraphrase because its language is complicated. It provides that an offence is committed by a person if that person publishes a statement, knowing or believing that those who hear or read it are likely to treat it as an encouragement to commit an act of terrorism The Bill defines the sort of statement that falls into that category as including every statement that glorifies terrorism, whether in the past, the future or generally, and that might encourage others to emulate such conduct. The Bill does not provide for intent. The provision is far removed from an offence of incitement with intent.
Historians or those who write about the past will inevitably be caught by the legislation. Let us consider those who have written about the 19th century struggle of the Fenians against British occupation in Ireland, or the African scholars who write about the Mau Mau revolt against the British empire in Kenya, or the Greek Cypriots who praised EOKA in its struggle against the British Government.
These are but examples among scores of cases that could be cited. All those struggles involved terrorism, and they were all successful. Most of the people who write about them glorify them, and it is quite likely that the people who read the articles and the history will be inspired to emulate them because they were successful.
What about present and future struggles that involve the use of force? As the hon. Member for Manchester, Central asked earlier, what are people to do in states that have no democracy and where tyranny and oppression prevail? Are we to say that acts of violence are in no circumstances to be countenanced? Such acts of violence will often include actions that are undoubtedly acts of terrorism within the definition in the Terrorism Act 2000. Do we really want people to be made criminals if they urge an armed insurrection against the military regime in Burma? Are we really prepared to say that people who say that Mugabe's regime should be displaced by force are committing a criminal offence? Is that really what we are bringing this society to?
Let us consider the occupied territories. The Liberal Democrats will know that one of their number, now Baroness Tonge, expressed sympathy for the suicide bombers there. I believe that the Prime Minister's wife has done the same thing. They were but a step or two away from falling within the scope of clause 1. Do we really want to say that such people are criminals who are to be brought before the law and sent to prison? I find that an extraordinary proposition.
It is true that there are safeguards in the Bill. We are told that the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions—or, in the case of an overseas terrorist, that of the Attorney-General—will be required for a prosecution.
I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me, but I have already given way twice.
Let us not forget that, while the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions will regulate the institution of proceedings, they will not make lawful what is expressed in the legislation to be unlawful. They merely regulate the institution of proceedings. Consequently, free speech will be interfered with by the fear of illegality.
Finally, we are told by the Home Secretary that the Bill is necessary partly to meet our commitment to the European convention on the prevention of terrorism, as established by the Council of Europe. That is plain wrong. What the convention in fact urges us to do—I shall use its rather bizarre language—is to create an offence of criminalising the
"distribution . . . of a message to the public, with the intent to incite the commission of a terrorist offence".
Intent to incite lies at the heart of the convention.
Clause 1 of the Bill provides no element of intent. It is another example of gold-plating, and goes far beyond what is required under the convention, and far beyond what is acceptable in a democracy. So long as it remains in the Bill, the Bill should be rejected.
It is a pleasure to follow Mr. Hogg, with whom I find myself agreeing far more than is good for my sense of comfort.
May I start by praising the Home Secretary for his general approach to the legislation and willingness to make himself available to Members, and particularly for the many hours that he spent in front of Select Committees, including the Home Affairs Committee? His approach to the issue gives me some confidence that useful legislation will be produced at the end of the process. I will certainly vote for the Bill tonight, although certain aspects of it need a rethink.
It is important to get the Bill in perspective. The major changes needed to terrorist legislation have been made in previous Acts. Despite the dramatic claims that the rules have changed, this Bill is rather marginal to the issue of our security. The real battle against terrorism is not in the battle over legislation in the House but in the community and the country outside. It is in our policing, our intelligence, the development of community support, and crucially, in winning the hearts and minds of people at home and abroad.
This is a long-term fight. Once terrorism is established, it takes years to get rid of. In my view, we will be extremely lucky if we are not facing attacks such as those that we have seen in London for the next 30 years. These are not, therefore, short-term, emergency measures. To all intents and purposes, they are permanent. The fight against terrorism does not lend itself to short-term initiatives. The public need to be reassured that things are being done, but they want to be safer.
In parts of the Bill, the Government are betraying a serious misunderstanding of what is at stake. This is not a battle over what people are allowed to say; it is a question of how we win arguments. The key battle is for hearts and minds. We must persuade young British people from the Muslim community who feel angry about what is happening in the world, in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya, and who feel that in the west their Muslim lives are less valuable than others' and their rights less valued than others', that engagement in politics, democracy, public life and argument is the way to achieve change, not terrorism.
Against us are the extremists arguing the opposite—that there is no way forward for them in western democracy; that it is a sham, an illusion and a dead end; and that terrorist violence is not only justified but the only way. We must be careful not to feed that argument. As the Bill stands, however, it is more helpful to the propaganda of the extremists than it is in winning hearts and minds.
The Bill is drawn too widely. Let us draw briefly on the Northern Ireland experience. We banned the IRA but we tolerated Sinn Fein, not, in my view, because we thought that they were entirely separate organisations, but because we believed that it was better to draw the supporters of militant republicanism into a political process of democracy than to leave them supporting purely violent action. Today, there are organisations in the world such as Hamas. I hold no brief for it, and we have proscribed it as a terrorist organisation. Many people in our society, however, who totally condemn the London bombings, would see Hamas in a different light, as a product of the situation in Palestine—something understandable, and for a significant number of them, justifiable; not just a terrorist organisation but one that takes part in and wins elections.
I certainly do not accept Hamas's strategy of terrorism, or its vision of the destruction of Israel. However, we make a mistake if we believe that organisations such as Hamas are indistinguishable from organisations such as al-Qaeda. One of the problems with the Bill is that it condemns such organisations and support for them in precisely the same terms as those in which it condemns support for the London bombings or
Clause 17 includes international action. There is a set of Chechens—not the murderers of Beslan, but others—whom the Russians regard as terrorists, but to whom this country has traditionally given asylum. Once the Act is operational, the Government will be under pressure to use it against them.
Far from sharpening our attack on al-Qaeda and the extreme of international terrorism—a terrorism that allows no possibility of compromise or engagement—the Bill blurs the differences. It allows the extremists, in arguments that will take place in communities, in gyms and possibly in mosques—but probably not in mosques at all—to argue that democracy is a dead end. They will say that it is not even possible to support people whom they regard as their brothers, and who are fighting occupation and winning elections, without being silenced. They will say that it is not possible to advocate a Muslim state without being silenced, and that it is not possible to be part of a resistance movement anywhere in the world without being silenced. They will say that the terrorist route is the only way. That is the argument that will be advanced in streets and communities up and down the country, and what we must ask ourselves is whether the phrasing of clause 1 will help us to win the argument for democracy and engagement.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one way of testing the rightness of such a clause is to apply it not to the immediate political concern, but to other organisations and other situations at other times when there is not the same emotional impact? It is pretty terrifying to think that it could be applied to enthusiastic supporters of freedom in countries where freedom is denied. We should therefore be extremely careful about accepting the clause, which is my reason for voting against it.
I referred earlier to the support that I gave, openly and publicly, to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the early 1980s. Flawed though they were, that Government were a great deal better than the dictatorship that was overthrown by violence—violence that the Bill defines as terrorism.
My position explicitly acknowledges that the world is a messy and complicated place. Political violence arises in many circumstances, and we must understand each of them and respond accordingly. We used as a country to understand that to our fingertips. In many ways, the history of decolonisation is the history of fighters being turned into statesmen and the supporters of fighters being turned into members of political parties. As we know, it did not always work, but we knew that it had to be done. We had to win the arguments of engagement, of alternative ways of doing things.
It is much simpler to say, "We do not want to understand all the different situations. All we need to do is say that this is wrong." That is what the Bill seeks to do, but I have to say that such simplicity will not work. If the Bill had the limited objective of stopping indirect incitement—direct incitement is already covered—of people living in this country to take part in terrorist actions, here or abroad, that involve the deliberate targeting and indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians, I would have no problem with it. I would have no problem with a Bill that drew the line where it needs to be drawn: between what the Home Secretary described today as indiscriminate terrorism, or what could be described as nihilism, and the much wider and more complicated set of political movements that sometimes use violence in various circumstances. But it does not do that, and I am worried that it betrays a profound misunderstanding of the problem.
