"Part IV — Bail

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 11th June 2008.

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Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West 4:45 pm, 11th June 2008

It is a pleasure, I think, to follow David T.C. Davies, whose constituency I look forward to visiting. We will be able to explore his predilection for Taser guns in every home, as part of the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into 21st century policing. On a more serious note, I shall be quick and curtail my remarks, as a number of colleagues on both sides of the argument wish to make important contributions.

I speak as a member of the Home Affairs Committee and a member of the Public Bill Committee, so I have had a good go at the issue. I also speak as the constituency Member for Reading, West, a diverse constituency with a substantial and active Muslim population, a constituency that contained one of the people who were blown to smithereens in the 7/7 London bombings, and a constituency on which the extensive and successful Operation Overt by the Metropolitan police impacted.

Why legislate now? That is one of the crucial questions that has rightly come up in the debate. There are three issues. The Prime Minister mentioned at Prime Minister's questions today that we have a moment of calm. We can trade quotes in the debate, but we can all probably agree that when the House seeks to legislate in a hurry, it makes a pig's ear of it, whether that is legislation about the poll tax, the Child Support Agency, or dangerous dogs. Whatever it is, when we try to legislate in a hurry, particularly in the face of a tabloid outcry over bodies being pulled out of the latest terrorist outrage, we tend not to make the right decisions.

Why legislate now? We must be up front about the fact that this is a precautionary measure. As the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee said, all of us on the Committee, of all parties, accepted that there was no evidence that the police and the security services were not coping adequately at this time with 28 days' pre-charge detention. We were clear about that. The question is whether we wait until they are not coping adequately with it to legislate, or legislate on a precautionary principle and in an atmosphere of calm.

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