Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Orders of the Day — Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:53 pm on 10th July 2007.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office 4:53 pm, 10th July 2007

I beg to move,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 11th June, be approved.

I want to make two points at the outset. First, Members will know that as a result of our deliberations on the Terrorism Act 2006 a compromise position was reached, whereby section 25 was inserted so that there was something to go back to, given the agreed premise that we annually review the 28-day period, which is rather complicated in terms of the law. Secondly, Members will understand that my right hon. Friend John Reid, the then Home Secretary, announced on 7 June that a terrorism Bill would be introduced in the autumn and that we are keen to consult on the 28-day issue. I shall ensure that the consultation paper we want to circulate on that issue is put into the public domain for all interested parties before the summer recess. When we say that we want full consultation, that is absolutely what we mean. I realise the House will say that it is for us to prove that we are serious about consultation and I entirely accept that point—unfair and misguided though it may be—but we are very serious.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The Minister says that he will consult on 28 days. Does he actually mean that he will propose a 90-day detention period and that he wants to consult on that?

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

No, with the greatest respect, I do not in the sense that I think it fair and reasonable to start from the premise that we will not suggest going from 28 days back down to 14 days, for reasons that I will come on to. However, the consultation period will include an array of options—the status quo and beyond 28 days—but things are not as simple as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests: simply keeping 28 days, or going back to the debate on 90 days.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC (as Leader of the Commons)), Leader of the House of Commons

Will one of the options that the Minister presents allow the results of interrogation after charge to be admissible evidence in court more regularly?

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

The strict response to my hon. Friend's question is no in the context of the consultation on 28 days, but he will remember that, when we announced that a subsequent Bill would be introduced in November—I suspect, post-Queen's Speech, but that is a matter for business managers—one of the other elements in that Bill was post-charge questioning. So his point about post-charge questioning will certainly be part of the broader review of and consultation on the Bill.

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Several hon. Members:

rose —

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

I will defer to the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman in the first instance, but I will certainly allow other hon. Members to intervene.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I am grateful to the Minister for his comments, because he will appreciate that these two issues have a very clear linkage. One of the arguments in favour of the extension from 14 to 28 days, which we are renewing today, has been the length of time needed to question. Indeed, if post-charge questioning were introduced, it would clearly be at least an argument to be put in the balance when considering either whether the 28-day provision had to be extended, for which there is no evidence at the moment, or indeed whether the period should be reduced. Of course, the reason we are having this debate is that, subject to the order, the detention period is, in fact, 14 days.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

That is an entirely fair point, but I would go further and say that I take the legitimacy of the point that how post-charge questioning relates to 28 or 14 days is important, which is why we will go down the suggested route of a Privy Council review of intercept evidence. How pre-charge detention for 28 days or otherwise, intercept evidence and post-charge questioning interplay is, again, a factor that needs to be taken account of in the consultation. Indeed, as we have made clear in the past, the raft of legislation about acts preparatory to terrorism will equally come into play as well. It is incumbent on the whole House to consider how all those elements hang together. So, in the broad sense, I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

The Home Affairs Committee unanimously found recently that there was no justification to extend the 28-day provision, but will my hon. Friend also bear very much in mind the fact that in recognition of the acute terrorist threat that we face—no one is likely to dispute that—both Houses agreed to 14 days without any Division whatsoever? Likewise, the increase to 28 days carried in this House was also carried in the Lords—again, without any Division. We have a consensus—28 days—and we should retain it unless there is compelling evidence that there is a justification to go beyond it.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

That is an accurate reflection of what has gone before in respect of the 14 and 28-day provisions and a perfectly fair viewpoint, as I would expect from my hon. Friend, on going beyond 28 days. It is the job of myself and other Ministers to try to persuade people, if we come to this view, that we need to go beyond 28 days. It is certainly incumbent on the House to treat the matter very seriously in all respects, as I know that it will, but I would question in part my hon. Friend's point about substantial evidence. By its very nature, the only evidence that we have is of the rather limited period—the past year or so—when the 28-day provision has been in action and what we learn every time an alleged plot is disrupted. Given the traditional understanding of the word "evidence", I am not sure whether it is useful in that respect.

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Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

Will the Minister confirm that the current 28-day period is likely to be extant until such time as further evidence is adduced? He seems to suggest that we might simply move to 90 days, almost as some sort of safety net. There is no evidence for that. Will he reassure me on that?

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

On the hon. Gentleman's latter point, I am not suggesting that. On his former point, I do not want to pre-empt what the House does with the order. If the House does not pass the order today, 28 days cannot be extant, because we will be back to 14 days. I apologise if I have not made myself clear. We think that, at the very least, the case has been made. Certainly the alleged plots since that time have substantiated the position on 28 days. We need to take a collective view, hopefully based on consensus, on whether, in utter extremis—I know that we use 28 days in extremis—there should be some way of going beyond 28 days when required.

There are currently six cases that went to full term in relation to the 28-day period. I will come on to discuss that in some detail. In three cases there were subsequent charges; in three there were not. This relates partly to my clumsy point about evidence. The issue is as much about looking at where we are going over the next couple of years, in terms of the threat, as it is about assessing where we have come from. That is why I do not like the use of the word "evidence" in that narrow literal sense. I am not saying—in a hidden way or otherwise—that it is all about 90 days at this stage and the consultation is a big cover for that. We want a serious and sustained consultation on whether 28 days will suffice, whether we need some sort of mechanism portal, or whatever else, to go beyond that in extremis, as I said to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, or whether we need to settle on something beyond 28 days, which may or may not be the 90-day limit that was discussed at the time.

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Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

The difficulty that we face in the House is that, in a free society, if we agree to changes in the law, they must not only be justified—they must be supported by people who are democrats and who want to live in a free society. If we accept restrictions that, in themselves, do the job of the terrorists, we may be playing the wrong game. I hope that the Minister will not get too hung up on the suggestion that there is no evidence. Many of us feel that if we are to combat this terror, we have to look at the situation far more widely and intelligence has to be important. It is not just a question of what we do when we have people in custody.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

I absolutely accept my hon. Friend's point and not least her argument that we need to look far beyond this order—whether we have 14 days or 28 days—and consider matters in the widest context, including legislation, intelligence and all other areas, in terms of how we go forwards. I also accept her point that our starting premise must be what we all accept and agree is normality in terms of the rule of law and the statutes that govern this country. We depart from that certainly not in haste, or at leisure, but only in extremis and in very difficult and daunting circumstances.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