I am hugely grateful to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for acknowledging in this debate, and beforehand in discussions, that we need to look at alternative definitions of terrorism, and we will doubtless return to this issue at greater length next week in Committee. However, I do not share the view, which he circulated to the Opposition spokesmen and to me in my role as Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, that the other definitions on offer are no better than that in our legislation. First, there are significant differences between them. For example, there is a significant difference between the Council of the European Union framework decision, which uses phrases such as "seriously intimidating a population" and
"seriously . . . destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country", and our own legislation, which talks about
"serious violence against a person" and "serious damage to property". The threshold is much higher.
I am no international lawyer—in fact, I am not a lawyer of any sort, for which I regularly give thanks—but perhaps equally significant is UN Security Council resolution 1566, which clearly locates terrorism primarily in terms of action against civilians. It also refers to criminal acts in a way that, I suspect, excludes genuine liberation movements and genuine violence against oppression. We could also use wording such as the following:
"any action . . . that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act."
That passage comes not from any international agreement but from the report of the high-level working group that was prepared for the UN summit on its 60th anniversary last month.
Although such a definition would certainly catch the indiscriminate terrorist attacks on civilians of organisations such as Hamas, it would none the less draw the line in the right place. It would send a political message about exactly what it is that we are trying to tackle. It is a line that any reasonable person—including those in the Muslim community on whom we are relying to win the argument—cannot possibly be against, whatever they might think about the situation in Chechnya, the middle east or Kashmir. Killing civilians indiscriminately for political purposes is wrong, and that is where we need to set the argument. I hope that we can return to this issue in some detail next week, and build on what the Home Secretary has said today in order to deliver an improvement to this part of the Bill.
I agree with what Members in all parts of the House have said about intent, and I hope that we can deal with that issue. I shall largely leave aside the 90-day issue, given the limited time available, but with the right combination of procedural safeguards and a perhaps more realistic assessment of the time that the police genuinely need, we should be able to reach agreement on this issue. I look to next week's debates to provide such agreement.
I agree in great measure with Mr. Denham. His words encapsulated a particular concern of mine. He said that he thought that this proposed legislation is essentially marginal in the fight against terrorism, and the House should pause to consider that point. My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg pointed out the extent to which we have legislated in recent years to meet what is clearly an exigency and a massive concern to those whom we represent: the eruption of legislation that fails to deal with the dangers—if we take the Home Secretary's view on this issue—that we face. When examined, the question of necessity arises. What is so necessary about this legislation? It is difficult to put one's finger on the essential element that underpins the conclusion that it is necessary to place restrictions on our freedom of speech.
We must bear in mind the various offences of incitement already in UK law. Incitement to violence, including terrorist violence, is already a criminal offence, as is incitement to commit an act of terrorism overseas, by virtue of section 59 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Solicitation to murder is an offence under section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and incitement to racial hatred is a crime under the Public Order Act 1986. A wide range of criminal offences is already available. Why, then, is a new offence of encouragement of terrorism, including by its glorification, necessary?
I am not sure that I have grasped the Home Secretary's arguments at all. He told the Home Affairs Committee that the problem was that
"the current law of incitement essentially deals with a very particular event, which an individual committing an event is incited to commit, for example to commit a very particular act in a particular way . . . that means it is difficult to prosecute in the more general circumstance where an individual organisation is inciting in general but not linked to a very particular crime."
Like the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen, I am not lawyer, but in the Regina v. El-Faisal case of 2004, the Court of Appeal upheld the convictions of a minister of Islam—for soliciting murder under section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and for incitement to racial hatred under the Public Order Act 1986—for having made audio tapes urging Muslims to fight and kill, among others, Jews, Christians, Americans, Hindus and other "unbelievers". In the course of its judgment, the Court of Appeal explained the great width of the offence of soliciting to murder:
"The offence of soliciting to murder is contained in s. 4 of the 1861 Act which states:
'Whosoever shall solicit, encourage, persuade or endeavour to persuade, or shall propose to any person, to murder any other person, whether he be a subject of her Majesty or not, and whether he be within the Queen's dominions or not, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted thereof shall be liable to imprisonment for life.'"
That amounts to a more severe penalty than is envisaged by the Home Secretary.
The scope of the behaviour sufficient to constitute the offence was classically given more than 100 years ago by Lord Huddleston, who provided an interpretation:
"The largest words possible have been used, 'solicit'—that is defined to be, to importune, to entreat, to implore, to ask, to attempt to try to obtain; 'encourage', which is to intimate, to incite to anything, to give courage to, to inspirit, to embolden, to raise confidence, to make confident; 'persuade' which is to bring any particular opinion, to influence by argument or expostulation, to inculcate by argument; 'endeavour' and then, as if there might be some class of cases that would not come within those words, the remarkable words are used, 'or shall propose to', that is say, make merely a bare proposition, an offer for consideration."
I have troubled the House with a lengthy excerpt, but I am trying to demonstrate that the Home Secretary has not answered the core of our fight—a national fight, which affects our constituents—and has not demonstrated why, given the present state of the law, clauses 1 and 2 are necessary.
It is the wider implications that really worry me. Freedom of expression is perhaps the most important and basic right in a democracy. It did not come about casually, as we said last week in debating the Identity Cards Bill. It was a long march, and many of the acts that brought us to where we are—the Home Secretary has defined democracy—were products that would be caught by the legislation in any event. That is the truth of the matter. Those who burned rickshaws would be caught, as I read the provisions. Is that really our intent—to define our own democracy in those terms?
In respect of the extension to the overseas provisions, the Home Secretary said that he had attended the ceremony—in St. Paul's cathedral, no less—marking the 60th anniversary of the UN. The UN has nearly 200 members, but would we call all of them democracies, even though they all subscribe to the universal declaration of human rights? The hypocrisy is writ large, and the Home Secretary offers an extraordinary historical analysis when he claims that the movement in the world at large is towards democracy. However, that process of edging towards democracy has often been ignited by something else.
Mr. Mugabe, through his country's membership of the UN, subscribes to those universal principles. People in other benighted countries suffer under the heel of cruel and vicious Governments, but do we tell those who rise up against their privations that anything that improves their lot is passable? No: the Home Secretary says that there is an ineluctable movement towards world democracy, but that is simply neither true nor real. In the pursuit of the Home Secretary's dream, we are asked to degrade and undermine some of our basic principles of freedom and democracy.
It is the crafting of the Bill that worries so many of us. The principle behind extending detention to 90 days clearly nags at the consciences of many hon. Members. There has to be some form of compromise.
I am grateful that the Government concede that the matter is important enough to be discussed on the Floor of the House. That allows all hon. Members to examine the proposals and express their opinion about it. Would to God that we had the same right in respect of so many of the instruments that come before us. Nevertheless, I congratulate the Government on their approach today.
I think that the Bill will founder on the Government's flagship Human Rights Act 1998, that at some time it will be declared to be incompatible with that legislation, and that we will be back to where we started. There will come a time when the House has to determine whether an instrument of declaratory power is appropriate to the circumstances that we face. The Bill challenges our declaratory principles of freedom of expression and the proportionality of actions taken by the state to meet the exigencies that we face.
It is always a great pleasure to follow Mr. Shepherd, and I agree with a great deal of what he said.
As expected, the Home Secretary offered a very robust defence of the Bill. No one doubts that it was the Government's duty, and his in particular, to take all appropriate steps to protect the population against terrorism, especially in the light of
First—and this question was rightly posed by the hon. Gentleman for Aldridge-Brownhills—is the Bill a necessary addition to the existing corpus of law to prevent acts of terrorism in the UK? Last year, the Director of Public Prosecutions told the Joint Committee on Human Rights that there was
"an enormous amount of legislation that can be used in the fight against terrorism."
Indeed, the common law of incitement and the Terrorism Act 2000 already provide very considerable scope for prosecution. For example, the Bill's new offence of encouragement of terrorism has been justified on the grounds that it is intended to criminalise incitement to murder, yet acts of incitement to murder or terrorism are already punishable by life imprisonment. In fact, I suspect that any difficulty in bringing prosecutions at the present time is much more likely to arise from the self-imposed ban on admissibility of intercept evidence, which in my view should be lifted, than from the absence of a prosecutable offence. Therefore, it is not clear that the Bill passes the first test.
