I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
There is no greater task for any Government than to protect their citizens, to uphold their values and to defend their way of life, but when we face such a significant threat from terrorism over so great a period it becomes even more important that the Government ensure that the protection of our citizens does not overshadow the freedoms of us all. That is why we reviewed counter-terrorism legislation and it is why we need this Bill. Let me be clear: I will do nothing that risks our national security or the safety of our citizens, but this Bill is necessary precisely because public safety is enhanced, not diminished, by appropriate and proportionate powers.
There is in this country a small number of people who pose a real threat to our citizens, but whom we cannot successfully prosecute or deport. Prosecution, conviction and prison will always be our priority because the right place for a terrorist is in a prison cell. Where successful prosecution or deportation is not possible, however, no responsible Government could allow dangerous individuals to go freely about their terrorist activities. Since becoming Home Secretary, I have made use of the control order powers available to me to stop terrorist activity and to place restrictions on such individuals on a number of occasions.
I think that my right hon. Friend may have anticipated that I would have something to say. She refers to terrorists and I am sure she realises that what she is talking about in this context is suspected terrorists. Does she recognise that it is the fault of the Government and Parliament if judges are given too much scope in human rights matters? Why produce a Bill here at Westminster that fails to provide for due process and a fair trial according to the basic principles of British justice? The coalition is simply giving in to Lib-Dem pressure for this Bill to comply with the Human Rights Act and the European convention; and it has not even provided for a derogation from article 5.
I did indeed expect that, as my hon. Friend was in the Chamber, he might wish to raise certain matters. I am aware of his private Member’s Bill on the same issue. I have to tell him that I was not entirely clear from what he said whether he was in favour of more human rights or against more human rights. I see him leaping to his feet.
I am grateful to the Home Secretary for walking into that one. I am very much in favour of human rights, but I am in favour of human rights according to principles of British justice, not those devised through the European convention and applied through the Human Rights Act, which has led to so many contradictions and inconsistencies and has raised so much concern among the public at large.
I hope my hon. Friend is grateful for the opportunity I gave him to clarify that particular point. I simply say in response to that and his comments about the judiciary that legislation is, of course, set by Parliament, but I believe that the relationship between politicians and the judiciary has changed as a result of the operation of the Human Rights Act. As a Government, we have set up a commission, which will report in due course, to look at the Human Rights Act and the possibility of introducing a Bill of Rights.
I said that I felt the Bill was necessary because public safety is enhanced, not diminished, by appropriate and proportionate powers. Protecting the British public will always be my top priority, but the current control orders regime is neither perfect nor entirely effective. I believe that the Bill will give us appropriate, proportionate and effective powers to deal with the risk posed by people we believe are involved in terrorist-related activity whom we can neither prosecute nor deport.
Our approach is clear, consistent and coherent. We will repeal the control order regime and replace it with a more focused and targeted regime of terrorism prevention and investigation measures. We will then support the new measures with increased covert investigative resources. So this Bill starts by repealing the Act that provides the power to impose control orders on individuals: the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.
The Bill sets out the essential elements of the TPIM—terrorism prevention and investigation measures—regime that will replace control orders. It enables the Secretary of State to impose specified terrorism prevention and investigation measures on an individual by means of a TPIM notice. Unlike under the control order regime, the detail of the measures that will be able to be imposed will be specified in legislation and so will be specifically approved by the House. It is only right that it is Parliament, and not the Executive, that decides what types of measures may be imposed.
The Bill establishes 12 types of measures that could be imposed as part of a TPIM notice. It also provides clear limits on the restrictions that may be imposed under each measure. These measures include: an overnight residence measure; a travel measure, mainly to prevent travel outside the United Kingdom; an exclusion measure to prevent individuals entering specified areas or places; a financial services measure; an electronic communication device measure; an association measure; a reporting measure and a monitoring measure.
The overnight residence measure is not the same as the control order curfew requirement. Under control orders, curfews could last up to 16 hours and apply at any point in the day. Our intention is not to force individuals to remain in their homes during the day, when they might normally go out to work or study, but to ensure they are in their homes overnight, as most people normally would be. This will reduce the scope for involvement in terrorism-related activity and reduce the risk of absconding.
The travel measure will allow the banning of overseas travel without permission. It will also allow the individual to be required to surrender their passport or travel documents. This measure is, I believe, absolutely vital to stop travel for terrorist training, for example.
The Home Secretary has said that the overnight residence requirements are different from curfews and that she does not want to prevent people from going out in the evening. Why, then, did she apply for a control order that included a curfew between 5 pm in the evening and 9 am in the morning—a total curfew of 16 hours?
We are currently operating—and have been since the Government came to power—the control order regime that was put in place by the Prevention of Terrorism Act. That is the basis on which I am currently operating. The new regime that will be put in place—of terrorism prevention and investigation measures—is a package that includes not just the measures in the Bill, but, as the right hon. Lady knows, the extra resources for the security services and the police.
But will the Home Secretary confirm that she has the power to specify how many hours a curfew should be for and that she has chosen to specify a curfew for 16 hours rather than for fewer hours?
I will not comment on a particular case, which the right hon. Lady appears to be trying to get me to do. What I will say is that under the current control order regime it is possible to specify the length of a curfew. As she will know, the length of curfew has been challenged—and challenged successfully—in the courts. What we are doing with TPIMs is taking a different approach to the issue. The TPIMs in the Bill are intended to ensure that we allow prevention of terrorism activity for national security requirements, while also ensuring that individuals can take part in what is regarded as normal activity, such as work or study.
Will not the Home Secretary simply accept that these TPIMs are nothing other than a repackaging and rebranding of the old, discredited control orders regime? Has she had a chance to look at the sheet produced by Liberty, which goes through measure by measure, showing how similar they are? Is it not the case that she is no better than Lord Reid when it comes to control orders?
We are introducing a new regime. We did what we undertook to do as a coalition Government when we came to power. Both parties were committed to reviewing the control order regime. We did that, and what we have decided is that the right balance between civil liberties and national security is reflected in the Bill. It will enable us to take action to prevent terrorist activity by that small number of people who, as I have said, we are unable to prosecute or deport, while at the same time re-striking the balance between national security and civil liberties. The financial services measures would allow individuals to be limited to one bank account, for which they would have to provide statements. Transfer of money and goods overseas without prior permission could also be prohibited. Under the association measure, a list of prohibited associates would be supplied to the individual in advance, with the possibility that notice would be required of meetings with other individuals. The reporting measure would require individuals to report to a particular police station at a particular time, and the monitoring measure would require them to co-operate with arrangements to monitor their movements, communications and other activities. That might include a requirement to wear an electronic tag.
The Bill places clear limits on each of the restrictions that can be imposed. For example, it clearly provides no power for individuals to be relocated to another part of the country without their consent. The exclusion measure will allow only tightly defined exclusion from particular places such as named buildings and streets or defined locations. It will not allow exclusion from wide geographical areas. Exclusion will also be allowed from certain types of locations such as airports, ports or international railway stations. The need for such an exclusion should be obvious. As for restrictions involving electronic communication devices, the Bill makes it clear that the individual concerned must be allowed to own and use at least one fixed-line telephone, a computer and fixed-line internet connection and a mobile telephone. All that must of course be subject to specific conditions, such as the provision of passwords and phone numbers.
The Bill also sets out the conditions that must be satisfied before the Secretary of State may impose a TPIMs notice. A key change from the control order regime is that the Secretary of State must now reasonably believe, rather than reasonably suspect, that an individual is or has been involved in terrorism-related activity. The Secretary of State must also reasonably consider that it is necessary to impose particular measures on an individual to protect the public and to restrict the individual’s involvement in terrorism-related activity. That means that the package of measures will vary from case to case, which is only right given that all cases will be different.
We are aware that TPIMs are a short-term tool to protect the public rather than a long-term solution. A person will be subject to a TPIMs notice for no more than two years in response to specific terrorist-related activity. The initial notice will be imposed for one year, and can be extended once if that is necessary to protect the public. If an individual engages in new terrorism-related activity, of course a new notice and new measures can be imposed with a further two-year time limit. A new notice could be imposed immediately if terrorism-related activity had occurred during the life of the TPIM, and a new TPIMs notice could be imposed after the original one had expired. That is an essential safeguard for our national security, ensuring that appropriate disruptive action can be taken if an individual re-engages in terrorism-related activity.
As with the current regime, the courts will have to give permission for a TPIMs notice to be imposed. Only in the most exceptional and urgent cases will court permission not have been obtained before the imposition of a notice. If the court gives permission, a full review of the decision must begin automatically. There will be no requirement for the lodging of an appeal. The full review will be heard by a High Court judge. If the judge does not consider that the relevant conditions have been met, in relation to the notice as a whole or in relation to specific measures within it, the judge may quash the whole notice or specific measures as appropriate. Individuals will know enough of the case against them to enable them to instruct their own lawyer and the special advocate who will have access to all material, including sensitive material.
One of the issues that we are examining is the more general issue of special advocates and the information available to them, but I take the hon. Lady’s point. As she says, the current regime is not being used in Northern Ireland, but we will be very aware of the issue of special advocates and their availability there. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend James Brokenshire—who is responsible for crime and security matters—is involved in wider Government work in relation to the availability of sensitive information in cases relating to terrorist activity.
In practice, individuals subject to terrorism prevention and investigation measures will know the key elements of the case against them, even if it is not possible for them to see all the underlying intelligence. Once a TPIMs notice has been imposed, there will be a further right of appeal against subsequent decisions—for example, decisions to extend or vary the terms of the notice. The package in the Bill will assure individuals subject to TPIMs notices of a significant and appropriate level of judicial oversight of their cases. As well as providing for rigorous consideration by the courts, the Bill contains a formal statutory requirement for the Secretary of State to keep under review whether a TPIMs notice, and all its restrictions, remains necessary to protect the public from a risk of terrorism. That will remove any doubt about whether such notices are assessed to ensure that they remain necessary at all times.
The Bill provides a number of further safeguards. The Secretary of State will be required to make a quarterly report to Parliament on the exercise of the powers in the Bill. That mirrors the current practice in relation to control orders, and will ensure appropriate visibility, and public accountability, of the TPIMs regime. The Secretary of State must also appoint an independent person to review the operation of the enacted legislation. That, too, mirrors the current control order regime.
As the House will know, David Anderson QC recently took on the role of independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, which was previously undertaken so effectively and for so many years by Lord Carlile of Berriew. As independent reviewer, David Anderson would undertake the statutory reviews of the TPIMs legislation, just as he currently reviews control order powers.
The final part of the Bill relates to enforcement. It provides for a criminal offence of breaching measures specified in a TPIM notice without reasonable excuse. The maximum penalty will be five years’ imprisonment. The Bill also contains detailed provisions relating to powers of search and entry, which build on the existing powers relating to control orders. There will be an explicit power for the police to undertake a search for compliance purposes—for example, to check that the individual has no prohibited communications devices—but they will be required to obtain a warrant first.
The final part of our approach is to combine the new preventive measures with significantly increased resources for the police and the Security Service, over and above those agreed in the spending review, to help with investigation and prosecution. For security reasons I cannot give the House a full breakdown of the funds provided for specific security activities, but I can reassure Members that this is new money that has not been taken from any existing counter-terrorism programmes. These additional investigative capabilities and resources will help the police and MI5 to gather evidence with a view, as always, to prosecution. The commitment to prosecution is also reflected in clause 10, which requires prior consultation with the police on whether evidence is available that could realistically be used for prosecution in relation to a terrorist offence. It also requires the police to keep the individual's conduct under review while a TPIMs notice is in force, and to report to the Home Secretary on that review.
I have discussed the new arrangements in detail with Jonathan Evans, the director general of the Security Service. He has told me that he considers that the changes provide an acceptable balance between the needs of security and those of civil liberties, and that the overall package mitigates risk.
The Bill is a vital part of the Government's new, more effective and more proportionate approach to counter-terrorism. This afternoon I announced to the House a new and more effective strategy for countering radicalisation; the Bill is, perhaps, as important as that new strategy in restoring trust in Britain's approach to counter-terrorism. The repeal of control orders, their replacement with TPIMs, and extra resources for covert surveillance and investigation constitute the right approach. It is an approach that is necessary and proportionate, that will do a great deal to protect the public from the risk of terrorism, and that deserves support from all parties. I commend the Bill to the House.
The Home Secretary barely had time to draw breath between statement and debate, but that transition exposes again the gap between the Government’s rhetoric and reality in regard to counter-terrorism. On a day on which the Home Secretary has launched her review of the strategy to prevent terrorism, with tough talk about clamping down, she is simultaneously watering down measures proven to prevent terrorist activity.
The fact is that, for the most part, the Bill is a confusion and a con. It does not do what it says on the tin, and it does not fulfil the grand promises made by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. In 27 clauses, it takes us in a circle and—almost—back to where we started. However, in a few areas it does make changes, and some of them are worrying.
If the hon. Gentleman persists with such simplistic soundbites, he will misunderstand the nature of the terrorist threat to Britain, and also the nature of the Bill that he is supporting, because this Bill represents a complete reversal of the promises he and his party made during the election, and does not abolish the control orders regime but simply renames it with a few minor amendments.
We on the Opposition Benches do not have access to the latest security assessments from the experts. We believe it is important to support the Government on counter-terrorism issues where we can, but in order to do so we will need more reassurances from the Home Secretary, and also some changes. The first duty of any Government is the protection of the people and the safeguarding of national security, yet the Home Secretary’s changes currently make it harder for the police and security services to limit the actions of a small number of dangerous people. We therefore need more reassurances on that.
Ideally, we would not have control orders because, ideally, we would not need them, but the Labour Government introduced them because we recognised that we needed to deal with a very small number of difficult cases, where prosecution was not possible for a range of reasons and where the public still needed to be protected from terrorist activity. In opposition, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives condemned control orders, but now they are in government they have changed their minds. Indeed, the Home Secretary has introduced six new control orders since she came to office, and renewed eight more, but rather than admit that, she is desperate to maintain the fiction that control orders need to be replaced by something fundamentally different and that this Bill does the trick.
Most of the Bill is a fudge, drawn up to meet promises made to the Deputy Prime Minister that control orders would be abolished. Clause 1 does exactly that, but clauses 2 to 27 just reinstate most of the elements of control orders. The Bill does not therefore meet the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto promise to scrap orders that use evidence in closed sessions of court, nor does it meet the Conservative pledge of
“eliminating the control order regime.”—[Hansard, House of Lords, 3 March 2010; Vol. 717, c. 1530.]
“won his Cabinet fight to scrap control orders”, that suspects will no longer have to wear electronic tags or have a home curfew, and that they
“will also be allowed to travel wherever they want in Britain”.
As all Members now know, the Bill allows for tags, home curfews and restrictions on travel around Britain. Where control orders use closed proceedings and special advocates, so too do TPIMs. Where control orders are instigated by the Home Secretary with the permission of the High Court, so too are TPIMs. Where control orders are used when prosecution is not possible, so too are TPIMs. Where control orders can restrict people’s movements, communication, association, travel and bank accounts, so too can TPIMs.
Let me read out some extracts from the Government’s own explanatory notes to the Bill. Clause 1 abolishes control orders, and clauses 2 to 4 introduce TPIMs. On clauses 6 to 9 and schedule 2, the notes say:
“This replicates the position in relation to control orders”.
On clause 10, they say:
“The clause maintains all the existing requirements contained in the 2005 Act.”
On clauses 12 to 15 and schedule 3, they say:
“The clauses make provision—equivalent to that in the 2005 Act in relation to control orders”.
On clauses 16 to 18 and schedule 4, they say:
“This provides similar rights of appeal to those that exist in relation to control orders.”
They say that clauses 19 to 20
“place requirements—equivalent to those contained in the 2005 Act in relation to control orders”.
On clause 21, they say that
“this effectively recreates the main offence of the 2005 Act of contravening an obligation imposed under a control order”— and they then add, in brackets—
“(including the same maximum penalty)”.
This Bill is one big set of square brackets which reads: insert control orders here.
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right: there is almost no difference between TPIMs and the former control order regime. What is the Labour party’s position on this? Would she amend control orders to make them more in line with her party’s new view on civil liberties? Indeed, what is the Labour party’s view on civil liberties? Were control orders a step too far? Will she now come on our side and start to take on the anti-civil libertarian state that Labour created?
As I said earlier, control orders are not ideal, and ideally we would not need them, but we do. We need to continue with control orders and this kind of protection.
I will set out my view of the Bill’s measures and where we think greater scrutiny is needed, and highlight the reduction in safeguards and checks and balances that the Home Secretary is introducing, because the point is not simply that she is weakening the powers of the police and security forces in certain areas, but that she is weakening the checks and balances, and in particular the parliamentary checks and balances, on the system that is in place. Those parliamentary checks and balances are extremely important for safeguarding our civil liberties, as well as for protecting national security.
I rise in search of some clarity on where the right hon. Lady stands. She seems to be saying on the one hand that TPIMs are simply recreating what existed under control orders, but on the other hand that what the Government are doing is making the situation much more dangerous, but it cannot be both.
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman listens more closely to what I am saying. The overall approach of the Government’s Bill, which he should read, is to reinstate most of the elements of control orders. I agree however—and I have said this clearly—that the Home Secretary is changing control orders in a series of ways, and I will address them shortly as they are significant. Some of them are justified, but others create risks, and changes will need to be made.
