I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
It is only a little over two weeks since the Bill had its Second Reading, but I do not think that anyone could claim that it has not been subject to proper scrutiny, both in the House and in the country more generally. The Bill has, very properly, been fully discussed and debated, and what we have clearly represents the will of the House. I reject the suggestion made by some hon. Members yesterday that there has been insufficient opportunity to debate it. We held the Committee stage on the Floor of the House for two days to allow all right hon. and hon. Members to take part, we introduced a second programme motion to extend the time available on Report, and, of course, we now have ahead of us much more time for Third Reading than is customarily the case.
As the House will know, it had been my wish and that of the whole Government to proceed by means of consensus. To the degree that that has been possible, I pay tribute to my counterparts in the other parties for their co-operation and willingness to engage and talk about the various issues that we have had to address. However, I regret that it has not been possible to achieve consensus in all respects, in particular regarding the length of pre-charge detention. Nevertheless, the Government have made it clear all along that if, for any reason, consensus broke down, we would not hesitate to press ahead with measures that we felt were necessary in the fight against terrorism.
We remain of the view that the offence of encouragement to terrorism is needed and that it needs to be framed in the way in which the House has now agreed. In line with our manifesto commitment, it needs to encompass the glorification of terrorism, and I am glad that the House explicitly endorsed that again yesterday. There is no reason why people should be allowed to glorify the terrorist acts of others in such a way as to encourage others to prepare and commit acts of terrorism.
As we always intended, and announced as long ago as July, we have created new offences relating to acts preparatory to terrorism and terrorist training. We have also created a new offence of attending a terrorist training camp. No one has any good cause knowingly to attend a place where terrorist training is taking place.
Moreover, the new offences will give the United Kingdom the ability to ratify two important international conventions—the United Nations convention on the suppression of nuclear terrorism and the Council of Europe convention on the prevention of terrorism. I am sure that the whole House will recognise the importance of working internationally in the fight against terrorism. The Bill will also extend the offence of criminal trespass to cover civil nuclear sites so that we can protect them, because they are an obviously tempting target for terrorists. However—I stress this, particularly in the light of our debates—nothing that we are doing in any way disturbs the absolute right to protest peacefully.
Let me turn to the issue that has probably attracted the most attention—that of the maximum pre-charge detention period. Yesterday the House made a decision on that. It is perfectly proper for it to reach such a decision and I make absolutely no complaint that Members of Parliament have exercised their ability to vote in the way in which they have all individually chosen. What I do regret is that the House has chosen to ignore the professional advice of our law enforcement and prosecution agencies, which we employ to protect us from the very real threat that we face from terrorists. I believed that a maximum pre-charge detention period of 90 days was in the best security interests of the country and I remain of the view that we were right to take the course that we did. Nevertheless, and for the avoidance of doubt, the Government accept the decision that the House has taken and we will not be seeking to overturn it in another place.
Will the Home Secretary clear something up? In our discussions yesterday on this very issue, I asked him about the possibility of questioning suspects after charge. In his response, he said:
"The hypothesis that we are discussing is that, in a number of cases, there is no possibility of charging on a short-term basis."—[Hansard, 9 November 2005; Vol. 439, c. 333.]
I have had the opportunity to read the code for Crown prosecutors, which says that the test of whether to charge is merely "reasonable suspicion" in cases in which it is intended to hold the suspect, and that reasonable suspicion can include consideration of future evidence. Is it really the Government's policy that people against whom even reasonable suspicion is not present should be held? That strikes me as close to internment.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman reheats yesterday's discussion. I reject entirely the idea that our proposals can be called internment by any other name. That is quite wrong. He should consider the issue carefully in the light of the possibility—he may reject it, but it is real—that there may be people who threaten our country whom we are not able to charge in the way that we would like.
The House yesterday also accepted the sunset clause tabled by my hon. Friend Mr. Winnick. As I have since discussed with him, his amendment is technically defective. I hasten to say that that it is not in any sense a criticism, but simply a reflection of the fact that he cannot call on the services of parliamentary counsel. However, it does mean that the Government will need to table an amendment in another place to replace it.
I welcome that. The most important consideration is that the House has an opportunity to debate every year, if necessary, the powers of detention. However much we disagree about 90 or 28 days, will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to reject with contempt allegations made—outside, of course—that those of us who have a different view, and 28 days was the majority decision, have any less understanding of the acute terrorist danger that our country faces from mass murderers? We are surely at one on this. I hope that he shares my contempt at some of the stories that have appeared today.
To be frank, I accept what my hon. Friend says in his personal case. That is true. He has a long and distinguished record of combating terrorism in a variety of ways and has consistently argued for that. He has a different view of the appropriateness of the length of pre-charge detention, but, as I said publicly in broadcasts today, he personally acted with integrity, in a way that is within the traditions of the House.
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, however, I will not take the invitation to say the same about everyone who voted for his amendment. There were people in the House—I do not desire to name names, and I was not intending to say this unless in response to such a point—who do not fully appreciate the nature of the threat with which we have to deal. That is my view.
Does the Home Secretary accept that people in Nottinghamshire know about the threat and accept that it exists? Will he take my reassurance that my office and my phone have been busy today with people backing the 90-day detention period? They believe that he and the Prime Minister were right, and they would like that to be pursued.
I am grateful for that comment. It is the case that all recent tests of opinion, as well as the feedback that I have received informally from a large number of colleagues in the House, reflect my hon. Friend's experience in his constituency. I know that he has always been assiduous in consulting his constituents before deciding how to vote on difficult and problematic issues.
I know that passions ran high, and I voted with the Government. However, does my right hon. Friend regret calling an hon. Member a ne'er-do-well on the radio this morning? It is not an appropriate term to use to describe a fellow Member of the House of any party.
You will need to advise me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to whether or not the phrase "ne'er-do-well" is a parliamentary expression. I am genuinely not sure, so I have to be careful about using it or not using it. It is true that I used the phrase outside the House about my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Marshall-Andrews. To be frank, I do not regret using it. There was a conspiracy, in which he was engaged with the Opposition Front Bench, which I thought it appropriate to draw to the attention of the House—
Order. I wonder whether I can help the right hon. Gentleman? Expressions used outside the House do not fall within the rules of order and seemly language within the House. However, if some of those words are brought into the debate, there is a danger that one might get into the realms of immoderate language.
May I take the Home Secretary back to another point, away from such contentious issues? He said that the annual renewal clause, which was moved by Mr. Winnick and which I supported, will have to be recast in the other place because it was incomplete. I have no objection to that, but why did the Government not move their own renewal clause, thus obliging the hon. Gentleman to move his? Was that in a fit of pique? I fail to understand why that was not done yesterday, when the provision was on the amendment paper?
Sometimes failure to understand is the hon. Gentleman's characteristic. As I sought to explain in the House yesterday, the Government's amendment for 90 days included a sunset clause for a clear reason. It was that there should be an opportunity for the House to reconsider the situation after a year's application of the legislation, so that the concerns that had been raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House could be assessed and considered by the House after a year.
The sunset clause that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North moved was of a different character. It referred, for example, to annual renewal. Therefore, we decided not to oppose my hon. Friend's amendment but we, the Government, did not move it. I can confirm that the redraft that we will introduce in another place will accept in all respects the intention behind his proposals. I gave him the commitment privately yesterday that I reassert across the Floor of the House that I will consult him in drawing up the exact wording of what we propose. He can then satisfy himself that we are operating in the spirit of what the House agreed yesterday. There is no intention on my part to go past that.
I realise that the Home Secretary had no opportunity of warning Mr. Marshall-Andrews that he was going to refer to him because he was invited to reflect on comments that he made this morning. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman would not welcome my leaping to his defence. Will the Home Secretary reflect upon the rather vindictive spirit in which he referred to the hon. and learned Gentleman because he had been hostile to parts of the Bill? I listen to the hon. and learned Gentleman myself quite frequently and do not doubt the sincerity of his views. I regard it as absurd to suggest that he is in some way sympathetic to terrorism. I have to confess that I agreed with quite a lot of what he said. Is the Home Secretary prepared to modify the views that he expresses for some reason about one of his critics?
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It was not only my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Marshall-Andrews who was spoken of in such terms. My hon. Friend Dr. Gibson was also mentioned. There was the implication that other Members had a frivolous attitude towards terrorism. I think that the Home Secretary should withdraw those comments.
I have heard no unparliamentary language in this debate. What I have said, and will say again, is that I think that we are getting into dangerous ground and getting into the use of immoderate language if we dwell on personality. I think that enough has been said now. We should draw a line under that and move on with the substance of the debate.
My right hon. Friend was talking about the sunset clause. If in a year's time we choose not to renew, we will go back from 28 days to 14. Many of my constituents who have been in touch with me today and who have been speaking on BBC Radio Wales and elsewhere want Parliament to consider an extension in a year's time, if the police still believe that that is necessary and if the circumstances in the intervening time suggest that it should be done. Will my right hon. Friend look at that?
I am certain that my hon. Friend is accurately reflecting the views of his constituents who have been in touch with him. It is always open to the Government to bring back further proposals if we wish to do so. I will shortly make a comment about that process. It is important to get all our terrorism legislation on to a very firm, secure and permanent basis.
I shall turn to an issue that was raised briefly near the end of our proceedings yesterday, which is the definition of terrorism. I know that several hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend Mr. Denham, have concerns about that. Even though the Government are not yet convinced that a more satisfactory definition is easily available, we recognise the level of concern about the issue among Members on both sides of the House. I know that the House will be keen to have a further opportunity to consider the definition of terrorism. Accordingly, the Government have invited the independent reviewer of our terrorism legislation, Lord Carlile of Berriew, to carry out a review of the definition of terrorism. I do not think that anyone could cast doubt on his independence or his experience in these matters. I am sure that he will want to take account of the current initiatives in the European Union and the United Nations. As the House may be aware, the UN comprehensive convention on terrorism is grappling with just these issues. I am sure that he will also want to take account of the views that have been expressed in the debates that we have had on the issue in the context of the Bill.
Lord Carlile has said that, in performing his task, he will want to see contributions and views, including consultation with people in the House who can make a relevant contribution. I have asked him to complete this work within a year of commencement of the Act. I will lay his report before Parliament. Clearly I cannot predict at this stage what the outcome his deliberations may be, but I can say that we shall provide Parliament with an opportunity to debate and take a view on his conclusions. If consensus is achieved on a change to the existing definition, we would commit to bringing forward that change as soon as parliamentary time would allow.
Lord Carlile is also reviewing the operation of the control order regime that we established under the Terrorism Act 2005. He will be reporting on that.
More generally, I am extremely keen to see whether we can find some means of getting the legislation to combat terrorism in Parliament on to a secure and stable basis rather than having a series of emergency arrangements. As the Opposition parties know, we considered in this Parliament trying to bring together the Northern Ireland terrorist legislation that the House is considering in parallel with the legislation that is before us. For a series of reasons about the time of expiry of existing legislation we decided we would not do that. In general—I am not making any proposal at this stage—I am keen to get to a state of affairs where we arrive at a stable and fixed position that is the will of Parliament across the entire range of the legislation. That is the approach that I will follow. Lord Carlile is particularly important in his looking at these issues to try to move into that sort of process. In that context, I would listen to the proposals being made and take them more generally.
If that is the course that the Government intend to adopt, we will help and co-operate with the Government in trying to achieve it. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is aware from previous conversations that we have had that we can certainly see the desirability of achieving a framework of legislation rather than having a series of bits and pieces. If we can be of assistance in that process, we shall take that approach.
I welcome what the Home Secretary has just said. As he correctly says, there was disquiet in all parts of the House about having a valid definition of terrorism. I am sure that my noble Friend Lord Carlile will do a good job. I wonder whether he will have access also to the considerations of the Law Commission, which might be of value.
I suggest to the Home Secretary that he might review another aspect of this legislation that has caused concern, which is the legal context of post-charge questioning. As my hon. Friend David Howarth said, there is some doubt about what exactly can be done post-charge and what cannot, and to what extent it can be mitigated by changes to PACE—the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
I have already dealt with the hon. Gentleman's second point. On his first point, I am grateful for his party's general support of this approach. It is always difficult debating with Liberal Democrats, but I look forward to a proper engagement in a serious way with the individuals concerned.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has tried to listen to many different and conflicting views, particularly from Labour Members, throughout the process of consideration. He knows that my concerns have always been about the glorification clause, the definition of terrorism and the fact that many people might feel themselves criminalised for supporting what they see as genuine liberation struggles throughout the world. Can he give me an assurance—I welcome his reference to Lord Carlile—that Lord Carlile's report, whatever it says, will come back to the House for debate and decision as part of the process?
I have given that assurance and I am happy to repeat it. It is obviously important that such reports are matters that inform debate on the law, and that is precisely what is intended.
To return to my right hon. Friend's exchange with Mr. Heath, in what way has my right hon. Friend dealt with post-charge questioning? Now that the maximum period of detention can be only 28 days, what is the Government's view on allowing the police to question people after charge and adjusting the law relating to bail to allow that to happen? In my opinion, more damage could be done to our judicial system, and in respect of the propaganda point, by going down that route than by sticking with the 90 days that we could have had.
My hon. Friend, with his experience, puts his finger precisely on the issue that we are considering. There are attractions in that route, as I have indicated. There are also some significant wider implications for the way in which the legal system, and particularly the bail system, operates, that we would need to consider extremely seriously before taking that course of action. However, I can confirm that we are considering the matter. It is right to do so, but as with every legal reform of this type, and many of the issues that we have discussed, a reform that seems simple in one neck of the woods can become very complicated in other respects.
As one who jousted with the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety on the definition of terrorism, and who expressed a real concern about the plight of people fighting for freedom in thoroughly unfree and, in some cases, bestial environments, I consider this an extremely positive development. The review by Lord Carlile will be warmly welcomed, and I would not want the Home Secretary to think that it was not appreciated. It is, and it is the right way forward.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's personal commitment. One of the exciting revelations for me through the entire debate has been the transformation of a number of Conservatives into freedom fighters throughout the world, which is genuinely entertaining to some of us who have been involved in these matters in various ways over time.
May I take the Home Secretary back to post-charge questioning? I appreciate that there may be some difficult practical issues, but if he gets advice, I am sure he will find that the principle of post-charge questioning does not pose any great theoretical difficulty. It may be a change to our general criminal law that could properly be introduced, if there are adequate safeguards. I urge him not to disregard this. The police have consistently said that it is a problematic area in terrorist cases. If we are responding to a problem identified by the police, we should do so positively where we can, especially where it appears to be wholly compatible with the maintenance of the rights of a suspect.
I am overwhelmingly delighted that those on the Opposition Front Bench are listening to the advice of the police on these matters. I wish that that would happen more generally in addressing the issues that we have to face. On the particular point that the hon. Gentleman makes, I said and I say again that there is a case for that, but as my hon. Friend Mr. Kidney said, there are serious implications more widely and those need to be properly considered. We are engaged in that consideration.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of paragraph 60 of Lord Carlile's report, where he refers to the current situation for interviewing terrorist suspects and states:
"Those arrested in groups share the same solicitors, usually drawn from a narrow circle of firms with special expertise and experience in terrorist crime . . . Those solicitors are generally very professional, extremely skilled and analytical"?
However, he goes on to say:
"the reality is that most suspects exercise their right of silence in interview".
What difference does my right hon. Friend think the Bill will make in that regard? Does he think that people will continue to exercise their right of silence, or that there will be a difference?
The purpose is to gather evidence, rather than to change that aspect of the situation, but my hon. Friend is right. One aspect of that report that concerns me is the small number of practices that deal with such cases, which creates massive delays in the legal process, quite properly at present. That is a matter of genuine concern.
On post-charge questioning, my understanding, which arises from a briefing from one of the lawyers mentioned, Gareth Peirce, is that post-charge questioning was always possible and is possible, provided that significant new evidence arises. Is that not the case?
During the long debates that we have had, the Home Secretary referred a number of times to a small number of people who will be detained for more than 14 days without charge. Outside this place, "a small number" has been interpreted as being fewer than five, fewer than 12 or fewer than 20. Can he give us an idea of what he has in mind as a small number? If it is greatly different in practice, what will the Government do about that?
Indeed. We are talking about a small number, but by definition we cannot be precise about it because by definition we do not know which terrorist conspiracies we will be able to stop and put through that process or not. But we are talking about a small number, and that stands.