The second test is whether the Bill is drafted tightly enough to catch those against whom it is allegedly directed and not those who may unintentionally be trapped by loose drafting? It is certainly to be welcomed that, after considerable concern has been expressed, the original proposal about glorification of terrorism has been dropped. But encouragement of terrorism is still drawn extremely broadly. In particular, as others have said, it allows acts to be criminalised without the need for intention by the person committing the offence. That is wrong and we must return to that next week.
Moreover—almost everyone has mentioned this—the definition of terrorism under clause 1 is so wide that, contrary to what I think the Home Secretary was saying, it would criminalise calls to overthrow oppressive regimes where democratic means do not exist. In my reading of the definition, it would have caught those supporting the African National Congress and its methods in the fight against the apartheid regime. It would also have caught those calling for action involving, for example, violence against property, even if not violence against the person, against such regimes as North Korea, or Burma—that has been mentioned—or Ceausescu's regime in Romania, and would have criminalised those who called for action against the Nazi regime in Germany.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it goes much further than that, because people who write about that in a historical sense are also caught?
Yes; I take that point and I support what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said on this. A definition that catches all those examples goes far too wide, and in my view the Bill does not pass that second test.
A third key test is whether the Bill is drawn so loosely that it is likely to be used rather more indiscriminately in future years against persons who are not necessarily the ostensible targets? There is plenty of evidence historically that that has been the result of using wide definitions. The best example, of course, is the stop and search legislation. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which has been mentioned, has been used against anti-war protesters and arms trade protesters as well as, most notoriously, the 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang.
On stop and search, does my right hon. Friend agree that there are serious concerns about the additional powers that have been offered to the Metropolitan police, and that they need additional training? We must ensure that they are given additional training because any abuse of those powers will cause a further deterioration in race relations in this country?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend, but I would go further. The existing drafting of the stop and search legislation has led to its being used in a massive number of instances, but hardly any have led to prosecution, and there is suspicion—which may well be founded—that the legislation is being used by the police for wider purposes. I do not think that the fault is police training; it is the laxity and looseness of the original definition in the legislation.
There are already suggestions that clause 10 might be used against animal rights protesters. Whatever one feels about that, whether one uses anti-terrorism measures against them or other protesters is another matter—[Interruption.] This is arguable, but it is not being proposed that that is the purpose of the Bill.
That only confirms my point. The Bill is intended to deal with the problem of acts of terrorism, such as those which the country faced on
The fourth test is whether the Bill will undermine the rights and liberties of the free society that it is purportedly designed to protect. Everyone agrees that the balance between liberty and security is a difficult issue. By far the most contentious issue, as we have heard this afternoon, is the proposal that terrorist suspects should be detained for up to three months. That is more than 20 times the pre-charge detention limit for murder. It would allow the equivalent of a six-month custodial sentence without a charge being brought. Apart from the breach of the habeas corpus principles and article 5 of the convention on human rights—I disagree with the Home Secretary on that point—it is difficult to believe that the provision is really necessary. The Association of Chief Police Officers says that it is needed because of the potentially huge amount of material and the possible involvement of several jurisdictions, but the same argument applies to much white collar fraud, for which pre-trial detention is limited to only four days, or one twenty-fifth of the time proposed in the Bill.
An interesting Foreign and Commonwealth Office document, which has not been mentioned today, makes comparisons between the proposals in the Bill and existing practice in other countries. In almost every case, they have a much shorter pre-charge detention limit than that proposed. Most terrorist arrests will usually follow months of previous investigations, which would allow large amounts of evidence to be compiled. If, occasionally, that were not so—if an event had happened that the police were not expecting—a much better compromise would be for a suspect to be charged under existing legislation and further charges added later, if appropriate. If that requires changes to the PACE code, so be it. The 90-day provision is the most serious in the Bill and it must be addressed.
A fifth test is whether the Bill will alienate those sections of the population whose support is vital to isolate and defeat the supporters of terrorism. In that context, any measures that cause Muslims to be treated unfairly—or to perceive themselves as being treated unfairly—would be counter-productive. Legislation that is too widely drawn, like this Bill, might well make Muslims who strongly condemn attacks very wary of contacting the police and volunteering crucial information. They might feel that their legitimate but critical views of middle east policy would make them vulnerable to prosecution. Equally, the banning of organisations that do not advocate terrorism, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir—however objectionable their views are—would drive them underground and make intelligence gathering more difficult. The Bill is not acceptable on that score either.
My sixth and last point is somewhat wider, but essential. Does the policy behind the Bill take account of the wider underlying causes of terrorism and seek to redress them? That question goes a long way beyond a Home Office Bill, but it is a crucial component of our whole approach to terrorism. While in the short term we should certainly take all reasonable steps to protect our own security, we should never lose sight of the fact that one of the major roots of terrorism is the widespread perception of a fundamentally unjust and untenable political situation in the middle east. That recruiting ground for terrorism and al-Qaeda will be removed only when we have a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, the creation of a viable Palestinian state and a reorienting of the fundamental—
I fear that some of the discussion that we have heard this afternoon has perhaps gravitated rather more towards the experiences of those in the criminal law than towards the questions that lie at the heart of the Bill. This legislation is about terrorism, and I would make the case strongly that we verge closely in that context on the problems that exist in a state of war, as I indicated in an earlier intervention. During our discussions on the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 in March this year, there was a failure to appreciate that the most important thing was to achieve a balance—security on one hand and liberty on the other. I am bound to say that I have more sympathy with the Government's position in respect of the Bill than do some of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
The criteria applied under the Human Rights Act 1998 and, indeed, in respect of the European convention on human rights must be regarded as a question of proportionality in the context of the threat to public order and public safety. Indeed, during the proceedings on the former Bill in March I took exception to the line that was then being taken by Conservative Front Benchers about our complying with the obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 in relation to control orders and terrorist suspects. I thought that profoundly wrong, and I continue to feel the same way about the application of the ECHR to the Bill.
I would not want to give the slightest impression that I am in favour of taking away rights that I thought justifiable, as enacted by the House. Indeed, in a very short clause that I produced to the Bill in March, I said that nothing in any Act should stand in the way of
"a writ of habeas corpus or other prerogative remedy and . . . a fair trial in accordance with due process and the rule of law."
I believe profoundly that, whether or not a person is a terrorist or someone who incites hatred or whatever else, that person should in no way be denied the opportunity to benefit from habeas corpus, the rule of law and a fair trial. Indeed, I had an exchange with the Home Secretary during those previous proceedings, and he said that habeas corpus would apply. There was some serious doubt about that at the time, but the reality is that, in the context of the Bill, the Government have dug themselves into a substantial hole in trying to have their cake and eat it.
In my opinion, it is not possible for the Government to avoid tackling the problem of the application of the Human Rights Act 1998 to such legislation. Indeed, Lord Carlile made it clear in a well considered report that he thought that a period of up to three months was justifiable on the evidence that he heard. I hope that we hear more during our proceedings about what that evidence amounted to. Lord Carlile thought that the Government would have serious problems preventing the Law Lords from eventually ruling against provisions in the Bill on the grounds of the Human Rights Act. We have seen that after enormous amounts of time and delay, Belmarsh and other cases were taken to the courts and the Government's declarations of compatibility with the Act were struck down.
The remedy is simple. If the Government want to legislate for a specific purpose, based on evidence they provide, and if they can make a case on the Floor of the House and in Committee to justify an extension of the period to three months or a bit less—whatever emerges from the debates—they should seize the nettle and, as I suggested earlier, include the provision:
"notwithstanding the Human Rights Act 1998".
I do not need to take the House through the case law, save to say that Lord Hoffmann made it perfectly clear in a case a few years ago, as did the Lord Chancellor when the Human Rights Act was going through the House, that the 1998 Act can be amended by unambiguous subsequent legislation passed in the House. Just as it is the first priority of the Government to ensure the protection and security of the nation, so it is the first principle of the House to make up its mind about the legislation it wants to ensure that protection. That may bring us into dispute with some members of the judiciary, but it would not be for the first time over the many centuries that the House has existed. I profoundly believe that we must legislate according to the proper requirements of protection of the nation and that that should be decided in Parliament and not in the courts. That is the first and fundamental principle.
Secondly, I want to refer to the report of the Gardiner Committee in 1975, when similar problems emerged with regard to the protection of the nation from IRA terrorism. The report stated:
"Some of those who have given evidence to us have argued that such features of the present emergency provisions as the use of the Army in aid of the civil power, detention without trial, arrest on suspicion and trial without jury are so inherently objectionable that they must be abolished on the grounds that they constitute a basic violation of human rights."