Overall, the Government should admit what they are doing. This is a cut-and-paste job. In place of control orders, all we have is “son of control orders”. It is irresponsible to maintain this pretence. That is not being straight with Parliament or the public on an issue of grave importance: how we safeguard our national security and our civil liberties. Debates on matters such as these should be open, transparent and considered, not fudged, fraudulent and confused. This is an area where Governments need to maintain the trust and confidence of the public, but we do not achieve that by playing these kinds of political games.
This is also a very strange use of parliamentary time. There are some limited and specific differences between control orders and “son of control orders” that I am not concerned about, but, frankly, the Home Secretary could have achieved them with about four clauses amending the 2005 Act which could have been debated as part of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. She could have covered the issues of relocation, the length of the curfew and access to phones through amendments to an existing Act. She did not need an entirely new piece of legislation to abolish control orders and then reintroduce them under another name.
Why are we not doing that? Why do we have an entire additional Bill with 27 more clauses, all redrafted, doing the same thing? Why are we here today? The answer is because the Home Secretary has lost yet another battle with her Cabinet colleagues on her policy areas, so she is forced to go through this charade of entirely new legislation; and because, once again, the Government are putting politics before good policy.
As I have made clear, some of the changes to the control orders are limited. We can support some of them, but some are very troubling. The first change is to move the burden of proof from “reasonable suspicion” to “reasonable belief”. We understand that the view of the experts is that none of the control orders that have been upheld would have failed that higher standard, and that this will not make a significant difference to the serious cases they worry about. We believe it is right to follow the evidence, and we are happy to support this change on that basis.
The second change is to alter the wording in respect of the hours. That is a bit of a joke. In place of curfews, we have a reference to overnight residence requirements, but what is the difference? The online “Oxford English Dictionary” definition of a curfew is
“a regulation requiring people to remain indoors during specified hours, typically at night.”
It is, therefore, a requirement to stay in one’s residence overnight, or, as one might say, an overnight residence requirement. The Deputy Prime Minister made great play of the fact that people would be restricted for fewer hours under TPIMs than under control orders, but that is not what the Bill actually says. In fact, there is no specified limit on the number of hours someone has to stay at home. All the Bill says is “overnight”.
Let us turn again to the OED for illumination about what that should ordinarily mean. Overnight means
“for the duration of a night”, and night means
“the period from sunset to sunrise.”
So does the Home Secretary intend TPIMs to apply for the hours of darkness? Does she want them to be longer in winter than in summer, and longer in the north than in the south? Does she want them potentially to be used to prevent evening activities and meetings, or only to require people to sleep in their own beds? If she does not think TPIMs should be used to prevent evening meetings or people going out after dark when surveillance is much more difficult, is she confident that this will not increase the risks to the public, or make it harder for the security services and police to do their jobs?
I asked the Home Secretary this during her speech, but how does this fit with her own decisions? A number of the 14 orders she has made or renewed since she took office include curfews, several of more than 12 hours. A recent one runs from 5 pm to 9 am—it is summer, so does that count as “overnight”? She can refuse to answer all these questions, but if she does not answer them, the courts will. Her definition just invites legal challenge or judicial review and, for the sake of the Government’s legal bill alone, she should tighten it up.
Thirdly, the Home Secretary has replaced an inexhaustive list of restrictions with an exhaustive list to choose from. We will ask in Committee whether or not any case, historical or current, would have been affected by this change. Fourthly, she and the Deputy Prime Minister have said that the new Bill would prevent relocation. This matter does raise some significant concerns. Preventing people from entering an entire area, or requiring them to live somewhere else, is, in general, deeply undesirable. However, many experts have concluded that in certain limited circumstances it is extremely important and can be justified. Indeed, police officers have told me that relocation can, in some exceptional circumstances, be the most effective way to disrupt terrorist activity and break someone out of a network of dangerous contacts and associations.
The Home Secretary must think that too, because in February she imposed a control order on a suspect that banned them from entering London and less than one month ago her lawyers defended those restrictions in the High Court. I have gone through the Court papers for this case, which, like so many, is extremely serious. The individual on the order, who is known as CD, was suspected of planning forthcoming attacks using firearms in London. The Court was told that he was attending regular meetings with associates in this city to plan an attack and had previously travelled to Syria for what was alleged to be extremist training. The assessment of the security services and the Home Secretary was that it was necessary to relocate CD outside Greater London to prevent him from having these meetings and co-ordinating an attack—that is what they argued in Court just last month. The High Court judge concluded that the relocation obligation is
“a necessary and proportionate measure to protect the public from the risk of what is an immediate and real risk of a terrorist-related attack.”
All this happened just last month, so the House needs to consider why we are seeking to introduce a change to control orders that would remove a function that the Home Secretary believed, and the High Court agreed, was needed for national security only one month ago?
Fifthly, the Home Secretary is restricting individual TPIMs to two years. Control orders could be renewed repeatedly, and she has not explained what will happen to the two people currently on control orders for more than two years once this Bill comes into force. Will they transfer to TPIMs or will the Home Secretary have to apply to the courts all over again? Sixthly, she is permitting access to phones and computers. She has assured the House that that will be monitored, but we will seek assurances from the monitoring agencies as to whether sufficient safeguards are in place and whether they have the resources to manage the continued monitoring that will be involved.
A wider question is being raised because these changes—the potentially reduced hours for curfews; a potentially narrower list of restrictions; more association with others who may be causing trouble; and the greater use of phone and internet—all require greater surveillance and resources to fill the gap. The Home Secretary has refused to confirm a figure, but the figure of £20 million has been routinely used in the newspapers and, presumably, has been briefed from her Department. Yet the overall police budget is being cut by £2 billion, the police counter-terrorism budget is still being cut in real terms and experienced counter-terrorism officers are being laid off through the A19 process.
I am concerned that the Home Secretary knows that there are troubling gaps in her plans. She has said that
“in exceptional circumstances, faced with a very serious terrorist threat that we cannot manage by any other means, additional measures may be necessary…So we will publish, but not introduce, legislation allowing more stringent measures, including curfews and further restrictions on communications, association and movement…We will invite the Opposition to discuss this draft legislation with us on Privy Council terms.”—[Hansard, 26 January 2011; Vol. 522, c. 309.]
What “additional measures” are these, given that control orders are pretty far-reaching? Does this mean that she knows already that there is a potential gap in security as a result of the new TPIMs? The Home Secretary has said she would consult the Opposition about these plans, but she has not yet done so. If new emergency legislation is needed to fill the gaps her own Bill creates, Parliament needs to know about this before we get to the evidence and Committee stage; otherwise we will be debating the Bill under false pretences, legislating only to legislate again.
This Bill is a con, recreating most of control orders while pretending not to do so, and it is risky, as some elements and changes water down the protection for national security, but there is a third problem: the Bill also reduces, rather than increases, parliamentary checks and balances on the Home Secretary. As I have said, the right approach to take to ensure that we protect civil liberties and national security together is to support strong powers for the police and security services to act in difficult circumstances, and to make sure that there are strong checks and balances to prevent abuse.
The current checks and balances on control orders are both judicial and parliamentary: the High Court has to approve every control order but Parliament has to give its approval every year for the control order regime to remain in place. Democratically elected MPs have to decide every year whether the terrorism threat remains sufficiently severe, whether anyone has come up with a better alternative and whether to allow the Home Secretary to continue to use these exceptional powers. That is an important parliamentary check on the exercise of Executive power which should continue to be unusual, yet she is removing it in this Bill. The power of the Home Secretary to impose TPIMs under this Bill is not a temporary one—it is permanent. TPIMs do not have to be renewed annually, as control orders do, and the TPIMs regime does not have to be renewed annually, as the control order regime does. This is therefore a serious downgrading of parliamentary oversight of a regime which is always supposed to be exceptional. She will know that serious concerns have been raised about this by Liberty, Justice and others, who say that far from representing a positive innovation, the TPIMs regime is, in one crucial respect, more offensive than the system it is designed to replace.
The Home Secretary is now in the astonishing situation of pleasing no one. She has a Bill that fudges the issue and does not fundamentally change the control order regime in the way that she and others promised its critics. However, it does water down some measures, worrying those who monitor national security, and it waters down the checks and balances that allow Parliament to prevent abuse, and that should worry this House.
The Opposition have very serious reservations about this Bill. Where possible, we want to support the Government on counter-terrorism. That is made more difficult when neither we nor the Intelligence and Security Committee have access to more detail about the risks in individual cases that would allow us to be reassured that the Home Secretary’s judgments are right. We believe that it would have been better not to introduce this Bill at all. We believe that it is, in the main, unnecessary, that it includes elements that take risks and that it reduces accountability to Parliament. Now that the Government have introduced it, we believe that it needs a serious rethink in Committee. We will not vote against Second Reading tonight, but we will expect greater transparency on these measures, more answers to the questions we have posed and significant changes to be made to the Bill to reassure us about our concerns. Counter-terrorism is too important for us to take risks for the sake of political expediency. The Home Secretary should forget deals done to save face for the Deputy Prime Minister—it is beyond saving—and she should ignore the demands for short-term headlines from the Prime Minister, as in the longer term she has to carry the can.
I want to concentrate on the impact of terrorism and anti-terrorism law on the relationship between the Muslim community and the non-Muslim community and between the Muslim community and the state. The Bill needs to be understood in the context of the Prevent agenda that was mentioned earlier, the relationship between the Muslim community and the police, the work of the security forces and international events, interventions and identity. There must be a question about what incited young British Muslim men to blow themselves up in British streets.
Perhaps it is right that we should look right at the root of some of those issues and ask whether people feel that they are British, whether we make them feel British and what it is to be British. In July 2001, I watched out of the windows of Bradford city hall as hundreds of mainly young British Muslim men ran through the streets of Bradford while mounted police and young, brave police officers fought to try to protect the city. More than 300 police officers were injured, £20 million-worth of damage was done to the city and its reputation was severely damaged. That action was undertaken by mindless idiots. It was not about race—it was not a race riot—but about thuggery.
It was interesting—these events were appreciated and understood by the community—that a few days later the local newspaper published the mugshots of some of the participants and the parents and family members brought those young men down to the police station and started the process of convicting them. That was a harmonious event among all the destruction and upheaval that was running through the community.
Later that year, in September, a meeting of the council’s executive, of which I was a part at the time, was stopped and adjourned while we watched the second plane go into the twin towers. Those shocking events made the city reel. Our city was already uneasy with itself and braced itself for further fallout. The tension and suspicion were evident in the pub and the street and when one talked to friends; racists had a field day. What the terrorists wanted had happened and people were frightened. After the Iraq invasion, seen by many in the district as illegal, the dividing line with the Muslim community appeared even greater, so the community, led by the council and other agencies, set about mending bridges. Indeed, bridges were often created for the first time. For five years, there were school exchanges, people were brought together and cross-community sports were promoted. Areas were created where people could talk openly, speak honestly and speak their mind about issues, challenging each other. We were not naive about where we got to in that process, but it was important in building relationships.
The day after it was announced that London had won the Olympic games, four men, one originally from Bradford, blew themselves up and murdered many innocent people. That evening, all the main agencies met at the university, which then and since has played a huge role in promoting cohesion in the district. They were brought together to talk, to try and reassure each other and to ensure that we resolved that individual psychopaths would not damage our city further. Our resolve to work together was stronger than that.
In the days that followed, time and time again Muslim people came up to me and told me of their disgust at what had happened. Let me exemplify the feeling of fear. A couple of days after 7/7, an elderly friend of my mother’s was crying as she got off the bus. A young Muslim man—completely innocent—was carrying a rucksack on the bus and she feared that she would die as a consequence. A whole set of tensions, fears, contradictions and events ran through the community as a consequence of those terrorist activities.
We need strong anti-terror laws, but they need to be owned by all the community. Many innocent citizens feel that the existing laws are somebody else’s and we need to ensure that we do not make the same mistakes. As I outlined in my introduction, communities respond, adapt, learn and survive in the face of terrible events and today the Muslim community in my town is not listening to this debate—those people are getting on with their lives, like the rest of the community.
When I talk to people from the Muslim community, I hear that they feel battered. It is always the wider Muslim community—I know that is a generic term to use—that feels pursued. Good people who have no hatred in their hearts are looked on with suspicion by others and have been subjected to some of the knee-jerk reactions. I agree that it was difficult to start the Prevent agenda with a blank piece of paper and although I was extremely critical of it, I take it in good faith that it had to be started somewhere. The idea behind national indicator 35, which planned to map a specific community, had a huge impact and was seen as a hugely derogatory gesture.
I have seen reports in the paper that doctors will be asked to report if they spot somebody who is acting suspiciously. My chief executive was brought to London and was told that the binmen had to look out for bombs and devices. Good-minded, good individuals, if they spot a bomb, a device or something suspicious, do not need the Government to ask them to pick the phone up and tell somebody. They do it because they are good citizens of this country.
In conclusion, any anti-terror law must protect its citizens from ideological psychopaths who threaten to destroy society and the values that define it. One fundamental problem, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, is that there are differences in certain values to do with such issues as equality, human rights and corruption. The Government have the difficulty of achieving a balance between ensuring safety and not alienating communities from one another. The aim of a coherent society cannot be achieved to the detriment of one part of that society.
People can seek to integrate, respect each other and even to develop shared ownership of important laws such as the one we are talking about today without compromising their principles. I want the Muslim community to feel safe, to be successful and to play a full part in British society and this Bill must be made law to help and to enable and not to hamper that aim.
It is a pleasure to follow Kris Hopkins, who, early in his speech, mentioned the 9/11 attacks. In three months, we will mark 10 years since those horrific attacks took place in America. At that time, I undertook the role that is now undertaken by Mr Timpson; I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend Mr Blunkett. Over the following nine years, in that role and as a Minister in the Home Office and then the Northern Ireland Office, I worked closely with successive Home Secretaries and other Ministers who were seeking to deal with the deadly threat that was emerging from international terrorism. There was no book on the bookshelf entitled, “Rules of Engagement with al-Qaeda”, but I saw every one of those Ministers make every effort to defend the people of this country against new forms of international terrorism, including the dreadful prospect referred to by the hon. Member for Keighley of the so-called home-grown terrorists who are prepared to blow themselves up as well as their victims.
The debate that has gone on since 9/11 has created great tensions in the Chamber and outside it as we have tried to balance and rebalance the equation between individual liberty and collective security. The previous Government received much criticism for the measures they brought forward but I believe that, without exception, the Ministers who introduced those measures did so with total integrity. The current Home Secretary also displays that integrity and she has my full support in taking the difficult decisions that she has to take about specific individuals.
In my right hon. Friend’s years in the Home Office, in which he must have been involved in many discussions about anti-terrorism legislation, how much consideration was given to the implementation of the criminal law in open court rather than the creation of a series of special courts, special measures and all the suspicion that surrounds them?
Considerable consideration was always given to those issues. As the Home Secretary said earlier, prosecutions should always be brought where possible. Those who engage in terrorist activity should feel the full force of the law and where possible—where the evidence is there—they should be convicted and go to prison for a very long time. The problem is that sometimes the evidence and information that the Home Secretary and other Ministers have is not enough to secure a prosecution because much of it is protected or secret information that could not, of itself, sustain a successful prosecution. That is the territory we are dealing with, but I assure my hon. Friend that that consideration was always at the foremost of Minister’s minds at that time.
I have the highest respect for the work that my right hon. Friend undertook during his time at the Home Office. I have tried to get a parliamentary answer to my question, but I did not get anywhere. I understand that no one who has been subject to a control order has later been charged with a terrorist offence. That seems rather odd and, if I may say so, rather disturbing.
My hon. Friend has well-known views on this issue and has expressed them frequently in the Chamber from both the Government and Opposition sides over the years. He forms his own conclusions but my conclusions about such individuals is that they are a small group of people for whom it is necessary to have some form of control outside the normal judicial process because of the risks that they pose. My hon. Friend has put forward his point of view on this before and he has strong views—I respect that.
The right hon. Gentleman’s experience in Northern Ireland will also colour his view on these issues. One of the experiences that we had is that the use of unusual measures can often act as a rallying point for radicalising other young people, rallying them behind the cause, because people are seen as being persecuted rather than being tried under the law. Does he agree that such experiences show that these measures should be seen as unusual and that, for this reason, their ratification each year in Parliament is an important part of reinforcing that?
The hon. Lady speaks with great authority on this issue and I agree with every word she says. These powers—whether the control order powers that have been in place up to now or the new powers that the Home Secretary is bringing forward—should be used absolutely exceptionally and we should always bear in mind the risk that the hon. Lady mentions that their use can become a rallying point and can assist in the radicalisation of people whom we are trying desperately to keep in the mainstream of society. That should always be kept in mind. These powers should not be used generally; they are very specific powers to be used in very specific circumstances.
Let me deal with the circumstances in which the powers should be used. We are talking about a small group of individuals who are suspected of involvement in terrorist activities and who are either foreign nationals who cannot be deported because of a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights or they are individuals who cannot be prosecuted successfully because, as I said earlier, the compelling information about them is secret intelligence that could not alone sustain a successful prosecution. Over the past six years, control orders have been the best—some have used the expression “least worst”—set of powers to deal with that group of people.
As I have said before, we should always seek to gain consensus in the House on the important issue of counter-terrorism. The formation of the new Government last year gave us all an opportunity to reflect on the previous decade and see whether changes were required that would bring greater consensus and get an even better balance between individual liberty and collective security. I have changed my mind about pre-charge detention, having previously voted for 28 days and, indeed, for 42 days. I agree that the normal maximum should now be 14 days, provided that in exceptional circumstances it can be extended to 28 days. I am currently serving on the Joint Committee that is considering the emergency legislation that the Government have brought forward on this, and I have changed my mind on this issue.