On pre-trial detention without charge, my objection has never been to the motives of Ministers, but rather to the draconian measure that I believe they have proposed. I understand why the hon. Gentleman is quizzical about the term "evidence", but he said himself that he would need to persuade the House. I put it to him that he would at least need to show some very clear disbenefit to the country, constituting some sort of threat to our security, in the absence of the extension he favours, if he were to persuade us. One way in which he might proceed would be to agree to provide Privy Council briefings to Privy Councillors—I would not benefit because I am not a Privy Councillor, but many are and would—as an earnest of good intent and of collective approaches by the Government.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

I am not one either, so that is at least something I share with the hon. Gentleman. He makes a fair point. As I have said, what we want to do, in terms of putting the documents out before the summer, is have the widest possible audience, rather than doing that on Privy Councillor terms. We can get a view that is part evidence-based, part speculation, and partly based on making some assumptions, to the extent that we can, about the nature of the threat that is to come. We cannot be trapped in a dimension that says we are fighting the threat that we knew a year ago, or two or three years ago. The situation is finely balanced. That is why, in part, I hesitate about "evidence" meaning things clearly one way or the other. Invariably, in the course of our discussions, there will at least in part be some speculation when it comes to where, taking into account the services, the police and all other opinions, we think that the likely threat will be. That is my only cavil about evidence; I am not saying, "Sorry, mate, I don't have the evidence, but let's do it anyway."

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

As the Minister knows, for many years I have been strongly in favour of an extension beyond 28 days in the interests of preserving the security of the people. The Government, and certainly the former Home Secretary, understand that the real issue is the interaction with the Human Rights Act 1998, around which the control order legislation works. Does the Minister accept that that is one of the fundamental problems? It has led to a situation in which the Minister and the Government cannot achieve what they want, and in which the subject is deprived of their liberty. Does he not agree that the simplest answer is to ensure that the alleged terrorists receive habeas corpus, have a fair trial and are subject to due process, and to get rid of this absurd legislation, which was passed in the middle of the night, when sunset turned into dark?

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

I am blessed to have such an ally. The hon. Gentleman's points are well made and consistently made, but they are wrong. At the core of his suggestion is the idea that the police are dilatory in their activities and keep people for 14 or 28 days, or whatever the cut-off point is, simply because it is convenient for them. The police—along with the security services, the Government and all right-thinking people—want to bring those who are detained to court in the swiftest fashion and at the earliest opportunity, and with the strongest possible case. We have had discussions about the interplay with the European convention on human rights, and I simply do not accept the hon. Gentleman's premise. He swoops on me in corridors when I am trying to go for a quiet cup of tea; he creeps up on me all the time, and we have very interesting discussions. There is an issue with parts of the judiciary and how they interpret the convention, but I do not think that the convention is at fault.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Perhaps we can dispose of one of the arguments that I have heard adduced by people outside the House in support of an extension to the 28 days. It is argued that if a suicide bomber survives an attempted bombing but is injured, and so is not available for questioning, the extension would be necessary. Is it not the case that if we introduced post-charge questioning, those circumstances could not possibly apply, because someone who was injured while planting a bomb clearly has a prima facie charge against them?

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

My answer to Mr. Heath would have to be "Maybe." I do not know the specifics, and we could talk about the example that he gave in some detail, but as Mr. Clegg—another non-Privy Councillor—suggests, the person would have to be arrested first. That is a moot point. Of course, if someone was so badly injured that rational discourse and discussion, and taking part in a police investigation, was beyond them, the issue of the timing of the arrest and the starting of the clock would come into play, as is fair.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome makes a fair point about the interaction between post-charge questioning and the issue of where we go on the question of the 28 days, and I am serious in saying that we want debate on it. I hope that I do not need to rehearse many of the substantial points on why we think that 28 days is necessary as a minimum. Everyone knows the arguments about encrypted messages, the greater internationalisation of threats, and the increasingly complex nature of the terrorist networks. We have to investigate what internationalisation means in terms of cryptography, languages and computers. These things are becoming ever more complex. We think that a period of at least 28 days is sufficient.

I remind the House that we are talking about the annual renewal of the order. The timing has not worked; it would have been preferable by far if we were in a position to move on to the Bill now, but reviews were carried out on the Home Office's functions and on the legislation. No matter what our speed, I do not think that we could have had that dispatched in time; we would still have needed a review.

I repeat that we want a substantive debate. There is no ruse to introduce a Bill on the first possible day after the summer to which everyone had better agree or else. When I was on Harrow council, I used to go on about consensus all the time. A Conservative councillor said, "It's all very well your talking about consensus, but by consensus you mean everyone agreeing with you." That is, of course, not the case, because I am, at root, a consensual politician. It behoves us all to get to a place where we agree on the necessary legislative framework to counter the threat, and the process that we are about to undertake is part of that.

Everything that hon. Members have said about how intercept evidence, post-charge questioning and other elements of the Bill fit with pre-charge detention is entirely fair. The point made by my hon. Friend Mrs. Dunwoody about starting from the premise of our rule of law and departing from that only in extremis given the nature of the threat is fair. I know that hon. Members on both sides of the House understand the seriousness of the terrorist threat and the importance of implementing the right measures to counter it, which includes the international dimension. Government Members and Opposition Members, including all Front Benchers, are clear that we must strike the right balance between protecting the rights of the detainee and ensuring that an investigation proceeds properly and effectively and that the police can deal with the complexities of investigations into modern terrorism.

This debate almost involves sparring before we get to the wider debate about how the order fits with all the other elements of a subsequent terrorism Bill. I am happy to meet Front Benchers and individuals who want to discuss 28-day detention or any other aspect of the Bill during the consultation. We are trying to arrange sessions with the Home Affairs Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and I repeat that we are serious about that consultation.

I hope that all hon. Members understand why this order is necessary. If it is not passed, we will return to a 14-day limit on 25 July. We can have a substantive debate about what the order does and what a 28-day limit means in the context of the other elements of the proposed terrorism Bill in a proper, reflective and discursive way, as befits this House.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General 5:12 pm, 10th July 2007

I welcome the way in which the Minister has presented his arguments to the House this afternoon. I tell him now that we will not vote against the renewal motion.

It is important to bear in mind what we are debating. When the Prime Minister made a statement on the matter, there was a telling moment when Mr. Howarth stood up and described 90-day detention almost in terms of a mantra to which people should sign up in order to show that they are tough on terrorism. We must get away from that sort of attitude. This House must clearly be robust in doing our best to protect the security of people in our country, but we must balance that with winning an argument about values, where our adherence to civil liberties is one of our principal weapons in defeating those who want to harm us. If we start signing up to easy solutions and, worse still, start dividing this House on the basis that if one does not sign up to a particular concept—for example, 90-day pre-charge detention—one is on the other side of the argument or, worse still, on the other side in terms of fighting terrorism, we will get off to a very bad start. I hope that we can avoid that, and the Minister's words this afternoon reassured me that we are moving in the right direction.