"We are unable to accept this argument . . . The suspension of normal safeguards for the liberty of a subject may sometimes be essential, in a society faced by terrorism, to counter greater evils."
As I made clear earlier, it is essential that if the period of time is to be extended beyond 14 days, there should be no possibility of not holding a serious review by a senior judge of the circumstances in which the person is being held. It cannot be left to district, or even circuit, judges. The cases would be few and far between, so fair process—fair trial and habeas corpus—must be reinforced as the most fundamental principle on which we rely. However, that does not mean that terrorists or suspected terrorists should be given a more privileged position than they deserve.
There are extremely good reasons why the Government must take the ultimate responsibility for such legislation, but they must also act responsibly. On the whole, the legislation is right, although I am slightly worried about the definition of the glorification of terrorism, but we can look into that at a later stage. There are ways of dealing with the questions about trial and detention and, with respect to some of my hon. Friends, they should not be too worried about an arbitrary time of 14 days.
Not just yet, if my hon. Friend does not mind.
I intend to direct my remarks solely to the proposals for 90-day detention. I say at the outset that I realise that, with the arrival of the suicide bomber in the United Kingdom, we face a wholly new form of terrorism. I accept that we have an obligation to provide the police and security services with the tools that they need to deal with that, and I acknowledge that a difficult balance must be struck between the protection of the suspect and the liberties of the subject. I accept all those things, but do not believe that a case has been made for detaining suspects for up to 90 days. What is more, the provision will lead to unintended consequences that could store up a lot of difficulties for when the Bill is implemented.
As I said when I intervened on the Home Secretary, it is unfortunate that the Government have uncritically endorsed what I still believe to be the police's first throw of the dice. The police did not think for a moment that they would get 90-day detentions. The request was their opening shot in what they perhaps thought would be a process of negotiation, so they would have been as amazed as most hon. Members who have spoken that the proposal was uncritically endorsed.
I oppose the 90-day detention because there is a danger that the power will be abused, whatever safeguards we try to put in place. The overwhelming majority of terrorist suspects are released without charge. Of the 895 people arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 up to
With the best will in the world, the police will be tempted to string out the process. If they do not have to work their way through a big pile of documentation and other evidence quickly, they might wait 30 or 40 days before even getting round to starting to do that. I am not suggesting that that would always happen, but it is a reasonable supposition that it will begin to happen in some cases over time.
My hon. Friend admitted that suspects were not kept for longer than 14 days in most instances. If they are not being kept for longer than 14 days, why should the police string out the process for up to 90 days?
With all due respect to my hon. Friend, that point rather rebounds on him. If it has not been necessary to detain anyone for more than 14 days so far, it is a rather large leap to say that we now urgently need a 90-day provision.
If a time period of 90 days is now essential, why, when the police were last consulted only a little over two years ago—terrorism had been with us for some time by then—did they ask for a rise from seven to only 14 days? I do not understand why their request has suddenly leapt from 14 days to 90. If they had asked for a more modest increase, I could engage with the argument.
When I looked up the way in which the then Minister, my right hon. Friend Beverley Hughes, justified the extension from seven days to 14, I noticed that some of her reasons were remarkably similar to those cited in assistant commissioner Hayman's letter. The points about the need to study computers and technology were made almost word for word. I accept that other considerations have emerged since then and that there might be a case for extending the limit, but not to 90 days, for goodness' sake.
Some Members have said that Lord Carlile endorses the proposal. I accept that he does so in his report, but not with any great enthusiasm. He does not endorse all the proposals in assistant commissioner Hayman's letter, and dismisses some of them explicitly:
"I do not regard extra time for interviews as being a sound basis for the extension of the time period . . . the reality is that most suspects exercise their right to silence".
Indeed. That brings me to the point made by Mr. Hogg. Courts may find it difficult to convict on the basis of admissions or accusations that emerge after 20, 30, 40 or 50 days in custody. That may be an unintended consequence of the measure and may lead to some people walking free who should not do so. I take no comfort from the safeguard that a district judge should approve detention at regular intervals. I have a little experience in this area and, in the past, many members of the judiciary, both senior and junior, have proved remarkably gullible in believing whatever nonsense was put before them by the Crown and, in some cases, by the police. The words "national security" have only to be breathed for some district judges, magistrates and even High Court judges to roll over and have their tummies tickled. With the best will in the world, it is difficult for a judge, however senior, to turn down a request from a Crown prosecutor who tells him that the detention order is essential and that the world could be blown up tomorrow unless he renews it.
I remember a former Bow street stipendiary magistrate, a man of great experience, saying on his retirement that he could not recall a single instance in 30 years of a policeman in the witness box exaggerating in the slightest. I accept that things have changed a little, but that gives a flavour of the difficulties that we will encounter if we let district judges deal with the problem. The Home Secretary will concede that it must be a High Court judge at least. Indeed, that must be one of the concessions in my right hon. Friend's back pocket, and it would be nice if he conceded the point in the Commons rather than the other place.
Some say that we should place our trust in experts, and that the experts who track down terrorists have a complex job, so we should listen to whatever advice they give us. I certainly listen with respect to anyone who has that difficult job, whether they are in the police or the security services, but I do not endorse blindly or automatically whatever they say, because in years gone by experts have been known to be spectacularly wrong in terrorism cases and other matters. In the mid 1970s—the situation then has a bearing on today's situation —they caught the wrong people for all the main terrorist bombings. A total of 18 people were wrongly arrested. Some of those experts and High Court judges still argue in private that all the people who were captured in the '70s were guilty. They are still in self-denial and labour under a massive illusion. My message is therefore, "Put not thy faith entirely in experts."
I hope that we will not go down the American road.
Forgive me, I have only three minutes left.
In many respects, the Americans have thrown away the rule book when it comes to dealing with terrorism. Some hon. Members will be familiar with the process of extraordinary rendition, whereby terror suspects are kidnapped and franchised out to countries where torture is routine. I do not want to see us starting out down that road. I do not suggest that it would ever happen in this country. I am sure that it will not, but it should be a warning to us.
So, too, should the shooting of the unfortunate Brazilian gentleman in Stockwell tube station. I understand how these things happen. I well remember the atmosphere in which it took place, but it is when tensions are at their highest that we need to have safeguards in place. Was it not instructive that we subsequently learned that, the day after the shooting, the Metropolitan Commissioner had quietly written to the Home Secretary and asked that there be no independent inquiry into the shooting? The Home Secretary rightly rebuffed him. Indeed, the law requires that there be such an inquiry. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, a man held in great respect is, relatively speaking, a liberal. If he would go down that road, one can only wonder how someone of a less liberal disposition would react in those circumstances.
That emphasises the need for us always to be on our guard and to leave no loopholes in the law when it comes to inserting protections and making sure that they are watertight. I am in favour, as I said at the outset, of making the police and the security services as effective as possible in the fight against terrorism. I am not against some of the measures in the Bill, providing they can be justified, but there must be a bottom line. Although I might be persuaded to go along with a modest extension of the powers of detention, it will not be a very large one. We are making a mistake if we endorse the full 90 days or anything resembling it. Judging by the mood in the House tonight, I feel sure that the Government will want to compromise in the end. I look forward to that day.
Many of us are nervous about the Bill because we have seen how the 2000 Act has been operating out in the field, so to speak. A cricketer on his way to a match was stopped at King's Cross and questioned under section 44 of that Act about his possession of a cricket bat. Police thought he might be travelling to Scotland to cause trouble at the G8 summit.
Emily Flynn, a 24-year-old woman, was detained under section 44. She stated:
"They questioned me, searched my bag, read my notebook, and threatened to take me inside to strip search me. 'You have to admit,' said officer 216738—who could legally withhold his name . . . 'that you couldn't be searched by a better looking bloke.'"
She has no redress, apparently, after that incident.
I speak on behalf of Plaid Cymru and also the Scottish National party. Clause 1 deals with the encouragement of terrorism. We are concerned about the way in which the clause has been drafted. The requirement that the accused knew or believed or had reasonable grounds for believing that other members of the public were likely to understand it as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to commit terrorist acts looks fairly reasonable, but it is not good enough. Without a more specific definition, the offence is likely to have unintended consequences, one of which, I can readily see, is the inhibition of free speech. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to create such a wide offence that will require reliance on the discretion of the prosecution as to its appropriate use.