My hon. Friend is always very persuasive—one way or the other.
One area of policy on which I remain absolutely clear is the need to be able to control the activities of that small group of people who pose a serious threat and who cannot be deported or imprisoned, and I am pleased that the Government appear to have come to the same conclusion. We should seek consensus. There is much in the Bill that I can readily support. Conditions A to E, which are set out in clause 3, are welcome. They confirm the need for these TPIM notices to be focused on protection and prevention and they provide that the terrorism-related activity must be new activity. However, it is important that when a first application for a notice is made, that new activity can well predate the application.
A general time limit of two years is not unreasonable given the provisos that further notices can be made if there is new activity and that where a further notice is made, the older activity can be taken into account in addition to the new activity of which the Home Secretary has become aware. However, I caution her and her ministerial colleague against making that a general rule which can never be excepted. As I said about the maximum pre-charge detention period of 14 days, there might be exceptional circumstances. I hope that the Minister will be prepared, in Committee, to see whether some amendments can be framed to allow extensions beyond two years in specific and exceptional circumstances.
On making the powers permanent, I heard what my right hon. Friend Yvette Cooper said about that reducing parliamentary oversight, but we could also see it as a positive development if Parliament can reach a consensus and settled view. Given the constant arguing and bickering on this issue year after year when we should be seeking consensus in the face of the terrible threats that terrorists bring, there is some merit in Parliament’s reaching a settled view. There is a balance to be struck.
I agree strongly with condition A, that the Secretary of State must have a reasonable belief
“that the individual is…involved in terrorism-related activity”.
That is a higher threshold than the reasonable suspicion threshold that has previously operated for control orders, but in reaching my conclusion I have referred to the opinion of Lord Carlile in his most recent report that the higher threshold of reasonable belief was, in practice, always achieved anyway for each control order that was taken out under the existing system. It is a standard that was already being met, and I see no problem in including that formally in legislation.
It is right, given that we have six years’ experience of operating control orders, to set out in more precise form the measures that can be imposed as part of the new TPIM notices. Schedule 1 includes a list of measures, including accommodation, travel, communications, association and so on. I urge the Minister to see whether there ought not to be a catch-all power, because there may be a condition that is not caught by schedule 1. It might be sensible to leave an opening so that the Home Secretary can impose such a condition if circumstances allow. It is not a power that I would expect to be used frequently, but if we do not have that power, and unusual circumstances occur, there is nothing we can do about it. Perhaps that is something that could be considered.
I have four serious difficulties with the Bill and in relation to other pertinent issues. The first was mentioned by my right hon. Friend—the overnight residence measure. She was right to point out that in schedule 1, which says that the Secretary of State may impose a requirement
“applicable overnight…for the individual to remain at a specified residence”, there is no definition of “overnight”. It may be possible to go into that in Committee to see whether it is possible to include something a little clearer.
The really important issue is the specified residence itself. My right hon. Friend made a powerful argument in relation to that. Paragraph 1(3) says that the specified residence must be
“premises that are the individual’s own residence, or…other premises…that are situated in an appropriate locality or an agreed locality.”
An appropriate locality is one in which the individual has a pre-existing connection. In the case of CD, which my right hon. Friend mentioned, it would not be possible under the new legislation for the Home Secretary to impose the conditions that she rightly imposed on the control order governing that individual. If it is possible, I would welcome an explanation on that from the Minister in his winding-up speech.
Let us reflect on who CD is: a leading figure in a close group of Islamist extremists based in north London. That conspiracy of individuals was planning attacks and seeking to acquire weapons. He was a real threat, and the Home Secretary was quite right to take action, and to insist that he live in the west midlands. It is not just me who says so, as Mr Justice Simon supports her view. My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear when reading from paragraph 53 of Mr Justice Simon’s judgment that the relocation obligation is a necessary and proportionate measure to protect the public from an immediate and real risk of a terrorism-related attack. The Bill as drafted would not allow the Home Secretary to force that individual to live outside London in the west midlands, and the people of London and elsewhere would be at much greater risk if she could not do so.
My second concern relates to electronic communication, which is dealt with in paragraph 7. Sub-paragraph (1) sounds quite tough, as the Secretary of State may impose
“restrictions on the individual’s possession or use of electronic communication devices”.
However, under sub-paragraph (3), each suspect may have
“a telephone operated by connection to a fixed line…a computer that provides access to the internet…a mobile telephone that does not provide access to the internet.”
To be honest, I am concerned that that demonstrates naivety about the sophisticated operations of international terrorists. They use multiple mobile phones, and will run rings round the measure, unless paragraph 7 is toughened up and made much more specific and much less confusing. There is a real job of work to be done by the Committee.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that one purpose of the measure is to enable more evidence to be gathered for prosecution? The point of allowing people to have that communication is partly for the sake of civil liberties but partly because it can be monitored. What we want to see is prosecution, not indefinite or even two-year detentions.
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that an international terrorist is sitting there thinking, “Thank goodness they have given me the internet so I can reveal all my contacts and conspiracies,” he is quite naive. We are talking about highly sophisticated people, and I am concerned that the provisions in paragraph 7(3) are not as sophisticated as they need to be to deal with the threat.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that international terrorists are not going to use their internet access, because they will not want to reveal their deals, so what is the problem with providing internet access in the first place?
Dr Huppert was saying that international terrorists would rush off and use it and reveal all their sources and contacts to the authorities monitoring the measure. I shall make the point again: I do not think that the provisions as set out reflect the sophistication with which international terrorists operate.
My third difficulty relates not to the Bill but to a wider issue that is significant to the powers in the Bill—the whole business of rules on the disclosure of evidence. I welcome the fact that under the Bill there will still be closed hearings which can continue as before under control orders. That is needed, because if a judge is going to review the material or hear an appeal from a particular individual, he must consider the information available to the Home Secretary when she made the initial application. If some, if not all, of that information has to be protected, that must be done in a closed hearing. Special advocates will still be needed. The gist of the case must be provided to the individual.
As we recognise, however, the AF judgment makes it increasingly difficult to protect what in the interests of public safety and national security must remain secret information. That issue caused problems for the previous Government, and it has caused problems for this Government. It has ramifications for our relations with international partners with whom we share important information and intelligence. I applaud the fact that the Government are seeking to address that problem and deal with it in the Green Paper. May I tell all Front Benchers that we should do everything we can to resolve the issue, because if we do not do so the TPIM system will simply not work, as there will be an ever stronger demand that information that should remain secret is revealed in open court to the individual concerned? It is important that we resolve that issue so that we know what can be disclosed and what can be protected.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way again. Does he not accept that there is a major concern about anti-terrorism legislation with special courts and special advocates, and in which information is withheld from the defendant? The barrister acting on behalf of the defendant is not allowed to reveal to them the nature of the evidence or the case against them. Therein lies a road to something very, very dangerous in a democracy that prides itself on open prosecutions and open justice, and thereby a much wider acceptance of the judicial system and the rule of law.
My hon. Friend again makes his point with great care. Of course, these are exceptional powers that should be used sparingly. We have all this apparatus in relation to control orders to ensure that the suspect’s interests can be protected. That is why we have special advocates who can consider the information and argue on behalf of the suspect. [ Interruption. ] Does the hon. Member for Cambridge wish to intervene?
I should be delighted to do so, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The problem is that the special advocate is not allowed to communicate the nature of that evidence to the person involved. That fundamentally means that they cannot advocate fairly on behalf of their client.
It is true that special advocates cannot share the intelligence directly, but they are there to represent the interests of the individual. To the hon. Gentleman, that might not be a perfect solution, but it is better that the individual has somebody to speak for them than nobody to speak for them. That is why that system was introduced.
I say again to my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn, who put his point very fairly, that these are exceptional mechanisms to assist in making sure that the rights and interests of the individual are protected, but in the end, the entire Bill is designed to ensure that the rest of us are protected against the threats that those individuals pose. We must not forget that. As we have these debates about the liberty of the individual, we must balance that against the need for the protection of the wider public. That is the dilemma that goes right through the debate. We should never lose sight of one or the other side of that argument.
My final point is whether the whole new TPIM system represents the same level of risk as we had with control orders or a greater level of risk. I can only assume that the Home Secretary believes there is an increased risk from the new TPIM system, otherwise why would she be committing a serious level of resource—whatever that level is—to the police and the Security Service to help them deal with the additional work and the additional pressures that will result from the new system?
I was somewhat concerned to hear the Home Secretary quote Jonathan Evans as saying that the additional money would—I think she said—mitigate against the additional risk. That is an interesting phrase worthy of further exploration. I am extremely concerned that new gaps will open up. The question is whether there will be sufficient resource to fill those gaps and whether those gaps will pose an additional risk. No one in the House should be complacent about the possibility of an increased risk. I know that the Intelligence and Security Committee on which my right hon. Friend Hazel Blears and I sit will take a very close interest in that.
I am sure that the last thing this Home Secretary would want to do is increase the risk to public safety. I mean that genuinely and sincerely, but Parliament must help her. One immediate way in which it can help is by tightening up the Bill in the way that I have suggested and as others will, I am sure, suggest, and then by monitoring closely what happens when the Bill and any amendments that are added to it are put into practice.
It is a pleasure to follow Paul Goggins, who drew on his experience and made some sensible contributions to the debate. I diverge from his view, however, on the point that my hon. Friend Dr Huppert made about communications. The point about allowing people to have access to mobile phones, the internet or fixed lines is that there are indeed some intelligent potential or actual terrorists, but equally there are some rather stupid terrorists who may use those facilities and make the sort of connections that would facilitate a prosecution. That might be one of the purposes of making communications available to them.
The Bill is welcome. It starts to tackle some of the grossest abuses of human rights that existed under the control order system, but I would like it to go further. For instance, on prosecutions, the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East referred to the fact that there would be additional resources for covert surveillance and intelligence. My understanding is that that will be used to secure prosecutions, which is welcome. More could be done to secure prosecutions, and we may want to return to that at a later date. I am pleased that the Government are not afraid of improving Bills where and when that is necessary.
I do not agree with Liberty’s contention that the Bill is worse than the control order system that is currently in place. It is not; it is more targeted. Liberty’s argument seems to be centred on the fact that although control orders are continually on the political table because of the sunset clause that calls for an annual review and the associated parliamentary oversight, the effect of the Bill would be permanent. That is true. However, control orders have been debated annually and renewed year after year, whereas TPIMs are limited to a maximum of two years, following an initial period of one year.
The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East argued that the Government should allow TPIMs to go beyond a two-year period. My understanding of one of the arguments deployed in favour of control orders is their ability to disrupt. One would expect that after a two-year period of a lack of communication or of controlled communication, the disruptive nature of control orders would have had an impact and broken down those networks. The right hon. Gentleman may have been arguing for TPIMs to be applied indefinitely to ensure that that disruption was permanent and took place over a longer time scale. My view is that disruption would have taken place within the first two years and the links would have been broken. To suggest that TPIMs should be extended beyond two years presents a threat from the civil liberties perspective.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. If there has been no evidence of any activity whatever during that period—TPIMs would allow for the measure to be imposed again if there was some sign of activity—and if there has been no activity, with the additional surveillance that will be provided, one must question the Security Service’s position. It might want to keep the person under a control order indefinitely, but if there is no evidence of activity surely the hon. Gentleman would agree that a line must be drawn. Given that the person had not undertaken any terrorist activities, the disruptive effect would have been felt and no further application of a control order would be appropriate.
As I said, control orders have been debated annually, and they have been renewed annually.
Control orders having to be debated annually gives Parliament the opportunity to reconsider the situation before deciding whether to continue. The fact that up to now the control order system has been renewed on each occasion does not mean that it would be so indefinitely. Does it not make sense that we should continue to treat these measures as exceptional, rather than routine?
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention, which is a very sound one. I hope, and I am sure that the Minister will confirm this when he responds, that because counter-terrorism legislation is so essential, the Government will want to keep it under review, and that if, in future years, there is a need to adjust the measures, appropriate adjustments will be made.
What are the other objections to TPIMs? There is the question of whether there is any difference between reasonable belief and reasonable suspicion. It is my view that the Bill presents a higher evidential hurdle. The courts are aware of that, and they know the difference between those two. That difference is significant.
I acknowledge that TPIMs maintain a system of Executive-imposed measures that do not lie comfortably inside the judicial system. The Bill imposes measures that restrict freedom and human rights. As hon. Members know, those measures include but are not limited to overnight curfews, restrictions on travel, exclusion from certain places and buildings, and restrictions on electronic devices. It has been argued by the Opposition and by Liberty that these measures simply reflect the most offensive aspects of the control order system, but I do not think that that is the case. Clearly, in relation to relocation, internal exile, which the Soviet Union would have been very comfortable with, has gone.
Does the hon. Gentleman not have some concerns about the successive non-debate of this issue by Parliament and the fact that a defendant with a two-year TPIM might never know why it was imposed and never have the evidence given to them? All they know is that they have a barrister who does know but is not allowed to tell them and that the judge knows but is not allowed to tell the barrister. Therefore, a circle of secrecy surrounds something that has a major impact on a person’s life, is career-changing, and so on. Is that really right in a liberal democracy?
The hon. Gentleman might not be surprised to know that I agree with much of what he says. If my hon. Friend Dr Huppert has an opportunity to speak, he might echo that very same point. That is why the Bill is clearly an improvement on what is in place now, but has scope for further improvement. I am sure that we will return to that in this place and perhaps in the other place.
Does not the hon. Gentleman understand and appreciate that those of us who cannot stand these things think that the Liberals have compromised too cheaply on these issues? I remind him that his leader said:
“A battery of curfews and tags, imposed in a legal limbo at the behest of politicians, is no surrogate for the aggressive use of the full force of the law.”
Why have the Liberals caved in so cheaply on these issues?
I hope to explain why I do not think we have caved in cheaply, as the hon. Gentleman stated. First, relocation has gone. I accept that on overnight curfews I would be much more comfortable with what Liberal Democrats have referred to previously as residency requirements. An address would be identified at which the person would be expected to reside. I hope that the fact that there is no specific definition of overnight curfews will lead to a more flexible approach; that there might be a spectrum according to which overnight curfews may be imposed, going from what most would regard as overnight—eight or 10 hours—through to something much closer to a residency requirement. If overnight curfew was specified precisely, the risk is simply that that is what would be adopted in all cases, so there would not be the ability to consider each individual case in detail. In addition, the exclusions are specific, not geographic as previously, and there is access to telephones, computers and the internet, a matter that was raised by families in relation to their children and their ability to use computers for schoolwork, and so on. Those are real changes that are included in the Bill.
Another area of concern that has been flagged up and to which Jeremy Corbyn referred is the extent to which the person subject to TPIMs will know what they have been accused of. The Home Secretary said that the individual will know enough about the key elements of their case to enable them to act. That is worthy of further discussion and elucidation. I see the Minister nods and perhaps when he responds he will be able to say more about what this will mean in practice. Clearly, it is an ongoing issue for Liberal Democrats, the hon. Gentleman and others to ensure that people who are subject to control orders or will be subject to TPIMs know as much as possible about the allegations against them without revealing the confidential sources that could put at risk people in the field.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there have been a number of legal decisions that now require the person subject to a control order to be informed of the substance of the case against them? It is not something new; that is the legal position.
I am aware that there have been cases where that has been the outcome.
I am sure that the Minister will want to pick up that matter when he replies. I also hope that this will give him an opportunity to update us on intercept evidence. I understand the difficulties in balancing the operational requirements with the legal requirements and in balancing the scale of benefits with the associated costs, but I hope that he will update the House.
I referred to prosecutions in relation to surveillance evidence. It might be helpful to specify a time frame within which a prosecution must be brought. There may be some scope for moving on that in future debates.
I come now to a couple of subjects that I suspect will not necessarily boost my popularity in certain quarters, but having advocated the importance of voting rights for some prisoners my popularity might not be in the ascendant in any case. It is important to treat in a civilised way those who may wish to inflict death or injury on us in order to expose their barbaric nature. That is why we need clear safeguards for those who are extradited to the UK. If people have suffered torture abroad and are subsequently moved to the UK, on their arrival the UK Government have an important role in assessing any health or mental health implications that should be taken on board. There is also the ongoing issue with regard to the role of the control order review group, which the Government will ensure continues in operation under TPIMs, in reviewing the mental health of people subject to control orders and now to TPIMs. It has that role at present, but from the discussions that I have had with those who have been subject to control orders that have subsequently been quashed it does not seem to be working very effectively.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about people who may have been subject to torture in other jurisdictions. This is a controversial issue, but does he agree that we should not deport people to a jurisdiction that has not signed the UN convention on torture, and that they should remain here until such time as that jurisdiction signs it, rather than the unfortunate arrangements that were made with a number of countries in the past?
That is a difficult point to address. I know that there are concerns about how watertight memorandums of understanding are, if that is what the hon. Gentleman is referring to. It is a tough call. I am at risk of making policy on the hoof if I give an instant response. It is a difficult issue and the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it. Perhaps when the Minister responds he will say whether the UK Government are making progress in drawing up memorandums of understanding with other countries where we believe that the safeguards are sufficient to allow that.
There are some issues around how people subject to TPIMs are dealt with, and what sort of assessment is made, particularly of their mental health, and any torture that they may have experienced in the countries that they come from.