No, I did not, but again, I am delighted that the readership of The Guardian now encompasses large numbers of Opposition Members. That is a major development. Mrs. Gillan says from a sedentary position that she can read. I am delighted that in her case that is true. I notice that John Bercow claims with pride to write for The Guardian. So he should claim with pride. I note that he opposed the Bill on Second Reading. I hope he will support it today. We shall see.
I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would make a statement. There will be occasions when detention goes beyond 14 days. Will detentions still take place at Paddington Green? Will people be moved to Belmarsh? What will happen in practice? Will there be a blurring between what is effectively police detention, pre-charge, and people being detained in an ordinary prison environment?
I have nothing to add today to what I have said on the matter throughout. That is the situation.
No hon. Member can seriously question the fact that the United Kingdom and many other countries, as we so tragically saw in Jordan yesterday, face a very serious and, in our history, unique threat from terrorism. We face foes who seek to destroy our way of life and everything we stand for. They are happy to sacrifice their own lives in pursuit of that aim and they have no qualms about how many innocent lives they take. I do not pretend that legislation is the only solution to such a threat, but it is very important that we have the most effective legislation at our disposal. The Bill will be another important weapon in our armoury in fighting terrorism, and we need to get it on to the statute book as soon as possible. I hope therefore that colleagues from all sides of the House will unite to give the Bill a Third Reading and to send it to another place.
The Bill as it now stands merits the continuing support of the official Opposition and will have it. In the unlikely event of the House being divided this afternoon on Third Reading, we will support the Government. I am pleased that the circumstances that have arisen in the House, both in Committee and on Report, have enabled us to do so. It is greatly to the credit of Parliament as a whole that the Bill has been sufficiently improved so that the consensus that the Home Secretary sought has been achieved, even if he might have wanted somewhat different details in the Bill from those that are in fact present. We will give the Bill our support and wish it fair passage through the other place.
I hope the Home Secretary will forgive me if I examine some of the details. I had to disagree slightly with him on one aspect. It is true that we have had a great deal of time to debate the detail of the Bill, but we have not had—I do not entirely blame the right hon. Gentleman—sufficient time, particularly yesterday, to decide whether we wanted to make changes to the Bill in certain areas, following that scrutiny. There are issues relating, for example, to whether a defence should be available to somebody who is arrested for having been present at a terrorist training camp. The House has not had an opportunity to decide whether a proper defence should be allowed and, if so, how it should be worded. That will have to be considered in another place.
We have also failed to resolve whether there should be a defence for the dissemination of terrorist publications. That has been of great concern to academics and librarians because, as the Bill stands, if one hands out an al-Qaeda manuscript to students so that they can write an essay on it at a university, one commits a serious offence. Only the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions will prevent prosecution. That is unsatisfactory. It is not sufficiently unsatisfactory to make us abstain or vote against the Bill, but it must be tidied up in another place.
We have great problems with clause 1 that have not been resolved at all. Glorification remains a concept in the clause and it essentially muddies the provision's clarity. I cannot believe that there is no better formulation, which meets the Government's need to criminalise indirect incitement without introducing to our national law a concept that has previously been alien to it and which is so opaque and woolly that we fear that it risks creating injustice. I hope that perhaps lawyers—it is a legal issue—can tackle that in another place and devise a better response.
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon for not being a regular attender at earlier stages of the proceedings. Has sedition been considered in the context of the problem of glorification? That already covers in law the sort of anxieties that the Government rightly have—we would like to support the Government in resolving them—without the side effects about which my hon. Friend is rightly worried.
My hon. Friend is right. One of the curiosities of the Bill is that, in almost all cases, it is at least arguable that offences similar to those that we are creating already exist. There are some exceptions, especially mere attendance at terrorist training camps abroad and aspects of terrorist training. My hon. Friend is right that the offence of sedition already exists. One of the extraordinary aspects of clause 1 is that nobody has yet been prosecuted for the sorts of utterances that it criminalises, yet in the past few years many such utterances have been made and existing law is available to deal with them. The Government have never provided an explanation for that. I have therefore inferred that they take the view that such prosecutions would perhaps cause more harm than good. That poses the question of why clause 1 is being promoted with so much gusto.
Bringing anti-terrorist legislation together in one Bill may have something to commend it. The problem is that clause 1 as it is currently worded remains deeply unsatisfactory. We discussed and debated yesterday the problem of whether indirect incitement can be caused intentionally, recklessly or negligently. The Government have amended the Bill and it now reads slightly better, but it is remarkable that they have adopted a test for recklessness that the House of Lords described last year as no longer sustainable because it risked creating injustice.
I have serious doubts about whether the clause will last long in that form when it is scrutinised in another place, where, apart from anything else, one or two former Law Lords may be present who will point out the intellectual problem that it poses. The word "reckless" is incompatible with the way in which the Government have qualified it in the provision. It will create injustice and lead to people being criminalised who should not be. I hope that that will be altered when the Bill is considered in another place. I also hope that the glorification provisions will be amended or removed.
There are two major problems in the Bill and we have touched on both. The first is the period of detention and the second is the definition of terrorism. The definition of terrorism colours the consideration of the Bill. I acknowledge that the Government have a problem. We have little difficulty in deciding what constitutes terrorism if it takes place in this country, but much more difficulty when we try to apply the definition abroad, especially in countries that may be governed by tyrannies. It is unfortunate that we have been unable to resolve that problem satisfactorily.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for explaining to the House that Lord Carlile will review the matter. However, the Bill is likely to reach the statute book some time before Lord Carlile reports. In the intervening period, all we can do is hope that those who are accused of committing an offence abroad do not come through our court system. If that happens, we will face serious difficulties. Lord Carlile's review, which I welcome, does not mean that Members of the other place should be fettered and prevented from considering whether the Bill can be improved in the meantime. Lord Carlile can always improve matters further later.
The definition of terrorism is profoundly unsatisfactory; we have not succeeded in tackling that. I disagree with the Home Secretary's view that we had enough time. We did not reach those clauses yesterday—it is as simple as that. The problem impinges not only on the definition but on proscription of organisations for glorifying terrorism abroad and, indeed, every other aspect of the Bill. The Government have offered some improvements by providing that one or two clauses do not apply extra-territorially.
The problem however remains that we are creating an over-arching structure, which, if it were applied logically, could criminalise all sorts of people in a way that Parliament never intended. It is a fundamental flaw in the Bill. I hope that Lord Carlile can solve the problem, but in the meantime the House and the other place cannot abdicate our responsibility for trying to improve the measure.
I do not want to take up too much of the House's time—after all, we have had plenty of debate. Let me deal with the key issue of the period of detention. I listened carefully to the Home Secretary's speech and I regret the tone of his remarks on that. When the police approached the Government in the summer, they presented a series of documents. I have seen them, the Home Secretary has seen them and I daresay that, by now, every hon. Member has seen them. Although they raised a clear concern about whether 14 days was sufficient time pre-charge to carry out investigations, they never explained anywhere why 90 days was the appropriate period to which detention should be extended. Nothing in the documents explained that and nothing since has provided a justification for that figure.
What is the House to do in such circumstances when faced with a request from the police for a change, and the need to protect the liberty of the subject, which is one of the fundamental reasons for our existence? I say to the Home Secretary kindly that the outcome of 28 days, which some hon. Members would argue was too long, represents a reasoned and reasonable assessment of, and a sensible response to, the information that was placed before us. To accuse people of opportunism or conspiracy demeans the Home Secretary and suggests that the Government are woefully out of touch with what this place is supposed to try to achieve. Speaking of opportunism, if we had wanted to be opportunistic in the face of the Government's propaganda barrage, the solution would have been to say that the period should be 500 days, and to appeal to the most frightened or base sentiments in the country. It is greatly to the House's credit that it did not respond in that way.
The political editor of The Times wrote this morning that, had I come forward with a proposal for a period between 28 and 90 days—60 days, for example—the Conservative Front Bench would have gone for it. I have said that that is not the case, because Mr. Grieve had said that there were no circumstances in which his Front Bench would go beyond 28 days. Am I right, or is the political editor of The Times right?
The Home Secretary will recall that, when we met, I picked my words with great care. I said that I took the view that 28 days was the outer limit of what was acceptable. If he had then come back to me and said that he had some other variant to offer, I would have had to consider it, as would all hon. Members. If he had come back and said, "We think 28 days is too short, but we have decided that 30 days is the right period", it would have been extraordinary if the House had not given serious thought to what he was saying.
The Home Secretary said that he was going to come back with an alternative, which we would have had to consider in debate. I do not know what happened—well, I have an idea of what happened next. I think that he was prevented from doing that because the Government, greatly to their discredit, took the view that it would be better to adopt a populist stance, to browbeat MPs and encourage newspapers such as The Sun to describe them as traitors if they did not sign up to the Government's agenda, to wheel in senior police officers to behave in such a way as is incompatible with their position as Crown servants, and to tend to their politicisation in a way that is massively undesirable and which, I regret to say to the Home Secretary, we have also seen in respect of other parts of the civil service on other occasions. All those things were done so that the Government could have their way over the figure of 90 days which, as Mr. Denham so tellingly highlighted, has never had proper justification.
I believe that the House acted correctly in wanting to protect people, and in wanting to protect freedom. A balance needs to be struck between those two things, as I am sure the Home Secretary would concede. After all, if we did not have such a balance, we would sanction indefinite detention before charge, and I would not accuse even the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister of wanting to do that.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that Lord Carlile's report states that
"there have been situations in which significant conspiracies to commit terrorist acts have gone unprosecuted as a result of the time limitation placed on the control authorities following arrest. This is not in the public interest, in which the prosecution of terrorist crime is of great importance."
To return to the point that the hon. Gentleman made to the Home Secretary, Lord Carlile's own view is that the three-month period is
"a reasonable maximum in all the circumstances".
Those are his words, not mine. He goes on to say that
"more than three months would certainly be unacceptably draconian", but recommends that the proposal for that maximum should be regarded as
"a practical and sensible option, all other things being equal".
Why is Lord Carlile's Liberal Democrat view wrong, and why is the hon. Gentleman's view correct?
The sedentary intervention by Mr. Heath is correct. Lord Carlile was talking in his report about setting up a rather different system, almost one of investigative justice. Furthermore, I am bound to make the point again to the Home Secretary, as it was highlighted by other hon. Members yesterday, that Lord Carlile may have had access to information to which the House was not privy. That must undoubtedly have coloured the way in which we approached this debate. Clearly, the House has to respond to the information that it receives. In fact, no justification was ever provided by the police for why they wanted 90 days as opposed to any other period. The Government adopted 90 days as their mantra on the back of a press release and two case studies, neither of which sustained the 90-day thesis.
My hon. Friend is making a very good case, and he is doing so very moderately. Does he agree that there are occasions on which Ministers write to all Members of Parliament to point out that a particular course is being taken, and to urge us to support it? Would it not have been the best possible course of action in this case to have written to all Members and made a coherent case which we could have contemplated in the privacy of our own offices, so that we could come to a sensible decision?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. There is a problem here, and the Bill has suffered as a result of it. Somehow, the ordinary processes of Government—including the way in which decisions are taken—seem, particularly in respect of this legislation, to have been bypassed. Something strange has happened. Decision making now seems to be done informally, and those decisions, once articulated publicly, are no longer capable of being subjected to proper scrutiny because that would be seen as an attack on the Government's standing. So it has become much harder to have a debate, and the possibility of making mistakes becomes greater on all sides.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned The Sun newspaper a moment ago. Did he notice that the victim of the July bombings whose bloodied image was used on Tuesday's front page in an attempt to intimidate us into voting in a particular way has said today that he was utterly opposed to a 90-day detention period, and that he resents the way in which his views have been misused? Presumably he must be taken to know a thing or two about terrorism.
Yes, I did note that. I thought that the tone and content of those two articles were astonishing, on both days. It was a form of intimidation, sanctioned by the Government. They certainly did not discourage it. They encouraged it; it seemed to be part of a concerted campaign of abuse, and I very much regret that. We will not get sensible legislation if that is the level at which debate is conducted. All I can say is that I am delighted to be a Member of a House that has withstood the pressures that we came under in that respect.
My total was two sensible responses from readers of The Sun, and two that even The Sun would regard as not very sensible. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is likely that The Sun's tactic led to a greater number of people helping Parliament to change the Government's proposal, and that if more campaigns of that nature were mounted in the future, that might happen more often?
I think that it was the late Enoch Powell who said that politicians complaining about the media were like sailors complaining about the sea. It is a largely pointless and unproductive exercise. May I put it to my hon. Friend that, if we were to be intimidated by the very down-market level of abuse that has been forthcoming from some newspapers, we really would not be worthy of the positions that we hold as Members of Parliament? In regard to the comments made by Mary Creagh—who wins the gold challenge cup for Blairite loyalism in all circumstances—I must point out that the observations of Lord Carlile were the expression of an opinion. That was his personal judgment, but it was not evidence based. We need to see the evidence on which the argument for 90 days was based, but it has not been forthcoming.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to see the evidence in order to make a judgment. We also need to hear an explanation of the arguments. The oddity of the basis on which the Government decided on three months as their period of pre-charge detention is that they were offered certain material that suggested that there had been instances in which 14 days might not be an appropriate maximum, but there was absolutely nothing to explain why the maximum had to be 90 days, as opposed to any other figure.
This was reinforced during our debate by the fact that, before he was restrained by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary appeared very fairly to indicate that he accepted that the 90-day period was not set in stone, and that he knew that there were arguments that the period could be shorter. And yet suddenly all those arguments flew out of the window. Where the Home Secretary had been conciliatory, reasonable, and apparently willing to engage in debate and discussion, suddenly the shutters came down and war was declared. If, in the Government's view, the outcome on the duration is unsatisfactory, it is entirely the Government's fault. They bear entire responsibility for the way in which they handled the matter and treated Parliament in the process.
On the conduct of the hon. Gentleman, he should acknowledge to the House that he decided and said clearly, publicly and directly to me on Monday morning, in my office and then afterwards to the media, that 28 days was at the outer limit of what the Conservatives might accept. He said that there was a debate between 14 days and 28 days, and was essentially saying that if we negotiated within that range, he might go to 28 days, but that was it. That is what he said. As far as consensus and the Opposition were concerned, that is when the shutters came down.
It is quite right that I said that 28 days was at the outer limit of what I considered to be acceptable, and that is a view that many Members of the House would hold. Some Members of the House would hold that 14 days, under the existing terrorist legislation, is already a long time, and not something that we should celebrate—we might be forced to accept it reluctantly, but we certainly should not celebrate it. I also said to the media, and, I think, to the Home Secretary, as I remember, that that is our position, but we understand that the Home Secretary is coming up with other options and the ball is in the Government's court. Those were the very words that I used. The ball remained in the Government's court, because we never heard anything further from the Government about the matter.
The hon. Gentleman says that Lord Carlile's report was on something else, but I was referring to his report on the Bill, in which he discusses clause 22. He also describes his own inquiries and processes as an independent reviewer. He is the person whom the House has charged with reviewing the Terrorism Bill. Why is his opinion not important, and why does the hon. Gentleman think that he and his party are in a better position than the independent reviewer appointed by the Government to review the Bill? Do the Opposition somehow have a greater understanding of the police and the processes involved in the case? On the 90-day point, will he support a move to the investigative magistrate model, which is in place in other European countries? Does he not agree that if there is any chance of mass-casualty terrorism, certain people should not walk our streets?
The hon. Lady is not doing herself much credit, certainly on the final point. First, as far as an investigative magistrate system is concerned, the Government have at no stage suggested that that is the policy that they wish to adopt. I only point out that there is plenty of evidence to show that the system of investigating magistrates, which exists in some continental countries, is not free of difficulty, particularly in respect of miscarriages of justice, which she might do well to ponder.
That said, I have never taken the view that our system is necessarily perfect, but it does provide safeguards. As we have debated, there are ways in which, in my view, one can both detain people and carry out the investigation pre-charge—and post-charge, if we applied the rules correctly for post-charge questioning—none of which require investigating magistrates and prolonged periods of detention before someone is brought to trial, which is not a satisfactory state of affairs.