We have heard about the Cherie Blair and Jenny Tonge test. I will not go over that again, but suffice it to say that many worthy causes—and, I regret to say, many hon. Members—will be outlawed if the Bill goes through in its current state. The law must be accessible, and those affected by it must know exactly what it prohibits. That must be formulated with clarity, so that those affected understand it and regulate their conduct according to the law.
Does the hon. Gentleman find it difficult to explain what the law would mean in this case, because not only would the speaker not have to have an intent to cause this, he would have to be telepathic in order to discover what someone might think if he spoke in that way? Many of us find that our speeches are not entirely understood, however clear we try to make them, but this makes speechifying almost impossible when we are dealing with circumstances as terrible as, for example, the fate of the Palestinians, the way in which they have been treated, and the way in which so many countries now suffer under the heel of dictators. I find it very difficult to know how one would measure one's words in this way.
The right hon. Gentleman is spot on, and I know he gains support from throughout the House for what he has just said.
The dangers of allowing clause 1 to continue unamended stem from its broadness and vagueness of definition, the lack of any intent, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and the lack of any sense of the certainty essential to a fair and credible criminal justice system. People will be unaware of the consequences of their actions, as he said, and have no control over how their words or publications might be interpreted. We are on very dangerous ground at the moment. Liberty, for example, believes that this offence is totally unnecessary anyway, because there is sufficient criminal law allowing prosecution of those who incite terrorism, a point that Mr. Hogg made well earlier. If there is to be any new offence—I do not believe that there should be one—it must have at its core the element of intent.
Furthermore, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, anyone arguing for deposing brutal dictators anywhere in the world at any time would be guilty of a breach of clause 1. If this offence had been on the statute book a few years ago, it would have caught dissidents against Saddam, and it would certainly catch anyone calling for the deposition of Robert Mugabe.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the mistake that the Government are making is that they fail to recognise what I had thought by now was fairly widely acknowledged, namely that there is a difference between a terrorist on the one hand and a freedom fighter on the other? The differences are twofold. The freedom fighter is fighting for something that in any conceivable sense can be described as freedom, and he is doing so in circumstances where there is no credible alternative because he is operating within a closed political system. Surely the Government understand that proposition.
The hon. Gentleman makes that point extremely well, but what is insidious is that even support for that kind of action will be criminalised in this country, and he and I and others may find ourselves before the courts in short order.
Clause 8 relates to being present at a camp where terrorism training is taking place. That again is a difficult matter. I am sure that no sensible person would find themselves in such a camp, but again in that instance there is no actus reus and no mens rea; it becomes an absolute offence. A person in such a camp might be a bit slow on the uptake and not have picked up on what was going on, but if one is there for whatever reason, that is it—seven years, thank you very much. Again, that is extremely dangerous ground. Will we be breeding terrorists rather than inhibiting them by going along this particular road?
An offence is created by just being in a place at the wrong time, with no intention whatever. It is guilt by association. That can never have any place in the law of England and Wales, and it should never have any place at all. Clause 8 will undoubtedly breach article 6 of the human rights convention, and it is impossible to see how such a principle could sensibly form the basis of new criminal law in the UK.
All Members have been concerned with clause 23, which extends the period of detention. As Mr. Mullin observed, there has never been a case where anybody has been held for longer than 14 days, so why do we need 90? Why not make it 190, or 300, while we are at it? The whole thing is ridiculous. The first question is whether we need an extension. My view is firmly that we do not, but let us be reasonable and open to argument in deciding whether to agree to some form of abridgement.
I am not at all happy with a district judge reviewing the process, because some are prone to accepting one version of the facts and one only. I am not even sure about the nature of the review. Will the detained be represented? Will they know what is being said in proceedings held in camera? Is the detained entitled to be represented, or are we to have another Special Immigration Appeals Commission situation in which absolute balderdash is dished out before the court and nobody has a chance to challenge or even evaluate what is being said?
Regardless of the seniority of the judge who conducts the review, he or she is being asked to look at evidence that has not yet been found. It is almost impossible for the judge to make a proper assessment, so protection cannot be put in place.
That is right. And how can one challenge whether the process is happening within a reasonable time scale, given that a person is being detained? All those points need to be considered.
The provision may have come about because of the press release by the Association of Chief Police Officers within a week of the awful occurrence in July. As has frequently been said, if we rush into legislation, we often, if not always, get it wrong. If we rush into this legislation, we will get it wrong big-style. It may act as a recruiting sergeant for terrorism and will certainly alienate large sections of our society—the very people we need on our side in such times. It is extremely dangerous, and we need to reflect far more on what we are doing. In the round, most of it would be covered by existing legislation in any event and is therefore, to use the famous parliamentary word, otiose. We need the current law to be properly enforced.
I have made my point clear. I do not believe that there is a case for extending the 14-day period. Under section 47(3) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, a person can be bailed during the investigation to come back to the police station. He or she can be tagged or put under curfew, and surveillance can take place. Reporting restrictions may be followed. All that is preferable to holding somebody in what might be termed administrative detention, with all the problems that we saw in Northern Ireland when that occurred over there.
We do not need this insidious part of the Bill. We do not need to alienate sections of our community. When all is said and done, we are trying to ensure freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy, all of which are under attack in this Bill. We must all help to identify a more proportionate solution.
No Member of this House would in any way deplore measures to prevent terrorism occurring in our country. One of the reasons many of us voted against the war in Iraq was that we realised that it would make our country even more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. In my view, the Bill is an excellent example of legislation that has been introduced in a knee-jerk reaction.
The Government have to show that they are macho about the terrorist threat. We have heard assurances from the Home Secretary that the 90 day detention provision and the other clauses will be used only against suspected terrorists. However, we heard those assurances when the Terrorism Act 2000 was considered, but they did not prevent the arrest of Walter Wolfgang, after he had been removed by thugs from the Labour party conference, under—believe it or not—the Terrorism Act. A refugee from Nazi oppression was arrested under the Terrorism Act. I am not therefore comforted by the assurances that we have been given this afternoon.
Cherie Blair's statement has been mentioned several times. I signed the early-day motion to defend her from attacks in the press. If the Bill had been law and we had expressed that view in the country, we might have been affected by its provisions. It is no use people shaking their heads. I have visited the west bank and seen the oppression under which the Palestinian people live. I can understand why there have been suicide bombers there, although I do not understand it in this country. Let us imagine that a radical Palestinian heard a statement by Cherie Blair or Jenny Tonge. He might become even more radical. I am sure that it could be proved that statements by people from this country tipped the scales so that a person became militant and involved in the terrorist acts that we all deplore. That could apply to the statements that I mentioned.
The Bill contains much that is objectionable and much that I appreciate. However, it includes little that is not already covered in statute or common law. The means for tackling the terrorist threat already exists. Indeed, the Government have been successful in dealing with extremist clerics, although they have some difficulty in deporting them, but that is another matter. They have done all that they could to deal with those who were rightly arrested because of their blatant statements, which were a spur to terrorists.
Let us imagine that the Bill had been on the statute book some years ago, during the Thatcher Administration, when the Prime Minister expressed support for Pinochet and described Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. Many of us went on the streets to support Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid. I was the chairman of the Merseyside committee for solidarity with Chile after that other 9/11 in 1973. If the Bill had been law, perhaps we would have been in prison. Let us picture the situation: Cherie Blair in prison, me in prison, and, if her husband had come out in her support, I might have shared a cell with the Prime Minister. Heaven forbid, but it might have been possible.
One of the great difficulties with the Bill is its lack of a definition of terrorism. Many hon. Members have alluded to that, but I believe that the definition given to terrorism is whatever the Government of the day believe terrorism to be. The Thatcher Administration thought that it was terrorism to attack the Pinochet regime or apartheid South Africa.
I do not know what the Government consider to be terrorism. I am sure that they do not believe that tackling terrorism includes getting rid of an 82-year-old man at the Labour party conference. They do not really believe that, do they? Could not the legislation also have been used against the Greenham Common women? Were they terrorists? If someone at a CND demonstration leaves the rest of the crowd and tries to cut through the wire fence to get into an American air force base, is that terrorism? Such people could be pursued under this Bill.
