Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:10 pm on 26th October 2005.

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Photo of Mark Oaten Mark Oaten Shadow Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Home Affairs 3:10 pm, 26th October 2005

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.