As for Lord Carlile's opinion, we should consider it, and I certainly treat what he has to say with very considerable respect. He is knowledgeable and also has access to information to which Members of the House are not necessarily privy. All that adds to the strength of any of the recommendations or views that he expresses. They are views, however. If Lord Carlile simply gives a view on 90 days without the police providing an explanation as to why that is the period required, we are here to apply our independent judgment, not just to say that because some expert or anyone else has pronounced on the subject we should follow that slavishly.
There was an interesting moment in yesterday's debate, as Mary Creagh will recollect, in which two members of the Intelligence and Security Committee who had both seen similar documents came to very different conclusions as to their content. I respect both those Members. I must face the fact, however, that that highlights that we should not suspend our independent judgment just because someone else says that we should do something. Yet the way the Government treated the House was such that it was our obligation to do so. The more the Home Secretary told me that it was my obligation to do so, the more reluctant I was, because I was elected above everything else to defend people's freedoms. I do not intend to abdicate that duty to Lord Carlile or anyone else.
We are happy that we are in a position to support the Bill, and will do so if the House divides. We believe that the Bill is still capable of being approved. As an official Opposition, we can only express our thanks to those on both sides of the House who have made it possible to turn it into a document that merits and commands support.
I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak today, because unfortunately I was not able to be present on the two previous days on which this matter was discussed, as I have been away on Council of Europe and Western European Union business.
I listened carefully on Second Reading to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I thought that he made a pretty fair case for allowing the Bill to continue, and making any alterations or amendments at subsequent stages. I respected that because, initially, I was going to vote against the Bill on Second Reading. My one concern throughout was the 90-day clause. I am extremely grateful to and congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Winnick on at least making a less draconian measure by obtaining a 28-day clause. Some of us in the House, who might well be in a minority, do not think that a good case has been put forward to justify any extension from 14 days. I have heard people saying consistently that evidence has not been put forward to justify 90 days. If evidence has not been put forward to justify 90 days, it has not been put forward to extend from 14 days. In those terms, nothing concrete was laid down.
Also on Second Reading, my hon. Friend Mr. Mullin mentioned what had happened in years gone by when the police had misused anti-terrorist legislation. Like him, I am pleased to say that there has been a tremendous improvement in that area—there must have been, because I get precious few complaints about anyone being wrongly detained by the police. A long time ago, however, police in the north-east committed two of the worse abuses of anti-terrorism legislation that it was possible to see. I do not need to remind Members that, as recently as the Labour party conference, it was reported that a persistent heckler had been interviewed by the police under anti-terrorist legislation. We therefore still need to be very careful when we extend any powers without proper countermanding and modifying measures.
The hon. Gentleman said a moment ago that he did not think a case had been made so far for any extension of the detention period. I should point out to him that many of us voted for the "28 days" amendment only because we knew that if it were not passed, the original three-month detention would remain in the Bill. We had to make a tactical judgment.
It is always a great pleasure to accept a correction from such a talented politician. I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman: that is why I referred specifically to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North. I too am very pleased that the detention period will be 28 days rather than 90—for it is fairly obvious that the Bill will be passed today, although I shall vote against it.
Let me now refer to a couple of issues that are near and dear to me. I am no less concerned than any other Member about the need to wipe out terrorism. I was as horrified as anyone by the happenings of
Will the Bill lead to any cessation of terrorist activity? I hope so, but I have my doubts. I am not aware that any of the four bombers of
A couple of weeks ago, during a debate on identity cards, I expressed my increasing concern about the gradual but unremitting reduction of civil liberties in this country. I was not elected to be part of a regime that would curtail civil liberties, unless it could be shown beyond doubt that such action would benefit society. I still have those doubts. What happened to Magna Carta? What about habeas corpus?
The Home Secretary says that he will not accept the term "internment". Someone who is incarcerated without trial is interned: there is no doubt about that. No one needs a PhD in English language to realise that that is internment. I shall be honest, and say that I find it extremely distasteful. If someone is interned on suspicion, surely that suspicion will be strong enough to be turned into a criminal charge in a very short time. It should not take 28 days. If we are going to lock people up, there should be some semblance of evidence that the suspicion is soundly based.
I shall vote against the Bill. No doubt certain people will accuse me of being a bit of a luddite and not being concerned about terrorism. I have already explained my position, and can do no more than that. Let me, however, say one or two further things that need to be said.
There has been a good deal of conjecture about pressure being put on Labour Members to support the Government over the 90-day period. I have never suffered any arm-twisting or intimidation. Never in 13 years has anyone from the Whips Office threatened me in any way. The Whips have tried to persuade me, as is their right, and have occasionally succeeded; but they would not have succeeded on this occasion. I have made my position plain, and it has all been very civilised.
One person has telephoned me to say that the 90-day period seemed satisfactory. Unlike my hon. Friend Paddy Tipping, who is not here now but who says that he has been inundated with calls supporting the 90 days, I have received only one, and have received only one letter over the past fortnight. We should be careful about so-called public opinion, however. The people who say that they are in favour of severe punishment and are not too bothered about the civil liberties of others are soon at our surgery doors if a family member or friend is suffering what they describe as an injustice.
I want to say a few words about the Prime Minister—my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister: let me make that very plain. I have received an appeal to the effect that someone should support the Prime Minister, because he is coming in for a lot of criticism. Let me say this. I respect the integrity of my right hon. Friend, and I will never doubt that he is a well-meaning and genuine person. That does not mean, however, that I must agree with all his politics. It does not mean that I have no right to question his judgment on this issue. My right hon. Friend has been convinced by the argument for 90 days; I have not.
The proposal for 90 days emanates from the security services. I recall that the security services managed to convince my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that there was a danger of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That has since been proved to be untrue. I do not doubt that the security services do a very good job—I am sure that they do their best—but they do not always get it right; and, unlike us, they are not accountable to the electorate or the public. They just get on with their work.
Ultimately we must make the decisions here, because ultimately it is we who will be held responsible for them. I still think that, even with the amendment to 28 days, this is a bad piece of legislation which we will regret. Although I hope that it may go some way towards combating terrorism, I have severe doubts.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Sunderland, South. [Hon. Members: "North."] I am sorry; I meant Bill Etherington, although it is also a pleasure to follow Mr. Mullin. I have heard the hon. Member for Sunderland, North speak on two occasions in recent weeks, and on both occasions he has treated the House to a remarkably sound first-principles exposition.
Today's debate offers the House an opportunity to take stock, to reflect on yesterday's events and the debates of the past few weeks, and to consider—in a more measured way than was possible yesterday—how we should proceed from here. It is unfortunate that the Home Secretary is not present, because I was going to say something nice about him. I have had substantial disagreements with him on this subject over the past few weeks, and I believe that he has made a number of mistakes—and that mistakes have been made for him, notably by the Prime Minister. Nevertheless, he responded to the immediate aftermath of yesterday's vote with a remarkable degree of personal dignity, for which I give him credit. I must qualify that by saying that he rather blew it today with some of his comments about certain of his hon. Friends.
The Home Secretary also said that he found Liberal Democrats difficult to debate with. I considered that to be a remarkable piece of praise, for which I should thank him. I should have thought, though, that compared to debates with some of his own Back Benchers, debates with Liberal Democrats would be models of straightforward simplicity.
The replacement of the 90-day period and the amendment to 28 days has removed a major barrier to our support for the Bill. It indeed gives me and my hon. Friends some reassurance that we can begin to work with this Bill. For that reason, I place on record the fact that we will not oppose the Bill on Third Reading today. If others choose to divide the House, we shall not be with them. We nevertheless view the legislation very much as work in progress. It is beyond doubt that there remains substantial scope for improvement. I want to take some time to highlight a few of the remaining areas of concern from the point of view of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
On clause 1, it is important to reflect and acknowledge that we have come a very long way from the original views expressed by the Government and the Home Office earlier this summer. The continued inclusion of glorification within the clause, however, remains unsatisfactory, as does the formulation of recklessness, which needs to be fixed. Those matters will be dealt with again in the other place. The concerns of academics about many of the offences in part 1 have not had a proper or full airing. They will also have to be dealt with, sadly, in the other place. We also want to put on record the fact that we remain concerned about the lack of proper statutory defences in respect of clauses 6 and 8.
Clause 17 deals with the commission of offences abroad and it is right to welcome the substantial amendment and restriction of the clause's scope that the Government put into the Bill yesterday. It is still far from a model of clarity, however, and it may help the House if I read out the amended provision in clause 17, which refers to
"an offence under section 1 or 6 of this Act so far as it is committed in relation to any statement, instruction or training in relation to which that section has effect by reason of its relevance to the commission, preparation or instigation of one or more Convention offences".
The vagueness of the term "relevance to the commission" remains problematic and could eventually cause some difficulties. It would be an excellent point for our noble Friends to deal with.
Is that not a classic example of where the Home Secretary was wrong to say that we had enough time to debate the Bill? Given that the House has for once improved a Bill in this place, it is a pity that the Government did not give us enough time to do the full job of improvement, so we now have to rely on the other place to do the detailed work.
Proceedings on this Bill have demonstrated that, if given the opportunity, this House can be trusted to do the job that it is here to do in holding the Executive to account and properly scrutinising legislation. The fact remains that the time allotted to us was inadequate for the job in hand. It worries me that we are sending the Bill to the other place with so many unresolved questions. As is the case with so many provisions in the Bill, clause 17 still suffers from the absence of a proper definition of what is meant by terrorism.
I welcome the Home Secretary's announcement from the Dispatch Box today of a review that is to be carried out by my noble and learned Friend, Lord Carlile. I greatly look forward to participating with my hon. Friends and other Members in that review. Implicit in that offer, however, is the Government's acceptance that they have not got it right. Given that we have 12 months before we can revisit the provision, we seem to have legislation that will be firing on something less than all cylinders for the course of those months, so we should not be satisfied with that. In welcoming the review, I also say to hon. Members in this place and our noble Friends in the other place that they should not feel that this is the end of the story on the definition of terrorism. If we can come up with a better definition than the current one, it is still open to my noble and learned Friend to review it, if he feels it necessary.
Clause 21 concerns the grounds of proscription and I can tell the Minister that we had an excellent debate in Committee, particularly in respect of the impact of the inclusion of glorification within the clause. It is a matter of substantial regret that we were not able to revisit that point yesterday on Report.
Finally, I want to say a few words about clause 23. It is now apparent that 28 days is the settled will of the House and I believe that it will be included in the final form of the Bill. In our view, there remains scope for improvement and I remind the House of the terms of our amendment yesterday. I am uncomfortable with the idea that 28 days should be automatically available. Liberal Democrats would prefer to put some locks on the availability of extensions from 14 to 28 days. We would like that extension to be made available only where there was evidence to be obtained from abroad or where there was some issue awaiting a further outcome of an analysis of evidence or perhaps decryption. A judge should be required to be satisfied that no other terrorist charge can be brought. Given the terms of provisions relating to acts preparatory to terrorism, which will eventually be passed with the Bill, it raises the bar significantly. The judge should also be required to approve any further questioning that is to be carried out.
I strongly agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need for some check or constraint on the operation of the 28-day period, as agreed in the amendment. There are two reasons why that is important. First, as I said earlier to Bill Etherington, many of us voted for the 28-day period only in order to prevent something worse that would otherwise have appeared in the Bill. Secondly, there is the simple principle that, in respect of the police and intelligence services as with any other organisation, work tends to expand to fill the time available.
That is a truth that we can understand and accept without any difficulty on both sides of the House.
My other concern is much more fundamental: that the longer a person is held in custody, the greater the likelihood that eventually a court may see that any evidence obtained from that person will have been obtained under duress. Such evidence would then be inadmissible, leaving us with the prospect that, ultimately, the prosecution will be unsuccessful. In that case, either terrorists will go free or people who have had serious allegations placed against them may never have a proper opportunity to vindicate their name because they are seen to have been released on a so-called technicality.
Before the hon. Gentleman returns to the remainder of his list, will he also comment on what the shadow Attorney-General had to say about the uncertainty of the conditions in which these people will be detained? If they are detained in anything other than solitary confinement, is there not a risk—the longer they are detained—of radicalisation? On the other hand, if they are innocent, is there not a danger of them being brutalised by other prisoners merely on the suspicion that they might be guilty?
The hon. Gentleman's point speaks for itself and I agree absolutely. As someone who used to earn his living in the criminal justice system—mostly as a defence solicitor, but for a number of years as a prosecutor—I have seen at first hand the conditions in police stations. In most cases, they are certainly not suitable for a lengthy detention, and the same is true of the conditions in prisons, particularly—dare I say it?—those in which remand prisoners are held. It is the ultimate irony that the conditions in which a person is held on remand are infinitely worse than those in which a person is held post-conviction.
We Liberal Democrats will be interested in exploring with Ministers how we can monitor the number of cases that may be dealt with in the extended detention period. I suggest in the broadest possible terms that we could have some mechanism for triggering a report to Parliament on the operation of this part of the Bill once a certain number of detentions has taken place. That would go some way towards addressing the concerns that were expressed earlier about what constituted a small number of cases. We, as parliamentarians, are duty bound to keep the closest possible eye on that issue.
Given what the hon. Gentleman has just said about the Liberal Democrat proposal on questioning after charge, is he saying that whatever the total length of detention may be, whenever a charge is laid there would never be questioning beyond 28 days after arrest?
I pursue this point because of what the hon. Gentleman said about the idea that the longer a person is detained, the less reliability can be given to anything said in interview. Let us consider the example of a suspect who has been detained for 28 days, and who is then charged with an offence unrelated to terrorism, such as fraudulent use of a credit card. I choose that example because Mr. Hayman cited such a case. As it stands, the police would grant bail or put before the court. If put before the court, the accused could apply for bail and the court would have the power to grant that. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that there would be another change in the law to prevent such a person having the right to bail at all, or would the ability to question depend on whether the court held the person in custody?
No. On the question of lesser charges, I hope that the hon. Gentleman has simply misunderstood and is not misrepresenting my case. We have always said that it is a question of other terrorist charges, which is why I made specific reference to acts preparatory to terrorism. On the question of a person being held for a particular length of time, leading to a greater danger of evidence being obtained unfairly in the view, subsequently, of the trial judge, that is no barrier to questioning. However, the longer that a person is held, the more careful the police and the prosecution must be about the nature, extent, duration and circumstances of such questioning. The court will consider the circumstances in which the person has been held. [Interruption.] In England and Wales, all such matters can be dealt with through the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 code, as my hon. Friend David Howarth says from a sedentary position. What, therefore, is the hon. Gentleman's point about bail?
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that a person could not apply for bail because the police would need to keep them to ask them further questions after charging?
That question relates to cases where a charge other than a terrorist is charge is brought in the first instance. In Scotland, at least, it would be for the court to decide whether or not a person is admitted to bail. Such a question would be determined on the basis of the procurator fiscal bringing charges. I am not familiar with the concept of police bail, but I see no barrier to questioning taking place after someone has been admitted to bail. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman knows of examples to the contrary. I am mindful of the fact that I am skirting around a subject—English evidence and procedure—in which I am scantily qualified.
Surely the point is obvious. We are talking about a few cases of suspected terrorism. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that someone who is granted bail would hang around to be questioned, that is rather fanciful.
I am glad that we have finally got to the kernel of the issue. There is no question of bail being given when terrorism charges are brought. In any jurisdiction in the United Kingdom, the nature of the offence is always a substantial factor, and in such cases bail is not given.
The test for remanding in custody instead of granting bail, taking the prosecution's case at its highest, is whether there is a substantial risk that the defendant would abscond, commit a further offence or interfere with witnesses. On the basis of that test, I cannot see how any terrorist suspect could be given bail.
We are now on safe territory that I understand. Exactly the same test is applied in Scotland, and I can see no such circumstances in which any court would grant bail. In the event that it did, it would almost certainly be followed by a swift and successful bail appeal by the Crown.
The hon. Gentleman can make his point later in the debate. I promise that if he says anything that interests me during his speech, I will intervene on him.
I have been quite generous to the hon. Gentleman, so I will not give way again.
A number of matters outwith the scope of the Bill need to be addressed, such as the PACE code. We also have the right to ask why section 57 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has not yet been brought into force. My right hon. Friend Mr. Beith did point out to me last night, however, that the intelligence services commissioner's report of earlier this year makes it clear that section 57 has not been introduced yet because the extent and nature of encryption has not been as great as was envisaged when the Act was passed by this House. Members who have put great reliance on encryption would do well to consider that point.
