Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 26th October 2005.

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Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon 5:29 pm, 26th October 2005

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.

On 20 April 2004 in Westminster Hall, I referred in particular to an example of such a statement: that made by Hassan Butt, an al-Muhajiroun activist, who said that "close to 50" British volunteers had approached him for advice on emulating suicide attacks in Israel. When asked whether that meant suicide missions in Britain, he replied:

"'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—