I will support the Government on Second Reading. The Bill is better than its predecessor. Its measures are more targeted, less damaging to individuals subject to TPIMs and more observant of human rights. But it is not perfect and can be improved, and I hope that it will be during its passage here and in the other place.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate this evening and I think that all the contributions made so far indicate how serious the issues we are dealing with are and how difficult for everyone, whichever side of the House they are on, because it is a case of trying to weigh the balance and make some very difficult judgments. When dealing with matters of national security, it is important that we try as far as possible to reach a consensus, because these matters are incredibly important for the country, and that we try to start from the evidence base, which in my experience leads to better decisions on where the balance of judgment should rightly lie.
I want to think about the evidence we face at the moment. First, that concerns the nature of the threat. Sometimes these issues are discussed in the abstract and are not necessarily rooted in the reality of the threat that the country faces. For some years the threat level has been “severe”, which is only one step down from “imminent”. That means that this country faces a very significant threat from al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-inspired terrorism, often originating abroad but also involving people who were born and brought up in this country and are enmeshed in a series of worrying plots. It is important to put on the record the nature of the threat that the country faces.
Secondly, we should consider the extent of the problem. People sometimes feel that, because we have been dealing with this threat for 10 years and have had the control order regime in place for the past six, the extent of that threat has somehow reduced. At any one time, the security services are dealing with tens of plots, which are often very complex and interrelated, with a web of international and domestic actors and many technologies, and involving incredibly complex organisations. Between
1,600 and 2,000 known terrorist suspects are involved in these plots, and those are the ones we know about. There may well be other organisations, other plots and other individuals who, as we speak, are intent on organising the kind of terror that can wreak mayhem and destruction on our communities. The sustained nature of the threat and its extent ought to be a backdrop to some of the difficult decisions that we have to make with regard to this legislation.
There is therefore a clear need for surveillance and the gathering of intelligence and evidence on the intentions and actions of those involved in planning and conducting terrorist operations. It is of course right, as my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn and others point out in an eloquent and genuine way, that in a free democracy such as ours we should always seek to bring those involved in terrorism before the criminal courts. That should be our starting point. We should bring prosecutions where the evidence can be adduced and tested, where witnesses can be cross-examined and where a jury can reach a verdict on whether the accused is guilty or innocent. That must be the starting point in any democracy—that we have a criminal system that allows all that to be done as openly and transparently as possible.
One of the reasons we brought in some of the new offences now on the statute book, such as committing acts preparatory to terrorism, was to enable us to interrupt plots at the earliest possible stage and still be able to bring a criminal prosecution and go through the conventional criminal system and bring those people to justice. Those offences have been very useful in giving the police powers to interrupt early and ensure that they disrupt the plot and prevent any damage while still using the conventional criminal justice system, which is obviously what we want to encourage.
However, we must recognise that there are—and, unfortunately, likely to be for the foreseeable future—a small number of people involved in terrorism who pose a serious threat to the safety of our citizens and country and who cannot be brought within the ambit of the conventional criminal justice system. Much as we may dislike it, that is the situation we face. For several years there have been discussions, or attempts at discussions, between various Home Secretaries and Ministers and the judicial system, and in many cases the judiciary have been reluctant to engage in any discussions on whether the way the criminal justice system operates can be amended. I understand their reluctance because of the separation of the Executive and the judiciary, and they want to avoid confusion, but I feel that the criminal justice system is not necessarily able to cope with the nature of the threat and the offences we face in the world we now live in.
Many of the suspects cannot be subjected to the traditional judicial system because to do so would mean bringing forward intelligence and evidence that could put at risk the lives of those who seek to protect us. We cannot allow that intelligence to be revealed as doing so would reveal those agents and their personal security would be jeopardised. Those people put their lives on the line for the people of this country and we have a duty to protect them. Bringing forward that intelligence would also reveal the surveillance methods and techniques that the security services often use to gain it, which would also undermine their ability to keep us all safe.
Control orders have been used in a small number of cases and I think that we should get that number to its irreducible minimum. We imposed only 48 control orders in the six years that they have existed and there are only eight or 10 now in place. It is a very tightly managed and controlled regime, so those powers are not sprayed around and used loosely as a way of rounding up the usual suspects. That is absolutely not the intention. I am afraid that the reality, which we should all be grown up enough to acknowledge, is that the threat we face is such that we have to have a system that, however distasteful we as democrats find it, can protect the people for whom we are responsible.
It was for that reason that in 2005 the then Home Secretary and I, as the Minister responsible for policing and counter-terrorism, brought forward the original control order legislation, which the Bill seeks to alter in some significant respects. I will never forget bringing forward that legislation. I remember being in this House at 4 o’clock in the morning debating that hugely contested legislation. In some ways that was very difficult, but in others it was very encouraging as it indicated the depth of commitment on both sides of the House to a free democracy in which people felt strongly about those issues. I was very glad when we finished at 10 o’clock that morning; nevertheless, it was an inspiring occasion and a good one for the House.
I want make it crystal clear to the House that, whatever some Members might say, that original legislation was not introduced in some kind of knee-jerk overreaction to the events of 9/11 or 7/7. It was a genuine recognition of the inability of the criminal justice system to accommodate the situation we faced. I am a lawyer and I have huge respect for the rule of law—
Steady on, absolutely.
I also know how important it is to have a practical and workable system in place. We must ensure that those who pose a significant threat to ordinary people’s safety can be tracked and prevented from pursuing their plans to cause death and serious harm in pursuit of their warped political ideology.
We all want to achieve consensus where we can, but I have some serious concerns about some of the Bill’s proposals, with regard to their effectiveness, their ability to disrupt those who will be subject to TPIMs, as they are so elegantly called, and whether they will provide us with a proper level of security. Lord Carlile is always called in aid in these debates, and I want to place on the record my thanks to him for the fabulous job he has done over the years as the Government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. He said just last year:
“In stark terms, the potential cost of losing control orders is that the UK would be more vulnerable to a successful terrorist attack.”
He does not say such things lightly. He has huge experience in trying to weigh the balance and get the judgment right. He also said:
“Unless control orders were replaced by some equally disruptive and practicable system… the repeal of control orders would create a worryingly higher level of public risk.”
We ought to have serious and close regard to what Lord Carlile has said and test the Bill against the concerns he has expressed.
In a powerful contribution, my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary expressed her concerns about some of those issues, so I will not speak about them at length. The relocation issue is a genuine concern. It may be characterised as internal exile or a soviet-style imposition, but if it is necessary for someone to be located away from the networks that they have established in order to improve the safety of ordinary citizens, I do not think it should simply be ruled out on principle.
We have discussed whether access to mobile phones and computers might enable us to obtain further evidence for prosecution, but I am very doubtful that it will. I am concerned that people will have access not simply to one mobile phone: once they have one, it will be very easy indeed for experienced people not to dupe the security services, as I hope they are not capable of being duped, but to create the sense that it is normal to have access to a computer and a mobile phone. The prospect of a security risk is therefore higher than I would feel comfortable with, so I seek reassurance from the Minister on access to electronic equipment. We know how much terrorist business is done online and with technology. It is a massive issue for us, and this measure could present us with an increased risk.
Has the right hon. Lady spoken to Paul Goggins? He was concerned that those people simply would not use such equipment so we would not get any information. One cannot have it both ways. If those people are going to use such equipment and are capable of duping the security services, or whatever term the right hon. Lady wishes to use, they might be doing it now, just like those who abscond. Surely this is a more liberal measure that will also help with prosecutions.
But that is no reason to relax the powers. If there are fears that such activities could be happening now, I should be very concerned indeed and certainly would not want to go down the path of having less control over access to electronic equipment. I require further reassurance, as do the citizens of this country, that we are not going to give people access to mobile phones and computers so that they can maintain those relationships and networks that are the very reason they are subject to a control order or, indeed, will be subject to a TPIM. We require further reassurance on that issue.
I am very concerned about the inability to renew the TPIM after two years. In the case of AM in 2007, the control order lasted for more than two and a half years. When it came up for renewal Mr Justice Wilkie, confirming its renewal after two and a half years, said that AM was
“highly intelligent, calm, cautious beyond his years. He has replied and maintains this degree of calmness and self-confidence, which in my judgment is consistent with the view of the Security Service that he is a disciplined, trained and committed person whose commitment remains unimpaired, despite the length of the control order. He was and remains prepared to be a martyr in an attack designed to take many lives. He remains highly trained, security conscious and committed.”
I am therefore concerned that if there is a blanket prohibition, in any circumstances and without the addition of new evidence of involvement in terrorism such orders will come to an end. I require further assurance. If the reason for making the TPIM in the first place were of sufficient seriousness, I would be extremely concerned about our deciding simply to say that there is an arbitrary cut-off point, as the legislation does, irrespective of the threat that the person poses.
These are matters for careful and balanced judgment, which is why we have constant judicial oversight, why we have to return to the courts to renew our orders and why we have a legal system in this country which is capable of making such judgments. If we are in the hands of a respected, experienced and knowledgeable High Court judge, who has heard submissions on the issues, I should feel slightly more content than if an order simply came to an arbitrary end as a result of legislation passed in this House.
If that individual is so dangerous, why do we not just arrest him, charge him and throw the full force of the judicial system at him?
I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has asked me that question, because this is where we end up in a sort of tortuous circle. That individual has not been charged because the intelligence against him does not comprise evidence, has been gained by covert surveillance and cannot be revealed in court, as it will put at risk either the lives of the agents or their techniques. We know that this person, as Mr Justice Wilkie said, remains a trained and committed martyr to the cause and is prepared to carry out further attacks, but, because the individual cannot be prosecuted through the conventional criminal justice system, the hon. Gentleman’s decision would be to let him walk free.
That is the judgment that has to be made, and that is why these issues weigh so heavily on the people who have to make the decisions, people such as the Home Secretary, who has to make those decisions in individual cases. They weigh incredibly heavily on all of us and are not lightly taken, and that is why we need a system of checks and balances. An arbitrary limit of a two-year TPIM in every single case would cause me concern if the original threat still existed.
My final concern, on which I have not received reassurance, is the extra costs of surveillance, because there will need to be greater surveillance if TPIMs conditions are substantially lighter and less invasive than those of control orders. Next year we have the Olympics, which will be a massive drain on the resources of the security services. That is acknowledged throughout the system, so I want significant reassurance from the Minister about the ability of the security services to maintain the same assurance to the citizens of our country through TPIMs as they have through the control orders system. I am not satisfied that that is the case.
The control order system had more measures to disrupt people’s ability to organise their networks. Surveillance does not take the place of disruption, because it is a different technique of a different order, and, as Lord Carlile says, unless there is a system of disruption as well as surveillance, he has concerns about the effectiveness of the regime, as do I. The security services say that the extra resources would mitigate the risk, as my right hon. Friend Paul Goggins has said, and it is incumbent on the Government to give us such reassurance.
We must remind ourselves that the people who have been the subject of control orders are not law-abiding, innocent citizens going freely about their business. By their very nature, they are dangerous people who pose a real threat to our safety, and the measures must be sufficient to reassure people properly that the system is sufficient to control the movements of such individuals. Surveillance is not as effective as disruption, so we need to do more to ensure that disruption takes place.
In all my years as a Home Office Minister, and through my work in the Communities and Local Government Department, control orders have represented some of the most difficult decisions I have had to make, because they go to the heart of our democracy. Our freedoms are incredibly hard won, and none of us wants to give them up lightly at all. I talked to a senior member of the judiciary a few weeks ago, who said passionately and in a very committed way, “Hazel, whenever there’s a decision to be made between liberty and security, I will always, always err on the side of liberty,” but it is more complicated than that.
We cannot simply say that we would always make the decisions in that way. We might do in theory, in academic practice and, certainly, in terms of our values, but we are faced with making a decision that must balance security and liberty, the security of ordinary people seeking to go about their daily lives, as against the liberty of people for whom there is a great deal of intelligence to say that they are dangerous and dedicated, because of their political ideology, to causing mass harm and death among the community at large. That is an incredibly difficult decision, but sometimes it is portrayed as an easy one.
Of course, we do not want to restrict people’s civil liberties or to introduce a punitive, repressive or oppressive regime, but the alternative is to allow people who pose a severe and dangerous threat to our country to walk our streets. Those decisions are hard to make, and I just ask the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, James Brokenshire, who is on the Treasury Bench tonight, to think really hard, as I know they will, about whether their proposed regime is sufficient to give the people of this country the reassurance that they deserve, and to ensure that that tiny minority of people who are subject to a regime are not able to continue to pose the threat of damage, death and destruction to the people of this country. I look forward in Committee to the Minister giving us a great deal more reassurance than I have had this evening.
It is a pleasure to follow Hazel Blears, who brings to this subject not only a great deal of common sense but a great deal of experience. As she said, our liberties depend on our security. The two are inextricably linked; we cannot have one without the other.
As the right hon. Lady also rightly said, we sometimes lose the sense of why we are here having these debates in the first place. Over the past few days, four of our fighting men have been killed in Afghanistan, and it is worth bearing in mind that a police officer was recently blown to pieces in Omagh. They died for two things: not only to guarantee our physical security and protection but to guarantee that our liberties remain pre-eminent in our society. I would therefore, with the greatest of respect, ask that we all lift our sights a little—that we stop arguing about telephones, computers, curfews and other technical things and remember why we are here. We are here to honour the memories of those young men and young women who have died for us so that we can have a debate such as this in complete freedom and comfort. The single most important freedom that I would iterate on this occasion is the freedom for the accused man or woman to be innocent until he or she is proved guilty. Control orders do not do that. Control orders deny the very liberty, the very freedom, the very values for which our young men are this evening facing death and destruction in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Paul Goggins and I remember the difficult times of the mid-2000s. I have jousted with him many times and always enjoy his contributions. He made a fascinating point when he said that there was no rule book; I think that “instruction book” was his precise phrase. Indeed there was not, but there was a history book; in fact, there were lots of history books. Over the past 60 years or so, this country has allowed itself to make two grave errors at times of serious national emergency. On the first occasion, we were in a war of national survival, when we banged up tens of thousands of people during the period of wartime internment and assumed that they were guilty without giving them any form of trial. Because of the circumstances, that was not as serious a mistake as that which we made in the early 1970s when we interned hundreds of people in Ulster. I do not want to try to drag the argument into a simple, narrow one about Irish republicanism. None the less, it is important that we understand that control orders fly in the face of every lesson that we learned in the ’70s, for which many of my comrades died and others, including me, shed our blood.
Internment was wrong for all sorts of reasons. It was a straightforward denial of liberty, but much more importantly, it left behind a legacy of hatred that continues up until this day. I do not need to tell Naomi Long, who lives with this on a minute-to-minute basis, that we are currently facing a threat in Ulster that is no less than that which we face from Islamist fundamentalism on these shores. That is because we got the issues and arguments that we are discussing wrong decades ago, and we must now make sure that we get them right. There is no place for control orders in a civilised society that wishes to counter terrorism intelligently, thoughtfully, and based on practice from the past. I therefore say to the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East that we should have used the history books before we started to compose these sorts of laws, which have done such damage and wasted so much time and so much life. We should have looked more carefully at where we got it wrong in the past.
Let us stop arguing about telephones, computers and all the technical things and ask ourselves what we can do to get rid of a pernicious system that denies the very thing in which we all believe—freedom and the ability to be innocent until proven guilty. Let us re-inject energy into our decision to negotiate memorandums of understanding. Let us talk to foreign Governments in more detail. Let us re-approach the European courts with greater energy. Let us try to insist that if an individual from another country commits a crime, or is thought to be about to commit a crime, or is even thought to be guilty of a crime, although not proven to be so, he or she is sent back to the country from which he or she originates. If it seems we cannot do that, let us then inject more energy into trying to do it—let us not give up. At the same time, let us look at the techniques that we can apply to make sure that intelligence on these individuals is turned into evidence that can be used in court to convict them and to get them behind bars if they are guilty, or, if they are not, to give them their liberty back.
I ask the Minister what has happened to the process of intercept evidence. Even as early as 1977, we were concerned about whether we could use that in court as evidence. To the best of my second lieutenant’s knowledge, it was being reviewed in the mid-’70s. Why can we still not use intercept evidence in court? I refuse to give in to the foot-dragging approach that the previous Government took on this issue. When I served on the Home Affairs Committee, we were told, “This is not a silver bullet, but by golly it will help.” What about questioning after charge? I think we have made some progress on that; the Minister can tell me whether I am right or wrong. Surely it is a tool that we can use, is it not?
Lastly—I have told people not to be too technical, and here I am delving into all sorts of technical things—there is plea bargaining, which the Americans and the Canadians use very successfully. Where do we stand on that? Have we given it enough thought? Have we had a refreshed insight and looked carefully at how we can use it? If we raise our eyes above the parapet of the specific argument, there are devices that we can use to produce evidence to get people into court and put them on trial. That has to be the aim rather than the current mish-mash of illiberal nonsense that we have within the democracy that we sometimes pretend to be.
My heart bleeds less than most people’s, but the fact remains that we cannot deal with these individuals improperly for two reasons: first, because of their basic human rights, about which I feel strongly; and secondly, for practical reasons. If we continue to subject minorities in this country to measures such as control orders, all of which are being applied to a very small number of people who come from a similar sort of background and believe in a similar sort of cause, we are bound to disaffect the wider societies from which they hail. We need look no further than what we did to the Roman Catholic population in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. We imposed not the same, but similar measures on those people—not entirely, but almost exclusively. The effect was that a military campaign by the Irish Republican Army that was pretty well over by the end of the ’70s extended itself well into the ’90s and killed hundreds more people than it needed to.