It is important to remember what this afternoon's debate is about. We keep on talking about extending 28-day pre-charge detention to, possibly, up to 90 days, but this debate highlights the fact that the current norm—indeed, it is a norm only for terrorist offences—is 14 days, and that the extension to 28 days, on which this House reached a consensus, is already an exceptional power that we need to scrutinise frequently because it is such a dramatic departure from normal practice. We have moved radically away from accepted practices that view 24 or 48 hours at a time as being long periods to detain somebody before charge. We should always bear that in mind, because otherwise we will fail to understand why our forebears thought that short periods of detention pre-charge were all that was acceptable, given that at such time a person is merely under suspicion and charge should usually follow rapidly after the police have had the opportunity to confirm or disprove in their own minds the suspicion that they may have.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Does my hon. Friend accept that at least two former Attorney-Generals and the reviewer, Lord Carlile, had suggested that the 28-day period could be extended? Furthermore, does he accept that, however, much we try, it is impossible to achieve anything without recognising that this provision, which pivots on the human rights legislation, will not be able to achieve its objective unless we deal with the fundamental problem that lies in that human rights legislation?

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I am afraid that I find myself constrained to disagree with my hon. Friend on both counts. On the first count, various arguments have been advanced as to the need to go beyond 28 days detention, but the previous Attorney-General made it absolutely clear in a number of statements—most recently only a few months ago—that he had seen no evidence to justify doing so. He argued that very strongly at a time, I might add, when the then Home Secretary was making noises to the contrary, as was highlighted in this House. As the then Home Secretary never provided any evidence to back up his assertions, I rather preferred the Attorney-General's view.

As to my hon. Friend's second point, although there are serious issues surrounding the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act 1998—he has highlighted them on many occasions and they are legitimate topics for debate—I am not sure where they would bite in the context of this debate. I acknowledge that if the Government were to move to 90-day detention, that might be challenged under the Human Rights Act, but the Government are currently at 28 days, and there has never been any attempt to challenge that on the basis of its being in breach of the HRA. Indeed, as my hon. Friend will know, under exceptional circumstances of national emergency it is at least technically possible, well within the scope of the HRA and the ECHR, to declare a state of emergency and, if necessary, to bring in detention without trial. I am not recommending that to the Minister, but it has happened in the past. In the case of Northern Ireland, it was a huge mistake. Nevertheless, it is possible to do it without in any way falling foul of the HRA or the ECHR. Although important issues may be debated in this area—my hon. Friend specialises in it and has spoken on it often—it is not really a live issue in the context of this debate.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

My hon. Friend has rightly emphasised how unprecedented and extraordinary the 28-day provision is. In order that we might underline the rarity of the circumstances that could justify its use, could he tell the House whether I am right in thinking that the Government have accepted that the number of cases that they have identified to which the 28-day provision could apply could be counted on the fingers of one hand?

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

My hon. Friend makes a good point and, indeed, I had a list of questions that I was going to ask the Minister in order to seek clarification, of which his was one. My understanding is that the number of occasions when it has been necessary to go to 28 days, in the context of the total number of people detained, is very few. The Minister will doubtless be able to help us on that in his winding-up speech, and I have a list of questions for him. Anecdotally, it has been suggested to me that, although the police found it useful to go to the 28-day limit, it was not strictly necessary to do so because their investigations and inquiries had been effectively completed within the preceding 24 or 48-hour period. The Minister's information on that will certainly be valuable.

I would like to make one other point. We compare ourselves, rightly, with other common law jurisdictions. In the context of current events, we can read a great deal about what is happening in Australia, which appears to be taking some important steps to apprehend suspected terrorists. I understand that in Australia the outer limit of detention remains at 14 days—the Minister may be able to confirm that—which was achieved only after a rigorous debate in which many people suggested that 14 days was already a long time. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but in the United States, which is seen as a country that is pretty draconian in dealing with terrorism, 10 days is the maximum period for which a person may be detained.

We have to compare such figures because these are common law jurisdictions operating under many of the same handicaps for the state, or at least protection for the detained person, and it is worth bearing in mind that they have felt able to confine themselves to those periods, even though when we first debated this matter the police and the Minister made a persuasive case for going beyond 14 days, however reluctant I was to do so and however much I might wish to return to the 14-day figure if possible in the future.

I turn to the questions that I feel it useful to raise before the order is renewed. First, it would be useful to know how the provision is working in practice—how many times has it had to be used? Linked to that, I would be pleased if the Minister told the House how any detention beyond 14 days has operated in practice. Perhaps I can just flag up some of the areas that are of interest to me, which might be of interest to the House. As a result of what we did, we asked the Government to introduce a completely new set of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 rules. It is pretty obvious that rules designed to cover the detention of a person for what is usually 24 or 48 hours are not suitable when someone is in custody for a 21-day period. Will the Minister help the House on the question of how frequently individuals have been transferred to prison from police cells during the period of detention, and on how the system has operated with regard to bringing them back to police stations for further interview?

I am concerned that code H, which is the new code brought in to cover terrorist cases, still allows—at least in theory—for a person to be questioned for hour after hour over a period that could extend to 28 days. I do not think that that has happened in practice, but I am sure that the Minister will agree that having a code that allows questioning to take place almost incessantly over a 24-hour period, apart from an eight hour break for rest, is not really suitable for someone being detained for a long time. Is there not a danger, which we flagged up previously, that any statement made in that period might be challenged at a subsequent trial because of the degree not of coercion, but of sheer drudgery and the stressful experience of frequent questioning? I would be grateful for the Minister's comments on that if he has any information that he can give the House.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

When a person is held for a long time, he may decline to answer questions through, for example, fatigue. Should we not examine the statutory warning that judges give, to the effect that the jury can draw adverse conclusions? I wonder whether it is appropriate when the questioning has lasted many days.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

My right hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. Given that the PACE rules are clearly linked to the renewal that we are discussing, I hope that the Minister can respond to it, too. We want it to be clear that, if somebody is detained and interviewed, the interviews can be used. It serves no purpose to end up with a successful challenge to the use of interviews because it is argued that, notwithstanding the PACE rules, the process has become oppressive simply through the sheer repetitive nature of the questioning and the fact that someone is questioned over a long period when the rules were designed to deal with questioning over a short time. If the Minister can help us with that and on the extent of any analysis of the issue, I would be grateful to hear from him because that may provide some reassurance. If he does not have those answers this afternoon, perhaps he could write to me and place the information in the Library. That would helpful.