I am still puzzled by the question of the implementation of section 57 of the 2000 Act. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Paul Goggins, assured me at the Dispatch Box during our deliberations in Committee that he would write to me to explain why the Government have not implemented it. It would have been useful to have had that response before Report, and certainly before Third Reading.
That is yet another of the defects in our procedures with which we have to contend. It is an unsatisfactory situation.
I want to conclude by saying a few words about the nature of the debate in this House, and outside it, in the past few weeks. The debate in this Chamber has been of the highest possible quality. Contributions from Members in all parts of the House have been well motivated, sincere, well informed and passionate. That debate has done a great deal, notwithstanding some of the press comment today, to restore the standing of this House.
The debate outside this House, however, has caused me some concern. The role played by the Association of Chief Police Officers has crossed lines that, frankly, should not have been crossed. I was going to say a great deal more about this issue that might have proved fairly controversial. However, I shall not say too much today, because the time for that debate is when the dust has settled and tempers have cooled. There is, however, a distinction to be drawn between briefing, which is quite appropriate for a body such as ACPO, and lobbying, which is not. ACPO clearly crossed that line, something with which the House must concern itself.
The Bill leaves this House with much work still to be done. We see ourselves as involved in a process; we will play the fullest possible part in that. We hope that at the end of the process in the other place what we have is rather better than what we face today.
I rise to welcome the Bill, as amended. I did not vote for those amendments; I voted for the 90-day provision. Those who know me, such as my hon. Friend Bill Etherington, know that I am not someone whom the Whips approach and that I have voted many times with my conscience and according to what I think is correct for my constituents. In this case, I had serious reservations. The Bill is amended as it is because the Government lost the argument many times in Committee. At that time they appeared to be conciliatory and to accept that even though, when a Government lose an argument, they may be able to press the vote and get their Members through the Lobby, they then have to reach a proper compromise. In some cases they did, and that is why I welcome the Bill, as amended.
My hon. Friend raised the question of moving away from the 14-day provision. We got locked into thinking that we were giving the police the power to slam someone up for 90 days almost automatically, rather than the detention being seriously reviewed again and again. I regret that our law did not originally state that people could be held for only seven days before the case went to the High Court for proper review. I believe that holding for seven days anyone who might prove innocent would be traumatic for them and their family, for their personal relations and for their relationship with their community, whether or not that is a Muslim community. When we moved to 14 days, we moved beyond what was, without review, a reasonable step. The debate should have been about how many times one could go back and ask, at a review, for another seven days and about why that request should be granted each time.
I was therefore much more interested in a number of issues on which the Government have made significant moves. I was not so concerned about the idea of time, but the debate became fixated on that idea. If we had been more skilful, we might have got a better amendment that would have allowed the reasonable renewal of detention for seven days, but within a very strict process, which I will mention later.
The question of definition is still difficult, although we have moved a long way. I have discussed this at length with my constituency party and my constituents, some of whom went through experiences similar to those mentioned by my hon. Friend. I represent a large section of the mining community in West Lothian. On incitement, the people to whom I spoke said that they want people to be stopped from inciting. On encouragement, they want people to be stopped from encouraging.
Acts of glorification have to be defined in a proper, fixed and recognised context. "Glorification" is such a vague term that lack of definition could lead not only to miscarriages of justice, but to a waste of time by the police and those involved in intelligence and research. That time should be focused on proper concerns—going to war in Iraq has not improved our ability to fight international terrorism and is a glaring example of our chasing the wrong enemy.
I heard a number of Members refer in the debates in Committee and elsewhere to the Jenny Tonge test or the Cherie Blair test: whether glorification could be inferred from what someone has said. When I discussed that with people whom I regard as serious and intelligent, they laughed. What they wanted was a Mr. Hamza test, in which it would be clear whether someone was doing something that could incite or encourage terrorism. We were told that the powers available would not deal with such situations, and they wanted that dealt with before we got into what seemed like silly arguments about what people had said.
I have often been to Palestine and seen the victims of what was clearly sniper shooting by the Israeli Government. I have seen the families of children killed—not in confrontations with soldiers, but by the mischance of being in the wrong place when soldiers decided to continue shooting. That leads one to understand why people cross the barrier of what is reasonable and commit acts against other innocents in anger and stupidity. That is not to condone those acts; indeed, one can completely deprecate them. I can see why Jenny Tonge might say what she did and why Cherie Blair might say what she did. That is not glorification of terrorism, and the fact that it was described in those terms was inappropriate and downgraded our discussions in the eyes of the public who followed what we were saying.
I respect the hon. Gentleman's principled opposition to the war in Iraq, but it is important in this debate to emphasise that opposition to some of the central tenets of the Bill is not confined to the anti-war lobby. There are many of us who felt strongly that the Government were justified in going to war in Iraq, and still feel that the Prime Minister was justified in the overall stance that he took, but who feel uncomfortable with, and unpersuaded by, the Government's case on these central tenets.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I respect him greatly. He wanted to put that on the record and I am glad to have allowed him to do so, although I do not think that it added a great deal to the debate.
The question of the review clause needs to be settled in a better way. Any review clause must be debated on the Floor of the House and carried by a vote of the House. Anything in a statutory instrument may be taken off the Floor or considered in a way that does not allow full debate on the Floor, and that would not be acceptable to those who are concerned about having the Bill at all. I hope that when we get the review clause in its final form, after the Bill has been through the other place and returned to this House, the Government will ensure that we have the right to a full debate on the Floor on a proper motion and that the provision is not slipped through. Prevention of terrorism legislation passed when we were not in government was discredited by the fact that, in the early stages, we did not have those debates.
There was some to-ing and fro-ing about the word "reckless". It is a difficult word, but I first saw it in an amendment tabled by the Conservative Opposition in Committee. I do not know how one deals with that difficulty in legislation. If people do something innocently but recklessly, which part do we lean on? Do we judge their act innocent, so the police do not pursue them? Or do we judge it to be reckless and have the police pursue them, even though they may end up, days or weeks later, being deemed innocent but a little reckless? Holding them under the Bill would have a damaging effect on their life, their family and community and on the perception of them in the community, and it would also be damaging to the work of the police. I hope that we can have a provision that clarifies what we mean.
If someone knowingly does something recklessly, such as driving a car and causing an accident, that is different from doing it unknowingly. I think of a recent case in Scotland in which someone thought that they were driving properly but were in fact driving recklessly. That case went to court and the individual was fined because he should have known that he was driving recklessly. We have to get the definition of "reckless" right.
I return to the time provisions that the Bill now contains—28 days; four periods of seven days. That may prove inadequate. I know that people voted for that for all the right reasons. The problem is that the House focused on time rather than process.
I was concerned about the definitions used in the Bill, especially in connection with the actions of people who wanted to encourage and support those fighting against oppression and state terror in other parts of the world. The Bill has still not got that quite right. For example, when I was a youth I went around sticking up posters for "Back from Hanoi" meetings. Representatives from the National Union of Mineworkers had gone to Vietnam to find out what was really going on, and on their return condemned what the Americans were doing to the people there. At the time, that was not a popular opinion.
Would the Bill mean that I would end up in the slammer for sticking up posters, going to meetings and handing out leaflets that told of the American atrocities against the people of Vietnam? Theoretically, the Americans were our allies, and thank goodness that the Prime Minister of the time kept this country out of that terrible debacle. We have to get our approach right as we cannot discourage people—anywhere in the world, and even in this country—from standing up for the serious principles of human rights that have so often been abused.
I return to the question of process. Sadly, the House originally settled on a 14-day detention period. Judicial review every seven days depends on the Bill containing the strictest definition of what merits continuation, but I believe it probable that opportunities will arise to abuse the system that is being proposed.That abuse will take the form of acts of omission, and I am worried that the police will think that, in order to keep a person in detention, they will have to prove only that they are pursuing a trail of evidence, regardless of its weakness. In contrast, I think that they should have to show that they are engaged in a serious and ongoing investigation of evidence that has not yet been analysed properly. The important point is that the evidence should exist: if it does not, and the police merely hope that they will find it after holding the person for another seven days, that will be insufficient reason for continuing that person's detention.
The process has to be defined very clearly. In our discussions, we were told that such matters would be kept under review by a High Court judge and that the people in detention would be properly represented. However, I want to know in detail how transparent the process will be. Giving the people involved representation will be no good if they are told by the police that they are in possession of evidence that can be shown to the High Court judge but not to the defence representative, on the ground that it has security implications. I want the people accused under the Bill to have the right to due and proper process, but such an approach would render that process null and void.
In addition, we must make sure that the police do not think that they can hold for 28 days anyone whom they pick up. They cannot be allowed to believe that the detention period will be automatic as long as they can show that they are pursuing an investigation.
I voted for a period of 90 days because I wanted a reassurance that the proper process would be observed. The actual length of the detention period would not matter to me—or to my constituents, or those in my constituency party who hold me to account—as long as the security authorities were required to show that they were pursuing a trail of evidence. As long as they could do that, detention could be prolonged by successive periods of seven days. The arguments that we got locked into about 28, 90 or 14 days were less important than ensuring that a person arrested by the police on suspicion of taking part in terrorist activity was held to be innocent until enough evidence had been gathered to allow a charge to be brought. Adopting that approach would make sure that every review by the High Court judge would start from the assumption of the person's innocence, even though there were grounds for suspicion. At every review, the police would have to prove that extending detention for a further seven days was justified, and they could do that only by demonstrating in an obvious and transparent way that they were accumulating real evidence against the person involved.
I hope that the Bill will return from the other place with the problems to do with definition, the maximum period of detention, glorification and the response to international terror all fixed. If that is the case, the Bill will be a good one. Whoever said that the people who voted for the strongest possible Bill consistent with the wishes of the public was on the money. It is possible that the House will benefit from the way that the Bill has been debated and we may feel that the process of deliberation has been wonderful. However, if it fails to do what it sets out to do—that is, prevent another atrocity such as happened here on 7/7, or on other occasions around the world—we will be held liable by the public.
I am sorry to begin my Third Reading speech by underlining the fact that I take very seriously the threat that terrorism poses to the citizens of this country. Much of the campaigning that is going on retains an undertone of suggestion that those who have resisted the more draconian elements of the Bill are complacent about terrorism or do not take it seriously, but that is certainly not my position.
The Home Secretary was in a rather petulant mood today, for understandable reasons. For the past two weeks, he has tried to be the reasonable face of the Government, but I do not think that he did himself much justice when he started to suggest that some hon. Members are less opposed to terrorism than he is.
I take the threat of terrorism extremely seriously. Over the past fortnight, I have taken as active a part as possible in discussions about the Bill because I think that terrorism is one of the most serious problems that will face this Government and their successors for years to come. The climate of the recent past proves beyond doubt that the citizens of this country face a grave threat of random terrorism, and will do so for a long time.
It is not possible to guarantee complete protection, however dramatic the measures put in place. I have a dreadful feeling that more bombs will explode from time to time, with the concomitant political reaction. It therefore behoves us all to consider very seriously how we will tackle the problem. If we can, we should act on a consensual, cross-party basis to protect our population and minimise the terrorist threat.
Many factors outside the Bill are involved. For example, how will we approach resolving the mounting conflict between the Muslim world and the rest of the world? How will we address the question of the relationships between this country's Muslim community and their fellow British citizens, and how can we make sure that we avoid producing growing numbers of alienated young men who can be radicalised and turned to fanatic activity?
Those are important questions, but the key will be to get right the balance between, on the one hand, the force that we apply to security and the fierceness with which we crack down on those who propagate terrorism in this country with, on the other hand, our belief in personal liberty and individual freedom and our need to protect the values of our society that the terrorists want to threaten.
When faced with a terrorist threat, it is worth asking what the terrorists' ambitions are. It is no good dismissing them all as mindless fanatics or brainless extremists, as some are very sophisticated and intelligent people indeed. One of the main aims of terrorists attacking a civilised society is to provoke an overreaction by that society's authorities. The best present for terrorists is to introduce repressive measures that help them politicise and mobilise the elements in the community with which they identify. Those people might then be persuaded that their sense of injustice and deprivation is so strong that it justifies extremism.
I take the Bill and the terrorist threat very seriously, but the Government have totally mishandled the matter from the start. They have kept on suggesting that criticism of the more difficult measures is the result of complacency, in Parliament and elsewhere.
In passing, I assure the House that I have not approached the Bill from a party-political or partisan basis. I was one of those who voted against it on Second Reading, and that was not the approach of my party. Many hon. Members have made their own judgments about the Bill and Bill Etherington was eloquent and graphic when he demonstrated how people have not merely followed the party line. If the Government need more reassurance, they have proposals forthcoming on education, health and welfare, where they might expect my support on their more well-judged measures. It is no good saying that all Conservative Members are opportunists and that the opponents of the Bill are motivated by ill will towards the Prime Minister or any such thing.
My opposition to the legislation so far has been on the basis that I regard it as extremely ill considered. It does not add much, if anything, to our protections against the risk of terrorism. I rather think that it was motivated by a desperate desire to do something in response to the appalling events of July. At the time, the Government were seized with the feeling that they did not know what else to do. I cannot get rid of the feeling that, essentially, the Bill is gesture politics. I hope that we do not have more gesture politics if we have more terrorist outrages.
The bombs in July were not caused by any gaps in our legislation. We have 200 pieces of anti-terrorist legislation already on the statute book. So far as I am aware, the bombs in July were not caused by the outpourings, however distasteful and unpleasant, of some bizarre, extreme preachers, encouraging people to do what they did. The reaction, at a time when the public were frightened as a result of the horrors on the underground and when the Government were in something of a political panic about how to react, was to suggest that tough legislation and a provision to deport mad mullahs from our territories would be the answer that a strong Government would implement to minimise the chances of that happening again. Since then, we have gone into more detail. Some measures in the Bill, such as offences about preparing and training for terrorism, might add something, but at its heart I still suspect that this is gesture politics, padded out with measures to make it look more convincing.
It worries me that, time and again during our proceedings, the Bill has been driven forward with disparaging remarks about opponents in this House and elsewhere and with a disregard for those who are concerned about the rule of law, civil rights or individual liberty. I expect editorials in The Sun to talk about left-wing judges challenging this, but the present Prime Minister and the former Home Secretary have got into the habit of allowing their lips to curl when they describe lawyers, liberals and others who are sensitive about individual rights. That is a most unhealthy development. I am a lawyer and, I think, a liberal on a large number of matters. I was not a very liberal Home Secretary. I brought before the House the renewal of terrorist legislation, suspending provisions of the European convention on human rights. I was opposed by my shadow, the present Prime Minister, for going too far. I was a more liberal Home Secretary than any of my successors. My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Howard was a more liberal Home Secretary than any of his successors. The last truly liberal Home Secretary was Lord Hurd. Since then, we have been going down hill. I had hoped that the new Home Secretary might reverse the trend, but the pressures he is under now are not making it easy for him.
The reasons why I remain against the legislation are, first, my suspicion that it is gesture politics and, secondly, because as we examined it in Committee and on Report, the frailty and thinness of most of its contents have become increasingly evident. My main reason, that it is gesture politics, has been touched on by others. It is difficult to see what almost all its provisions add to the present provisions of the criminal law. Incitements to violence by people preaching in mosques can be dealt with under the present law. It has been a decision of public policy not to prosecute some of the more self-publicising, wild preachers because a judgment has mistakenly been made that that would cause more trouble than it was worth. There is scarcely a new provision in the Bill that could not be covered by a prosecutor under some existing charge, if the evidence existed to proceed against someone engaged in terrorist activities. Therefore, it is ill-considered legislation, which has caused terrible trouble. We now shall see whether anything worth while can be produced from it when it goes to the House of Lords.
My right hon. and learned Friend has just explained that one weakness of the Bill is that most of its provisions fail to add to what already exists on the statute book. Does he agree that a sign of the weakness in which the Government find themselves intellectually is that Ministers have taken refuge in arguing that opinion poll evidence shows that people support the Bill? Given that my right hon. and learned Friend and I are both staunch opponents of the death penalty, as are most Labour and Liberal Democrat Members, can he envisage circumstances in which Labour Members would seek to argue that opinions should be followed simply because it is public opinion? We have a responsibility to exercise our judgment.
