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Counter-terrorism and Security Powers

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 13th July 2010.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:31 pm, 13th July 2010

With permission, Mr Speaker, I shall make a statement on the review of counter-terrorism and security powers.

As I have said to the House before, the first duty of Government is to protect the public, but that duty must never be used as a reason to ride roughshod over our civil liberties-and that is what the previous Government did on far too many occasions. This Government are different. We have already introduced legislation to get rid of identity cards once and for all; we have already declared our intention to bring forward a freedom Bill later this year; and just last week I announced interim restrictions on the use of stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Today, as promised in the coalition agreement, I am announcing an urgent review of counter-terrorism and security powers. The review will consider six key powers: control orders; section 44 stop-and-search powers and the use of terrorism legislation in relation to photography; the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 by local authorities and access to communications data more generally; extending the use of deportations with assurances in a manner that is consistent with our legal and human rights obligations; measures to deal with organisations that promote hatred or violence; and the detention of terrorist suspects before charge.

Those are the most controversial and sensitive powers. In particular, the issue of pre-charge detention has been the subject of considerable debate in the House, and tomorrow we will consider whether to renew the current detention limit for a further six months. That will provide us with sufficient time to look carefully at pre-charge detention in the review and to explore how we can reduce the period of detention below 28 days. The review will also help to inform us on what additional safeguards are needed in the proposed asset freezing Bill, which the Treasury will introduce shortly.

The Government's work on the use of intercept as evidence in court and the modernisation of our interception capabilities will be done separately and will not form part of the review. The review will be conducted by the Home Office with the full involvement of the police, security and intelligence agencies and other Government Departments, including those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. I want the review to be conducted as openly and transparently as possible. I have asked Liberty to contribute to the review, and it has said that it would be delighted to do so. I am keen to involve other civil liberty and community organisations and, as with other reviews, I would urge anyone with an interest to submit their views to the Home Office.

To ensure independent oversight of the review, I have asked the noble and learned Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, to make sure that the work is conducted properly, that all the relevant options have been considered and that the recommendations of the review are not only fair but seen to be fair. That role is distinct from the excellent work that is already being undertaken by the noble and learned Lord Carlile of Berriew in his statutory role as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. The proposals made by Lord Carlile will be fully considered as part of the review and I know that he welcomes the additional independent perspective that Lord Macdonald will provide on these issues. Any legislative amendments that result from the review will of course be subject to review by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. I have ordered that the review should be completed as quickly as possible, because it is important that the police and the security and intelligence agencies are able to do their vital work with certainty and confidence. I will report back to Parliament on the outcome of the review after the summer recess.

Before I finish, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. In correcting the mistakes of the previous Government, we are doing just that. We are not criticising or castigating members of the police or of the security and intelligence services. They do their work with bravery, patriotism and a strong sense of duty, and I know the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to them. The review will enable this Government to put right the failures of the last Government and, in so doing, restore the ancient civil liberties that should be synonymous with the name of our country. I commend this statement to the House.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for giving me early sight of her statement. It is important to recall that when the Terrorism Bill received its Third Reading in November 2005, it had all-party support, so both parties to the coalition Government supported the bulk of the legislation that will now be reviewed. Two things characterised that debate, which came a few months after the horror and carnage of 7/7. The first was the realisation that no change in Government policy would remove the UK from al-Qaeda's firing line and that the only response to the threat was to contest and then defeat it. The second was the extraordinary lengths that were taken to proceed on the basis of consensus, not just with the then shadow Home Secretary, Mr Davis, and the Lib Dem spokesman Mark Oaten, but with the Select Committee on Home Affairs and the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

The threat that was faced then has not diminished. The Prime Minister put it succinctly in his statement of 6 July, when he said:

"As we meet in the relative safety of this House today, let us not forget this: as we speak, al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen are meeting in secret to plot attacks against us; terrorists are preparing to attack our forces in Afghanistan; the Real IRA is planning its next strike against security forces in Northern Ireland; and rogue regimes are still trying to acquire nuclear weapons."-[ Hansard, 6 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 178.]

Can the Home Secretary confirm that the review is not being held to scale down the powers needed to address a diminishing threat, but is far from that? What is the latest estimate of the number of terror suspects actively engaged in complex plots and can she tell us how many such plots have been disrupted since 7/7?

The review must surely be held in the context of how those powers are working on the ground. In that context, will she provide information, if necessary on Privy Council terms, as Charles Clarke did in 2005, to allow Her Majesty's Opposition to be fully conversant with the backdrop to this review? Will she ensure that the same spirit of consensus-seeking takes place in reviewing anti-terrorism legislation that characterised the approach to the Terrorism Act 2006?

