Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism

Part of Carers (Identification and Support) – in the House of Commons at 4:43 pm on 14th July 2010.

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Photo of William McCrea William McCrea DUP, South Antrim 4:43 pm, 14th July 2010

I have little time and I want to complete the few remarks that I believe need to be put on the record.

On 7 July 2005, the attack on London's public transport system surely reminded us that there is a vicious and evil terrorist threat against the United Kingdom. In the House the other day, I said that the Government's first responsibility is to protect the law-abiding community, and that every tool must be available to the security services to ensure that that priority is achieved. I believe that the House and the country must come to terms with reality. We must make up our minds what the primary objective really is. Terrorism-no one knows it better than the people of Northern Ireland-is an evil in society, and society must face the evil.

There is nothing beautiful about terrorism and there is no excuse for terrorism. The idea that somehow 28 days of detention gives terrorists an excuse to attack the people of the United Kingdom is despicable. Terrorism is ugly, unacceptable and despicable, and it must be faced. We in Northern Ireland endured the curse of terrorism for more than 30 years. To be frank with the House, many were happy to appease the terrorists as long as terrorism remained in Northern Ireland and did not come on to the mainland. Some thought that appeasement was a price worth paying. Terrorism destroys the liberty and the freedom of a people. It destroys the freedom and the liberty of the innocent, and I fear that some are about to make the mistake of the past. I do not wish for any person to be detained any longer than is necessary.

The statistics that the Home Secretary has brought to the House today prove that the legislation has not been abused, and therefore people have not been abused, because the figures tell us that the legislation that has been in place with the 28-day provision has been used both sensitively and responsibly. As I have said, I do not wish anyone to be detained for any longer than necessary, but I would leave it up to the security services to advise on the issue, rather than allow political expedience to meddle with things or to muddy the waters.

It is interesting to notice that the major party of the coalition Government, when it went to the electorate, did not mention 14 days in its manifesto. It did not mention changing the 28-day period. The only party that did mention it was the Liberal Democrat party, which is not surprising. However, on previous occasions, my right hon. and hon. colleagues received security briefings on this important issue and were guided thereby. Therefore, will the Home Secretary clarify what advice she has received on the current 28-day detention period?

Over the years, we in Northern Ireland have been inconvenienced. We were frustrated on many occasions and at times we were angry at the use of powers, but whenever our lives were preserved from the terrorists' bombs, we were very thankful. We were very appreciative of what the security forces did to preserve innocent life and the freedom of law-abiding citizens.

When we talk about what we want to hand on to the next generation, I suggest that the fundamental responsibility of the House is to hand on freedom. We can have a peace at any price, but we cannot have freedom at any price. As I have said, at times we have been angry, but our lives were preserved. We fail to thank the security services for the numerous times they have saved us from disaster, but many times we are quick to condemn them and complain about them when they do not get it completely right. The measure before the House and the 28-day period is appropriate, bearing in mind the terrorist threat that the United Kingdom faces, and I trust that the House will approve the order accordingly.

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