The hon. Gentleman has returned to the parallel between internment in the 1970s and control orders and TPIMs now. I acknowledge what he says about the impact of internment in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, but to draw a direct parallel between that and control orders and TPIMs is erroneous. The authorisation and oversight system is much more rigorous in relation to control orders and TPIMs than ever it was for internment.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and I accede to that point. I will go with him, sit on a Committee and talk about all that good stuff. However, that does not make a difference in the eyes of the violent republican and the Islamist fundamentalist. They will make the parallels completely and perfectly, and they will use them to twist the mind and to suborn the innocent. That is exactly my point, and I am grateful to him for making it, because we are in danger of becoming over-technical.
I will not extend the point much further. It is simple: if we are not careful, we will impose on the very people whom we are trying to recruit and to persuade to come to our side the same sort of measures that we imposed on the Roman Catholic population in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. I will quote a song that summarises the point:
“Being Irish means you’re guilty, so we’re guilty one and all.”
Irish republicans were able to write that line because of internment. Irish republicans were able to write that line because their society had been suborned by a Government who were misguided. The parallels are not exact, but they are there. This is illiberal, this is improper, this is impractical, and this is wrong. We must get rid of control orders as soon as we can.
I know that in this House we often say that it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman, but in this case I really mean it. That was a thoughtful speech that got to the heart of the matter. It showed the impact that control orders and TPIMs have on the wider community, and the way in which they are seen by the communities that are subjected to them.
When we make legislation that does not allow the defendant to see any of the evidence that is presented against them, we are getting into difficult and dangerous territory. I agree with Patrick Mercer that we have to tread carefully. There have been thoughtful speeches tonight and Members have made their points well, but I think that we are being a little too cavalier when it comes to the civil liberties of so many people in our nation. I know that these measures apply to only a few people, but the problem is how they are perceived. That is what we should consider before going any further down the line of introducing a new regime to replace control orders.
Control orders have failed more than any other measure. They have not worked. They have led to no convictions whatsoever. We must consider the fact that 15% of those who have been subject to a control order are now at liberty and we do not know where they are. Control orders have failed, they do not work, and they have a disastrous impact on communities and individuals throughout this country.
I say to the Minister that I have been quite impressed by the performance of the Conservative-led Government over the past few months. They have been as good as their word. They have helped to dismantle the rotten, anti-civil libertarian state bequeathed by the last Labour Government. I cheered them to the rafters when they introduced the Bill to get rid of the hated Labour ID cards scheme. I wish I could have been there at the bonfire of the equally detested national database, which Labour introduced. I welcome the progress that has been made on pre-charge detention. It is not perfect, but there has been massive progress, particularly when one considers that in the days of Hazel Blears, we were approaching 90 days’ pre-charge detention. Thank goodness those days are gone. I also applaud the Conservative-led Government on their progress on all the other surveillance apparatus so cherished by the last Labour Government.
Why stop at control orders? We could have got rid of those too. This is the last remaining rotten piece of legislation from Labour’s anti-civil libertarian state. Of course, we saw this coming. We all heard the rumours of disagreements in the Cabinet and between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. We did not see the Bill for months, until a face-saving exercise was concocted to allow the Deputy Prime Minister a bit of dignity on the issue. However, it is a rotten compromise. It has done nothing. The only thing the Liberals have got out of it is a renaming of control orders. It is just not good enough. They could have got the whole thing, made progress and got shot of these odious practices, such as people being subject to curfews without any exposure to the evidence that is presented against them.
I am disappointed in the behaviour of this Government on control orders, and I expected better of the Home Secretary and her ministerial team. However, they are subject to pressures too. I can just imagine all the fine representatives of the security and intelligence industry wandering into No. 10 and telling them, “These measures are absolutely essential and have to be done. Civil liberties are all right, but this is about national security.” I can just imagine the files being presented and the Home Secretary being convinced that these measures are absolutely necessary.
I say to the Minister that when it comes to control orders, this Conservative Government are little better than Lord Reid and Mr Blunkett. It was new Labour that introduced these measures, and we have to consider the journey that we have taken on this issue. They were introduced in an absolute panic with emergency legislation, which was supposed to be temporary. They were supposed to apply only to foreign nationals. There are now no foreign national controlees—they are all UK residents. All the reasons why we had these things in the first place have gone. Nobody who has been subject to a control order has been prosecuted. Control orders have failed in bringing people to justice, because nobody has been brought to justice and there has been no attempt to bring anybody to justice under control orders.
Now we have TPIMs. What is the difference? There is not really any difference. I accept what Liberty says, although I know the Liberals do not. I believe that in some respects, TPIMs are worse than control orders, because they are permanent and will not be subject to yearly reviews. That is the great anti-civil libertarian flaw at the heart of the TPIMs regime. In other respects, there is no difference. Control orders are instigated by the Home Secretary with the permission of the High Court, except in urgent cases. TPIMs will be instigated by the Home Secretary with the permission of the High Court, except in urgent cases. There are closed proceedings under control orders and special advocates examine secret evidence forming the basis of the order. Under TPIMs, there will be closed proceedings and special advocates will examine secret evidence forming the basis of the order. There is no difference whatsoever. If there is a breach, there is five years’ imprisonment under control orders. Under TPIMs—surprise, surprise—it is also five years. There is very little difference.
Under the Bill, individuals who are branded as terror suspects will still be left at large in the community, unable to challenge the suspicion against them or prove it to be wrong. They will be subject to electronic tagging and curfews. Actually, they are not curfews, but overnight residence requirements. Who on earth made up that term? It sounds like a sleepover that kids would be involved in, only it is a sleepover with police surveillance and an electronic tag. It is no different from a curfew and it is a massive restriction on people’s liberty. There will be restrictions on communication, movement and the ability to work or study. As before, individuals who are subject to TPIMs will be prevented from leading any kind of normal life.
The TPIMs regime will prove to be as ineffective as its predecessor in fighting terrorism. It will continue to tip off suspects and prevent evidence from being gathered, while leaving potentially dangerous people at large in the community for extended periods. I have mentioned the fact that 15% of controlees have disappeared. That demonstrates that administrative community punishments that are used in the place of criminal prosecutions are as dangerous to security as they are to liberty.
Control orders were rushed through Parliament. After 10 years, I thought that we would come to this House, consider the issue and see whether they were still required. I have listened very carefully to all the speeches that have been made tonight, and I have heard no evidence to suggest that these things are still required.
In many ways the new orders are worse, because there is permanence to them. The powers will no longer be reviewed every year, and the labelling of people as terrorists without any sight of the evidence against them will now be made permanent. There is more, because the Secretary of State could unleash all sorts of concessionary measures that could make the orders even more unpleasant. There could be further restrictions, curfews and bans on communications and associations—it is all very subjective. I am implacably opposed to control orders, and I have seen no evidence that they are required.
I am very much inclined to agree with all the hon. Gentleman’s remarks, but what would he say about the argument from those who promote these measures that the people who will be subject to them are terrorist suspects against whom prosecutions cannot be brought?
That is exactly what is said, and we have heard from a number of contributors this evening that these are people against whom there is not sufficient evidence or evidence of good enough quality for a successful prosecution. We heard the example of an individual who has had a control order against him for two years. His liberty has been compromised for two years because he has not been able to prove his innocence in a court and the state has not been able to prove his guilt. That is at the heart of the matter, which was why the hon. Member for Newark was spot on in his observations about how control orders are operating.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the debate has been framed in the context of whether we put security before liberty or liberty before security, but that in fact there is a fine balance between the two? By denying liberty we not only radicalise young people into terrorism—we have seen that in Northern Ireland, although I accept that the parallels are not perfect—but provide a concession to terrorists, who are out to remove our liberty.
The hon. Lady is spot on. I know that every Government do their best to balance the security requirements of the nation and civil liberties. I think that most of what the Labour Government did on civil liberties was totally wrong, and I opposed most of the measures that they took, but I believe that they acted in the best interests of security. However, with the invasion of Iraq they radicalised a generation of international Islamists and Muslims, and they took measures that seemed to be targeted against one specific community in the UK. They fostered resentment and created massive community divisions. They got that utterly and totally wrong.
I thought that the new Government would come in with a new broom. They have done a lot of good things in dismantling the apparatus that Labour put in place, but I wish that they had spent a bit more time on this subject. They still have the opportunity to improve the Bill, and I hope that they will do so in Committee.
It is a great pleasure to follow a number of today’s speeches, particularly the last two. I agree very much with what Pete Wishart said, and it is a particular pleasure to follow him because I spent some of the recess cycling through his constituency. It is great to find his countryside, as well as most of his opinions, agreeable. Patrick Mercer also made a fantastic speech.
I am in sympathy with both hon. Members, because this is a disappointing Bill. It does not live up to the aspirations that many of us had that this Government would come in and clear away much more of the vestiges of what Labour had set up. There is of course a balance to be struck, and nobody would dispute the fact that there is a real terrorist threat. The question is how best to deal with it. If we go the way Labour did, we will make it much worse as well as sacrificing civil liberties. That is why the balance needs to be struck. The Bill is a step in the right direction, but it does not go as far as it should.
My interpretation is that Home Office Ministers did not manage to stand up to officials who continued the groupthink that we saw for many long years under Labour and that we have heard in a number of speeches. There are, of course, some honourable exceptions—Jeremy Corbyn has been very clear on the subject—but most of the speeches that we have heard from Labour Members make it clear that they would like a more authoritarian approach. That is one of the problems that the new Home Office Ministers have had to deal with.
It is a shame that the shadow Home Secretary is not in her place, because I wanted to thank her for giving an excellent example of somebody trying to have their cake and eat it. She said at one point that there was a substantial difference between control orders and TPIMs, but then said they were essentially exactly the same. However, it was finally clear, although she would not admit it when I asked her, that it seems to be Labour party policy to keep control orders, with all the bad things about them. We have heard the arguments for relocation, secret evidence and further infringements of civil liberties.
I would like to go further in a liberal direction. As I have said, the Bill is disappointing, but it is not a disaster and can perhaps be saved. I hope that the Committee will do that. There is a new Minister responsible for security, who sadly is not in his place, and I am sure that he will be able to be very much more reasonable about issues such as this; he has been very reasonable about drugs policy in previous discussions.
Some of the Bill is great. I like clause 1, which is a really fantastic clause and one that I fought an election to try to achieve. However, the Bill goes downhill a bit after that. It keeps extra-judicial processes, which we should not wish to see. We have the rule of law for a reason. The Bill also keeps secrecy, as has been mentioned, with special advocates and secret evidence so that people do not know what they are accused of and cannot adequately brief a barrister to represent them.
Ultimately, the problem is that the Bill relies entirely on the good judgment of the Home Secretary. It contains a broad power allowing for anything that the Home Secretary reasonably believes to be necessary, which could be any of a long list. I have no doubt that the current Home Secretary is more liberal than some of the previous ones, but do we all have faith in all future Home Secretaries of whatever party making the right decisions? I am very concerned about that.
We expected some good bits in the Bill, and in her statement the Home Secretary talked about better focus and more targeted restrictions, which is a good step. She also talked about powers similar to those used in the civil justice system to prevent sexual offences and domestic violence, for example, and I would have liked to see those powers in the Bill. The Bill could have been much more like other parts of the law, but that opportunity was missed.
Another good part of the Bill that we expected to see is the idea that police will have a greater duty to look after prosecutions. One has to look carefully to find it: it is in clause 10(5)(a). However, the change is very little. We have heard that the police process has been very ineffective. Because the security services have looked after the case management of the people in question, the efforts to prosecute have been extremely weak. I have no faith that what is in the Bill at the moment will make a difference to that, so it absolutely must be strengthened.
It is very good to know that there will not be relocation. I am pleased to see that in the Bill. The change from curfews to an overnight residence requirement is a small step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. I should like a residency requirement that reflects the situation of most people. Most people—I realise that MPs are not typical in this regard—have a home where they normally reside overnight. That does not mean that they are there every night, or that they are there for the same hours every night, but it provides a reasonable way to find somebody. That should be the standard approach if we must have restrictions of any kind.
There is another improvement in the Bill, which is the move from “reasonable suspicion” to “reasonable belief”. We have heard that it will probably have a minimal effect, but it is a bit better. However, I say again what I said in a debate earlier in the year about terrorist asset-freezing: it still means that there is a threshold below the balance of probabilities. We are not asking for evidence to be demonstrated to a level at which we can have even a 50:50 belief that somebody is involved in terrorist activity. Many of us would like a criminal standard and a criminal conviction, but under the Bill the evidence threshold is below the civil standard, which very much concerns me.
I am also concerned that we are losing the annual review. I agree with the comments that have been made about that. Control orders were introduced as emergency, temporary legislation, and I believe we are now past that emergency, temporary period. I would like us not to have an annual review, but only because we have got rid of control orders completely and their replacement does not arouse our concerns. However, I am worried about parliamentary scrutiny of the process.
I am also concerned about schedule 1. I am grateful to the Home Office for allowing me to have discussions about what might be in it, but it is much broader than I had ever anticipated. It mentions exclusions from particular areas, and the explanatory notes highlight that that could include a mosque. I hope the Minister will be able to tell me whether it could include an exclusion from all mosques, or from any other religious building for people from other backgrounds. It mentions association bans, on which there are very few constraints. Could they involve banning somebody from associating with their family? What safety is there in that measure? A long list of measures—I shall follow the direction of the hon. Member for Newark and not go through every single one of them—must be pulled out and dealt with in Committee.
The Bill is simply not good enough. The details need to change, but so do the principles. We can spend a lot of time haggling over phraseology, but the approach is wrong. Any alternative should be part of the normal legal process, and we must find a way to make that normal process work.
Effectively, there is a power for judicial review, but that is not the same as judicial oversight. That power relies on judges deciding that the Home Secretary has made obviously flawed decisions. That is quite a tough standard, and I would like the measures to be much more in the control of the courts. They should make decisions rather than have a weak power if the Home Secretary behaves excessively.
In 2010, the Select Committee on Home Affairs stated:
“It is our considered view that it is fundamentally wrong to deprive individuals of their liberty without revealing why.”
I hope all hon. Members agree with that. There should be more of a focus on prosecution. There are some measures on communications and extra money will be available for surveillance, but they are legislatively weak. We know that control orders acted against the interests of prosecutions. The Home Office counter-terror report stated that control orders can mean
“that prosecution and conviction…becomes less not more likely”.
Control orders make it harder to achieve what we want. If people have been involved in terrorist activities, we would like them to be convicted and put behind bars. The scheme is also expensive to run, because it interferes so badly with human rights and basic principles. Continuous wrangling over that leads to very large legal costs—about £13 million over a few years.
There are alternatives to control orders. Police bail, which has been discussed, is not a perfect system, but it fits much more with other measures that we use, which makes it a more normal and sensible way of running the system. We need to use much more evidence. If we have covert or intercept evidence, we should use it. We had an interesting discussion about people whom we know are terrorists but whom we cannot convict, even if we have evidence. Instead, we put them in limbo for a long period. The correct solution must be to change the system so that we can convict them.
In his evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, on which I used to serve, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, who has spent a long time analysing and reviewing such matters, was absolutely clear that intercepts should be used. He pointed out that one frequently uses informers, bugs and probes in respect of criminal offences, and that there are ways of managing and using such evidence. He said that he had
“never accepted the argument that its effect would be marginal.”
“You simply have to raise that argument in Washington and see the reaction on people’s faces when you suggest that intercept would not be useful, or ask people in Canberra or Ottawa, or anywhere else. They simply cannot believe that people are making this argument.”
I, too, cannot believe it. We should ensure that we use intercept evidence.
We should also look again at other options that Lord Macdonald has proposed, such as giving the Director of Public Prosecutions the power to say, “We can prosecute, but not yet. We must hold this person for a while first.” That would give more control to the DPP. We should also give more control to the High Court. We could make the Bill better in a number of different ways to make it more a part of the legal system.
It has been said that the Government wish to have emergency legislation in case TPIMs are not enough. That worries me, because I think that TPIMs are too much anyway. What is that emergency legislation, when will we see it, and will it have pre-legislative scrutiny? I see no reason why the Opposition, whom we know are keen on stronger measures, should be the only parliamentarians to see it. All Members of Parliament should see it, so that it can be discussed. If there is ever a need to use something stronger than a TPIM, we should think about it carefully in advance, not at 4 o’clock in the morning in a panic. We should look at such a measure very carefully.
I can tolerate the Bill on Second Reading—I like clause 1 and am happy to live with it—and there is still time to improve the Bill in Committee. We should not wait for the other place to go through the Bill properly: this House should make it work. We should improve the Bill in Committee and on Report, but I would be uncomfortable supporting the Bill on Third Reading unless there are changes and reassurances.
I shall end with some final words from Lord Macdonald. On control orders, he said:
“The reality is that controlees become warehoused far beyond the harsh scrutiny of due process and, in consequence, some terrorist activity undoubtedly remains unpunished by the criminal law. This is a serious and continuing failure of public policy.”
He is absolutely right, and we should not let that situation continue.
I should first apologise to the House for missing the Home Secretary’s introductory speech, but I have been present for the rest of the debate. I welcome this opportunity to discuss anti-terrorism law. I think I am the only Member currently in the Chamber who has been here long enough to have voted against the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which was seen at the time as the low point in the attack on civil liberties. Oh that we were only discussing such an Act these days!