The Home Secretary's statement contained the immature and partisan attacks on the previous Government that are becoming rather tiresome and that are unworthy of a debate of this seriousness. Will she tell me in what way she considers the previous Government to have ridden roughshod over civil liberties on control orders, deportation with assurances, dealing with organisations that promote hatred or violence, or on the detention of terrorist suspects before charge?

On the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and in relation to some of the most widely spread myths about RIPA, is she aware that the interception of communications commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, concluded his latest annual report by saying that

"no evidence has emerged from the inspections which have been conducted during the last three years to indicate communications data is being used to investigate offences of a trivial nature, such as dog fouling or littering"?

What are the terms of reference for the review? They are not in the statement. Is it to be held purely in the context of civil liberties, or will it have a wider remit? We believe that it should. Does the Home Secretary think the time scale long enough to do justice to the issues under review? Given the fact that the Olympics are fast approaching, will they be a factor in the deliberations?

Given our joint desire to overcome the practical difficulties that prevent the use of intercept as evidence in our courts, given that 28-day detention has to be reapproved by Parliament each year and given that control orders are subject to annual report by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, what further safeguards does the Home Secretary believe may be necessary? I would on this occasion appreciate some answers, given the importance of the subject.

I worry about the Government's position on counter-terrorism. They admonish senior counter-terrorism police officers for daring to discuss in a closed meeting with colleagues the implication of a 25% cut in their funding. They refuse to give the police and the security services the same assurances on funding as they provide for the Department for International Development. They plan to diminish important weapons in the fight against crime and terrorism such as the DNA database and CCTV. The balance between collective security and individual freedom has to be carefully struck under the ever-changing and constantly evolving threat of international terrorism, but this review appears to be about one side of that balance.

Liberal Democrats should remember the words of John Stuart Mill, who said:

"All that makes existence valuable to anyone depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people."

The Government should remember that the slow creep of complacency is a phrase often used to describe the erosion of civil liberties. It is equally applicable to our vulnerability to terrorist attack.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Of all the things that I have seen in the couple of months since I became Home Secretary, the thing that has most struck me and surprised me has been the complete unwillingness of the Labour party to recognise what much of the counter-terrorism legislation that it introduced, and on occasions the misuse of that legislation, have done to civil liberties in this country. It has surprised me because I hoped that, in opposition, Alan Johnson and his colleagues would have taken the opportunity to sit back and look at their records in government and wonder why in the past few years so many people, including the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, have been raising questions about the counter-terrorism legislation that the previous Government introduced. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to use the time in opposition so far to undertake that exercise.

In the counter-terrorism review, we are looking at precisely the balance that the right hon. Gentleman talks about between collective security and individual freedom. We want to ensure that we strike the right balance between collective security and individual freedom and not the wrong balance that we believe the previous Government introduced in a number of areas.

The right hon. Gentleman asked for some statistics. I can tell him that 235 people were convicted of terrorism-related offences between 11 September 2001 and 31 December 2009, and a further 22 defendants were awaiting trial as at 31 December 2009. For the 28 terrorism-related trials completed in the 12 months to the end of last year, 93% were convicted, with just over half pleading guilty, and convictions included six life sentences. At the end of December 2009, 131 people were in prison for terrorism, extremist offences or charges relating to terrorism or extremism.

I am certainly not making light of the threat that exists in this country and, as the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged, nor did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he came to the House to make his statement on detainees and the publication of guidance to our security services. We recognise the level of threat in the United Kingdom, but I say to the right hon. Gentleman and members of the Labour party that our fight against those threats is not aided by legislation that is misused or that people feel encroaches on civil liberties.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether I could suggest legislation in which the Labour Government had ridden roughshod over civil liberties and then said they had not done so in relation to the detention of terror suspects before charging. I have to say to him that trying to introduce 90 days of pre-charge detention was indeed riding roughshod over our civil liberties. The review will look to ensure that our counter-terrorism legislation is appropriate to the level of threat and provides our police and our security and intelligence agencies with the powers that they need to combat that threat, while ensuring that we can enjoy our ancient civil liberties.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

I welcome the review unreservedly and in particular the appointment of Lord Macdonald to assist with it. That is a very good sign indeed.