Hon. Members on both sides have been resisting for many years the simplistic argument that the criminal law should be written in line with the opinion polls of the day. I can remember when the vast majority of the public would have supported hanging and flogging. Many police officers have expressed great disquiet over the years about the constraints on their powers of arrest, questioning and restraint, and they have pressed for more powers. Heaven forfend that we see the day when the criminal law, including the most essential provisions that bear on the liberty of the individual, are determined by focus groups or newspaper headlines and leaders. The arguments used by Ministers on occasion, both inside and outside the House, have strongly suggested that that is the approach that we should adopt.
We have been told to consult our constituents on the issue. I live near the constituency of Sherwood and I was astonished to hear that Paddy Tipping has been showered with representations on the issue. I have received only two, one for and one against. I might ask my two correspondents what their feelings were based on and what they thought was lacking in the powers available to the police and the present period of detention of 14 days. I could ask them what had led them to the conclusion that 14 days, which was introduced only in January last year, was too short and that 90 days were necessary. I suspect that neither of my constituents, enlightened though they may have been by the opinions of The Sun, would have been aware of the present constraints, the basis for arrest and charge or the present state of the law. If they had been asked what the case for 90 days was, I would have been interested to see if they could have produced a response, because no Minister has yet been able to provide concrete argument to explain why 90 days is preferable to 14 days, except that I should ask my chief constable. That is what is at the heart of the legislation, and that is why the House has done a good job putting it in its present state.
The only argument that has been introduced to justify the provisions in the Bill that extend the law—the extension to 90 days and the creation of the new offence of encouragement of terrorism, which are the two dramatic and draconian measures—is that they are needed to face the new threat of modern terrorism. We are told that we must now understand that what we have done in the past to waive our normal civil liberties to deal with extremist terrorism—mostly from Ireland—is overtaken by the modern terrorism, for which the rules of the game have changed. That, we are told, is why we need to toughen up particular provisions.
I find that argument faintly preposterous. I do not like being fobbed off with the argument that I do not understand modern terrorism. Apparently, Irish terrorists were simpler folk and less sophisticated measures were necessary to deal with them. They were decent fellows, apparently, who did not do too much harm and gave a bit of warning. They did not pose the risk of mass murder that we now face from disaffected Islamic youth. Well, I do not believe that. It contradicts my recollection that it was always a mistake to underestimate the sophistication and cunning of the IRA. It knew exactly what it was doing. It went in for mass murder and, when it gave warnings, they were usually slightly misleading, so that the police could be blamed for the casualties that resulted. I do not see that modern terrorism has moved on very much when I recall the outrages in public houses in Birmingham, in which young people were blown up by weapons deliberately designed to cause mass injury in two underground bars. Both were, by repute, frequented by under-age drinkers, which is why they were chosen. I could describe many other similar outrages.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, when we were dealing with the threat of IRA terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s, terrorists did not have mobile phones, the internet was in its infancy and in most cases the terrorists spoke the same language as us? There were none of the interpretation and translation issues that we find in the current threat.
I shall deal with some of those points. First, the mobile phone has proved a great aid to investigation of crime of all kinds. One can intercept mobile phone conversations much more easily than most other forms of communication. I do not understand why the Government adhere to the tradition in parts of the police and security services of not using intercept evidence. I support such use. Indeed, I have always thought resistance to it faintly preposterous; it is getting more preposterous as time goes by. In that sense, things are not moving in the direction that the Bill suggests.
Of course, there is the argument that today's terrorists are more multilingual, but most of those who attacked us were British-born, spoke perfectly good English and were educated in this country. Certainly, the international links, which the IRA also had, involve a certain amount of multilingual activity, but it is not impossible to find interpreters. We do not have to wait three months to find someone who speaks Arabic. Perhaps if we improved our relationships with the Muslim community, we would receive a constantly ready supply of helpful Arabic speakers. I do not accept the argument about interpretation.
Encryption is usually given as the main reason why things should now take longer because the codes to what is encrypted are refused. However, the weapons being used are not that high-tech. Computer technology is not normally required to design today's terrorist bomb. Reference has been made to communications and planning, but if the only man who knew the codes was dead, it would take someone months and months, unless they were lucky, to decrypt the material on a computer. The idea that the difficulties of modern computer technology justify giving the powers originally in the Bill is not acceptable.
The changes in the situation are not that dramatic, but the Bill was introduced in the heat of the public reaction to terrible and dramatic events, as though that was something new. The importance of tackling such events is the same as ever, but the exploitation of emotion after the underground bombs should not allow us all to be persuaded that we face grave new threats that justify the erosion of our liberties.
I am delighted to say that, due to the state to which the Bill has been brought by the House, our noble colleagues in the other place will have almost carte blanche to address it and to find what can be made sensible out of the improved but somewhat battered Bill that is about to receive its Third Reading. I invite them to have a go and rewrite large stretches of the measure with all vigour. There are some distinguished people in the upper House who will be able to improve the current Bill beyond all recognition.
I shall not rehearse the arguments that I have already made in Committee and on Report. We have an extremely difficult clause 1, with the new offence of encouragement to terrorism, into which the ill-fated reference by the Prime Minister to the glorification of terrorism has been rolled. I fail to see the need for that new offence, as incitement to violence can be covered in other ways. The present definition in the Bill is quite appalling. It will catch radical campaigners of both the right and left, and immerse us in international controversy on a scale that should be avoided.
We all talked at length about detention without charge. It is extremely important that in all normal circumstances—apart from extreme situations—we do not allow the police of our country to hold people without charge indefinitely, and persistently to continue to question them. The House was persuaded to move to 14 days, with effect from the early part of 2004. The Australians are still in a ferocious internal controversy about whether to move to 14 days. The 90-day period is preposterous and I have yet to hear a good case for 28 days. The only case that would induce me to vote for 28 days would be that it was better than 90 days, and that if we did not vote for it the Bill would leave the House of Commons unchanged. I hope that the Lords address that point.
I am rather worried about a consensus that seems to be growing about questioning after a charge has been laid. There are restrictions on the ability to question after someone has been charged in this country, although in my opinion—unless they have changed since the days when I practised—they are not as absolute as some people have assumed. If there is new evidence, questioning can be resumed, and I do not quite see what the difficulty is meant to be. Before we sweep away the whole question of allowing the police to continue to question a suspect after he or she has been charged with an offence, we should hesitate and exercise some care.
I agree with those who say that, if the idea is that we should bring in someone without sufficient evidence to bring a charge against them and persist in questioning them day after day for a month—let alone three months—we are likely to start to produce evidence or confessions that no one will regard as reliable because of the undue pressure put on the suspect since he or she was brought in.
I mention en passant, because I kept going on about it, that the extraterritorial application of the Bill is absolutely extraordinary. I do not wish to have bizarre litigation in this country with people arguing from strange parts of the world about whether they were terrorists or freedom fighters when they made a speech that someone has decided justifies their being arrested on a visit to London. I really do think that we must comply with our international obligations, but we must not go one inch beyond what we have committed ourselves to.
My final point causes me most concern. The atmosphere of the past two or three days, when the Prime Minister made the foolish decision to intervene and stake his own authority on the proposition that got defeated last night, has been extremely unpleasant. An attempt has been made to whip up popular fervour. I have no idea whether the Government were associated with The Sun newspaper's campaign, but the close connections between the present Government and the Murdoch press are well known.
The Home Office's encouragement to ACPO and the chief constables to start going in for political lobbying was taking ACPO into very dangerous territory indeed. We all have the highest respect for the opinion of chief constables and indeed for the police who are at the sharp end of the fight against terrorism, but to start lobbying for a political position in Parliament is not what ACPO and chief constables should do.
I return to the point that I made when my hon. Friend John Bercow intervened. If we pass criminal law of any kind in the House in response to populist campaigns on the back of well-publicised crimes and if we are all told that we should go out and just take an opinion poll or read the newspapers, we will have some appalling legislation. Indeed, it is the danger that we might slip into that that gives a role to the upper House and, indeed, to the courts.
Whenever I see a chance being taken to try to bounce Parliament into some ill-considered, populist measure that impinges on personal liberty, I think how lucky in some ways the Americans are to have the Supreme Court to make sure that their Congressmen cannot do that. It is probably wise that we remain signatories to the European convention on human rights, and I do not resent British judges feeling themselves bound by that convention to make the principles of human rights override populist legislation.
We have an upper House, and it is very sad that we have got into a state where this House is increasingly passing silly, ill-considered, populist legislation, with everyone relying on the fact that the upper House will rewrite it. This is by no means the first Bill in the past five years that we have allowed to leave the Commons with all hon. Members on both sides of the House knowing perfectly well that some of its provisions will not last five minutes once it gets to the House of Lords and that, fortunately, the House of Lords will rewrite it and send it back.
The last time that something similar happened, we had all-night sittings when a bizarre attempt was made to bully this House and the upper House into agreeing to provisions on control orders that, I am glad to say, both found quite unacceptable, and the Government had to compromise. I hope on this occasion that having had a bloody nose on the Floor of this House—this is where Governments of all complexions should get a bloody nose when they step an inch too far—the Government will not try to start imposing some of the worst features of the Bill on either this House or the House of Lords.
The Bill should never have been introduced. It contains some of the silliest and most curiously drafted pieces of criminal law that we have seen for a long time, and the House of Lords will probably make it much more sensible. I hope that the Home Secretary will finally reveal to us whether he is the gentle face of the Government, or genuinely the conciliatory and more liberal policy maker in the Government. If he has more arguments with the Prime Minister about whether they should tough it out, or reason with their colleagues in Parliament to reach an acceptable consensus, I will be grateful.
If we have no more bombs, the Home Secretary's assertion that we might try to move the whole thing on to a more stable basis and come back in a year's time to make a genuine attempt to get a consensus in a less charged atmosphere will be welcome. We all hate terrorism and we would like the broadest possible agreement on what should be done to enable people to protect us from it. A more measured view is the way to go about that, rather than trying to take through Bills such as this.
We have heard a lot of argument, discussion and debate in the House. There has been a lot of intellectual haggling and squabbling to try to win the argument on the question of civil liberties and the length of time for which people should be detained. Some of the barristers and solicitors in the House, as well as others, have exercised their vocal cords to try to win the argument.
I broadly support the measures in the Bill. I recognise the unique situation in which we find ourselves in this country when fighting a terrorist threat of new complexity, with new evils and new murderous proportions. However, I was disappointed that hon. Members did not vote yesterday for a pre-charge detention period of 90 days, which the police requested for a good reason.
My constituents and I are sadly no strangers to the evils of terrorism. In the middle of the 1980s, I was subjected to murderous threats against my life by terrorists and placed under armed police protection. Terrorists in the UK who were supporters of a separatist movement in the Punjab in India murdered three law-abiding members of my constituency in Southall and included me on their murderous hit list. Kashmiri terrorists murdered an Indian diplomat in Birmingham. Those terrorists were able to enjoy the freedoms of this country that were available to them and to foster terrorism here and abroad by disseminating their message and collecting money for their evil acts in the UK. Such opportunities should not be afforded to any terrorists in the future. In summer 2001, a Real IRA bomb exploded in Ealing town centre, in my constituency. It caused millions of pounds of damage to property, but fortunately did not result in the loss of human life.
Evil and terrifying as the acts in my constituency that I have described were, they do not compare with the new terrorist threat that we face today in the wake of the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist atrocities when suicide bombers were intent on taking as many lives as possible in terrifying circumstances.
We all know that we face a new threat of chilling proportions, and we have felt the reality of such a threat with the sad events of
The threat should be met in a united way. The whole House and country should be united. Sadly, the Tories show double standards. When in government, they wanted to introduce tough laws and always claimed to be the custodians of law and order. Now, in opposition, they enjoy the luxury of opposing parts of the Bill and of voting against police advice in spite of the evidence held by the police and security services. What hypocrisy!
Three different categories of people spoke in opposition to the Bill and the 90-day pre-charge detention period. First, there were those who had genuine concerns about civil liberties. Secondly, there were those who were naive about civil liberties and the terrorist threat. Thirdly, there were those who indulged in cheap politics by opposing the 90-day amendment as a weapon against the Prime Minister and the Government.
Surely there is a fourth category: those who believed that the doubling of pre-charge detention from 14 to 28 days to provide the necessary time for the police was useful in principle, and who were not forced to take that position, who were not hypocrites and who did not indulge in oppositionalism? That category should be mentioned as well.
I am coming to that and will tell the hon. Gentleman why the Government had a good reason for introducing the 90-day detention. We are not dealing with an ordinary situation. It is unique. We are dealing not with ordinary criminals, but with terrorists and organised terrorist activity. They have a network everywhere and keep this country under the threat of terror. I agree with the Government's proposed detention period of 90 days. I hope that hon. Members who voted against the police advice of 90 days will not live to regret their decision. I also hope that the police will be able to halt the efforts of the murderous terrorists within the 28 days that the House, in its wisdom, has decided to give them.
Detaining arbitrarily a massive number of suspects would be unpopular, counterproductive and wrong. As a Member of Parliament with a large ethnic minority population in my constituency, I am sensitive to people's concerns. However, I am also convinced that the vast majority of my constituents supported the proposed measures to deal with the threat. The new powers would, I believe, have been used only in exceptional circumstances, where there was strong evidence and it was felt necessary for an early arrest to protect the public from terrorist attacks.
We never know how terrorists organise such activities. We know that they have the facilities in this country. Ours is a liberal country, which provides all sorts of protection, even to those who are engaged in such activities. We are dealing not with a catch-all situation, but with something that is designed with the new terrorist very much in mind. I believe that many human rights campaigners and civil libertarians take a naive view of the people with whom we are dealing. They wrongly charge the Home Secretary with trampling on their civil liberties.
The UK is a mature, democratic country. The measures that we have been discussing will take effect only where there is strong evidence. Law-abiding citizens not involved in terrorist activity will have nothing to worry about.
It must be emphasised that we are dealing with a completely new and dangerous situation. Terrorist and suicide bombers from across the world plan for long periods the mass murder of innocent civilians. Some Northern Ireland Members know what terrorists can do, how they organise and how much damage to the community they can cause. It is not ordinary crime where individuals are involved in murder, rape, robbery or fraud and where it is not necessary to detain suspects for a long period. When terrorism is involved and the lives of people are at risk, there is a need to detain suspects for a longer period to enable the police to investigate. When it is a well planned international conspiracy, we all know that al-Qaeda is involved.
Only yesterday a bomb exploded in Amman in Jordan. Obviously that is not the United Kingdom, so terrorists are active throughout the world. We must face the fact that terrorism is in this country. Terrorists have the motive and intention of killing as many people as possible—innocent ordinary men, women and children. We must understand that that is completely different from other forms of crime.
The security services and the police definitely need a longer period to detain and question terrorist suspects given the nature of their planning. I hope that 28 days will be enough, but I fear that it will not be—hence my support yesterday was for detention for 90 days.
Those opposed to 90-day detention are forgetting these clear facts and treat the Bill as if it deals with an ordinary situation. It is not only the civil liberties of those who are detained that are put at risk. In my opinion it is complete nonsense to suggest otherwise.
The Government have a responsibility to protect the civil liberties and human rights of citizens as they go about their lives, safe from the evil threats of terrorism, so we must act to give the police the extra power that they need. The Bill's opponents can celebrate today and in future over the defeat of the Government, but they will feel sorry when terrorists strike in our cities once again.
I think that the last remarks of Mr. Khabra were unworthy of him. We all hold him in great affection and we are all delighted that he escaped those terrorist attacks in 1980, not least in my case, because he affords me the rare privilege of following someone in the House who is older.
I say to him in a spirit of true friendship that if he reads the report of his speech he should reconsider some of the remarks that he made about those who voted in the opposite Lobby from him. Perhaps there were some hon. Members who were seeking to settle scores with the Prime Minister. I do not know, but it is possible. However, the vast majority of those who voted yesterday in an opposite sense to the hon. Gentleman did so because they genuinely had real concerns. It was not, as my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Clarke so eloquently put it, because they were soft on terrorism. All decent Members of Parliament—I believe that most of us are—are fundamentally opposed to terrorism. We all want to see our Government, and it is our Government—I am sorry that the Home Secretary is not present—uniting Parliament and the nation behind a series of coherent and sensible measures. But some of us felt that the measures contained in the Bill were not particularly coherent, and some of them had not been properly thought through.