Another issue troubles me and I approach it with care in relation to recent events. The period between arrest and charge has historically been short—often very short—and that meant little opportunity for media speculation about the nature of the offences for which individuals had been arrested. However, as the period of detention between arrest and charge lengthens and is not subject to the full rules of contempt of court—although it could fall within those rules—there is a plethora of media speculation. I believe that the Attorney-General has expressed her concerns about the matter and that she may have contacted the press collectively to do that. However, we cannot simply ignore the matter.

Recent events suggest that press speculation is unconstrained and, because no charges are brought, there is no mechanism for stopping it. I fear that we will reach a position whereby it can be argued that a fair trial is impossible because of the amount of prejudice that has been occasioned to defendants in the period between arrest and charge. Given that 28 days is a long time—indeed, seven days or two weeks is a long time—I wonder whether we should think again about our approach to the matter. If we cannot impose some form of self-restraint, the time may come when we must consider other means. As the Minister knows, we discussed that in our proceedings on the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The subject was carefully approached and there was a widespread consensus that we did not want to take that road. However, I am increasingly worried about the matter.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC (as Leader of the Commons)), Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. Does it not also apply to cases of extradition? Often, the British authorities suggest that they intend to seek extradition and, before they start proceedings, the media speculate at great length. Consequently, other countries decide that there is no possibility of a fair trial in this country. Does not the point also apply to speculation in the House?

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

The hon. Gentleman may be making a good point about extradition. I have not focused on it especially, but if he can think of examples—

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

I do not believe that extradition would take place anyway in the case about which he is thinking, so the matter may not arise. However, he makes a fair point.

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Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important observation. However, I wonder whether he is being too pessimistic. Is he aware of evidence from academic studies about the problem of the way in which media commentary can influence the decision-making of a jury trial? It shows that members of a jury are more sophisticated than some of the assumptions underlying his remarks suggest. They appear to be able to distinguish between media comment and their role as jury members. If we were confident that that was the case, rather than hoping against hope—and our better judgment—that we could put the genie back into the media bottle, should we not consider revising the rules to allow reality to play itself out?

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am a rather firm defender of the jury system, and I happen to believe in the good sense of juries. I certainly agree that juries can apply common sense. I am sure that they are often asked to dismiss media speculation from their minds and that they can successfully do so. However, the hon. Gentleman might share my concern that what is coming out is not just speculation, but a torrent of "facts", many of which might not—I emphasise the words "might not"—ever be allowed to emerge at trial, even if they were indeed factually correct. That raises some quite difficult issues.

I certainly do not want to suggest a prescriptive solution to the problem, but it is worth bearing in mind that the opportunity for such speculation and for the emergence of facts that might be prejudicial to a fair trial is clearly helped by lengthening the period between arrest and charge. I should be grateful for the Minister's comments on that, particularly as I understand that the Attorney-General has contacted the press to express her anxieties about it. I should also like to know whether the Government think that further legislation would be required to deal with the issue—not, I should like to emphasise, that that is a route on which I would wish to embark in an ideal world. Having fair trials is rather important, because otherwise we run the risk of allowing people who might have committed serious offences to escape conviction. That ought to be a matter of concern to everybody in the House.

I do not want to take up more of the House's time and I am aware that others wish to speak. I hope that the Minister can provide answers to the queries that I have raised. We shall support the Government in the renewal of the order, even with the hope that it might not have to be renewed in future. On that point, I raise the issue, which has already been mentioned, of post-charge questioning. It is clear that post-charge questioning is intensely relevant to the period of time for which we have to detain people. I hope very much, therefore, that we can introduce it quickly.

Finally, I simply say this to the Minister. At times, the suggestion has been made—not by the Minister, but by others in the Government—that a 28 or 90-day period is necessary not because of the need to question and gather evidence to bring somebody to trial, but almost because it acts as a disruptive mechanism, even though there is really no prospect of the person ever being charged and those arresting them know that.

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Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Attorney General

My hon. Friend says it clearly—that will not do, and it will not do under any circumstances whatever. I hope very much, therefore, that the Minister will take this opportunity to reassure us that that is not now, and will not be at any time in the future, the Government's reasoning.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North 5:33 pm, 10th July 2007

I am obviously in favour of the order and of keeping the period of detention without charge as it is now, namely, 28 days. It would be odd if I were in any way in disagreement with the order.

I said in an intervention, and I repeat now, that a consensus on the issue is desirable. The previous Home Secretary said that he would consult fully, which is a point that the Minister has made again today. We want to avoid a situation such as the one that we faced in November 2005, when there was a great deal of controversy and division. We are united against terrorism, but it would be unfortunate if the Government took the view that a longer period was necessary without providing compelling evidence. If any Government went down that route, whatever the outcome there would be a repeat of what happened before, namely, a great deal of controversy and division. I hope that we can avoid that.

Most people will have seen the advertisement placed by Muslims last week, which emphasised that the overwhelming majority of Muslims who live in this country condemn terrorism. It branded as outright criminals those who want to inflict terror, and pointed out that Islam forbids the killing of innocent people. No one in this House would doubt that the overwhelming majority of Muslims living in our constituencies are totally and utterly opposed to terror. We must also, of course, recognise that Muslims would be among the victims.

The criminals argue that they are protesting against foreign policy. In my time, I have protested against the foreign policies of previous Governments. I did so for many years over apartheid, but it was never suggested by the organisers that, because we could not get our way, we should inflict terror on our fellow citizens.

I welcome the advertisement, but I want to make the point that inside the Muslim community, in the mosques and outside, there needs to be constant and continuous condemnation of terrorism. An advertisement arising from the events of last week is fine, and security is fine—one hopes that further security measures will be taken to protect our country—but in the end we are dealing with criminals who believe, according to their interpretation of their religion, that inflicting terror is right and justified. That must be dealt with in the Muslim community because it cannot be dealt with effectively from outside. The point must be made day in and day out, inside and outside the mosques, that Islam forbids the taking of innocent lives, as the advertisement stated.

As for those who talk about protesting against foreign policy, how does that link up with trying to murder females in night clubs? Are we not dealing with people with particularly sick and evil minds, who can look upon women, young or old—obviously, in night clubs they would be young—as though they had no right to life? What is the word that these people use? Slag—a polite word for prostitute. That can come only from sick and evil minds.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I strongly agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying now, but I think that he and everyone else would accept that that remorseless programme of education and persuasion is necessarily a continuing and probably long-term process. For the short term, and for the avoidance of doubt, will he tell the House whether, if the Government were to argue for an extension to the number of days, providing evidence—the term that he used—would have to mean published cases?

