Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:03 pm on 26th October 2005.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Paul Murphy Paul Murphy Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament 3:03 pm, 26th October 2005

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.