I realise that the 90-day detention is an important issue, but I do not want to go into the details of the proposal because many people have already done so. I am of course opposed to it. I note that the Conservatives have also expressed their opposition to that part of the Bill. On Second Reading, we vote on the principle of a Bill, and that provision forms part of the principle of this Bill. I see no reason for the Conservative Opposition to go along with the Government on this. It does not make sense.
I accept that it is a difficult decision. Speaking personally, however, I have to say that there is enough in the Bill that I regard as important, and that tends in the right direction, to make me unwilling to stop the Government at this stage, when they have indicated that they are prepared to listen. Of course, if they do not listen, and if the legislation remains substantially in its present form, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall not be able to support it on Third Reading.
I realise that that case has been made, but the vote this evening is on this Bill, and clause 23 is enshrined in it. That clause deals with the number of days for which a person can be detained. I agree with the hon. Gentleman to a certain extent: there are other issues in the Bill. However, we might want to tell the Government to go back to the drawing board. But is that needed? As I have said, they already have enough powers to take the action that they need to take, and they have done reasonably well in dealing with the extremist clerics. If clause 23 is still in the Bill at 7 o'clock tonight, I can see no reason for voting for the Bill. I might abstain on a number of issues, but I do not believe that anyone whose conscience tells them to oppose the 90-day provision could possibly support the Bill. I hope that the Conservative Opposition will join those of us on the traditional Labour Benches in opposing it tonight.
Mr. Mullin was a little unkind to Mr. Cash when he damned him for the grave offence of offering some measure of support to the Government whom we assumed the hon. Member for Sunderland, South supported. The reality is that even the hon. Member for Stone had some misgivings about elements of the Bill.
No one in the House today—not even the Home Secretary—wants to have to deal with this kind of legislation. However, we do not find ourselves in the circumstances that we would like to be in, and we have to deal with the circumstances as they are. The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Murphy, rightly said that the Government had two competing duties. The first is their duty to protect the lives of the citizens of this kingdom; the second is their duty to protect those people's liberties. Because that tension exists between the two duties, the Government have to strike a balance. Most of today's debate has been about determining the point at which the balance should be struck.
I said in an earlier intervention that I was struggling with one issue: in fact, there are two. First, the Home Secretary indicated that he was considering the issue of definitions, particularly in relation to the glorification of terrorism, and I hope that progress will be made on that in Committee—progress must be made, as the current position is unworkable.
Secondly, in relation to the 90-day issue, I intervened on Mr. Oaten in the hope of drawing out some answer to the problem that I faced. The Home Secretary has made a strong case about why additional time in detention is necessary. We are dealing with a new world, with different technologies. The proliferation of CCTV across the United Kingdom is such that when an incident occurs, the investigating authorities can view it from various standpoints and gather information. The issue of computers was mentioned, and it was not adequately dealt with by the shadow Home Secretary's answer that although it might take time to get around the problem of encryption, a suspect who withholds information should be charged and could be held on that charge. The reality might be different. Three people might be responsible for what was intended to be a series of suicide bombings, two of whom might have given up their lives in the process. Those two might be the ones responsible for the encryption, and no matter what legal redress one might have against the remaining person, he could not decode the files even if he wanted to. That is one of a series of different possibilities that would prevent such a solution.
I imagine that the shadow Home Secretary's argument is that that would be the holding charge in the first instance. That was much the argument of the Liberal Democrat spokesman, who said that he had the answer to the 90-day problem: if people were brought in on suspicion of responsibility for some terrorist incident, some lesser charger should be made against them. I do not like that option, because, in effect, we would be giving the police a wink and a nod to concoct some holding charge in order to keep the suspect in custody. That is a worse set of circumstances, because the police are unlikely to withdraw that charge later, whereas if they find, as the Home Secretary suggests, that the person is not of value to them, they can be released. They will end up being charged with what might be, in Northern Ireland language, the duff charge. I have not heard today the answer to the conundrum of how we overcome the problems associated with the longer detention period.
While I said that the Home Secretary had convinced me that a longer detention period was needed, he has not convinced me that 90 days is the right period and, to be fair to him, he has not tried to convince me of that. We need some evidence for why those 90 days are necessary. I would have thought that the provision of as short a detention period as possible is in the interests of anyone who loves liberty. Certain arguments have been advanced, and some thought that they would poke fun at the Labour Member who suggested that because the 14 days had not been exceeded, there should be no concern about a 90-day detention period. The reality is that the police will work within whatever length of time might be available to them.
If there is another atrocity, the red-top papers will call for blood, and the police will want to show that they are taking action. Is there not a danger that they will trawl the friends or associates of anyone whom they believe may have been involved, and that as a result such people will spend a long time in custody? People who have committed no offence may be convicted as though they had committed an offence that would normally carry six months' imprisonment.
That danger is certainly there, although I do not believe that the police act in that way. I believe that they will use the legislation sensibly. Perhaps I am far too innocent and trusting.
Steps can, of course, be taken to ensure that supervision takes place. We have already talked about that. A High Court judge, for instance, might be appointed, and some parliamentary activity might be possible at the same time. Such measures could reduce, if not remove, the likelihood of what the hon. Gentleman has described.
I do not doubt that if we give this power to the Home Secretary and, through him, the police, circumstances will arise in future in which it will be deemed to have been used improperly. Let us, however, return to the balance that the Home Secretary, and indeed the House, must determine. If the Home Secretary leans towards the side of protecting liberties rather than protecting lives, there will be no redress for the people who lose lives. If he leans towards the other side there will at least be redress, however unfortunate the circumstances may be. He has still to convince us of the length of time that is necessary, but he has made a good start by convincing us that a longer period is necessary.
Yesterday I spoke in the House about a Bill dealing with electoral law. On that occasion, it was the Conservatives who had tabled a reasoned amendment. They said that they would vote against the Bill, although they also said that that would not destroy it, that it contained good things, and that they wanted it to proceed. They were pilloried by the Liberal Democrats, who said "You cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater." Now the Liberal Democrats have turned their argument on its head. They have left me completely confused, and I presume that they have left others confused as well.
Perhaps I can deal with the hon. Gentleman's confusion. A vote on Second Reading is a vote on the principle of the Bill. The principle that we are supporting is that there should be robust and effective measures against terrorism without the contravention of fundamental civil liberties. We feel that this Bill involves a fundamental civil liberty, and that we must therefore object to it.
The hon. Gentleman probably was not here for yesterday's debate, but the Liberal Democrat argument was that in Committee it would be possible to make the legislation into a satisfactory Bill. It is still possible, in my view, to make this Bill satisfactory. It is still possible to change the definitions, and it is still possible to make changes to the 90-day rule. Yet the Liberal Democrats are saying "Throw out the Bill." I think that that is the wrong position to adopt, and it is certainly not the position that my hon. Friends and I will adopt.
When I was appointed chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, some may have thought that I was a poacher turned gamekeeper, in view of the efforts that I had made over the years to expose the activities of extremists. I started to ask questions about them as long ago as 1998. I do not agree with my hon. Friend Mr. Wareing on whether effective action was taken. I think that the answer is self-evident, given all that we have learned over the years about some of those concerned.
My work in that regard has given me a perspective on human rights. It is important to look at both sides of the argument; one side is often overlooked. I believe that my Committee's ongoing inquiry into the Government's response to terrorism is looking at both sides—and I am pleased about the constructive way in which the Home Secretary has engaged with us on the issue.
The attacks on 7 and
Human rights law also imposes onerous positive obligations on states to take steps to protect the lives and physical integrity of everyone within their jurisdiction against the threat of terrorist attack. Where an attack has taken place, the state is required by human rights law itself to review the adequacy of the legal measures that it has in place to protect people from terrorist attack and to bring perpetrators to justice.
The fact that attacks have taken place is highly relevant evidence in an assessment of the level of terrorist threat, which itself is relevant to the proportionality of any interference with human rights that can be restricted in the interests of public safety and national security. However, it remains the case that all measures taken by states to fight terrorism must themselves respect human rights and the principle of the rule of law. National rules may change, but the applicability of human rights rules themselves do not.
My Committee will have reservations about much of the Bill's detail, and particularly about the breadth of its coverage, its definition of terrorism and the question of international comparators.
I do, because we can do what we need to do without taking such action. I heard the hon. Gentleman's earlier contribution and I agreed with much of it—apart from that aspect.