I yield to no one in my admiration for the Prime Minister's personal courage. I do not always agree with him, but the Prime Minister has on many occasions demonstrated real political courage. He has also demonstrated on a number of occasions that he is capable of being the political leader of the nation. When he spoke on
I am not in any way impugning the integrity of the Prime Minister or his ability to rise to the occasion, but in this instance I do not think that he did entirely rise to the occasion. I say that for a number of reasons. First, although I do not doubt for a minute that he believed with passionate sincerity that 90 days was right, he did not do anything to convince a majority of the House that that was right. He rather acted on the "Alice in Wonderland" principle that if I say a thing three times, it must be true. He said it more than three times, but many of us were not entirely convinced that it was true.
Then there was that rather crude attempt—I absolve my own chief constable, because I received no letter from him—to persuade chief constables, in the apposite words of Mr. Carmichael, to act not as those who would brief, but as those who would lobby. That is not their function, important servants of the Crown though they are.
What I would like to have seen and what we did not have was a concerted attempt properly to brief Members in all parts of the House. Perhaps if we had been so briefed, more of us might have been convinced of the 90 days. The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall has been so convinced, and I do not doubt his sincerity.
No, I shall carry on, if I may.
Bill Etherington, who made an excellent and moving speech earlier, was not convinced. As between those two gentlemen, I do not believe there is one scintilla of difference as to their genuineness, their sincerity, their passionate support for their own political party or their desire to serve the nation, but they have come to different conclusions, and I honour them for that.
As I observed earlier, we sometimes get circular letters. I hope the Solicitor-General will make a note of this. If we had all had a letter from the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, telling us that there was real conviction and inviting us to briefings—there are precedents for that, such as before the beginning of the Iraq war—we could have gone to the Home Office or to rooms in Westminster Hall, and we could have been briefed. We could then have exercised our democratic duty in the House on the basis of information given to us. I do not know what conclusion I would have come to.
I suspect that I might have been on the Prime Minister's side because yesterday, by chance, I chaired the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs—two of its members are in the Chamber—and Sir Hugh Orde, whom I hold in high regard, gave evidence. Lady Hermon, who voted with the Government, asked the Chief Constable whether he believed that 90 days was justified. He gave a brief but passionate answer, which was so initially—I am choosing my words carefully—compelling that if I had spent an hour in his company, discussing the matter directly, I might have been convinced. I do not know.
However, I was not given such an opportunity. That applies to all Back Benchers because the cross-party talks were confined to the Front Benchers. I do not claim that there should not be talks between Front Benchers—of course there should. On such an issue, they are vital. But the vast majority of hon. Members do not sit on the Front Benches. Every hon. Member is equal in his or her vote—[Interruption]—and responsibilities, as my hon. Friend John Bercow reminds me, in an intervention that was untypically sotto voce. We should, therefore, have been treated equally.
When the Conservative party is in government, it is prepared to listen to police advice but when it is in opposition, and the police ask for 90 days for good reasons—to detain people who are involved in or planning terrorist activity—it does not. What is the difference? Why are Conservative Members unable to consider 90 days, even on the advice of the police?
There are some fundamental misunderstandings in the hon. Gentleman's question. First, the country has never had the benefit of my services in government—I infinitely regret that and the country is much the poorer for it—and I cannot therefore speak as a member of a Conservative Government. However, it is the duty of advisers to advise, the responsibility of those whom they advise to listen, and the obligation of those who are in executive government to present proposals to the House. It is for the House to determine the ultimate content of the legislation.
As I said earlier, much as I like the hon. Gentleman, he has been too narrow in his definitions and interpretations of yesterday. He has imputed party political motives to those who did not have them. On such an issue, many of us regard every vote as a free vote and would never be constrained by Whips to go into a Lobby if we did not agree. I can cite my frequent rebellions on Bosnia in the period of Conservative Government, when a few of us stood out because we believed that our Government were wrong. We all do those things. Just as I do not question the hon. Gentleman's passionate sincerity, he should not question mine or that of any other hon. Member. He, the hon. Member for Sunderland, North, my hon. and energetic Friend the Member for Buckingham, who is about to bounce up again, and I all go to our constituents, answer to them and ask them to send us back here. I know a bit more about that this year than do most hon. Members.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way; I certainly would not want to disappoint him by failing to bounce at the appropriate moment. In reinforcement of his argument on motivation, may I remind the House that my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Howard, the Leader of the Opposition, invited Conservative Members to support the Bill on Second Reading? I respected his motivation, but I disapproved of the advice and I rejected it. I voted against the Bill because I thought that it was wrong. It would be a good idea if Mr. Khabra took to heart the behaviour of the late Austrian economist and philosopher, Friedrich von Hayek. It is said that his view was that one should accuse someone only of intellectual error, and nothing worse.
I am almost tempted to quote Richter, the conductor, when he said to the third flute:
"Your damned nonsense I can stand twice or once, but sometimes always, by God, never!"
But, of course, my hon. Friend makes a good point.
To return to the point that I was making, I believe that we should have been better informed. The point was made yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe and me, and by Sir Robert Smith and others, that this debate has not been structured as it should have been. This has been treated as emergency legislation, but it is not. Emergency legislation—it is generally wrong; one has only to think of the legislation on dangerous dogs, or that enacted after the Omagh bombing—is introduced in the wake of a specific emergency and rushed through the House. There is a case for it in theory, even though it often does not work well in practice.
This however is not emergency legislation, and the constraints on the House at this juncture of this Parliament are not such that we could not have had considerably more time to debate the Bill. It might even have been better, within the allotted time scale, to have spent more time on Report and less on Third Reading. We should have been able to debate the definition of terrorism, but we did not. There were other matters that we should have been able to debate properly—including stop and search, on which a new clause had been tabled—but did not. Those issues must be debated. We have had quite a discussion today, following the welcome announcement of Lord Carlile's new responsibilities.
The definition of terrorism will have to be debated in the other place. I have a very high regard for the other place. Unlike my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe, I would leave it as it is; I would not muck it around. However, he and I unite in saying that, while it is as it is, it has a real function and a real responsibility, and they are very considerable in regard to this Bill. The Bill needs further significant amendment. There must be a tightening up of definitions, and further attention must be paid to the glorification concept—a misguided one, in my view, even though I understand the motives behind it. There must also be a further opportunity to consider the period of detention. I am not convinced that we have decided on the right period. The Home Secretary said that that issue would not be reopened, but it might well be, when the Bill reaches the other place. If it is, it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that any amendments made in the other place are properly and fully considered.
In a very spirited speech yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham referred to this Chamber as the "cockpit of parliamentary democracy", and he was right. Even though I attach enormous importance to Select Committees and other Committees, this is the most important part of both Houses of Parliament. In this Chamber, there should be adequate and almost unrestricted opportunity for full and lengthy debate on issues of great importance. In that 1970 Parliament in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe and I were new Members, I well remember how night after night we were kept up by the Labour Opposition, led by people such as Eric Heffer and John Mendelson, great orators in their day, on the Industrial Relations Bill. On the final day, as dawn broke, I remember a chorus of "The Red Flag" coming from the Opposition Lobby, as they felt that they had exercised their democratic responsibility. I am not advocating a return to those days, as current Labour Members would not know the words—
A little reminiscence illustrates, Madam Deputy Speaker.
This is a very important point. I am not advocating a return to those all-night sittings. What I am advocating is that Bills such as this should have more time. They should not be treated as emergency legislation when they should be the Government's considered response to an issue of great national importance. May I make a plea through the Solicitor-General that when we have amendments back from the other place, we should be given adequate time on the Floor of the House to debate those issues? It is crucial that that should be the case.
Let me end where I began. There is a real need for the House to be united in fighting terrorism. That real need, in my view, involves a recognition, in contradiction of a fundamental principle of English law, in a sense, that it is better that one person be detained wrongly than that a bomb go off in the underground. The legislation must be so structured, however, that the opportunity for the wrong person to be detained must be the minimum, and there must be a consensus in the House that we have got it right.
I will support the Bill tonight if there is a Division, and I am glad that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will do likewise. I am glad that the Liberal Democrats will not oppose it. I honour those who will do so, because I respect their motives. It is important, however, that as we search for consensus we do not just roll over, and that we always respect the honest, firmly held views, based on convictions, of those who might not agree with our beliefs and prejudices, of which we all have both.
I wish this Bill a safe passage, and I hope above all that when it finally goes on to the statute books it will be a much better Bill.
I have listened intently to a large amount of the debate on the Bill over the past few days and weeks. I am glad that I have the opportunity to raise a few issues today, and I will be brief.
In the early stages of the Bill's consideration, I had reservations about the Government's proposal for the pre-charge detention period of up to 90 days. I came to the opinion that there was significant movement by the Government in relation to issues surrounding the clause, brought about largely by the empowered discussion and knowledge of the House. In my mind, the proposal for seven-day judicial review by High Court judges, or by judges of the Court of Session in Scotland, and for defence representation at such hearings, addressed any sort of inappropriate use of the proposals. Having listened to much of the debate, however, I am left with the impression that our judiciary would have been unable to act in everyone's best interests in the face of a maximum 90-day detention period, which is not a view that I hold.
I think that the sunset clause would have provided a suitable way of determining whether the 90-day period worked in practice. It would have allowed both Houses to analyse its use and effect, establish the average number of detention days and then possibly suggest to the Government that the legislation should be adjusted to fit the actuality. I supported the 90-day period last night because I thought that the mechanisms were appropriate. Both police forces in my constituency, Central Scotland and Tayside police, confirmed to me that they agreed with the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland on the issue.
Did the hon. Gentleman speak directly to the chief constable of Tayside? If so, did the chief constable confirm his support for the 90-day period?
I did not speak to him directly, but I spoke to one of his staff officers, and was told that his position was the same as that outlined by the chief constable of Fife on behalf of ACPOS.
The police were happy with the proposal. They are the experts, and I will be guided by them. I believe that we should be guided by the experts—the police and the security forces—because they are charged with protecting our security, and because they risk criticism and condemnation if they fail to keep us safe should further terrorist atrocities occur.
I believe that new threats require new methods, and I believe that the current terrorist threat is new to our way of life. I am not convinced that, in its present form, the Bill deals adequately with the threat that we face. Much has been made of civil liberties and rights, but it has been largely one-way traffic. What about the human rights of people in this country not to be victims of terrorism—not to be maimed by suicide bombers, or killed by religious fanatics who want to destroy our very way of life?
There has been much discussion about the 110-day limit in Scotland, and a certain lack of knowledge has been displayed. As a Scottish Member, I remind the House that the 110 days relate to the period between the charge and the case being brought to court. It never was and never will be an additional 110-day period of detention before charge.
As we have heard, the pre-charge detention period would have been used only in exceptional circumstances. Today Members have mentioned five, 10, 15 and 20 people. In my view, those are low numbers. Indeed, I fear that 28 days will prove inadequate, and that something may happen that could have been avoided if the House had adopted "up to 90 days" yesterday.
If evidence is put before a High Court judge and is sufficient to warrant someone's detention, why is that evidence not sufficient for someone to be charged and remanded in custody?
We have had that discussion several times today and in earlier debates, and enough convincing arguments have already been made. I have spent only a short time in Parliament, but I want to say that this debate has impressed me most and that applies to both sides of the House. Despite my disappointment about the conclusion of last night's vote, I recognise the will of this democratically elected House. I simply hope that the media speculation in today's press and the words I have expressed today come to nothing.
It is hard to stand up against the tide of opinion in this country when it is ranged against us. It is also hard in the wake of the terrorist bombing not to react to that fear. However, I believe that the House is at its best when it keeps a cool head and does not abdicate its responsibilities. It was fear in the USA that got President Bush his second term in office.
I have to say that I took huge exception to the Prime Minister calling anyone who opposed his view "woefully complacent". We are not. Sadly, I have no doubt that terrorists will strike again or that they may be trying to do so as we speak, but I do not believe that the 90-day provision will be the critical factor in stopping them. During Prime Minister's questions, we were told that the Muslim community—the community that will be most vulnerable, I believe, at the sharp end of the new detention powers—did not want to be seen as standing against the Bill.
The Home Secretary challenged us to consult about the legislation in our constituencies, so I did. I consulted the secretary of the Wightman road mosque, which is just across the border in Tottenham, but serves Hornsey and Wood Green and Tottenham. I received a letter from that secretary, who is also secretary of the London Islamic Cultural Society. It reads:
Eid greetings to you and all your colleagues . . . I apologise for the delay in getting back to you in relation to the Anti Terror Bill currently being debated. Having discussed with quite a few members the general feeling/concern is:
We do not agree with increasing the detention period from 14 to 90 days. There is concern about the methods used to interrogate suspects"— the methods used in the past under terrorist laws. It continues:
"Many have been released without charge and are suffering mental health problems . . . these are innocent individuals. Even serial murderers have rights! We in the UK have been subjected to terrorism before where areas of the UK were bombed including MPs but at no time did the government find it necessary to bring in such radical laws . . . The Muslim community feel very vulnerable."
It continues by making it clear that "the general feeling" was that the Prime Minister was trying
"to undermine our civil rights and . . . this type of law is condemned by the UK and the US as being 'undemocratic' 'illegal' and 'inhumane' when adopted by other countries—but strangely when used by themselves it is 'protecting the country'. It reeks of double standards."
The letter continues:
"Lynne—please understand that we in no way agree with misguided individuals compromising our safety. No! This is totally unislamic, but you have to understand that our Muslim community are scared and concerned for the safety of their children and families. These laws prohibit even the law abiding families knowing what is happening to their loved ones"— or why they have been charged. It continues:
"Our worry is that the unfairness of the actions will give rise to more and more people feeling trapped, alienated, seeing the bias, feeling discriminated against".
I am not sure who the Prime Minister was talking about when he said that the Muslim community would not react against the proposals. The rest of the postbag on this issue has been a 50:50 split.
I want to tackle another aspect, as I understand that in Andy Hayman's letter—[Interruption.]
The hon. Lady referred to people not having rights in respect of getting information to and from their families. As I understand it, the Bill—[Interruption.] I should be grateful if Sir Robert Smith would be a little patient. As I understand the Bill, it confers absolute rights, which have been reinforced and are stronger than the rights of suspects under existing legislation. Did she not make her constituents aware of that point?—[Interruption.]
In his letter of explanation, Andy Hayman referred to the ricin incident that took place in my constituency. I was completely astonished at his using this as an example, because it was one of the most extraordinarily badly conducted operations that I have come across. I raised this issue publicly at the full meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority, at the full board of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, and with the chair of Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust. Had the substance in question been ricin, mass evacuation would have been necessary, but the Met did not inform the chief executive of Haringey council, the chair of the PCT or the fire chief until some 48 hours after making this discovery. I was told by a very highly placed source that the explanation for that delay was news management on the part of No. 10.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I was about to bring my remarks back into context.
One arrestee, who was released after only two days and left the country, could have been arrested under the Bill's provision on acts preparatory to terrorism, because a white substance was found. I was shocked to learn that the ricin incident was one of the arguments used in Andy Hayman's letter as evidence in favour of the 90-day provision. It is woefully inadequate.
The police do not always get it right. After five years' involvement with the Met police authority, I have become familiar with its way of arguing. It did not get it right when Mr. de Menezes was shot. It did not get it right with the evidence produced in respect of the Birmingham six, or the Guildford four. Even Sir Ian Blair got his information wrong after the shooting of Mr. de Menezes. We have yet to hear from the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
We now have the 28-day provision, but I hope that it is only a starting point as it is not good enough on its own. More safeguards are needed. There must be special checks and balances for the handful of cases that the Home Secretary refers to, so that only they are subject to the 28-day provision. God forbid that there is another terrorist attack, but my fear is that if there is, a greater number of people will be rounded up under this law.
One of the main arguments advanced was that more time is needed because of the complications associated with encryption. According to information that I received, it takes a police officer 12 hours to produce a report on a computer disc for senior supervising officers. If it takes 12 hours to analyse one computer disc to produce such a report, it is simply a question of providing sufficient resources.
The hon. Lady is right about encryption, but she has missed the point—as a number of Members have throughout our deliberations—that even an unencrypted 500 gigabytes disc of the type that I have in my own home would take many months for those not familiar with the content to go through. Therein lies the problem.
Therein lies the question of the training resource.
The experience in the House this week has been a sobering one. All in the House argued and fought for what they believed was right. I take exception to the implication by those on the Labour Benches that if one does not agree with 90 days, one does not take terrorism seriously.