However, may I raise with my right hon. Friend two questions that arise from what she has just said? First, she listed the six items that will be reviewed and I hope that at some point someone will look in aggregate at the overall effect of an authoritarian approach to terrorism, which itself creates a response in terms of radicalisation. Secondly, on a more tactical basis, my right hon. Friend said that she wants the review to be open and transparent and that she wants to involve Liberty. At least one organisation has approached me to say that it has been unable to find out from the Home Office how it can make submissions to the review. Will she make sure that that is dealt with promptly?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about the review. I will of course ensure that information is available from the Home Office as to how organisations and others can make comments as part of their submissions to the review.

I take the point that it is important to look at the collective impact of legislation. We will be looking at the six individual areas, but as part of that process we shall look at the overall impact of legislation. It is that balance that is so important for us to achieve-ensuring that the legislation is not brought into disrepute because of the overall impact or because it is felt that it encroaches on important liberties.

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Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee

Every new Government are entitled to review legislation in the way that the Home Secretary has suggested, and the Select Committee looks forward to seeing her on Thursday morning when we shall have the opportunity to explore these issues with her. I am grateful to her for agreeing to see us at such short notice.

May I press the Home Secretary on resources? The threat is still severe. Mr Yates has made it very clear that as far as he is concerned there will be cuts of £150 million to the counter-terrorism budget, and I understand that Home Office officials saw his speech before he delivered it to the closed session of the Association of Chief Police Officers last Thursday. Can the right hon. Lady confirm that it is the Government's intention to ensure that the counter-terrorism unit, and units all over the country, have the resources they need to fight terrorism and that there will be no cut to that budget?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I of course want to ensure that those involved in counter-terrorism, whether in the police or other agencies, are able to undertake the job we ask them to do and which they do diligently for us day in, day out. On spending cuts, however, no specific figure has been set. As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, a spending review is under way in which Departments are looking at their expenditure and it is right that the Home Office does as other Departments do. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman and others on the Opposition Benches that I did not want to be in the position of looking at spending cuts in the Home Office and other Departments. The reason why we have to do so is that, in the words of the last Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury, there is no money left. And whose fault is that? It is the Labour party's.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Chair, Justice Committee

I commend the Home Secretary for recognising that the very real threat to the safety of the people of this country is hindered, not helped, when people perceive that their civil liberties as well as their safety are threatened. Using terrorism powers to bundle people out of the Labour party conference, to stop people reading out names in Whitehall, or indeed to deal with the Icelandic banking crisis demonstrated how authoritarianism had taken over from rational assessment of what we need to defeat terrorism.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Gentleman makes an extremely valid point. It is extremely useful, in the context of this statement and the questions and answers on it, to remind people of what happened at the Labour party conference, and what an abuse of terrorism legislation that was.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Labour, Salford and Eccles

The Home Secretary's statement refers to a review of powers to deal with organisations that promote hatred or violence. Does she recognise that legislation alone is never sufficient to tackle complex issues of this nature? Will she look very closely at the current Department for Communities and Local Government review of the Prevent programme, which is very much designed to make communities part of the solution, not part of the problem? This is a complex, sophisticated and difficult area to tackle, but unless she makes communities part of the solution, we will not make the progress that we need to make.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Lady makes a valid point. There is a role for legislation, but of course there is a role for activity beyond legislation, and working with communities is an important part of that. The Home Office is indeed working with the Department for Communities and Local Government to assess the Prevent strategy, and to consider how that can best be focused on its proper aims. Part of it is the community-building that she has described, in addition to its counter-terrorism aspect.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Conservative, New Forest East

At a meeting earlier today, the American anti-terrorist expert Dr Marc Sageman expressed his surprise that we do not use a method that is found to be very effective in the United States and other countries at deterring people from joining terrorist movements, which is to publish in full the transcripts of the trials that are held when plots are uncovered and disrupted. That would be a very effective mechanism, and it could also lead to television re-enactments which would show that far from these people being 10 feet tall and great warriors, they are often very banal, very stupid and very deserving of our contempt.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend has made an interesting point; it is not something that I had looked at. I am perfectly willing to look at it, if he would like to send me some information. He will have noticed that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary has been present and will have heard the point that he made.

Photo of William McCrea William McCrea DUP, South Antrim

Government's first responsibility is the protection and safeguarding of the law-abiding community from acts and threats of terrorism. It is not enough to praise our security forces and services; they need to be allowed the tools and the freedom to do their job. Will the Home Secretary assure the House that no action will be taken that will compromise that responsibility, just to promote a political agenda or get something over the Opposition?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and recognise that, given the experience that he has, ensuring that the police and others have the proper powers to combat terrorism is extremely important. In responding to him, may I take the opportunity of paying tribute to the work of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, particularly last night and yesterday in Northern Ireland, given the difficulties and the troubles that arose in relation to a parade. I assure him that I fully recognise that the first duty of Government is to protect their citizens, and it is against that background that we will be conducting the review.