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

I would not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. At the end of it all, any extension beyond 28 days must depend on clear, persuasive evidence. I think that that is what he was suggesting. To repeat what I said in an earlier intervention, the Home Affairs Committee looked at all the facts. Like all Select Committees, it has members from all three main parties, and we came to the unanimous view that, at the moment, there is no such evidence.

Having spoken about the sort of evil people who want to inflict terror on our fellow citizens, we have to be careful that we do not play into the hands of such criminals by passing legislation that is clearly counterproductive. That point was made by my hon. Friend Mrs. Dunwoody and others. We have to reach the right balance between security and civil liberties. Clearly, the criminals want a backlash and a situation where people, including Muslims, can be locked up.

When the IRA was about, the security people were looking for people of Irish origin, not for Muslims, Sikhs or Buddhists. Likewise, at the moment the suspects come from the Muslim community. We risk a situation in which not only the criminals but the fellow travellers and the apologists can turn around and say, "What is happening is action against the Muslim community" and then try to rally that community against the laws passed in this country to protect our fellow citizens. That is why it is so crucial to learn from the experience of dealing with the IRA, internment and all the rest, and not to play into the hands of the very people who want to inflict terror.

I take the view that, so far at least—whatever may happen in the future—Parliament has found the right balance and learned from some of the mistakes made in dealing with the IRA. That does not mean that more steps cannot be taken. It is very much the topic of the moment and it may well be raised tomorrow in Prime Minister's questions. Further steps can be taken to strengthen the necessary security at ports of entry, for example—again learning from past mistakes, which are much publicised in today's papers.

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Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

Is it not to the credit of the British population that since the recent outrages we have seen such a measured and sensible response? People are aware of the savagery with which they are dealing, but the real tribute should be to the common sense of the population, who have not lost their sense of perspective or scented the ability to create scapegoats, but have rather continued to look for sensible and balanced argument.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

My hon. Friend is right. We avoided a backlash against the Irish during the 30 years of terror in which atrocities were carried out. One of the advantages of age—there are many disadvantages, I am sure—is having a pretty long memory. My hon. Friend may remember that after the war there was Jewish terrorism in Palestine rather than Britain. I shall not go into the rights and wrongs of it, but attempts by fascists to create a backlash against Jews did not succeed. Fortunately, in the main we are sensible people and we do not want to create martyrs. We also recognise that when it comes to the IRA or Islamic terrorism—if we can call it such—we want to locate the guilty and not penalise the innocent in any way. Long may that continue to be so.

I have a couple of points in conclusion. I believe that it is going to be a long haul against terrorism. The IRA's murderous campaign lasted some 30 years, but whether the present terrorism will last 30 years I do not know. It would be optimistic to believe that it was going to go away in the next year or two. I do not believe that, because terrorism has worldwide significance and what happens here is undoubtedly connected with events abroad. Adopting a different view would be optimistic, and I believe that we have to be realistic and have the patience to deal with this latest curse.

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Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

Is there not a slight danger of drawing too precise a parallel with the IRA? After all, the IRA had a specific goal and specific intention and purpose behind their terrorism—despicable though it was. It is very hard to discern, however, a specific purpose or goal behind the current terrorism being waged against our and other western countries.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

I partly agree, but I believe that the terrorists do have a specific goal and they hardly disguise it. Al-Qaeda barely avoids mentioning the sort of society that it would like—a Taliban type of society. It has no illusions about that, which brings me to my final point.

Terrorists rejoice in mass murder. They glorify what they do and they glorify death, including the taking of their own lives. On the other hand, we rejoice in life itself and in all the liberties that have made Britain one of the most advanced democracies, in which Muslims no less than any other people enjoy full political and religious freedom. We have much to defend in this country. I believe that we will do so and will defend those liberties, the rule of law and everything that we believe to be so vital and crucial in making this country a civilised place in which to live. That is why, at the end of the day, terrorism will be defeated. I look forward to that day, even though it may not be in my lifetime.

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Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 5:45 pm, 10th July 2007

We support the disapplication, if that is the word, of section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006 and I can assure the House that we will not seek to divide it on the order. It is a matter of record that notwithstanding our very serious reservations about extending the period during which police can detain suspects without charge from 14 to 28 days, we accepted the case at the time. Recent events—the conviction of the four 21/7 terrorists in court yesterday and what happened in Glasgow and Haymarket last week—have provided a reminder, if any were needed, of why it is necessary that we constantly review the powers on the statute book. I also accept, at least as far as I understand the information that has been provided by the police and others, that the sheer complexity of one case—the alleged Heathrow bomb plot last summer—necessitated using the full 28-day period.

However, as the Minister rightly suggested, and on which others expanded, this debate is as much a mini-dress rehearsal for a debate that we are likely to have in the autumn as anything else. Therefore, I would be remiss in my duties as the Liberal Democrat spokesperson on these matters if I did not emphasise that our support for the disapplication of section 25 should not in any way be taken as a signal that we think that the debate should evolve towards a further lengthening of the period during which the police can detain people without charge.

It is worth reminding the House, as others have done, how far and how fast we have travelled. The sheer velocity with which the law has changed within a matter of years is striking. The change from 7 to 14 days took place only in 2003, and the change from 14 to 28 days in 2005. As Mr. Grieve rightly suggested, we are now way out of step with practice in almost all other countries in the developed world and certainly other common law countries. A suspect needs to be brought before a judge within 24 hours in Canada and within 14 days in Australia. It is also 24 hours before a suspect needs to go before a magistrate in Italy. In Germany, the period is 48 hours.

I do not make those points to oppose the measure—I support it—but we have travelled very far, very fast in a short time, and it is heavily incumbent on those who want to reopen the debate to prove why that case needs to be remade again.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Like others, the hon. Gentleman calls for further evidence. The noble Lord Carlile said only a few days ago on the subject of some of those who had escaped these extremely lax control orders that there is "solid evidence" that the trio in question with regard to the Haymarket attempted bombing had wanted to join insurgents abroad and attack British troops serving in Iraq. I assume that he knew what he was talking about.

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Photo of Nick Clegg Nick Clegg Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I am sorry, but I do not entirely understand the relevance of the noble Lord Carlile's comments on control orders to the matter at hand today, which is the period in which police can detain someone without charge. They are separate legal issues and I do not see the connection. Perhaps I am missing something.