May I first thank Mr. Carmichael? As a lifelong fan of Sunderland football club, I am over the moon to hear that anybody follows Sunderland because we are desperate for support wherever we can get it.
I welcome the concern and interest with which the Government have listened to the voice of public servants in this debate and the time and energy that they have put into letting us know what the police know. I hope that that bodes well for the future and that we listen to public servants and the organisations that represent them when we are dealing with health and education reforms.
No one is unaware of the importance of this legislation. Despite the long, sad history of terrorism that these islands have been subjected to over the past 35 years, we face a situation that, for many reasons that have been well rehearsed in this Chamber over the past few days, is unprecedented. I will not rehearse those reasons again. We have had masses of information—whether it has been good, bad or indifferent, we have had lots of it from many sources—particularly from those to whom we turn when we want them to look after us and our people. They believe that this unprecedented threat warrants draconian measures that have no parallel in any period of our history. We decided, in our wisdom, not to give them the powers that they sought, but whether we agree with 28 days, 90 days or something in between, we must not let the situation that we face prevent us from looking at this law in the same way as any other. We have to be convinced that although it might be right and proper to use strong measures to counter this very real threat, we have constructed the law so that it cannot be perverted or misused in future.
Earlier this week, I raised with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and with chief police officers—the personnel concerned with security in this country—the way in which most right-minded people viewed existing laws as being abused during the miners strike in 1984–85. At that time, police were using Road Traffic Acts and section 5 of the Public Order Act 1936 to halt miners at the Dartford tunnel and tell them that they were not allowed to travel the 200 miles to Nottingham, even though people were trying to enjoy their legal right to picket. We had exclusion orders given as bail conditions, which meant that miners were separated from their families and communities, sometimes for months on end. Perhaps most seriously of all, we saw the use of the Riot Act at Mansfield and Orgreave, out of which, ultimately, no cases were proven. The impact of the application of those laws had the desired effect sought by the Government of the day, who, after all, believed that the people concerned were the enemy within. Miners and their union were prevented from using their right to picket and convince others to support them; the misuse of those laws took them out of the game. We hope that these laws will not be used in that way.
I have been advised, and I accept, that the situation is not the same as in 1984. If the Bill had been tightly drawn, so that it could never be used against anyone other than those we are facing today, I would have felt more comfortable with the proposals right from the start. I also have to face up to the fact that our job is not just to prevent innocent people from being locked up; it is also to prevent innocent people from being blown up. Like everyone in the House, I hope that I do not have to visit a mother or father in the next few years and say, "I'm very sorry that your son or your daughter was locked up when they should not have been." Bad as that would be, surely it would be worse to go and see a mother and father and say, "Sorry your son, your daughter, has been blown up. That should not have happened and I might have been able to stop it."
That is the real challenge that has faced the House over the past month. We must face up to our responsibilities. I believe that hon. Members have acted in good faith and shown good judgment. My hon. Friend Bill Etherington is a good friend of mine, but he was also my leader and mentor for many years in my previous existence. I respect what he said today and I hope that he reciprocates my feelings.
I believe that we should have given the police the 90 days for which they asked. I accept that what we have given them represents an extraordinary step, and I look forward to the day when we are able to take it back because they do not need it any more. That day should be the real goal for all of us in the House.
I have listened to all sides of the argument. I took umbrage about the lack of respect shown to Gareth Peirce, but I have also listened to the Home Secretary and the police chiefs. As Sir Patrick Cormack said, some of us have had the privilege to listen to Sir Hugh Orde. It is pity that most hon. Members did not have the opportunity to do that, as I think that he is in a unique position to offer advice. We have to live with the version of Bill that we have arrived at, and I hope that the outcome will be positive.
I return to the lessons that we can learn from 1984. We can debate the rights and wrongs of what happened forever, but the actions of the Government at the time, and of the police and the judiciary, led to a massive feeling of disillusion in the mining communities. People came to mistrust the police, and many still do. In addition, 11,000 people were arrested in the dispute. Most were regarded as heroes in the mining communities. If the Bill causes the same thing to happen in Muslim communities, we will have a big problem. The Government therefore must make sure that the legislation is as tight as possible. It must be applied fairly, and it must not be abused.
The legislation must be monitored properly—that is vital. I am not sure what the impact of the sunset clause will be, but the law must be used very sparingly. It must be subject to the closest possible scrutiny and applied very tightly. We cannot return to what happened in 1984, when so much mistrust was caused. If that happens, the problems that we face could become a great deal worse.
This has been a challenging Bill for all of us in the House. Those of us who have sat through all its stages will know that it required us to dig deep into our consciences and reach a considered judgment on many serious issues.
I hope that the Government do not come to believe that they have been defeated. They have produced a Bill that will offer a considerable advantage in the war against terrorism. The one issue that has divided the House should not be allowed to cloud the overall impact of the Bill, much of which, in its amended form, will be of great value.
I want to touch on three issues. First, my colleagues and I will support the Third Reading of the Bill, even though we remain concerned about the question of glorification. Those proposals are drawn very widely and we are worried about some of the possible uses to which the clause may be put. We are also concerned that the Director of Public Prosecutions is the only safeguard against abuse of the provision. However, the overall benefit of the legislation is sufficient for us to set that concern to one side and perhaps to hope that the other place may be able to take some corrective measures.
We have been mindful throughout the process that this is a terrorist Bill. At every stage that has been at the forefront of my mind, particularly coming from where I do in Northern Ireland. The Province that I represent has suffered considerably over the past four decades. Members who represent Northern Ireland know better than most what the dangers of terrorism are and what the impact of various elements of legislation can be. Therefore, we approached the debate recognising that difficult decisions had to be taken and might not always be understood.
The second issue that I want to touch on is the need for the House to be united in the battle against terrorism. I can well understand that the Home Secretary is a little bruised today. He seems to be flaying around a little. However, I do not believe that the type of yah-boo politics, "I'm tougher against terrorism than you are" will advance us. Conservatives could argue that they suggested that intercept evidence should be taken into account, which would have toughened the legislation. If I wanted to get into yah-boo politics no doubt I would say that it ill became the Government to lecture the House about being tough on terrorism when, on the day of the Committee stage key vote, they introduced legislation to allow on-the-run terrorists in Northern Ireland to go through a farce of a judicial process to be freed. It does not help us to go down that road. It is far better that we all recognise that the House must be seen to be united in the battle against terrorism.
I certainly take it hard to hear the Home Secretary say that those of us who voted for 28 days are soft on terrorism. I entered politics because my friend was killed by terrorists. Few of my colleagues on this Bench have not been shot at or bombed. I have had two bombs sent to me and I have to have permanent police protection because of the danger from terrorism. Nobody in Northern Ireland would consider me to be soft on terrorists.
I come from a party that was opposed to internment. Because we are regarded as at least a centre right party, most people would have expected us to support internment. We opposed it and we were right to do so. We saw the effects that it had in Northern Ireland. I am not saying that the 90 days would have been in effect internment, but there were similar features. The impact on the nationalist community at first, and within sections of the Unionist community later when people were picked up, held for long periods and ultimately released, undoubtedly aided those who wanted to stir up the anger of the community against the state. There is no inconsistency in our position that we were opposed to internment.
From Second Reading, we made it clear to the Home Secretary that we were convinced from the evidence from chief constables and others that he had a case to increase the detention period beyond the existing 14 days, but we were not at that stage convinced that he had made a case to extend it to 90 days. We supported the Government on Second Reading to give the Home Secretary the opportunity to convince us and, frankly, we were open to be convinced. In our own discussions we felt that there certainly was a case to extend the period to 28 days. We were even minded to go as far as 60 days, but no case suggested to us that 90 days was the appropriate length of time. I do not say—and I hope that no one will suggest—that 90 days was right or wrong, or that 28 days is right or wrong. It was a judgment call; it is not an exact science. There are advantages to 90 days and advantages to 28 days, as well as disadvantages to both.
The overall balance that we struck recognised the dangers involved in a very long period of detention, not simply because the evidence produced in a court might be rejected because of the length of time for which an individual had been examined, but because of the injustices that could be caused as a result, especially for those who might be considered vulnerable. I am reminded of the case that is known in Northern Ireland as the UDR Four. Serving soldiers were charged and convicted of murder. They were later brought before an appeal court and three of them were released, because the convictions were unsafe. The case did not involve individuals who would have felt strange in the company of police officers or unaccustomed to the pressures of the examination to which they were subjected. However, after a period of detention, they made confessions because of the strain of the examination by the police. If that was possible under existing terror laws in Northern Ireland, it would certainly be possible during detention for 90 days. The problem is not only that the courts would find it difficult to rely on such evidence, but the injustice that might arise as a result.
Like Mr. Anderson, I think that many people would say that we should have a heavy heart if someone were detained for 90 days and then released without charge, because they would feel a sense of injustice. We would have even heavier hearts if allowing detention for 90 days would have prevented a terrorist act from taking place. However, that argument could be advanced for 120 days, 360 days or beyond and that is why we had to make a judgment.
Our view was that if the police could not come up with at least a holding charge within the time frame that my party was prepared to allow of between 28 and 60 days, it was unlikely that they would be able to produce a more substantive charge by the end of 90 days. The decision that has been reached is the best in the circumstances. The House has settled its mind on the issue and I trust that we can bind the wounds that divided us and move forward, united, in the battle against terrorism.
I must start by returning, in the nicest possible way, the gold cup for loyalty that John Bercow awarded to me earlier after some of my interventions, because I do not believe that the Bill is perfect. It certainly was not perfect in the form in which I first saw it in the middle of September and I still have concerns about it.
I share the concerns of Mr. Carmichael about clauses 6 and 8 and those of Mr. Grieve about clause 6 especially. The aspect that jumped out at me was the definition of training for terrorism. In the United States, people who had trained the 9/11 bombers had suspicions that the training would be used for nefarious purposes and had alerted the police, although the intelligence was not acted on. Under the Bill, however, they would be guilty of knowing or suspecting if they continued to give that training.
As a former academic, I also have concerns about my colleagues in education and higher education who may feel inhibited about teaching microbiology, chemistry or other things to students. Their academic freedom might be compromised by a disaffected student or, as is often the case in higher education, an envious colleague who might bring a malicious case against them.
I am also concerned about what would happen to the people held under the provisions. They will clearly be held not in police facilities but in high-security prisons. I have visited the high-security category A prison in my constituency and seen the conditions in which high-security prisoners are kept. I would not wish that on anyone for any length of time.
The debate has focused on the nature of the threat that we feel, but we need to return to the basic facts of the Bill.
I listened carefully to the hon. Lady's point about academics. Does she agree that it must be possible to devise a provision that gives adequate protection for those in teaching who distribute such literature, rather than leaving them with no protection in law?
We shall have to wait to see what comes back from the other place. I am disappointed that such a provision was not drafted in this place, but I realise that people may have had other things on their minds.
I share the interest of my hon. Friend Mr. Anderson in the transformation of the Conservative party from a party that brought in the Riot Act, and used the law to hamper civil liberties, to a party of defenders of civil rights. I have listened carefully to debates on the measure over recent weeks, especially during the last few days. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and I want to return to the pre-eminent right, which must be protected above all rights: article 2 of the European convention on human rights states:
"Everyone's right to life should be protected by law."
It places an absolute duty on the state to protect life, but yesterday I heard nothing about that from David Davis; yet from that right, all other rights flow. Article 5 states that everyone has the right to liberty and security of the person, but there are exceptions. To protect the 61 million people who live on these islands, we must ensure that the rights are balanced.
Mr. Clarke is no longer in the Chamber. I am sorry that he cannot hear me say that I agree with him: terrorism is not new. I grew up in Coventry in the 1970s and 1980s. My parents were Irish—my mother from the north, my father from the south. We were part of a Catholic community. Our parish priest was imprisoned for making bombs. It is uncomfortable to be part of a community under suspicion. Fights broke out on the assembly line at British Leyland in Birmingham when people argued about the issues. Irish people were accused of being terrorists simply because of their accent. Unfortunately, in those days, people were accused and locked up because the police judged them simply on the basis of their accents. That is simply not the case now. I am glad to say that policing has moved on in the past 20 years, and we must move forward and deal with new times, new terrorism, new techniques and find new strategies to deal with the new threats that we face.
I voted yesterday for 90 days. I serve on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and I have listened for an hour to Peter Clarke, who is the assistant commissioner for terrorism at Scotland Yard. I recommend the evidence that he gave to our Committee to Sir Patrick Cormack because it is illuminating. He says that one constant difficulty relates to the fact that hon. Members have been asking, "What is the one reason for 90 days?" We asked the police that, and the problem is that no one thing points to 90 days. The problem is complicated and difficult. There are many different strands and a tiny number of cases, which are currently sub judice, that could help the police in guiding us to a better conclusion.
I will not give way, because three more hon. Members want to speak and the debate has a time scale.
I sometimes feel that we have forgotten the nature and scale of what we are dealing with. I feel that there is a Pollyanna optimism that everything will turn out well, or a sort of defeatism that says that we have had terrorism before and we will have it in the future. I do not want to go back to Wakefield and tell people that I did not do my best to stop terrorism. I am an optimist, too. I believe in the potential of human beings, but in dealing with terrorists, we should hope for the best but plan for the worst. I passionately hope that, when we hold a debate under the review clause in a year's time, we will not regret the results of yesterday's vote.
Mr. Robinson was right when he said that we should be united in the fight against terrorism. I agree wholeheartedly with that. I have listened to many of the contributions throughout the process and I am convinced by the sincerity of every person in his or her own way in wanting to challenge this difficult problem. It is telling that the Democratic Unionist, Liberal and Conservative spokesmen have suggested that, if the motion is pushed to a vote, they will either back the Government or abstain. We in the Scottish National party would support the Government on Third Reading in the unlikely event of a vote this evening.
There is much to commend the Bill, particularly in its amended form. The provisions on acts preparatory to terrorism are helpful and those on attendance at a training facility are necessary, notwithstanding the possible lack of a defence in certain highly unusual but possible circumstances. The adherence to the international conventions is also very useful. I welcome the confirmation that we were given in previous debates that trespass at atomic facilities will be dealt with under serious crime legislation and that such charges would not necessarily involve terrorist offences, unless there was terrorist intent. That was a useful assurance to tease out of the Government.
I welcome the Home Secretary's comments yesterday that he would agree to consider post-charge questioning, although from everything that we have heard from Mr. Clarke and other Members, that issue seems less difficult than many of us imagined. I welcome the sunset clause and the review, although I hope that the Minister will take on board the view that any amendment in another place should be very much in line with the sunset clause that the House voted for yesterday.
As I said yesterday, I welcome the changes in the provisions on intent and recklessness, notwithstanding the possible wrong definition. I hope that the Government will take that on board. If Mr. Grieve is right, it would be ludicrous to throw out the amendment to the recklessness test. I welcome the tightening to ensure that encouragement must be addressed to individuals and that it must be shown that they have gained benefit from it. I have also said that previously.
I am very pleased indeed about the confirmation that we appeared to receive that those subject to extended pre-charge detention of between 14 and 28 days will be entitled to legal representation and, presumably, at least some indication of the likely charge that they may face. That seems to be a huge safeguard in the extended pre-charge detention period, and I very much welcome that.
Of course, we had the heat, froth and fallout in the newspapers about the pre-charge detention period. I hope that the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety will respond positively to this point. Many people wanted a period of 14 days on a point of principle, but were prepared to move to 28 days. Hon. Members on these Benches chose the provision for 28 days on a point of principle because it doubled the length of time allowed, which we thought was adequate. I hope that she will realise that there was a rationale for choosing 28 days. We believed that that time period did not breach the right against arbitrary detention. We also thought that evidence obtained prior to the end of the 28-day period would be admissible in a court of law, but that evidence garnered thereafter might not be. Given the Home Secretary's absence, I hope that the Minister will be more generous than he was earlier by accepting that those of us who chose 28 days on a point of principle did so for good reasons, not for some of the nefarious reasons that he perhaps tetchily mentioned earlier.
When the Bill returns to the House after amendment elsewhere, may I suggest that serious consideration is given to allowing provisions on phone tap evidence to be included, notwithstanding some of the difficulties that that might cause the Government? It is not legislation itself, nor even the unity of purpose of the Commons, that will defeat terrorism, but additional resources for the intelligence community, as we have consistently said. Although it is slightly off the remit of the Bill, I hope that the Minister will turn her attention to that in her reply.