Photo of Patrick Mercer Patrick Mercer Conservative, Newark

In recognition of the shadow Home Secretary's last question, I do not believe that there is any complacency in countering terrorism from this Government. However, there might be a temptation to concentrate too much, or exclusively, on the threat from Islamist fundamentalism. Will the Home Secretary assure me that the grave dangers from Irish republicanism will also be dealt with and reviewed as part of the process?

J

I do wish he would speak clearly and unambiguously and without obfuscation but he thinks that in politics the whole point is to obfuscate and prevaricate which is not true of some forthright politicians that have the courage of their convictions to express...

Submitted by James Clark Continue reading

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. He makes an important and valid point. I can assure him that we are well aware of the increased threat that arises from dissident republicanism. That is why resources have been looked at in dealing with it in Northern Ireland. We are very conscious that there are diverse terrorist threats to the UK-they are not all from one group or one type of person.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

I welcome the review and was slightly surprised that we are still, apparently, going to renew the 28-day provision tomorrow. May I draw the Home Secretary's attention to the fourth area she identified-looking into extending the use of deportations with assurances? Could she give me two assurances: first, that no one will be deported while the review is going on, and secondly, that there will be no consideration whatever of a continuing regime that allows people to be deported to countries that have not signed the relevant United Nations declarations, particularly the conventions on torture?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for focusing on that issue. He asked me to ensure that there were no deportations during the review-a rather wide commitment -but the purpose of his question was to focus on deportations with assurances. Of course, the issue arises because we have had a number of cases here in the UK where individuals have been identified as posing a terrorist threat to the UK, but because of the legal interpretations of our duties and requirements under the European convention on human rights, it has not been felt possible to deport those individuals to certain countries. We wish to continue to work with a number of other countries to ensure that it will be possible to deport people with assurances that they will not be subject to torture.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

On the point that the Home Secretary has just made about legal interpretation, has she taken note of the fact that many senior members of the judiciary, including the Lord Chief Justice, have raised serious concerns relating to the manner in which the convention on human rights has been interpreted by the Court in Strasbourg and that, for practical purposes, the balance between protecting civil liberties on the one hand and the security of the people on the other must be maintained? Therefore, the review is welcome, but she must take into account the fact that many senior members of the judiciary do not regard this as xenophobic legal nonsense.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am happy to take into account the fact that many members of the judiciary have different views on the issues that we will review. Of course, as I said earlier, we aim to get the right balance between ensuring that we can protect members of the public and ensuring our national security, while maintaining our civil liberties.

Photo of Michael Dugher Michael Dugher Labour, Barnsley East

Does the review not send out completely the wrong signals to the public and, indeed, to those who would jeopardise the safety and security of the public? Would the Government's time not be better spent backing the police and the security services with the resources and powers that they require?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we do indeed back the police and our security services. As I said in my statement, they do a very important job for us day in, day out, often at some risk to themselves, and we pay tribute to all the work that they do for us. But that work is not aided by a situation where many members of the public feel that certain pieces of legislation have been introduced and abused. I think that, in fact, a former Labour Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, referred to the snooping tendencies of local authorities under RIPA. Such things do not aid the police in the work that they have to do to protect us on a daily basis.

Photo of Paul Uppal Paul Uppal Conservative, Wolverhampton South West

May I welcome the review announced by the Home Secretary today and elaborate on that? Opposition Members have spoken about how legislation was introduced under the previous Government. Often, that was easily done by arguing that it was what the security forces requested. Returning to the point made by Michael Dugher, it is easy to take that prosaic approach. I welcome the approach taken today; it shows a holistic and encompassing view, which promotes the fact that we in the Chamber and the Executive take these decisions for reasons of collective security against individual freedom, rather than taking such a prosaic approach.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. It is the job of politicians and the Government to ensure that we maintain the appropriate balance and that our counter-terrorism legislation is proportionate and focused. It is indeed the job of the Government not simply to accept every suggestions that is made to them, but to judge the value of those suggestions and decide accordingly.

Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

As one of the group of MPs who originally seconded the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend Mr Winnick that called for 28 days instead of 90 days, may I point out to the right hon. Lady that there was never any magic formula about 28 days-it was simply 62 days better than 90 days? I am pleased that there will be a review of this issue and that the former Director of Public Prosecutions will have an opportunity to consider that figure. If indeed he recommends 14 days, I hope that the right hon. Lady will stick by that recommendation.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, both for the action that she took previously to ensure that we did not go through with 90 days and for the point that she has made. My view is clear: we need to consider how we can reduce from 28 days. The debate tomorrow will be about the extension of the 28-day provision for six months, which gives us time to conduct the review properly, alongside all the other issues on counter-terrorism legislation that we are considering, so that we can look at that in a balanced and proportionate way.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Conservative, North East Hertfordshire

In welcoming the statement, may I remind my right hon. Friend that when the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was going through the House, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats made common cause in opposing the careless way in which the then Government wanted to give powers of data-mining for communications data and surveillance to a wide range of bodies, such as local authority waste departments and the Royal Parks constabulary? The issues that were looked at, such as dog fouling and littering, went far beyond what most people would consider reasonable. Will she carefully examine that Act and try to ensure that we do not have an unreasonable aggregation of powers that brings security into disrepute?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my hon. Friend for the points that he has made. He played a very important part in the debate about that legislation when it was going through the House, and he raised exactly those points-as part of a coalition before the coalition, if I can describe it as such. We will, indeed, look carefully at the Act. Those powers have been added to over time, and as a result brought the matter into disrepute.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Culture and Sport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution)

I, too, very much welcome the statement by the Home Secretary, who is absolutely right to roll back the anti-civil libertarian state that the previous Labour Government established. I accept that the review will start with the presumption of reducing the 28-day limit, but does she have in mind an appropriate number of days for pre-charge detention?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Personally, I was always in favour of 14 days, but the whole point of a review is to look at what the appropriate period should be, and I do not wish to pre-empt the review's decision or the information with which it will come forward.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington

The review must be totally transparent, so can the Home Secretary confirm that she will publish its full terms of reference? Will she also state today that tomorrow's renewal of the 28 day pre-charge detention period, if it proceeds, will be the last?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am happy to ensure that the terms of reference are available to hon. Members. As I said in my statement, the six-month extension of the 28-day pre-charge detention period will enable us to consider that period as part of the review, and to explore how we can reduce the detention period to below 28 days.

Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Does the Home Secretary accept how much I-as somebody who voted against both 90 days and 42 days, and for 28 days only because, as my hon. Friend Emily Thornberry said, it was 62 days less than 90 days -welcome the review? It is long overdue.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments. She was indeed another Member in the battle against the 90 days, which we all felt was government authoritarianism gone mad.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford

Under the previous Government, a photographer from Medway was arrested in Chatham high street under section 44 stop-and-search powers, and he and fellow photographers from Medway will welcome today's announcement from the Home Secretary. Will she assure the House that any future revision of anti-terror legislation will strike the right balance between protecting the public and safeguarding the rights of individuals?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in my statement I specifically said that we would look at the issue of photographers and stop-and-search powers. It is one issue that has been brought home forcibly to me. I have had constituency cases of people who have been stopped under those powers and been concerned about it, and I have received a number of representations from Members of this House, and indeed of another place, about those problems.

Photo of Margaret Ritchie Margaret Ritchie Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

In the interests of promoting civil liberties and the principles of human rights while recognising the need to reduce terrorism, will the Secretary of State indicate the nature of the involvement with intelligence agencies and Government Departments in Northern Ireland?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am happy to confirm that, as I said in my statement, we will of course talk to agencies and Government Departments in Northern Ireland. The hon. Lady will have noticed the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the Chamber listening to the statement, and he is here so that we can ensure that the power that we obtain as a result of the review, and the exercise of that power, is appropriate throughout the United Kingdom.

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Photo of Margot James Margot James Conservative, Stourbridge

Although the major threat to our security currently comes from militant Islamic groups, younger members of whom have been tragically brainwashed, I would like to ask a question based on the Muslim population I have in my constituency -some 1,500 people, the vast majority of whom lead decent, quiet and law-abiding lives. However, the misuse of anti-terror legislation and the Islamophobic comment in the press produce an atmosphere of insecurity. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the end, this leads to a greater threat to our security, because it is essential that our security forces have at their disposal contacts within the Islamic community for intelligence purposes; and will she, in the spirit of transparency, agree to involve moderate Muslim groups in her consultation?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I am sure that my hon. Friend will have noticed, I said in my statement that we are hoping that a number of groups will be able to be involved in the review. I fully take her point that it is important that we get the balance between security and civil liberties right. Otherwise, such measures can not only bring the legislation into disrepute but cause some people to feel insecure and to feel that what the Government are doing is simply being done against them. That is not the case. We need to look across the board at our counter-terrorism legislation, always having in mind the need to ensure that we get that balance right.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

As someone who, in the last Parliament, opposed from the Government Benches many of the previous Government's measures in legislating disproportionately and, I believe, counter-productively on counter-terrorism, may I ask the Secretary of State to explain why, in the context of this review, the parallel powers in the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 should not also be reviewed at the same time?