There is a big distinction between explaining and understanding a terrorist act such as a suicide bombing, and knowingly encouraging others to emulate that attack. We have to devise a wording that will deal with the particular problem of liberation movements— I subscribe to the Home Secretary's view on this issue, but I realise that others do not—and with the sort of statements that have so far gone unpunished by the law.
"'Yes, absolutely. When they're needed and when they're required . . . if they want to and they believe Islamically that it's allowed, then fair enough.'" [Hansard, Westminster Hall, 20 April 2004; Vol. 420, c. 14WH.]
Under our existing law, that is not an offence, but under the Bill as drafted it would be. If we are to change the Bill's definitions, we have to do so in a way that does not exempt such appalling statements from potential prosecution.
In the end, this issue comes down to the question of proportionality, as Mr. Cash said earlier. In considering the question of compatibility with human rights legislation, we must bear in mind the balancing act between the infringement of individual human rights and the human right of society at large not to be blown up.
Much of this afternoon's debate has focused on the proposed extension of the pre-charge detention period to 90 days, and I want to focus on that issue in detail. Two days ago, our Committee heard very cogent evidence from the police. We pressed them very hard on many of these issues, and I certainly recommend that all Members who have reservations about extending the pre-charge detention period read the transcript of that evidence. We heard from deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke, a senior hands-on detective with a number of years' experience of such cases, and from chief constable Jones, of the Association of Chief Police Officers. If Members read that transcript, many of the reservations that have been expressed today would be answered.
The starting point is to say that we are looking at a maximum three-month detention period, not such a period as a matter of course. The police made it absolutely clear that they want to resolve cases much more quickly than that. We were told that they hope to resolve them inside seven days, never the mind the current 14-day period, or beyond. They were keen to make it clear that they did not want to keep coming back to Parliament for further extensions, if it were felt that the period granted by Parliament on this occasion—
I will not, because my time will be eaten up.
If the extension period proved inadequate, the police would have to ask for a further extension. They do not want to do that; they want to think strategically about their position.
No, I will not, as I have only limited time.—[Interruption.] Mr. Clarke made it clear that he envisaged a maximum of three months; he did not envisage three months becoming the norm. Even if it was only two days past the 14 days that got to the point of the charge, their requirement was met.
Order. It is for the hon. Member to decide whether or not to give way. I feel that I should protect his reputation for making short speeches.
People have questioned why the police need an extension of their powers, but Mr. Clarke provided two very good examples. The brief that we have received from the police so far refers in general terms to the ricin plot. However, Mr. Clarke told us that
"had we had this provision in 2002, the outcome of a recent court case, the so-called ricin trial, might have been very different. Mohamed Meguerba was one of the suspects in that case and it is likely that we would have held him or applied for his detention for sufficient time to find that his fingerprints were on the ricin recipe and he would have stood trial as a main conspirator in that case had he not fled the country. As it was, he was not available to stand trial".
Basically, he did a runner and the police had no ability to hold him, although his fingerprints were there.
Mr. Clarke provided another useful example of a current case in which the police found—by chance on the 13th day of detention—crucial evidence on a computer, which led to the authorisation of charges from the Director of Public Prosecutions. The inference was clear—that if the computer had not been decrypted until the 15th day, the individual could have walked and probably done a runner. Mr. Clarke made it absolutely clear how much pressure is on the police, when he told us that officers are often
"sleeping on the floor . . . just ploughing their way through this vast amount of data."
The police, he told us, would like to see
"criminal investigations . . . conducted in a slightly calmer and more ordered atmosphere than that."
Many other examples and explanations are given in the evidence, fleshing out the views expressed by assistant commissioner Hayman. I strongly suggest that hon. Members read that evidence, as it answers many of the points that have been raised in the debate. If hon. Members have an open mind—I suspect that many do not, but should—they will find that evidence to be significant. I was certainly sceptical before I heard the police, but adjusted my views after hearing them.
Searches of domestic dwellings that the police have to conduct were another example, as was the length of time required to decrypt SIM cards. Obtaining evidence from overseas was another instance of where it could take the police a very long time. It is not, as some hon. Members have suggested, a question of resources. Mr. Clarke clearly said:
"It is not about resources".
Rather, it was the "sheer weight of material" that needed to be analysed, focused into an interview strategy and then into an investigation strategy by the senior officer. "At some point", he said,
"one person has to be aware of what is emerging from all this data. It cannot just be a cavalry charge."
Some have mentioned lesser charges, but Mr. Jones made it clear that they are often not possible and he mentioned the risk of bail. In those circumstances, it would often not be possible to proceed.
I was very pleased to hear that the police welcomed judicial oversight of the process. They do not want everything to remain in the hands of the police, but approve of "robust judicial oversight" to ensure as much transparency as possible. They cited some cases where district judges had not given the police what they had asked for. Mr. Clarke said:
"It is very often the case that we will ask for perhaps four or five days and the district judge will say, 'No, 48 hours and then I want to hear the case again.'"
That is a frequent occurrence, we were told. He also said that before the police can go to court and ask for a warrant, they often have to
"think very carefully about it and . . . consult the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether it is an appropriate course of action."
Having said that, I certainly agree with the conclusions of Lord Carlile that further safeguards are required. I agree that a more senior judge would be appropriate in the circumstances. Personally, I think that the best way forward is to work towards an investigating judge system—copying the continental European system—where a judge is in charge of an investigation, gives directions and views the evidence. I believe that having a system of specialist prosecutors with specialist judges working together will provide valuable safeguards. I hope that my Committee will look further into that option in the future.
Three months may or may not be the right period for the extension, but the police have certainly made a very cogent case—they certainly did to my Committee. Many of us who heard the evidence last Monday were initially sceptical, but are now less so. For those reasons, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall support the Government tonight.
Order. I remind the House that only about 50 minutes remain before the winding-up speeches are due to begin. Sixteen hon. Members are still seeking to catch my eye, so it is not going to be easy to find time for them all.
Mr. Wareing suggested that the Home Secretary was trying to show with this Bill that he was macho. I believe that it was Mae West who said that, in her experience, men who were macho were not up to mucho, but I think that I can be fairer than that to the right hon. Gentleman.
I fear that I am in danger of fitting the description given by Mr. Mullin, and of being the third hon. Member to speak in this debate to express explicit sympathy for the Home Secretary. I find myself in a great deal of agreement with my hon. Friend Mr. Cash, and with Mr. Robinson, who speaks on behalf of the Democratic Unionist party. He has as much experience of these matters as anyone in the House, and we should listen to the sentiments that he expresses.
That is not to say that we need not be vigilant in considering this Bill, which has been proposed in response to extreme events. We must always be vigilant in respect of legislation conceived in those circumstances. Moreover, the Bill comes hard on the heels of other terrorism legislation that may affect civil liberties, and we must also take into account the deeply flawed Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, which is passing through the House of Lords at present. All of that combines to give this Government a somewhat dubious record on civil liberties. Yet I find that, this evening, I will be passing through the same Lobby as those hon. Members who support the Government. That is because I think that, on the whole, this Bill is worth having, although it clearly needs a great deal of scrutiny. Two of its provisions, in particular, will need to be changed.
Questions have been asked as to whether all of the Bill is necessary, or whether it is merely a repetition of existing offences. However, I find it hard to see any objection in principle to spelling out the law in relation to the preparation of terrorist acts, to training for terrorism acts, and to the attendance at a place used for terrorist training. Those offences need to be spelled out.
I very much welcome the proposals for the proscription of terrorist organisations. I strongly agree with the general sentiments expressed by Mr. Denham, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee. He made the valuable and powerful point that there are many things besides passing legislation that we must do to reach out to the hearts and minds of those communities in this country that we need to influence. I disagree with him, however, in respect of Hizb ut-Tahrir. That organisation is more than just a vehicle for eccentric views at the extreme of the political spectrum. Throughout Europe, it has a record of publishing vicious and violent—and often violently anti-Semitic—propaganda. From time to time, it may seek to cloak itself in the guise of peaceful debate, but at other times it expresses hateful and hurtful opinions.
I want to turn briefly to two aspects of the Bill that have attracted particular attention. Some of the problems associated with the offence of glorifying terrorism in clause 1—it was originally clause 2—have been ironed out as a result of the welcome concession that the Home Secretary has made, particularly in respect of the need for intent in the offence. Much more needs to be done, however, and matters as they stand are not satisfactory. That much was demonstrated by the interventions in the right hon. Gentleman's speech from hon. Members of all parties.