The House has arrived at a settled position, so it is now our responsibility to make the Bill work. I assume that the other place will revise the Bill, rather than transform it.
I want to consider the advice that we should give to the police on the rare occasions when a person has been detained for 27 days and not yet charged. I believe the police and the security forces when they say that they are working actively to prevent and deter terrorist attacks on our soil. I understand why they say that they intervene sooner rather than later. We have heard a lot about how the police can get things wrong, but if they get this wrong, the results could be catastrophic, which is why they require time for investigation. We know that delays to an investigation could be caused by the decrypting of computer evidence, inquiries overseas and the tracing of records on the multiple use of pay-as-you-go mobile phones. The police need reasonable suspicion to arrest people, but admissible evidence to charge them. By the end of 28 days, the police will have to decide whether to charge or release. The House must advise them that, if they have not finished their inquiries and do not have admissible evidence, they must release.
Some people hope that the police will charge people with other offences instead. Liberal Democrat Members say that the police could charge a suspect with a lesser terrorist offence. However, the police advise us that they will not have reached the point at which they can decide to charge because they will not have the evidence to charge a person with a terrorist offence at all.
Some people have suggested that, if a person is charged with terrorism and must thus be put before a court, the court would of course refuse bail. However, the Hayman briefing note points out that a terrorist was granted bail and left the country, but the police subsequently believed that he was a prime conspirator, so that assertion does not help us. Conservative Members have said that a person could be charged for other reasons, such as not giving the decryption key to the police. However, that would mean that the person would have the right to attempt to get bail, which would interfere with questioning after charge.
If we have to change the law to allow people to be questioned after charge and to stop them being granted bail, but if no one says for how much longer after 28 days such questioning may go on, we will end up in the same position as we would have reached under the Government's proposal. However, we would have done more damage to our system and given more ammunition to those who are against us and say through their propaganda that the police make trumped-up charges, keep people in and question them until they get their evidence.
The Government say that the main provisions of the Bill are necessary. As William Pitt said as long ago as 1783:
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
The debate has, on the whole, taken place in a good-tempered and sometimes even convivial fashion, so let me be clear: I do not suggest for one moment that the Prime Minister is a tyrant. I think he is a patriot and, as my hon. Friend Sir Patrick Cormack said, a person of remarkable qualities and courage. I think that sometimes he is right. I happen to think on this occasion that he is wrong. It is a question of an honest difference of opinion—a concept that I hope the Government and their Back Benchers would be prepared to recognise.
Specifically, the kernel of my objection to the Bill in its current form—as it was my objection on Second Reading—is that it contains too broad a range of powers, which are too vaguely defined and threaten too much damage, in return for too little benefit. I want to focus on a couple of the arguments that the Government have advanced in support of it. Neither of them strikes me as compelling.
One argument is to say that the public want it. That, frankly, will not do. As my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Clarke argued in a powerful contribution, we cannot reduce ourselves to a situation in which we accept that legislation should be formulated, defended and passed on the basis of survey research or an opinion poll. I argue—I think legitimately so—that we should heed the words of Edmund Burke who, in his letter to the electors of Bristol in 1774, said that he was their Member of Parliament and representative, and in that capacity he owed them not merely his industry, but his judgment, and he betrayed, instead of serving them, if he sacrificed his judgment to their opinion.
We must be prepared to look at the merits of the case. If we are not robust enough emotionally and intellectually to withstand the rather downmarket, low-grade and substandard attacks on us that will emanate from the veritable organ of public opinion, The Sun newspaper, we should not be in this place. I want to argue the case on its merits.
The second argument that the Government advance, to which we have to pay significant attention, but which I do not regard as conclusive, is that the police tell us that the power is necessary. I was concerned by the argument of Gordon Banks, who said that he was guided by that argument because we have to listen to the experts. We have a responsibility to listen to, but not be overwhelmingly persuaded by, the experts' view. That is especially so if we are not told of the evidential basis for that view. The argument, "The police say it's necessary, and that's good enough for me", may be good enough for some hon. Members, but it is not good enough for me.
I want to know the evidential case for an extension of the period of detention without charge from 14 days to 28 days. I am still not convinced that there is such a case. I certainly should want to be persuaded that there was a compelling evidential case for 90 days. It is my view that there is a better way forward. Intercept evidence should be admissible in court proceedings. I fear that the Home Office is against that because, were the policy adopted, it would require warrants to be issued on the basis of a decision by a judge and not simply on the say-so of a junior Home Office Minister. Nevertheless, it is the right course of action and the Government should adopt it.
Moreover, there is a better approach. If the security services cannot manage—it is a difficult process because they would have to download computer files, de-encrypt and study the detail—let us have a massive increase in the investment in the personnel, resources and training that are required to enable the police and intelligence services to do their job. I am sad that that argument was not properly explored before the Government contemplated and advocated the abandonment of an historic liberty of the British people. If, in blindfold pursuit of enhanced security, we sacrifice precious liberty we shall end up with neither enhanced security nor precious liberty. That would be a tragedy. I respect the Government's integrity. I believe that they are motivated by the highest considerations of national protection and public service, but I honestly believe that they are wrong.
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend John Bercow. I was particularly interested in the comments that he made about the attempt to reintroduce intercept evidence. It is worth pointing out that within the past few days the Australian Government have avoided a serious attack—we assume by Islamist fundamentalists. There was excellent intelligence work, excellent intelligence gathering and excellent police work. Yet that Government are now wrangling over whether they should extend their period of detention up to that huge limit of 14 days.
We have had some very interesting and helpful speeches from hon. Members on both sides of the Floor. One of the best speeches came from Bill Etherington, who touched with great principle on a number of subjects, not least internment. Mr. Anderson spoke equally well but from a different point of view. The hon. Members for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) and for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone) talked of matters of high principle. Those speeches sit in stark contrast with that of Mr. Khabra, who made a rather bitter speech that impugned many people's intentions and many people's honour within the House.
One of the most moving speeches was from Mr. Robinson. He began by talking about the need to get through and beyond and to grow up from yah-boo politics. He, too, mentioned the juxtaposition of internment as opposed to 28 days and 90 days. He spoke also, movingly, about the need for the House to combine across the parties in the fight against terrorism. The comments of my hon. Friend Sir Patrick Cormack were particularly helpful and illuminating. I agree with him that it does not seem that the Bill falls within the category of emergency legislation. I will deal in more detail with the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Clarke in a moment.
I thought that the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkland—[Interruption.] I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, I was referring to Michael Connarty. The Falklands are a long way from home. I am sure that his constituents will not be grateful for that slip. The hon. Gentleman made an interesting series of points but failed to look outside the fact that the Bill should go much further than it attempts to do at present.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe made that point exactly correctly when he talked about the terrorists' aim to produce an overreaction inside this country. Mr. Carmichael touched cleverly on that. He made the point that longer detention gives a greater possibility of evidence being obtained under duress. That is certainly something of which I have personal experience. I shall return to that.
The speeches that started the debate need to be examined in a little more detail. The Home Secretary started with the theme of internment. Whether one uses the term or whether, like the hon. Member for Belfast, East, one merely touches on it as having parallels with the problems in Northern Ireland, the one thing that convinced me of the need to go no further than 28 days was my experience of internment in Northern Ireland. I suspect the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality would disagree, and he is welcome to do so, but there are parallels. There are similarities and dissimilarities. In a number of arrests that I carried out, people said to me, "I have never lifted a hand against the Crown forces. Yes, I am a nationalist. Yes, I am even a republican. But the thing that persuaded me and persuaded others was my unlawful detention for a long and unnecessary period." I cannot help but feel that, as a number of right hon. and hon. Members said today, if we introduce a period greater than 28 days—I am unhappy even with that—we are in grave danger of producing discontented people who will go back to the communities from which they came and spread the word of resentment against the Government.
Interestingly, my hon. Friend Dr. Lewis, in an intervention, spoke about the charge of sedition and why that has not been used. My hon. Friend Mr. Grieve, who has done such a brilliant job of leading on the Bill through all its stages, dealt in some depth with the nonsense of glorification and indirect incitement. He posed the question why no preachers of hate have been charged under current legislation. He went on to speak about the definition of terrorism and about the Government's vacillation, which has done them no favours over the past 10 days or so.
If the House is to continue to consider only legislation, we would do well to concentrate on the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe who spoke of the Bill as mere gesture. We must get right the period of detention that we impose on our citizens before they are charged, but if the Bill really were emergency legislation, it should have been dealt with immediately after the attacks in July. We made that offer to the Government at the time. I fail to understand why we spend so much time concentrating on legislation which, after all, will not deter a terrorist from carrying out the new form of terrorism, about which we have heard so much today. If the Bill were not merely a gesture, we would have considered the concrete measures needed to protect our people and physically stop such attacks happening again.
I regret that the Government have changed their position several times. I thought last week that the Home Secretary would reach some accommodation with us that allowed the whole House to go forward together. Sadly, I believe that the Prime Minister changed the Home Secretary's mind. That has weakened the Government's position, both in their own eyes and in the eyes of the public. I also very much regret the way the Association of Chief Police Officers has been used to make political points and, to borrow the words of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, to lobby and not to brief. Those are powerful words.
We will support the Bill. Nevertheless, I am grateful to Opposition and Government Members for making it a very much more sensible and reasonable Bill, which I hope will stand us in good stead in the future.
This has been a good debate and I am grateful to all hon. Members who have taken part. Although our audience is a little depleted compared with yesterday, some important issues have been raised. The Bill has had a fairly eventful passage through the House. Patrick Mercer asked why we did not introduce it in the immediate aftermath of the events of
The Bill is the better for having had that scrutiny. I cannot say that I am entirely happy with all the changes that have been made to it, but in some respects genuine amendments have been made which help to strengthen it. Everybody is, therefore, engaged in a fairly sensible debate in the main and we will see what happens when the Bill returns from the other place.
All I say to Members of the other place is that the major issues have been debated at length here and Members of this Chamber have voted on many of them. I want Members of the other place to take note of the fact that we are considering issues of national security—the safety of our nation—and it is therefore right and proper that the elected Chamber take a view. I ask them to take the issues on which we have voted extremely seriously.
I asked Mr. Grieve whether he could find it in his heart to acknowledge that clause 1 was better now than in its original form. He said that it was worded slightly better. I regard that as a major concession from the Opposition Front Bench and I am delighted about that.
Perhaps he has, eventually, after a great deal of discussion.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman finds the concept of glorification distasteful; I find people who indulge in glorification more than distasteful—they are a genuine and serious threat to the security of the nation. We will have to disagree on that basis.
I am grateful to Mr. Carmichael for his support for various aspects of the Bill. He made several points, including one about the threshold test. David Howarth has raised that matter on several occasions. It is slightly lower than the evidential test in terms of what the prosecutor looks to bring. He suggested that charging on the basis of the threshold test rather than the evidential test would be an easy alternative to a lengthier pre-detention period. I am not sure whether he knows that, if one charges on the basis of the threshold test, one must get the evidence to fulfil the evidential test within one or two days of choosing to charge on the threshold test. It is not the panacea or solution that he suggests.
I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene but I have only a few minutes and I want to deal with as many points as I can. I simply wanted to ensure that he was aware of the details.
Many hon. Members have asked whether post-charge questioning could be a useful additional tool in minimising the period of detention or even obviate the need for extending periods of detention. It would not fulfil the latter aim. If anything, post-charge questioning would be an additional tool, but it would not mean that all our problems with lengthier investigations had gone away. When it is in the interests of justice for detainees to have put to them—and have an opportunity to comment on—information about the offence that has come to light since they were charged or informed that they might be prosecuted, one can question post charge, but the defendant must agree to be interviewed. No hon. Members mentioned that fairly large caveat to post-charge questioning.
I am reluctant to give way. The hon. Gentleman spoke for half an hour at the beginning of the debate and it is therefore only fair to allow me to respond to the issues that have been raised.
I want to comment on the paper from Andy Hayman. John Bercow said, in a very fair contribution, that he was simply not convinced of the case. We must agree to differ on that. However, he said that the evidential case contained insufficient information to convince him. In the cases that Andy Hayman outlined, it is difficult to specify 90 days rather than 89, 91, 84 or 92. I ask hon. Members not to fixate on that.
The police said that, in the circumstances that we are considering, their best professional advice was that an extended period of detention to 90 days in a small minority of cases, and subject to extensive judicial scrutiny, would give them the powers that they believed were necessary to conduct their investigations, bring the proper charges and have a better chance of bringing a successful prosecution.
In one of the cases—a genuine case, which is sub judice so we cannot go into many details—that Andy Hayman outlined, he said that police were unable to put many key pieces of evidence to the suspects after the 14 days had expired. They could not put them to the suspects in an interview because they were not discovered until after the detention period had elapsed. If one cannot put the evidence to the person who is the subject of the charge, one cannot get an explanation of the circumstances of the evidence and, when one gets to trial, the evidence is much weaker. I presume that the hon. Gentleman has read Andy Hayman's paper in great detail, because he is the kind of Member who would. That paper contains a series of examples that have, in some cases, perhaps been brushed aside too lightly.
My hon. Friend Mr. Anderson made an excellent contribution, and I am very grateful for his support. I know from our correspondence that he has genuinely struggled with these issues, and with the question of how to strike the right balance. I am pleased to have been able to write to him and other hon. Members to set out the position with regard to industrial disputes, and to give them the reassurance that these powers are to be used only in the case of terrorism, and not in the case of legitimate protest. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the way in which he raised those issues. He struggled with them, he came to a decision, and I am delighted that he supported us.
My hon. Friend Michael Connarty—his constituency is slightly closer to home than the Falklands—raised important issues. I was pleased that he supported us. I want to reassure him that, in regard to the recklessness test, there will have to be a realistic prospect of conviction, and it will have to be in the public interest. It would not be in the public interest to prosecute people who were perfectly innocent and who could have failed to appreciate the effect of their statements. My hon. Friend made the important point that perhaps we have become a bit too fixated on the length of time for detention, rather than concentrating on the process. He said that he would have been happy with 90 days, if not longer, provided that he was reassured about the scrutiny process. I was interested in the way in which he put that argument. He asked for an assurance that 28 days would not be the norm, and that it would be a maximum. I am happy to give him that assurance. That provision will be subject to regular review.
My hon. Friend Mary Creagh made an excellent speech, in which she clearly showed that she will not be the recipient of the gold challenge cup for Blairite loyalism, and that she is an active, intelligent—[Interruption.] No, I have not won it either. I have the ultra-loyalist cup for being a member of a Labour Government. My hon. Friend is an active, engaged Member who has taken these issues extremely seriously. She raised important issues about safeguards for university lecturers and librarians. The Bill does contain safeguards, but I have no doubt that she will continue to follow up that issue. Her passionate advocacy of the rights of her constituents was greatly appreciated.
I welcome the support of my hon. Friend Gordon Banks, and the way in which he expressed his sincere concern for the security of his constituents. My hon. Friend Mr. Khabra also supported the Bill, and emphasised the new complexity and the evils of terrorism that we face. My hon. Friend Mr. Kidney gave a clear and cogent explanation of the difficulties of obtaining evidence, which brought something extra to the debate. I was also grateful for his expertise in challenging Liberal Democrat Members on the question of detention.
Mr. Robinson made a very moving speech in which he set out some of the difficulties that we have grappled with, and recognised the integrity of all the parties. Stewart Hosie welcomed the changes that have been made to the Bill. I am happy to reassure him about the massive extra investment that we have put into the security services to strengthen our intelligence capacity and capability. He mentioned intercept evidence, and we will continue to keep that matter under review, as I know that it is of concern right across the House.
Mr. Clarke again raised some of the issues that he raised yesterday. I can reassure him that this is not about gesture politics. The measure on offences preparatory to terrorism is really important. On direct and indirect incitement, we do not have indirect incitement on the statute book at the moment. Also, there are differences between the terrorism that faces us now and the terrorism that we have faced in the past. Certainly the emergence of suicide bombers is something that we have not seen in the past, and it presents a real challenge for us to deal with.
Sir Patrick Cormack asked for further information and briefing. As I have said, I think that the papers provided by Andy Hayman were extremely useful—
Question agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.