Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:38 pm on 26th October 2005.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 2:38 pm, 26th October 2005

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'"?