The hon. Gentleman refers to evidence. Given how far and fast we have changed the law in this respect, we believe that it is important that any reopening of the debate needs to be premised on overwhelming evidence. The Minister seemed uncomfortable about—I think he said he cavilled at—the notion that he might need to display evidence. I think he was uncomfortable for the simple reason that, as far as I am aware, there is as yet no overwhelming evidence that a period beyond 28 days is ever deemed necessary.

If I understand the Government's case correctly, it is based on the assumption that although that has not yet happened, it will happen in the future. The alleged Heathrow bomb plot in particular has set alarm bells ringing in Whitehall and elsewhere with the prediction that it will be replicated in future, which would make the task of marshalling evidence and bringing charges in 28 days almost impossible. If my premise is correct, I should like the Minister to explain how the assumption has arisen. Where and in what way has analysis been conducted to suggest that last year's alleged complex Heathrow bomb plot will definitely be followed, as night follows day, by an even more complex plot?

I do not imply that that concern has not been well argued or is not sincerely held, but I suspect that part of it flows from a feeling that the police may not have the resources to deal with the sheer complexity of such a plot and of an evidential trail that would stretch across the globe, as it tends to in such cases—hidden in hard drives and so on. Is it not incumbent on the Government to be more candid about the existence of a resources issue? Should they not state clearly that it may be a question less of simply seeking to extend indefinitely the period of detention without charge than of trying to give the police the resources with which to do the job?

The Minister spoke eloquently, if perhaps a little uncharacteristically, of the need to establish cross-party consensus. That is a welcome development, but may I remind him politely that the clock is ticking? We have talked about cross-party consensus for several weeks, and I hope he will not think it churlish of me now to suggest that talk should be transformed into action. I am as yet unaware of any organised mechanism enabling such a consensus to be identified and established.

The Minister referred to changes that the Liberal Democrats and others have advocated for some time, such as making intercept evidence available in court, allowing post-charge questioning, developing the practice of plea bargaining with the aim of gaining informants from among those who operate on the penumbra or margins of terrorist plots—plea bargaining is already used in serious organised crime cases, and I believe it could be used more in terror cases—and considering the so-called threshold test deployed by the Crown Prosecution Service when it brings charges in such cases. All those possibilities need to be examined.

If the Minister agrees on that menu of possible changes, does he also agree that it is at least sensible to consider them first, for the sake of natural chronology, before once again pitching us all into a febrile debate about the time during which the police can detain people without charge? If we are to take a responsible and measured approach, we should think about those issues before deciding collectively to reopen the Pandora's box of 28 days.

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Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon 5:54 pm, 10th July 2007

As chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, let me begin by complimenting my hon. Friend the Minister on his active engagement with us on these issues. While we may not agree with some of what he says, I do not think we can complain that he has been unwilling to talk to us.

Mr. Grieve made an important point which has been lost in the debate. What we are talking about is an extension of 14 days to 28, not an extension of 28 days to 90 or some other number. We need to focus on what this order is actually about. I do not think we are in a position to contradict either the Government or the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in their view that subsequent events have demonstrated the necessity of extending the maximum period from 14 to 28 days.

The purpose of today's debate is the power of annual renewal in the Terrorism Act 2006, but if such a debate is to be meaningful it must be informed by a thorough, detailed and independent review of how the power has operated in practice. As my hon. Friend Mr. Winnick pointed out, this is not just about Muslim terrorism. We have recently witnessed a good deal of police activity relating to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, for instance, and we need to retain a broad approach to the issues.

Mr. Clegg spoke of the speed of change. It is also important that we allow changes that have already taken place, such as those involving new offences, to bed down before we begin to consider wider extensions.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

My hon. Friend says we should bear in mind that we are discussing an extension of 14 days to 28, not an extension to 90 days. I ask him to bear in mind what some of us pointed out to the Minister. The period of 14 days was agreed in both Parliaments with no Division, and similarly no one voted against the extension from 14 days to 28. Consensus was established then, and I believe it should be retained.

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Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon

I understand what my hon. Friend says, and I certainly would not vote against the 28-day extension, but I think we need to question the evidence on which it is based.

The problem is that we do not have detailed enough evidence to contradict, or for that matter to confirm, what the Government say. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner gave my Committee some information about the airline bomb plot, following which 24 suspects were arrested in August last year. The information we received was that 17 of them were charged with offences. Of those 17, six were charged only after their detention had been extended beyond 14 days, and two were charged just four hours before the end of the 28-day period. Of the seven who were not charged, four were released without charge within the old 14-day period, but three were released without charge well after that time, including two who were released only at the very end of the 28-day period.

It is clear to me that that bare statistical information is not sufficient to answer the question, "Does the airline bomb plot demonstrate the need for the extension to 28 days?" On the face of it, the fact that six suspects were detained for more than 14 days before being charged would appear to show that the increase was necessary. On the other hand, the fact that three of the five who were authorised to be detained for the full 28 days were released very close to the end of that period could be said to raise concerns about whether the power to detain for up to 28 days was being used to detain those against whom there was the least evidence.

A series of more detailed questions needs to be answered. Let me give some examples. I do not say that this actually happened; we simply do not know.

Was the evidence on which the individuals were charged after 14 days available before the expiry of the 14-day period? How precisely has the 28-day period enabled prosecutions to be brought that might otherwise not have been possible? How did the longer period affect the urgency with which the police pursued the investigation in relation to each of the suspects? How often were the suspects held for the longer period questioned by the police? Did the longer period available to the police have any noticeable effect on the amount of disclosure made by the police to the suspects? Are investigations being pursued in relation to any of the three suspects who were detained for almost the full 28-day period and then released without charge?

The next question has already been raised today. How would the availability of post-charge questioning have affected the way in which the police conducted their investigation? Could some of the suspects have been charged with the same offence earlier than they were in fact charged? Here is an equally important question. What was the psychological impact on those who were detained for nearly four weeks before being released without charge?

What worries me is that the report of the statutory reviewer, Lord Carlile, does not provide the sort of detained scrutiny that would answer questions of that kind. The problem is that the statistics do not settle the issue one way or another unless we dig deep into the information. It has been suggested that there should be a Privy Council inquiry, but I do not think that that is the answer. What we need is for the statutory reviewer to do his job properly, and provide us with answers to the questions that I have posed. That is what is required if we are to make informed decisions on whether to extend the period—initially from 14 days to 28 days, and perhaps subsequently for longer. I have no reason to doubt what the police and the Government have said about the 28-day period, but it must be noted that it is difficult to challenge what they say.