I pay tribute to Patrick Mercer, who spoke of the effect of internment in Ireland and other places. When a state decides to take away the liberties of large numbers of people, the consequences are felt for a very long time. He talked about what happened in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, but we can look back to the wholly irrational way in which British Jewish people were interned in 1940 at the start of the second world war. That was entirely counter-productive and an idiotic thing to do. There were also long-term effects on the attitudes of Japanese Americans to US society from the disgusting way in which they were put in concentration camps in California in 1942 because they were automatically assumed to be supporters of the Japanese in the war. If anyone had bothered to think about that, they might have asked why those people were living in the USA in the first place. The consequences of such actions go on for a very long time.
I am not suggesting that the Bill is equivalent to those measures, because it is not. It is much smaller and specifically targeted, but I have, nevertheless, some fundamental issues with it. Most states take unto themselves a power to override the judicial system in some way—most have some special security law or courts, or whatever. Without going into the whole history of this matter in Britain, the introduction of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 was a response to the Birmingham pub bombings. The first person arrested under the Act was one of the Guildford Four, who spent 18 years proving his innocence and who was finally released as a result. That Act was repealed and replaced by the Terrorism Act 2000, which preceded the dreadful events of 2001.
I remember spending all night in the Chamber at that time discussing what we would do to beef up our counter-terrorism measures. At every stage, the argument was to go further away from open criminal courts and further in the direction of special courts and special measures, with lower levels of evidence gathering. We have now ended up with the obnoxious silent court mentality. The barrister probably knows the nature of the case against the individual whom he is supposed to represent, and the judge and the prosecution certainly know, but the defendant is not allowed to know and his barrister is not allowed to tell him. That is a dangerous road to go down. Anyone who has met someone who has been the subject of a control order or some kind of restriction will know that they are for ever changed by the experience. In some cases, they are subsequently prosecuted. In others, they are not: the control order is lifted, they disappear, and that is that. The corrosive effect on them, their families, their lives and their community is very serious, and we should be extremely careful about introducing legislation that gives courts the power effectively to act in secret, and the security services the power to present evidence that is heard in secret and used to punish people, when the security services are never publicly accountable for what they do. I understand that there are all kinds of dangers involved in all sorts of things, but if we legislate to allow an arm of the state to operate covertly with no public accountability for what it does, therein lies enormous danger.
The very least we can do is examine the Bill in great detail in Committee and, above all, ensure that the legislation is subject to regular parliamentary review. It is our duty as elected Members of a free Parliament in a free society to hold the Government, and the agencies of the Government and the state, to account. It is not good enough to pass this legislation saying that we will return to it and debate the issue again as and when a future Government feel it appropriate to introduce another form of counter-terrorism legislation. As well as the obvious parliamentary scrutiny through Select Committees, questions, Adjournment debates and all the other tools that are available to us to hold the Government to account, there ought to be a regular parliamentary debate and review of the whole arrangement on a six-monthly or yearly basis. The PTA was renewed on a six-monthly basis throughout its entire existence.
I find myself agreeing with the vast majority of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. Looking around the Chamber, I see that there is almost no one here. Does he agree that in the status quo, given the level of interest in this subject and the nature of the whipping system, regular parliamentary scrutiny of this matter would actually amount to very little?
I have always had an interesting relationship with the whipping system in Parliament. We are here as MPs to represent the constituents who have been good enough to send us here, and we are here to answer for ourselves. We must be prepared to ask these questions and to take part in these debates. Like the hon. Gentleman, I am extremely disappointed that there are so few Members here tonight. I suspect that it is because word has gone round, by text message from the Whips on both sides, that there is not going to be a vote. Most of our colleagues are probably either enjoying themselves on the Terrace or have gone home, when they should be in here debating this Bill. We could say the same for almost any piece of legislation that goes through the House.
I mentioned in an intervention the fundamental question of international jurisdiction. If someone comes to this country from a jurisdiction in which they have been tortured, irrationally imprisoned or abused, or if it is likely that they would suffer such a fate if they went back, we have a clear duty of protection to them under international law. Under the procedures of anti-terror legislation, someone who is suspected of terrorist activity or of harbouring plans for such activity can be detained virtually indefinitely under immigration law. Under the memorandums of understanding that were made between the previous Prime Minister but one, Tony Blair, and a number of Governments, such people can be returned to jurisdictions that have not signed the United Nations convention on torture.
I have a real problem with that. If we support the principles of international law and the international jurisdiction of conventions such as that one, we should carry them out to the fullest extent. We should not deport people to places where there is no protection of their rights under treaties that we have taken for ourselves. Just as when someone goes to prison, when an individual is accused of being a terrorist or of planning a terrorist activity, they do not stop being an individual and they do not lose all their rights. They do not stop being a citizen at that point.
I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman’s point about our deportation of people to countries that could torture them. Does he agree that it is a serious omission in the Bill that the bail conditions imposed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission will be able to remain at the levels set out in the control orders that are being lessened by the Bill? Should not that omission be corrected?
Indeed so; the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. That matter should be looked at in great detail in Committee. I hope that the Bill will be greatly changed in Committee and that we will hear about those changes on Report. I hope we will move away from the principle of control orders and the conditions that he rightly says are associated with them. I understand that Liberty, whose briefing on this matter I have neither read nor seen, for which I apologise, describes these measures as “low-fat” control orders that have been dressed up to resemble something that they are not.
I represent a mixed, inner-city community constituency, as do many other colleagues, and I am very proud to represent that area. The events of 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, the Bush-led war on terror, the axis of evil speech and similar things have had an enormous effect on community relations. They have also generated a degree of Islamophobia within our society and continue to do so, which is a very serious matter. The anti-terrorism legislation and the arguments surrounding the Prevent strategy, like so many other things, play into that agenda.
My borough suffered on 7/7: more people from my borough died than from any other borough—it was a dreadful, awful, terrible day. I do not believe, however, that counter-terrorism legislation that goes around the principle of the use of the criminal law or goes around the norms of parliamentary democracy and open justice will stop those things happening again. That whole process does not make us more safe; ultimately, it puts our society at greater risk and makes it more vulnerable.
Although we are debating a change in the legislation and the Bill is presented as being the end of control orders, the reality is that we are being presented with a different form of control orders. I look forward to the Committee asserting itself when the details of the Bill are debated and improving it a great deal by removing the whole principle of control orders.
Once we give away our powers to secret courts or give away accountability to secret services—I accept that only 48 control orders have been put in place—we are crossing a very big line. We should be very careful about doing that. Our job as Members of Parliament is to ask the awkward question; our job as MPs is to put very awkward questions to those employed by the state to look after law and order and protect us. Above all, our task is to ensure that our liberties are safe, our democracy is safe and that individuals will not be detained irrationally for a very long time on the basis of hearsay evidence that would simply not stand up in a criminal court. That is a bad thing for a democracy; it is a bad thing for us to do.
Confronted by the terrorist challenge, the previous Government resorted to presenting a rather crude and blunt trade-off between freedom and security. Too often, it undermined Britain’s tradition of liberty without eliminating or even substantially reducing the threat to this country. In that context, I welcome the huge strides the Home Secretary and fellow Home Office Ministers have taken to defend and restore our freedoms by abolishing ID cards, halving pre-charge detention, tightening stop-and-search powers and the other measures they have taken in protection of freedoms legislation. I believe that Ministers have decisively reassessed how state power is used to protect us.
In many ways, if truth be told, the whole debate on control orders has been allowed to obscure the substantial progress made by this coalition and this Home Office. Nevertheless, the truth is that the control order regime presents a pernicious affront to our tradition of liberty. It undermines the most basic principle of British justice—of being innocent until proven guilty. Orders can be imposed on people who have not been found guilty of any criminal offence. That is wrong in principle, and control orders have proved to be an ineffective tool in practice. I shall come on to explain why I believe that to be the case.
In fairness, TPIMs are not as draconian as the old regime and again I want to recognise Ministers’ efforts to improve the conditions imposed by the Bill. In truth, however, TPIMs are only marginally less draconian and are certainly no more effective than their predecessor—and that is not much of a trade-off either. Liberty notes in its briefing that TPIMs
“mirror the most offensive elements” of control orders. Under clause 3, the Home Secretary must demonstrate “reasonable belief” of involvement in terrorism as opposed to the old standard of “reasonable suspicion'”, but a criminal sanction of this severity should require proof of criminal conduct—not hunches, not opinions, but proof.
The potential restrictions on individuals set out in schedule 1 remain onerous—residency requirements, curfews, restrictions on communication and association, travel bans, electronic tagging and all the rest. Clause 5 appears to suggest a two-year limit for TPIMs, but they can be renewed if new terrorist activity is alleged. That is itself a worrying comment on the credibility of the new order as a counter-terrorism measure. Clause 21 retains the penalty of five years’ imprisonment for breach of an order.
In one important respect, which has already been mentioned today, the proposed regime is worse than its predecessor. Control orders had to be approved annually by Parliament in recognition of their exceptional nature and the urgency of the circumstances in which they were introduced, which ensured regular parliamentary oversight, but TPIMs will not be subject to such parliamentary reviews. A temporary emergency measure will thus become permanent and entrenched, and we will have crossed a line. It is worth our asking, with that in mind, what we will gain from such an affront to our tradition of liberty and justice. What will be the security dividend from this trade-off of our freedoms?
Of the 40 individuals formerly subject to control orders, seven absconded and five had their orders quashed by the courts. In 2009, each order cost the Home Office £135,000 to implement—quite apart from the costs of defending the orders from legal challenge and of policing. The number of control orders has halved in the last two years, from 20 to 10. Some will say that that shows that they are used only as a last resort, but in fact it demonstrates their irrelevance to the massive scale of the terrorist threat that we face. MI5 estimates that there are still about 4,000 terrorist suspects in the United Kingdom—10 controlees, 4,000 suspects. Let us not pretend that control orders have ever been anything more than the most flimsy and feeble of security safety nets.
Control orders are not just of dwindling relevance; they constitute a distraction from robust law enforcement and are actually a negative. That is why I welcome the Home Secretary's renewed focus on the Prevent strategy. I would welcome further still measures to strengthen our deportation capacity, which has been undermined by judicial legislation resulting from article 8 of the European convention on human rights, via the Human Rights Act 1998. The massively inflated rights to family life now allow the majority of deportation orders to be frustrated. That has nothing to do with article 3 torture grounds, which I would stand up for. More specifically, as Lord Macdonald stated in his report on the counter-terrorism review, control orders are an “impediment” to prosecution and conviction because
“controls may be imposed that precisely prevent those very activities that are apt to result in the discovery of evidence fit for prosecution, conviction and imprisonment”.
The wider evidence is stark and clear. This country now has a gaping prosecutorial deficit. The number of convictions for terrorist offences has fallen by 90% in the last four years, despite all the legislative hyperactivity of the previous Government, despite all the hubris, and despite the exponential rise in the terrorist threat, whose existence I think we all accept. Yet conviction in court and locking up terrorists constitute the only guaranteed way of protecting the public.
I find it worrying that we have heard so little about strengthening prosecution in real, core, concrete, tangible terms. We need a far more robust and proactive prosecution policy. We need to learn directly from experience abroad, particularly in Commonwealth countries such as the United States, Australia and Canada. We need much greater use of plea bargaining, although incidentally I do not see why the discount should be increased. I believe that if plea-bargaining were deployed effectively, it would almost certainly increase, not reduce, the number of dangerous people put behind bars. Indeed, that is the whole point of it.
As others have said, we must also overcome entrenched bureaucratic inertia and lift the ban on the use of intercept evidence in court, thus ending Britain’s virtual global isolation and giving prosecutors an invaluable tool with which to secure convictions. I know from my experience of working at the Foreign Office on information co-operation with international war crimes tribunals, along with all the Departments and agencies in the United Kingdom, what the limits are and how intercept evidence can be used discreetly, carefully and competently, and I am convinced that we can overcome the objections that have been presented.
Dr Huppert said that if we were to ask anyone in the United States, such as the FBI or the Deputy Attorney-General—I myself have talked to the counter-terrorism adviser in the George Bush White House—they would be aghast at the idea that intercept evidence could not be used as a powerful weapon to put more terrorists behind bars. It is absolutely critical. It is a mystery to me that we in this country have allowed so much surveillance of the ordinary law-abiding citizen, yet we adamantly and trenchantly oppose using intercept evidence to target prosecution against those engaged in terror.
Lord Macdonald offered a very credible alternative to the control order regime, with restrictions linked to bail in the active pursuit of prosecution. I regret that his proposal was not taken up in place of the old regime, or, indeed, of the new one presented to us today.
The war on terrorism has defined the current generation, as the second world war did the generations of the ’30s and ’40s, and as the cold war cast a shadow over those of the ’60s and ’70s. Terrorism has existed before in all sorts of forms, of course; in the ’70s and ’80s, there was IRA terrorism, for example. The shadow of 9/11 still hangs over the current generation, however.
The threat of terrorism affects every aspect of our lives. Every time we step on a train, we are reminded to be vigilant and watch out for suspicious bags. Every time we enter a Government building, we are obliged to have our bags—and, indeed, bodies—scanned. When we switch on the news, there will often be a report of another attack in one part of the world or another. It is therefore no surprise that we debate this subject and pass laws in this House with a view to containing or eradicating terrorism and protecting the public.
Terrorism is not a cancer that we can surgically remove, however, or a trend that can be outlawed. Terrorism is a violent form of communication, usually involving the killing of innocent people by a private group or individual in such a way as to create a media spectacle and pass a message or place pressure on a Government, while at the same time gaining publicity for that terrorist group, cause or individual. We must tackle the ideology behind terrorism, as well as prevent the terrorist attack itself.
Sadly, history has shown that Islamic radicalisation reached our shores a number of years ago. In 2002, the shoe bomber failed to bring down a transatlantic flight. In 2005, we had the 7/7 bombings, and just two weeks later there was a failed attempt to replicate that attack. In 2006, a transatlantic terror plot, which attempted to use 10 liquid explosives to blow up planes, was disrupted. In 2007, we had the attack at Glasgow airport, when two men driving cars full of propane rammed the main terminal building. Also in that year, two car bombs were discovered in the Haymarket, and, thankfully, disabled before they were detonated. In 2008, there was the Exeter café bombing by a radicalised 22-year-old, but, thankfully again, nobody was hurt. Terrorism has become part and parcel of our lives, therefore. What links all these events—and these are only the events that are in the public domain—is the deeply distorted interpretation of Islam that turns harmless citizens into radicalised recruits willing to cause other innocents harm.
It is important to ask why Britain is prone to this sort of attack. What makes the United Kingdom more of a target than, say, Austria or Germany? These are difficult, and perhaps controversial, questions, but they must be asked. We can ask: did our involvement in overseas conflicts such as Iraq or Afghanistan increase the potential for such Islamist attacks? Yes, it undoubtedly did. It has made us more of a target. Whether we think that such conflicts are right or wrong, that is a fact and we must come to terms with it.
Having weak immigration controls also makes us more of a target. If our borders are porous in some way, it makes it easier for those who wish us harm to get into this country to cause that harm. We also face a difficult question about our tolerance towards different cultures. If there is a lack of cohesion between different cultures, a failure of integration between those cultures in our communities and a lack of understanding of what it means to be British, that failure to bring communities together can lead to hostility in its own right. Given that so many Muslims live in this country and in the United States, we must ask why we have not seen the same radicalisation in the United States as we have seen in this country.
Controversially, one could also say that the way in which the pendulum of political correctness has swung is involved here; we might ask whether we tackle these difficult events as harshly as we should. Demonstrations have taken place in various mosques over a number of years, yet because we are cautious and do not want to make too much of a song and dance we have perhaps not been tough enough to send out the message that such behaviour should not be tolerated. These are difficult questions, but if they are not posed in this House where else can they be raised?
Developing a strategy to tackle this problem is complicated and it requires contributions from across Departments: the Ministry of Defence is kinetic and its contribution is about what we do in Afghanistan, first, to eradicate the extremism there and then to help stable democracy; the Department for Communities and Local Government has a role to play in encouraging forms of cohesion; the Cabinet Office is now responsible for cyber-security; the overseas aid budget should be targeted to help countries to tackle these issues themselves; and the Home Office has a role in focusing on prevention and security, which is what we are debating today.
Such a strategy involves understanding the motives of terrorists, how they are trained, how they are recruited and how they are identified as potential killers. It involves providing better support to vulnerable groups, such as those who are in prison, those who are unemployed and the youth. It also involves putting increased emphasis on community cohesion and ensuring that funding goes to properly targeted groups, rather than to those very groups that wish us harm. As a number of hon. Members have said, such groups have been funded in the past and I am pleased that that has been brought to a stop.
Such a strategy also involves the improved identification of those who might be targeted, which does require the assistance of universities and doctors. We need everybody’s assistance; we have a collective responsibility in our community to look after each other. Such is the scale of the problem we face that some individuals, including UK citizens, are successfully turned into potential terrorists. The Bill will play a small part in the wider strategy that deals with individuals who are known to be involved in terrorist activities but about whom the evidence is not yet sufficient to warrant a full conviction. We are talking about a small group of people—fewer than 50 or so—who cannot be deported but who are yet to be convicted. Our approach must be about making sure that we are aware of their movements, their accommodation and their travel, so that they are “looked after” in a way that means that they are unable to do harm in the future.