We understand what the Home Secretary is trying to get at with the proposed offence but, although he may hit that particular target, I am afraid that he may hit too many other targets as well. In seeking to address the problem that he has identified, he is in danger of criminalising statements that should be part of normal political debate. For example, the right hon. Gentleman was not able to deal satisfactorily with suggestions from various hon. Members that expressions of opinion about Zimbabwe or North Korea, railway lines in Burma or statues in Uzbekistan would be criminalised by the Bill. That needs to be looked at again.
Following the interventions that he accepted, the Home Secretary's final position was that he hoped that the provision would not have the effect that had been described, but I do not see why that should be so. For me, it remains possible that expressions of opinion of the type that I have described would be caught by the Bill. Therefore, I hope that there will be some movement in that respect.
I turn next to the length of detention before charge—a very serious feature of the Bill, which we need to deal with very seriously. When the anti-terrorist branch of the Metropolitan police makes a request for an extension of the period of detention permitted before charge, we must give it serious and sympathetic consideration. It is not a question of our doing automatically what the police request of us. The fact that the police have made such a request is surely not a reason for turning it down out of hand, and we must give it serious consideration.
We are all aware of the fact that grave issues of public safety are at stake, as the letter from Mr. Hayman makes clear. We have to accept that we are facing a terrorist threat of a different order from that in the past—a threat which can have appalling consequences—and we must listen to the police when they tell us that they need therefore to intervene earlier to protect the public.
Against that background we must give the proposals serious consideration. We should remember that Lord Carlile has broadly given them his approval, but we should also remember that a massive extension of the present maximum is proposed, that the present maximum was itself a very substantial increase—a doubling—on the previous limit, and that that increase was allowed only as recently as January last year.
As others have rightly pointed out, when the change from seven to 14 days' detention without charge was made, all the matters that Mr. Hayman mentioned in his letter must have been apparent. The police must have been aware of these matters; we should have been aware of these matters. There is nothing in the letter that tells us something about international terrorism of which we were not aware when the previous legislation was passed. We must have known about those matters then, and we should take that into account as well.
Although in balancing liberty against public safety I am not prepared without hearing more to concede what the police are asking for, I am certainly not prepared to turn their request down out of hand. I therefore hope that we shall give the matter very serious consideration in Committee and try to do the best that we can to balance public safety against the fundamental civil liberty of not being detained for an unreasonable length of time without charge.
I am not convinced by the course proposed by Mr. Oaten on behalf of the Liberal Democrats—that of charging the person concerned with a lesser charge and then questioning them—because I fail to see just how many of the rights of the accused person would be preserved. The person would definitely face a lesser charge, and may face a more serious charge later. In the meantime the police could continue to question him. All the points made by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg about questioning someone for a long time when they are held in detention not knowing their ultimate fate must apply with as much force to the hon. Gentleman's proposal as they do to the Government's. I recoil from the concept of charging someone with a lesser charge rather than the full charge; they should face the full charge at the earliest possible opportunity. So, there are problems with those provisions.
Problems also arise from the operation of the Bail Act 1976. When a person is charged, they are brought before a court, as is their right, but from the point of view of bail the court will deal with them with the lesser charge in mind, and the decision on bail may well go in the person's favour when the police are still investigating them for very serious matters. So I do not think that the hon. Member for Winchester has the answer; he needs to do more thinking.
We all need to approach this issue seriously and to give it very serious consideration. We should not adopt inflexible attitudes at this point. We should be prepared to make concessions on all sides and to strive for a spirit of consensus; to listen carefully to the reasoned arguments on both sides; and to give very serious consideration to our duty both to defend civil liberties and to protect our fellow citizens and ensure public safety.
Earlier today, my hon. Friend Mr. Khan was addressed by Madam Deputy Speaker as Shahid Malik. She is in good company, because my mother was watching the BBC Parliament channel last week and saw me referred to as Sadiq Khan. She was not pleased that I had not consulted her on the name change. We are often confused, but I assure the House that we are not twins.
Most hon. Members will agree that since
The alleged ringleader of the
I shall touch on the debate about the cause of the suicide bombings. It is true that foreign policy concerns about Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine and Iraq, coupled with deprivation and the negative portrayal of Islam in the media, have caused frustration and anger among British Muslims. I am often angry and frustrated about injustices at home and abroad, but I do not blow myself up and kill innocent fellow citizens in the belief that I will go to heaven. No Muslim I have ever met would suggest that such actions were Islamic. The lethal ingredient that turns legitimate anger and frustration into hatred and terrorism is an utterly grotesque and perverted interpretation of Islam. That is why I associate myself with the remarks of my right hon. Friend Mr. Denham, who talked of debate, discourse and democracy as the vehicle for change in this country.
In my maiden speech, two weeks before
I ask hon. Members to heed the point that we must send a clear message from this Chamber that this issue is not about Islam, but about extremism. The Bill is not about targeting Muslims, but about targeting extremism, whatever shape or form it takes. However, I repeat the concerns that I articulated in the Home Affairs Committee that my right hon. Friend needs to strive to strike the balance between civil liberties and security for our citizens. We must be careful not to exclude the very people whose support is crucial in this struggle.
I accept my hon. Friend's point that it is not the intention of the legislation to discriminate against communities. However, the figures on the ethnicity of those people who have been subjected to stop and search under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 leave no doubt that the perception in the community that those so treated are of a certain faith and ethnicity is correct.
I fully accept that the police and security services need to do much more to give to those communities the confidence that they are not being unfairly targeted. Indeed, as a former commissioner on the Commission for Racial Equality, I have raised that issue on number occasions.
The Home Secretary recognises more than most that legislation on its own cannot create the kind of society that we want. Our battle must also be one to win the hearts and minds of all decent Britons. That is why I applaud the seven working groups that he has set up to deal with the environment that can fuel extremism and foster terrorism. I also applaud his decision to chair the commission on integration and cohesion, which has the potential to do much good.
Although it is absolutely right that we focus on young Muslims in our inner cities who feel alienated and isolated and are ripe for exploitation by extremists, it is equally true that young white men in our peripheral estates also feel alienated and isolated, albeit for different reasons, and are similarly ripe for exploitation by far right-wing groups. We ignore their needs at our peril. However, the debate is about legislation, and like many hon. Members I have much sympathy with the Home Secretary's intentions in introducing the Bill.
To those who would say that introducing these laws is a sign that the terrorists have won, I say that they have the luxury of expressing that view. Our role in the House is to guard against such self-indulgence and to prioritise the protection of our people in the face of a new and lethal threat. Since
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the way in which we were able to work together as two of the hon. Members whose constituencies were affected by what happened in the summer, but I want to ask him a direct question. Does he not agree that there is real concern in Muslim communities above all specifically about clause 23 on extending the period of detention to 90 days? Is that not a real problem?
I agree that there is such concern not just in Muslim communities but throughout the country.
I have talked about the balance between liberty and security, and I am very clear about one thing: in the struggle between competing rights, the right to life is paramount. It is our most precious freedom, and it must be defended. Like most hon. Members, I do not take lightly the prospect of enacting legislation that could imprison a person for up to 90 days without charge— I am most uncomfortable about that—but I am aware that, after 7 and
The question for the House is not whether an increase is needed, but whether 90 days is justifiable. I am not 100 per cent. convinced, but there is some reassurance in the fact that Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, is a strong supporter of the Bill, and that extending the pre-charge period will require judicial review every seven days. I also draw comfort from the fact that, over the past two years under the current laws, only 11 people have been held for the full allowable period and all 11 were charged. That suggests that the new legislation will be used sparingly and only where the likelihood of charges being brought is high.
I welcome the amending of the draft legislation and the incorporation of the element of intent into the offence of glorification. That is most helpful. On a connected note, during the election in Dewsbury, I was plagued by both the BNP and Hizb ut-Tahrir. I should love to ban them both, but while they refrain from overtly promoting violence, our battle with them must be one of ideas.
I urge everyone in our communities to support the police and the security services in their fight against the evil of terrorism. They cannot win that battle alone. We all have a responsibility as communities and individuals, which is why I am happy to say that over the past few weeks I have passed on information to the authorities about possible terrorist activity. I shall continue to do so. A handful of people in the Muslim community may say that that represents a betrayal of Islam, but I regard it as a fundamental act of Islam.