There are also important issues to do with the available judicial safeguards, and in particular the questions that judges are expected to ask in respect of granting a longer period of detention. The first question is whether there are reasonable grounds for believing that further detention is necessary to preserve relevant evidence, and the second is whether the investigation has been conducted diligently and expeditiously. However, neither question addresses the substantive and basic issue of whether there was material in the first place that provided reasonable grounds for believing that the suspect had committed a terrorism-related offence. There is no onus on the police to justify to the court the basic premise for the suspect's detention. Why was the person arrested in the first place? Is the basic test for arrest met, never mind the test for continued detention? We must bear that important point in mind.

I also want to discuss the conditions in which people are held at Paddington Green police station. A while ago, my Committee paid a visit to that station and members were horrified by what we saw. Paddington Green was not, of course, built for its current use. It was initially reinforced to provide additional security when those suspected of IRA terrorism were questioned, but the detention periods were much shorter then. The staff at Paddington Green do a very good job under difficult circumstances. I was impressed by the custody sergeants we met and the other staff, who try to look after people in their charge in a humane way.

There are, however, problems with Paddington Green. There are only 16 cells, but more than 20 people at a time have been arrested during certain investigations and therefore some of them have had to be sent to Belgravia, which is not set up to deal with terrorism suspects. Paddington Green is also an ordinary police station that serves its local neighbourhood, and its normal day-to-day work is severely disrupted by such suspects. There are no dedicated facilities for forensic examination of suspects on arrival, and cells have to be specially prepared for that purpose, which exacerbates the shortage of accommodation. There is no dedicated space for exercise, so part of the car park is used for that—all the vehicles have to be moved around to create an inadequate exercise space. Only one room is provided for suspects to discuss their cases in confidence with their solicitor. There are no facilities on site for forensic examination of equipment such as computer hard drives, and the video conferencing room is too small. That also raises a question about video conferencing being used as a means to extend periods of detention via judicial hearings, which does not allow for a proper examination of suspects.

Suspects held for such long periods are allowed no family contact, except for a monitored telephone call. If people are to be held for lengthy periods, we must consider whether strictly supervised family contact might be appropriate—letters, for example, are not currently allowed, but I do not understand why they should not be if there is also censorship. We need to consider the conditions in which people are held, and the inadequate conditions in which the police have to conduct their inquiries.

We have inevitably come to the conclusion that Paddington Green must be replaced and that a new facility should be established as soon as possible. It should be located in London, and it should strike an appropriate balance between the need for high security and the desirability of it being accessible to the local community. It should be part of a functioning police station, rather than an exclusive terrorist facility, in order to maintain public confidence that people are being dealt with within the ordinary legal system. Proper accommodation for the police must also be close at hand. We heard stories about police officers having to live in hotels while conducting inquiries because of the long hours that they have to work. The facility must also be significantly larger, to cope with the requirements of holding many people and with the need to be adequate for detentions of at least the 28-day period that we are debating. Under the current arrangements people are moved from Paddington Green to Belmarsh after 14 days, and then shipped backwards and forwards to allow interviewing to continue. It is undesirable in principle for suspects to be transferred from police custody to prison custody during the period of pre-charge detention.

We also ought to make it mandatory that police interviews of terrorist suspects are videoed. At present, that is not compulsory, which leads to arguments. Such videos would provide a safeguard both for the police against allegations of ill treatment and for suspects that the interviews are conducted properly.

I will not oppose today's orders. If we are to be asked to consider a renewal next year or a further extension, we should have better evidence and scrutiny than we are currently provided with. However, regardless of whether we are asked to do so, we must ensure that the facilities in which people are held are adequate for the police and suspects.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 6:05 pm, 10th July 2007

In view of the lateness of the hour and the fact that other Members wish to speak, I will be brief.

Allowing the extension from 14 days to 28 days is an important step that raises significant civil rights considerations. I am willing to accept what Mr. Dismore says about inadequate conditions in the holding police station—I think that he has a point. Holding people for as long as 28 days comes close to holding them in administrative detention, and if questioning takes place during the whole of that period there is a danger that those held will be coerced by circumstance into saying things that are untrue or misleading.

The truth is that no Member present, with the possible exception of the Minister, knows whether the circumstances justify an extension to 28 days. I am prepared, at least for the moment, to accept that they might do so. The number of terrorist cells that need to be investigated might be a justification for that, as might the desirability of examining computer databases. However, the renewal should not be deemed to be automatic. This is a grave matter, and we should not be asked to renew every year without there being compelling supporting evidence.

I also wish to endorse the points about the future raised by my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve. I am glad to hear that there will be a consultation paper, and I hope that it will be a genuine one and that there will also be genuine discussions. My hon. Friend is right that the issue of post-charge questioning is key in considering whether there should be an extension. If such questioning is allowed, there is less requirement for an extended holding period. He is also right that we must look at the codes that regulate the treatment of detainees being held for an extended period. It is important that the codes form part of the consultation. I also have concerns about the statutory warnings given by judges to juries if a detainee—or defendant as he has then become—has refused to answer questions during such an extended detention period. After an extended period of detention, it is not unreasonable for defendants to refuse to answer further questions, and I am worried about the adverse inference that juries can currently take from such a refusal. That should feature in the consultation.

The House should not be asked to renew the provisions unless there is compelling evidence of need. I accept that it might be difficult for the House to be given such evidence as much of it will be covert in nature. The Government have suggested that they might be willing to establish a Privy Council Committee to look at intercept evidence. I would like such a Committee to be asked to consider evidence on whether there is a need for an extension to 28 days or more, as it could be told many things that cannot be openly ventilated in the House. The function of that Privy Council Committee would be to receive the evidence, to assess the weight of the evidence and to advise the House. Ultimately it would be for the House to decide whether we wished to accept that advice, but I would be much more comfortable about making a decision to extend the period either to or beyond 28 days if I were in receipt of such advice.

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Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

I have often noted that those who are in favour of Privy Council discussions are themselves Privy Councillors.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I take it that that is a rebuke of me, but I am not trying to be self-interested. I am trying to say that some things have to be said confidentially, and that is clearly the case with the intercept evidence. After all, the hon. Gentleman's party has decided that the intercept matters should be considered by a Privy Council Committee and I assume that that is because of the covert nature of the information to be disclosed. The same principle applies in this case and it is on that basis that I make my suggestion.

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Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone 6:10 pm, 10th July 2007

We are short of time, so I shall deal briefly with the main points. The Government cannot get away with the argument, sneaky or otherwise, that this matter has adequate consultation to come. The reality is that they have had more than enough time to sort this out. There has been a succession of failures. The Minister himself has had to admit that control orders do not work. He has said so on the record. The bottom line is that the sunset clause was a last resort, which I voted for only after very careful consideration, although it was completely against the rest of the Bill. Control orders do not work because they are constructed on the basis of the human rights legislation and it is impossible to square the circle.