Many hon. Members have discussed the Bill in detail so I will not repeat many of the comments that have been made, but it is worth saying in conclusion that just as warfare has had to adapt to the changes in the battlefield, so must our counter-terrorism technology develop. I welcome the Bill, as it refines our ability to combat terrorism. I have been told that I would be delighted to serve on the Committee, should I be called, so I recommend the Bill to the House and look forward to serving, if possible, on the Committee.
It is an enormous pleasure, as always, to follow my hon. and gallant Friend Mr Ellwood. It has also been an enormous pleasure to listen to the contributions from other right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.
At the outset, I want to make it clear that the issues with which the Bill grapples are not, as I suspect many Members have found, necessarily easy. I have not found them easy. For my part, during my consideration of the measures proposed by the Government I have from time to time changed my mind, or at least changed the direction in which I thought I was travelling, before finally alighting on the position that I intend to set forth this evening.
What, then, is the dilemma for all Members? On the one hand, it seems plain from the responses to the Government’s consultation that there is general agreement among the majority of those who offered their views that in the case of a very few individuals there is a continuing need for the Government to have access to the sort of powers proposed in this Bill to protect the public from potential harm. One simple reason for that, as the responses make clear and as I, at least, am persuaded, is that in the case of some of those very few individuals prosecutions are impossible for either security or legal reasons. By the same token, not every threat to national security is or has yet become a criminal offence. Are such threats to be ignored, as some would urge us to do? I venture to suggest not.
On the other hand, the suggestion that the sort of powers that we see in this Bill should exist at all—they effectively permit the Executive to detain individuals without trial—is naturally abhorrent to Members of this House and is regarded as such on both sides, as it is by all right-thinking people. It is said with force that we now have, and that within the memory of this House we have always had, a system of open justice and it is legitimate to ask, as many Members have done, why in those circumstances we should make even one exception, no matter how carefully hedged about with safeguards, to the principles that have long underpinned our democracy and the rule of law in this country.
The question, then, is how that dilemma is to be resolved. That is essentially the question faced by the House in deciding whether to give the Bill a Second Reading. Differing from hon. Members of all parties and some people outside the House who advocate the complete revocation of any system of civil measures that interferes with the rights of the individual, I have come to the view that what the Government propose, subject to the amendments that will no doubt be made in Committee, strikes the right balance for reasons that I shall come on to. That is, I accept, my judgment. It is my opinion, consistent with the position that my conscience dictates, but that is not to say—and I do not say—that it is the only view that it is possible to take. This is very much one of those issues where reasonable people may come to completely contrary conclusions and where Members have come to contrary conclusions. My task, if I have one at all, is to explain in the course of this debate how I have come to my conclusion and my reasons for having done so.
The starting point—I suspect that all Members would agree that this should always be the starting point for any Government, but it is one which might perhaps have been lost sight of from time to time during the course of the debate—is that the primary duty of the state to its citizens is to keep them safe. National security and public safety are and must always remain the first duty of the Government, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear in her statement on
In one sense, of course, this is a question of degree. Is the derogation from the ordinary principles of the rule of law and the rights of the subject that this Bill entails justified given the threat that we know we face at the beginning of the 21st century? In my opinion—I stress again that it is my opinion and that others are driven to a different view by their consciences—it is. We have merely to look at some of the events that we have witnessed during the past decade, such as the bombings of
The matter can be viewed in this way: many Members on both sides of the House will quite properly oppose the Bill’s Second Reading, or will at least have indicated that they will not give it a Third Reading in its current form. However, let me posit an eventuality that I hope will not occur—circumstances in which someone who might have been subject to a TPIM is instrumental in a future atrocity that results in our fellow citizens being maimed or killed. Would it, in those circumstances, be right that the Bill fell today or in future? I suggest not, for that would be to strike the wrong balance between the rule of law and the first duty of the Government, which I have already outlined.
I accept that none of this is easy. My view, I am perfectly prepared to accept, may be wrong. It may even, as the courts will be able to inquire given that there will now be no possibility of derogation from the law relating to the rights of the subject, be unlawful, although I think not as the Bill has been carefully drawn. However, it is the view to which I am driven by a consideration of the issues I have outlined and by the horrendous possibility of being wrong and, in being wrong, of failing to prevent a potential terrorist outrage.
The second argument that drives me to support the Government’s proposals and therefore to lend my support to the Bill’s Second Reading is the very fact that there are certain rights that I and the vast majority of people consider to be inalienable, the most important of which is the right to life. That this right is inalienable seems to me naturally to entail the proposition that it should, by the nature of the law as it should be framed, be protected—if necessary at the expense of other lesser rights, which are not necessarily inalienable. Schedule 1 identifies a series of measures that the Secretary of State may take, should the Bill become law, which would undoubtedly interfere with the second of those groups of rights. It enables the state to obstruct the liberty of the citizen, to oblige him or her to comply with the directions of those who exercise its authority and to disturb the free enjoyment of property rights. However, not one of those rights is, or at least should be, regarded as absolute and inalienable. The right to life and to security, in the sense of freedom from hurt or injury, is in a different category altogether. As the Bill makes clear throughout, particularly from the safeguards with which it is hedged, it is that right that is being protected and the other, lesser rights that are being obstructed. That cannot but indicate, as many Members on both sides have noted, that a balance is being struck. Whether it is the right balance will be a question that future historians will no doubt assess.
My hon. and learned Friend is making a powerful argument about the balancing of rights. Does he feel that this consideration should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the balance remains correct in future?
I can see that there is a powerful case for amending the Bill in Committee to introduce some annual review by Parliament, but there are countervailing arguments, some of which have been alluded to during the debate. The first of those arguments, which was made by my hon. Friend Steve Baker, is that with the whipping system being what it is, such an annual review may prove pointless. The second is that if the House forms a view in relation to TPIMs, which are not control orders, it will have reached a settled view, and that will not fade from parliamentary memory. I think that everyone on both sides of the House accepts that once the reasons why TPIMs or control orders need to exist have disappeared, this legislation should also disappear. In those circumstances, while I can see the case for an annual review, it is not something on which I have a conclusive view, and I look forward to debating it again in due course.
Returning to whether it is right in principle for the Bill to strike the balance that it seeks to strike, what finally has driven me to the view that the Bill must continue its passage through the House is the fact that the arguments against the balance being struck at all either misinterpret or only interpret semantically and without regard to its content what the rule of law actually means. We have created for ourselves, as have most other nations, a system of justice that involves the open trial of individuals for those things that we characterise as wrongs that deserve punishment. That system, however, is a fabrication of the society in which we live—no more, no less. It is not the only system that man could devise, but it has been found over the years to be the best system, even though we must occasionally alter or change it so that it meets the needs of the times in which we live. This is such a time, so the Bill seeks to fashion a different system from the ordinary criminal justice system, and it does so because, in my judgment, it must, for reasons that I have given.
Is the system contrary to the rule of law because it is different? No. It is contrary to the rule of law, if in any sense, because we say it is, yet the rule of law as created must be protected, as it answers so well to the circumstances of existence that we must not seek to undermine it any more than is necessary. Again, there is a balance to be struck—what is necessary is what is proportionate to the circumstances, and in my view that is the regime that the Bill seeks to create. The same cannot be said universally of the regime that will be repealed if and when clause 1 comes into force. While the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 sought to strike a necessary balance, in my judgment it struck the wrong balance, which is tacitly accepted by the Opposition Front-Bench team, given their acceptance that the control order regime was not necessarily the best way of dealing with the threat that the legislation that they introduced sought to deal.
I know, as I have said before in the House, new as I am, that it is the Opposition’s duty to oppose, but for those of us who have sat through this debate in its entirety it has been odd to note the opposition from their Front-Bench team, but the consensus among Back Benchers on both sides of the House that the Bill should at least complete its Second Reading.
The previous regime of control orders permitted the Government to derogate from the Human Rights Act 1998. The Bill does not do so, which is progress. While I am no fan of the Human Rights Act, I accept that it includes welcome protections that have existed in our law for generations, even if consistently misinterpreted or over-interpreted by the Court in Strasbourg. The previous regime of control orders likewise provided a non-exhaustive list of the way in which the rights of the subject could be hindered. The Bill, by contrast, tells the Home Secretary precisely what she may do, circumscribed by Parliament. I know which I prefer and which meets the need to tackle the mischief at which the Bill is directed.
The previous regime of control orders likewise allowed the Home Secretary powers overly and unnecessarily in effect to extinguish individual rights, the best example being the 16-hour curfew. The Bill, by contrast, limits the Home Secretary’s powers—again, always subject to review—to something which, to my mind, is more capable of justification, even though overnight detention orders require more definition. Most importantly, unlike the present regime, mere suspicion on the part of the state will no longer be enough to trigger the powers in the Bill—and rightly so. The Bill makes it clear that there must be reasonable belief that individuals can no longer be deprived of their rights merely on the basis of suspicion. Lawyers other than I have suggested this afternoon that there is little difference, but I disagree. Even if I am wrong, I am more content with a regime that requires some form of objective proof and justification than one that can be triggered merely on the basis of vague, subjective assertion on the part of the state.
For these reasons, and many others which there is now insufficient time to develop further but which will undoubtedly be explored in Committee if the Bill goes forward tonight, it is my belief that this is the right Bill to address the dilemma that I posed at the outset and which the Government face in striking a balance between the rights of the individual and the obligation to protect all the citizens of this country. If the House divides tonight, the Government will therefore receive my support to give the Bill a Second Reading, as I believe they should receive the support of the remainder of the House.
As I follow my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips, I am reminded of something that I learned shortly after I arrived in the Chamber—that is, that some of the finest and most informative speeches are delivered after the glare of the media has departed from the Front Benches. I found his remarks very interesting, although I have not agreed with all of them.
I associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friends the Members for Newark (Patrick Mercer) and for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab). Listening to the remarks of my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood, I found myself disagreeing with him somewhat. I hope he will forgive me if I say that I think the threat that we face today is not the same as the threat that we faced during the cold war. We do not face total nuclear war or mutually assured destruction. During the cold war we did not capitulate our highest values. Instead, we sought to emphasise them. As my hon. Friend mentions the cold war, I hope the House will forgive me if I quote Reagan in 1964:
“You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this begin—just in the face of this enemy?”
I could go on, and I am sure some Members would enjoy it if I did. Just in the face of this enemy? No. Some values are higher than life itself.
I particularly associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend Kris Hopkins. Like him, I have a large Muslim population in my constituency and I have come to be very fond of those fine people. I have found that we share a commitment to justice and to objective morality as the basis for our liberty. It is true that a very small number of my constituents have been convicted of terrorist atrocities, so I approach this subject with considerable care.
As a gallant Member of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, you may recognise in me a sense of missing the clarity of serving in the armed forces. When I first considered the subject of the prevention of terrorism, I had just come out of university and the law of armed conflict in the UK and carrying firearms in the UK was being explained. It was made perfectly clear to us, fresh out of university, that the correct response to a terrorist caught in the act of committing a terrorist atrocity was a bullet—a single aimed shot at the centre of the chest. We were shocked and appalled when that instructor explained to us that he would be disappointed if any member of the armed forces did not take the opportunity offered by the rules of engagement to shoot a terrorist.
That is only the first category of ways we might deal with terror. The second is that which we are all perhaps more used to—investigation, arrest, charge, conviction, imprisonment. I think the mood of the House is that we would all prefer that standard criminal process to be followed. The final category seems to be the strange twilight which we have entered, the twilight of semi-guilt and shadow justice, where we cannot bring people to prosecution, yet we fear them. What has happened to us?
Some words are so powerful and represent concepts so important that people will lay down their very lives for them—words like “liberty” and “justice”, inseparable words, hooray words, which unfortunately, as I have discovered in my political journey, are subject to interpretation and political conflict. But our forebears laid down their lives for liberty and justice. I was asked once on my journey here if there was one thing I could change about the state that Britain finds itself in, what would it be? Before I was asked, I thought I would say we should leave the European Union, but on reflection and having read the brilliant book by my hon. Friend the Member for Esher and Walton, “The Assault on Liberty”, I found myself thinking briefly and saying, “I would repeal control orders.”
Control orders disgust me. They represent the capitulation of our highest values in the face of cowardly enemies. We should not tolerate them, so like some of my hon. Friends, I welcome clause 1. Clause 1 is a glorious and joyful clause, perhaps the finest I have seen in the House.
We face, we are told, a serious and sustained threat. I find myself returning to Pitt. We have come a long way since 1783 when he said:
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”
I might go less far, but I would say that the response to fear and to threat is not the abandonment of our highest values; it is courage. It is to reach deep within ourselves and to find the courage to face down cowards. That is what I wish the Government would do.
I meet clauses 2 to 27 and the eight schedules with profound misgivings, but I can hardly vote against them as they represent a move in the right direction. The shadow Home Secretary, although offering us a confused analysis of the Bill, has said that they water down control orders, and I think that a good thing. Lord Macdonald said that this measure is
“an unmistakeable rebalancing of public policy in favour of liberty”.
I welcome that, and I will be supporting the Government tonight, but with a very, very heavy heart.
Finally, I should like to quote Benjamin Franklin:
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
I wish that we did not face such choices, but we do. We should reach within ourselves for that courage to face these fears, these threats, and move forward, keeping our values.
It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Steve Baker, who said that the best speeches tended to come towards the end of a debate. As probably one of the last speakers I am about to show that that hypothesis is not always correct. How can I possibly match up to a Member who quoted not only Benjamin Franklin, but William Pitt and good old Ronald Reagan, in his speech in defence of his views on control orders today?
It was interesting earlier to hear Hazel Blears describe the original debates that went on until 4 am. I can imagine that at that time the Benches here would have been full with Members debating this important issue of liberty. We look around today and we see a lot more green Benches than people. Perhaps that is because most hon. Members are at ease with providing and continuing these regulations and powers for the Executive, and perhaps that is to be welcomed. But I think that ease comes largely because of our fear of the worst if those powers were taken away. I am not sure that that is the best way for us to set our laws, so I am not at ease with what is being proposed here today.
We have heard today from people who are learned in law and people with experience of making these tough decisions in the Executive. I have neither of those things, so I come from a simpler point of view, which is that in England we should not lock people up without telling them why. In supporting this legislation today, we are essentially denying that statement. It has been said that we should not trust all Home Secretaries—perhaps not all Home Secretaries—but I certainly trust and have faith in the current Home Secretary. She has brought a skill and effectiveness to an extremely difficult brief and has impressed Members on both sides of the House. As many hon. Members have said, the Home Secretary understands and bears the weight of more knowledge and has more access to knowledge and people with knowledge than we do ourselves.
The context for what is being proposed essentially stems from the events of the last 10 years. Jeremy Corbyn recounted some of those, from the rise of radical ideology, through the nurturing of terrorism, the convulsions after 9/11, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the attacks here on UK soil and those attacks that have been prevented. Those are indeed mighty issues for the state to handle, and I do not doubt the sincerity of Governments of any colour in how they wished to handle them. Those challenges certainly demanded a robust approach, but one that should have preserved our core values and freedoms, because they are beacons for a wider world that yearns for the freedoms that we have. We have a responsibility beyond these shores to ensure that, in setting our laws, we set an example that we wish other countries to follow. That should be the highest of examples we can set.
The previous Government’s response may now be judged to have been overreach and their actions to have done too much damage to our precious freedoms and to have been in some respects ineffective or counter-productive. Those measures included detention without trial, secret courts, special attorneys, hidden evidence, the imposition of high levels of restriction on people who were never charged and did not know the case against them, forced relocation, internal exile and the transfer of judicial authority to the Executive branch. We were told, “Don’t worry, because they are all temporary emergency measures, so they are okay.” Well, in my view they were never okay, and as the years passed they seemed less and less temporary.
For this Government, the test for how to change the legislation had to be set higher. The Bill before us declares it as such:
“A BILL TO Abolish control orders”.
As many hon. Members have said, it would have been fine if it had stopped there, but it went on to state that it would also
“make provision for the imposition of terrorism prevention and investigation measures.”
There we get into the weighing up of the freedoms on one side and the prevention of harm on the other. The details do not live up to the billing. In the absence of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, I must ask: when did we shift away from fundamental challenge based on principle? When did our assertion of centuries-old principles of English justice succumb to one more round of Executive caution? For me, there must be good, specific reasons behind the rationale for each measure and specific examples of their effectiveness. That will be the challenge in Committee and, if it is not met there, when the Bill comes back on Report, because general statements will not help. They will lead us to similar mistakes that we now see that the previous Government, even with the best intentions, may have made in their legislation.
I have two concerns, one of which I will talk about for most of my speech and the other I will mention briefly. My main concern to address to the Minister is the omission of the immigration bail conditions imposed by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. Control orders were originally intended for UK citizens and non-UK citizens, but now they are exclusively for UK citizens. At the end of 2006, 18 people were on control orders, nine of whom were non-UK citizens. At the end of 2010, 10 people were on control orders, all of whom were UK citizens. My question to the Minister is this: have SIAC bail conditions been used as a proxy for control orders? Why are they not included in this review to bring those conditions to the same level as the Government now propose for control orders? SIAC bail conditions will still permit forced relocation, forced curfews, monitoring with the same level of secrecy and the lack of access, all without any charges being brought. They belonged in the Bill, so I look forward to hearing from the Minister why they are not there.
I will bring an example to the attention of the House. We have heard about CD and about AM, but I would like to talk about Y—Mustapha Taleb. I read about him in the book “Ricin”. Ricin was one of those footnotes in the approach to the Iraq war, with the “ricin plot”, or, some would say, the “ricin plot that never was”.