Will the Home Secretary give us some idea of Lord Macdonald's role in oversight of the review? We are told that it is a Home Office review that will be conducted in liaison with other Departments but that Lord Macdonald will have oversight. Will people submitting to the review have engagement with Lord Macdonald, engagement with the Home Office, or both?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Anybody wishing to submit comments or proposals to the review will do so to the Home Office. Lord Macdonald's role will be in reviewing how the review has been undertaken, to ensure that it has been done properly and that all options have been properly considered.

As for the 2007 Act, when I spoke here last week about section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and the interim changes that I am making to the guidance on that, I was conscious of a number of contributions from the Opposition Benches, including, I think, from the hon. Gentleman himself, encouraging me to ensure that the Police Service of Northern Ireland had appropriate powers, some of which are in the very Act that he cited.

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Photo of Julian Huppert Julian Huppert Liberal Democrat, Cambridge

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement, the review and the attitude that is being taken to it; that is very welcome. However, I am still disappointed that she did not allow the provision for 28 days' detention without charge to lapse during the period of the review. May I follow up the question asked by my hon. Friend Tom Brake, which did not get a clear response in her statement or her answer? Will she pledge not to introduce another 28-day detention period at the end of the six months, or is she trying to maintain that option-in order, perhaps, to ask us yet again to vote for 28 days' detention?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman is encouraging me to pre-empt the result of the review. I am absolutely clear, as I said, that the review will look at the pre-charge detention period with a view to reducing it from 28 days. However, I do not want to pre-empt the result of the review, so, tempting though it might be, I would simply refer him to the comments that I made earlier.

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Photo of Yasmin Qureshi Yasmin Qureshi Labour, Bolton South East

I welcome the Home Secretary's review of the counter-terrorism legislation. Although I was not in Parliament when this matter was debated, I was certainly campaigning against that piece of legislation. May I ask the Home Secretary to be tempted, and to bring in tomorrow a reduction from 28 to perhaps seven or 14 days?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support for the review, but I am afraid that I am going to give her the same answer as I gave to two of my Liberal Democrat hon. Friends-that I do not want to pre-empt the result of the review. We will have our debate tomorrow, and then, when the review reports, we will be able to look at its proposals.

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Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

I congratulate the Home Secretary on making her statement-and on allowing us to hear it in the House first, rather than in the media. Can she tell the House why intercept evidence is not being considered in the review, but is being considered separately?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am happy to do so. The previous Government set up a process to consider intercept evidence, and a Privy Council group is in existence to do that. In fact, Sir Alan Beith is a member of that group. I want to talk to it about how we can take that issue forward in the best and most appropriate way, and I think it is better to do that over time rather than shoehorn it into this review.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

We had a previous Government who made legislation for the sake of legislation: in the past 13 years we had more legislation than in the previous 100 years. With regard to point two in the review mentioned by the Secretary of State-photography and terrorism-will she receive representations from the president of the Kent photographic organisation about how badly photographers have been affected by the legislation?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I would be very happy to receive those representations from my hon. Friend.

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Photo of Charlie Elphicke Charlie Elphicke Conservative, Dover

A warrant is needed to enter my home, but there is not similar judicial oversight in relation to RIPA, in particular on communications access at my electronic home, or whether I am followed on the school run or my garbage is looked through. Will the review particularly consider judicial oversight of RIPA powers?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The review will specifically consider the use of RIPA powers by local authorities, which has been a key matter; people have been extremely concerned about the powers that are available and how those powers have been used. As I said earlier, it was a former Labour Home Secretary, I believe, who referred to those powers as a "dustbin Stasi".

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Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant Conservative, Maidstone and The Weald

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the last Government got the balance between security, unlimited stop-and-search powers and liberty completely and utterly wrong?

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I think they did, and as I said earlier in response to the shadow Home Secretary, I am only sorry that they have not taken the opportunity of being in opposition to think again.

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