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 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.