With regard to the question of evidence, I have already mentioned that Lord Carlile has said that there is a certain amount of evidence for the extension of the period of time. That has also been endorsed by at least two former Attorney-Generals. Much of the argument that I have heard does not take account of the fact that under the existing provisions a senior judge is concerned only in applications for extension of detention beyond 14 days. I personally see no reason why a red judge should not be involved at a much earlier stage. I am all in favour of habeas corpus, and Lord Steyn said that it was the most important of all the functions of judges. Therefore, it is essential that judges are brought in at an early stage, but that is not to say that it follows that in certain circumstances, providing that it is properly staged and that there is to be a fair trial and due process, there should not be a period of time in excess of 28 days. I do not suggest that it need be 90 days, but in certain circumstances more than 28 days will be required, and I am certain that the Government know that. I accuse them of playing political games with a very serious subject. They could have dealt with this issue at an earlier stage, but they failed to do so. It is a case of grave negligence against the public interest that the Government have not dealt with it so far.

The consultation period will lead to yet further consultation, which will then lead to a Bill. By then, almost anything could have happened. The Evening Standard leader points out today that

"judicial scrutiny...has been damaged by excessive judicial concern about suspects' rights."

I agree. If one re-reads the House of Lords decisions in the Belmarsh case in December 2004, one finds many reasons for believing that the Law Lords got carried away with themselves. Nine out of 10 did so and that was a great shame. They have an opportunity now to redress the balance.

There are many things that could and should be said this afternoon, but in conclusion I merely say that I believe that there is ample evidence. Nobody has rebutted Mr. Hayman's analysis way back in 2005. Time and again I have heard people say that there is no evidence, but I have not seen a single paper demonstrating that his paper is intrinsically wrong. I shall say no more as I know that others wish to speak, but I hope that the consultation does not fall into the wet social liberal attitudes that I have observed on this question. We should put the public interest first and ensure that we protect the public.

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Photo of Paul Goodman Paul Goodman Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government 6:15 pm, 10th July 2007

I shall be brief and address myself directly to the public interest to which my hon. Friend Mr. Cash has just referred. I wish to look at the order through the lens of community cohesion. It is undoubtedly true that in the struggle against al-Qaeda and the sort of atrocious incidents that we saw last weekend in London and Glasgow, the solution cannot be only one of security. The winning of hearts and minds, as both my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron and the Prime Minister have put it, is crucial.

I represent the largest number and percentage of Muslims of any official Opposition Member of Parliament. When I meet them, as I regularly do, they make the point that al-Qaeda likes nothing better than to be able to portray events as a plot or conspiracy against Islam. I found that out only last weekend when it was put to me that the knighthood awarded to Salman Rushdie was part of an anti-Islamic plot, organised by the Government. Although I am not, of course, a great defender of the Government, I tried to put that point of view right directly.

Arguably, approving the order and retaining the 28 days will make it more difficult to win Muslim hearts and minds. That cannot, of course, be the final consideration. In the delicate balance of civil liberties and national security, weight must sometimes be placed on national security. That is what happened when the 28-day period was approved without a Division. Since the question of 90 days has been raised this afternoon, I have to say that any move to that period would make it more difficult to win hearts and minds. While that consideration is not in itself conclusive, if a proposal for 90 days were put before the House, I would want to see much more evidence that there was a case for it. Indeed, I would want to see incontrovertible evidence before supporting it.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office 6:17 pm, 10th July 2007

I commend Mr. Goodman on the work that he has done in Wycombe since the alleged plot last summer. It is sad that on the two or three occasions I have been there our paths have not crossed—not for any adverse reasons. I agree with what he says about hearts and minds and that this is not just a security problem that requires a security solution.

I thought that I made it clear in my opening remarks six individuals had been held for the full term, three of whom were convicted and three who were not. The actual figure for 14 days-plus was 10, seven of whom were convicted. I take the points made by Mr. Grieve about PACE. The hope is that the Crown Prosecution Service will put out a paper alongside the consultation papers that we issue, summing up the position in terms of the need for a time between 14 and 28 days. I also accept the point that interviews that cannot be used are of no value to anyone. I agree with his points about the possibility of pushing back the barriers in terms of the recognised normality for the rule of law to no avail, for interviews that are ultimately inadmissible. On his points about welfare, the police have in all circumstances sought to ensure that questioning is not excessive and that those detained are given regular breaks for exercise and so on. If I obtain any further information on that, I will put it in the Library.

It is suggested that the provision is used to get round the broader law—that it is used as a disruptive measure in cases in which there is no possibility of charges being laid—but I can confirm that that is emphatically not the Government's starting point. I accept the point that further discussion is needed of the evidence, the nature of the evidence and people's judgments and speculation about the nature of the future threat. As the hon. Gentleman suggests, however, such consideration is properly for the real play, rather than the dress rehearsal, to use his terms.

As to the hon. Gentleman's comment that there is no evidence of consensus at this stage, we would rather get the papers and the substance out—he has an advantage over much of the House, as he has seen some of the papers during early discussions. He is right that the mechanisms of such consultations should also be discussed. I am not with him on his specific point about chronology: if a Bill is coming, it is right to discuss all the issues together. It would not work to discuss where we are going on pre-charge detention—whether 28 days or otherwise, back to 14 days or beyond—outwith discussion of what else is in the Bill. I do not accept his point about Pandora's box—I was going to make a little joke about Morrison, with Pandora's box opening and all sorts of Trojan horses jumping out, but I shall not bother.

I am grateful for the thrust of much of the discussion. In the last couple of minutes, I want to pursue the issue raised by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield: the notion that the longer people are detained before charge, the more time there is for speculation among the 24/7—as it is described—media. That is a two-edged point, and he discussed one of the edges. I do not have any instant answers. It grates a little when, for at least a little while during the process, the only "factual" view of the world comes from the putative defence solicitor getting his retaliation in early, which clouds the issues.

The hon. Gentleman will know that the large trials that have come to fruition recently—Rhyme, Crevice and others—have had that merry dance for at least two or three weeks, when the whole discourse has been about whether a fair trial can take place and whether the nature of the media coverage was fair or otherwise. In part, we are stuck with that. If, however, during the course of our deliberations, we can come to some consensus about what we do about that, or how that is managed around the edges, without being draconian, I would be enormously grateful, as long as that included solicitors having a free run for the defendant as well as the media speculating ad nauseam.

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Photo of Tony McNulty Tony McNulty Minister of State, Home Office

I would love to give way, but I think that we have run out of time. We have another dance to come. I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the draft Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 11th June, be approved

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