Mustapha Taleb came to the UK in 2001, having been tortured in his home country of Algeria. He was arrested in 2003 as part of the “ricin plot”, taken to court, tried and found not guilty of all charges. He was arrested again in 2005, after the 7/7 attacks, and SIAC imposed immigration bail conditions on him. Those conditions have been in place effectively for the six years subsequent to that point, so when people talk about one year or two years, they ought to understand that people in this country now have been living under conditions as severe as control orders for the past six years—and there is no relief for them in the Bill.
What does that say about British justice—forced relocation, imposed curfews, the monitoring of all communications and a denial of freedom for six years? For what? We do not know. Mustapha does not know, he has not been charged; his lawyers do not know, they have not seen the evidence; and I do not know why those conditions are not being relieved in the Bill. I strongly urge the Home Secretary to accept, and hope that she will do so in Committee, an amendment to bring them into the same form as control orders.
My second point, and quickly, is on temporary versus permanent. I mention it not only because I support the notion of many hon. Members that a review each year would be helpful, but because, having listened to the debate, it is quite clear that when someone goes from the Opposition Benches to the Government Front Bench the intention, the principle and the idealism are lessened—and lessened to the point of extinction. That position may well be right, but it is important that we challenge it every year here, where those voices of idealism can still be heard, even if today they make up a minority of the voices who were here six years ago. They still deserve to be heard every year on the matter.
I have great confidence in our Home Secretary and, of course, understand that as a Back Bencher I have only partial access to the information that she and Ministers have. I do believe, however, that we have missed an opportunity with this Bill to restore English liberty to its highest levels of respect. I urge the Government to consider a sunset clause and to align immigration bail conditions with the new control orders.
In the case of Mr Taleb, I just quote the members of the jury who acquitted him. When the SIAC conditions were put in place, they subsequently said:
“As three ordinary members of the public we have had our eyes opened to such an unfair and unjust sequence of events orchestrated by the authorities that we feel compelled to speak out. This is contrary to anything we thought could be possible in a democratic, free society. Since January 2003, ‘Y’”—
“has been persecuted by our government beyond all realms of imagination.”
I urge the Minister to listen to that and to look for further changes.
May I first apologise to the House? I was present for the opening speeches, but I have been chairing the first 1968 dinner of the all-party armed forces group, 1968 being the only year when a British soldier, sailor or airmen has not died in combat. I apologise to the House for not being present for most of the debate. I apologise also if I repeat any arguments that my hon. Friends on both sides of the House might have made while I have been absent.
We are all aware of our first duty: to protect the people of our country. Getting that right is not a matter of politics—of one side of the House or the other. We must have a bipartisan approach to something as important as that, and it is our duty to get it right. Terrorists have no such duty. They adhere to no rules or laws whatsoever. I once spoke to a Mujahedeen terrorist and asked him what he was about. He said, “My aim is to frighten my enemies so much that they do whatever I want them to do.” We must bear in mind that that is a terrorist aim. The old Stalinist maxim—I think it was Stalin who said it—is “Kill one, frighten 10,000.” Our laws are designed to stop this happening. The terrorists aim to kill. Our security forces, as many people in all parts of the House know, want to kill nobody. They do not want to inconvenience anyone, either. They have to act within the law; terrorists do not. We all know that our security forces often operate in metaphorical handcuffs because they are tied by laws that do not apply to terrorists. In a way, terrorists operate freelance.
It is our duty to make fair, democratic, decent law. We need to balance the risks to the public, assistance to our security forces and, indeed, the human rights of terrorist suspects, because they are not guilty until they are proven to be guilty. This is the essence of today’s debate.
Have control orders been too severe? Can their conditions be lessened without additional risk to the public, while perhaps increasing assistance to the security forces who are trying to stop terrorist operations at the same time as making sure that our decent traditions are upheld?
I quite like clause 2. Under clause 2, restrictions are imposed à la carte. They are not blanket restrictions; they are designed for particular instances. They are flexible and allow for more severe measures if necessary. The people in authority determine what those measures are in a balanced way because their primary duty is to keep society safe. They also have to maintain civil liberties. I am mindful that in the United Kingdom everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. I like the idea that someone who is not yet proven guilty can live as decent a life as is possible, but under control if we are worried about them. I like the idea that they can continue to work or study, under control if necessary. I am reminded, however, that seven out of 45 people on control orders have absconded—15%. We must not design a law that allows that percentage to increase.
I think that what we call TPIMs are better—just. The director general of the Security Service is apparently content with the change, but I suspect that that is largely because he or she will get increased resources in order to carry out surveillance given that the aim is to try to get these people into court as fast as possible so that we can determine whether they are guilty or innocent, which is a principle of our law. I have been part of a surveillance operation in my time. Surveillance is very manpower intensive and costly. The operation that I was involved in required 12 soldiers, and that is just the minimum. There have to be back-up people as well. That is just for the surveillance of one person. It is therefore unsurprising that the Bill suggests that there will be more resources for surveillance. I am up for that. Evidence is difficult to obtain. It is particularly difficult to obtain when one closely observes someone so that they cannot move. In a way, let them have enough rope to hang themselves. Let us watch what they do, make a decision and get them into court, which is what we all want. I was worried to learn that two terrorist suspects were on control orders for four years and then let go. That does not seem right to me.
I support the change from control orders to TPIMs—just. TPIMs have been called control orders-lite. People can call them what they like. I want us to have the most effective system to protect our society from people who want to do it harm. I want to ensure that the people investigating suspects have as many advantages as possible. Of course, Members from all parts of the House want to ensure that suspects have every opportunity to prove their innocence. The Bill will provide more resources for surveillance—great, I am up for that. The Bill, if and when it passes through this House and the other place, will have a duty to enhance public protection; to aid those who are charged to put away terrorists who aim to do us, our families and our friends harm; and to maintain the rights of suspects under a decent, civilised and democratic system. That is what this is all about and I hope that all parts of the House agree with that.
This has been an important debate and I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for the sincerity with which they have delivered their speeches on this important issue. We have had contributions from Kris Hopkins, my right hon. Friend Paul Goggins, Tom Brake, my right hon. Friend Hazel Blears, the hon. Members for Newark (Patrick Mercer), for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn, the hon. Members for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) and for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), Stephen Phillips, and the hon. Members for Wycombe (Steve Baker), for Bedford (Richard Fuller) and for Beckenham (Bob Stewart). We heard a range of viewpoints, from those who think that control orders have no place in our society to those who feel that we must have something in place to deal with the small number of people who cause the immense problems that we have. As has been said, there have been 46 control orders over the six years in which they have been in place.
I think all hon. Members agreed that the safety and security of our nation should be the priority for any Government, and that that should rise above party political objectives, ambitions and gains. Perhaps, therefore, I should get the nasty business of politics out of the way at this point. We know why this Bill is here: it is a compromise between the two viewpoints that exist in the coalition. That is not just my point of view, because the hon. Member for Cambridge said that unless the Bill is changed substantially, he may not be able to vote for it on Third Reading. Clearly it is a compromise, but putting the politics to one side, we have to consider the details. Our view is that the new TPIMs regime is very similar to the control order regime that has been in place. I know that in his response tonight, and in his busy time in Committee, the Minister will take on board a lot of the viewpoints of hon. Members of all parties, and their concerns about the Bill’s various clauses.
The core reason why we are discussing this matter is that terrorism affects our country not only here at home but abroad, because unfortunately many of our citizens have been killed right across the world by terrorists who do not respect or believe in the sanctity of life. We all agree that we must applaud and acknowledge the work of our security services in protecting us. They have prevented atrocities from taking place at a more alarming rate.
I do not wish to attack any hon. Member’s integrity or the views that they have expressed. Having served as a Home Office Minister, I know the pressure that the Home Secretary and her ministerial team are under because of the information that they have and we do not. I know that in taking their decisions, they have to weigh up all the issues of which we cannot be aware.
Vigilance is always required in our position on terrorism. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles reminded us of the context of the current situation. We still have a “severe” threat alert, which is one level down from an imminent attack, so the country has to be vigilant. That is why the debate about the rights of the individual compared with the security of the many is important. She set out the background of why the control order regime was introduced. The debate about restoring the rights of the individual as against those of the majority is difficult, but it is the duty of the Government to err on the side of caution. That was why we introduced the control order regime.
We know that the Bill retains many items from the old regime. It retains closed hearings, and sanctions will still be imposed on terrorist suspects outside the criminal justice system. Groups such as Liberty are unhappy and have called the new TPIMs regime control orders-lite.
We need to consider in great detail the issues that hon. Members have raised. I was impressed by what the hon. Member for Keighley, who comes from the same area as me, said about the impact of 2001—not only the atrocities that took place but their effect in our communities in Bradford and Keighley. He was right that most right-minded people want the same things in life, but people felt threatened and frightened by different viewpoints and different ways of doing things. The Home Secretary talked about the Prevent strategy, and I am concerned about the different ideas about what Britishness is and how people from different backgrounds in our communities understand it.
The hon. Gentleman was right that in Bradford, particular attention was given to integration between the many communities, but there is anger among the Muslim community about some of the things that we in the west do. On a recent visit to Azerbaijan I heard about the problem with the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, on which there are outstanding UN resolutions that need to be enforced. There are also outstanding resolutions on Kashmir. Some of the Muslim community feel that our way of dealing with things does not recognise their interests elsewhere in the world. Rightly, people have different viewpoints and disagreements. That does not make them terrorists, and it is important to understand that people in our communities have different viewpoints.
The hon. Members for Keighley and for Beckenham said that the whole community needs to own this legislation. We must take party politics out of this. The whole of our community needs to understand why we need such regimes. Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer, said that control orders were a necessary evil.
The hon. Member for Bedford said that the original intention of control orders was to deal with foreign nationals who, for a variety of reasons, could not be deported, but that more UK citizens are now under control orders. However, the House should recognise what my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East said because of his experience as an ex-Home Office Minister and an ex-Northern Ireland Minister—he has great experience of listening to the security services. He said that there was no book on the shelf to tell people what to do, and that the policy evolved and developed. He also rightly acknowledged that the debate creates great tension between the rights of the individual and the rights of the majority.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington North has been consistent in his view that the rule of law should apply all the way through, and nobody has scrutinised counter-terrorism Acts more than he has.
It is perhaps right to review the situation after six years, but my right hon. Friend raised concerns about the overnight residency measures. In Committee, the Minister will have to come up with a definition of “specified residence”. What do we mean by electronic communications? What about the rules on disclosure of evidence?
The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington said that the Bill did not go far enough. His view is that there needs to be greater freedom. He made the civil liberties argument, and spoke of exclusions, disclosure and the time frame of prosecutions. We all believe that we need prosecutions; the question is how to get them. How do we use information that is otherwise unaccessible? My right hon. Friend asked whether information from other countries would dry up if those countries thought that it would come out in open court. That is a realistic possibility, and we must consider it.
We must ensure that the control order review group is in place. We also need to consider mental health, torture and so on. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford and Eccles tried to put us on the right course when she spoke of the need for consensus based on evidence, and put that in the context of the threats that we face.
None of us wants to be involved in such difficult decisions or in considering the threats that individuals pose, but the reality is that we must do so for the security and safety of our nation. The hon. Member for Newark, who is a long-standing supporter of civil liberties, set out what happens when the state gets involved in too much detail and used the example of internment in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire was very clear that he thinks that control orders have no place here and that the Bill is a rotten compromise.
The Opposition will ensure that we hold the Government to account in Committee. We will raise the issues of funding and resources. Will the Minister tell us whether the resources will be spent on surveillance or on prosecutions, which hon. Members raised earlier? We will look at a great number of the measures in the Bill in Committee, but we want to support the Government. The hon. Member for Beckenham was right about the need to ensure consensus, but it is the job of the Opposition to hold the Government to account. We will do so in Committee, and we look forward to that process.
We have had a constructive, serious and sober debate on this significant issue, and I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have contributed to it. I apologise for the fact that, in the nine minutes that I have left to speak, I will not be able to respond in detail to all the points that have been raised, but they have certainly been listened to carefully. The debate has shown that hon. Members are committed to ensuring that we have the right legislation in place to deal with terrorism. We might, of course, disagree on some of the details, but there is a great deal of common ground between us.
It is clear that the threat from international and domestic terrorism is as serious as any that we have faced at any time, and that it is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. The threat remains real and severe, and it is the duty of the Government to deal with it. It is essential that we look to the police and the security services to assist us in that regard, and I pay tribute to their work in keeping us safe and secure. In the context of the comments made by my hon. Friend Patrick Mercer, which were amplified by my hon. Friend Bob Stewart, I also pay tribute to the work of our armed forces overseas to provide that safety and security and to uphold the values that we hold dear.
We all understand the importance of the issues, and know how corrosive the threat of terrorism can be. Some hon. Members will have had more direct and, sadly, more personal experience of terrorism than others. There is no doubt that all of us in the House are steadfast in our condemnation of those who seek to destroy our way of life through violence. In providing the police and others with the tools that they need to deal with terrorism, we must take great care not to throw away the civil liberties that are at the core of our society. The ancient values of the rule of law and respect for individual liberties are the very things that terrorists seek to destroy, and protecting them is at the core of the Government.
This has been an interesting debate, in which a range of issues has been discussed. There has also been a feeling that we wished we were not here, and that it was not necessary to put in place measures such as these. Comments to that effect have been made on both sides of the House. Difficult decisions must be taken, however, as the contributions from Paul Goggins and my hon. and learned Friend Stephen Phillips underlined. We must also protect our principles and values, as my hon. Friends the Members for Wycombe (Steve Baker), for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab), for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and for Bedford (Richard Fuller) pointed out.
The Government set up a comprehensive review of the key counter-terrorism powers, the purpose of which was to correct the imbalance between security powers and personal freedoms and to ensure that our main counter-terrorism powers were focused, necessary and proportionate. It was from that review that the measures proposed in the Bill came about. Legislation, while important, is only part of our approach to terrorism, however. The threat from international and Northern Ireland-related terrorism is serious and will not diminish any time soon. In responding to that threat, we cannot take risks with public security. We must therefore continually adapt our approach to the evolving threat that we face, as my hon. Friend Mr Ellwood said. That is why the Bill needs to be seen in the context of the Government’s wider strategy on terrorism and protecting the public. The strategy, known as Contest, is being reviewed to ensure that it remains effective and targeted against the threats that we face. A key part of the strategy, Prevent, has been discussed in the House earlier today, and was relevant to the contribution made by my hon. Friend Kris Hopkins.
Prevent is only one strand of the Government’s approach, however. Strengthening aviation security and increasing our efforts to deport foreign terrorists under the deportation with assurances programme will also pay dividends in making this country safer. We have also ensured that the UK retains its capability to tackle the terrorist threat in a tight financial climate by providing the police and the security and intelligence agencies with significant resources over the next few years.
I apologise, but I will not as I have a lot to get through in the five minutes remaining to me.
We are committed to prosecuting or deporting terrorists wherever possible, and our starting point will always be that terrorists should be behind bars; the rule of law and getting people to face criminal prosecution before the courts is where we want to be. That is very much our preferred option and I would certainly like to assure all hon. Members of that. It is widely accepted across the House, however, that there are and will be for the foreseeable future a very small number of highly dangerous individuals whom we can neither successfully prosecute nor deport. No responsible Government could allow such individuals to go freely about their terrorist activity.
Other steps should be advanced and we need to take them forward. That is why the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Newark about post-charge questioning is so relevant. That is why the Government intend to make the necessary PACE—Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984—code changes after a statutory consultation before the summer recess.
Points were made about plea bargaining, and the review of counter-terrorism powers said that further work would be undertaken to ensure that full use is made of the provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to increase the evidence and intelligence dividend from defendants and prisoners in terrorism cases.
Intercept evidence was also raised. The lawful interception of communications plays a critical role in tackling serious crime and protecting the British public. Almost all the highest priority counter-terrorist operations and many other serious crime investigations involve the use of intercept. Hon. Members will be aware from the written ministerial statement of
Mention was made of the special advocates and the disclosure of secret information. The Green Paper is being worked on and we are very cognisant of the issues relevant to it as well as of the many cases relating to it. My hon. Friend the Member for Bedford mentioned the role of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the use of secret information in that context. We are considering these issues and the key concerns that have been flagged up, and we will come forward with the Green Paper in due course. I should add the assurance that we will continue to make progress on the issue of deportation. Jeremy Corbyn and my hon. Friend Tom Brake mentioned the assurances required on that issue, and we take our international obligations extremely seriously when it comes to assessing the pertinent issues.
Let me quickly address the point made about safety and security by the right hon. Members for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears) and for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins). The Government believe that the package of TPIM restrictions strikes the right balance between protecting the public and protecting the rights of individuals who have not necessarily been charged with any offence. The director general of the Security Service has told the Home Secretary that he considers the changes as providing an acceptable balance between the needs of security and civil liberties, and that the overall package mitigates risk.
Difficult issues arise here, and we are very cognisant of them, while remaining focused on the need to deal with the small number of people who pose a real threat to our security, yet who despite our best efforts cannot be prosecuted. That is why I say, regrettably, that the measures in the Bill are required to deal with this continuing threat in a more targeted and more tightly defined way. That is what we believe is appropriate; that is what we believe is necessary; that is what I think best reflects the needs of this country in giving that continued assurance. This Bill gives effect to those objectives. I commend it to the House.
Question put and agreed to .
Bill accordingly read a Second time.